by Ian Marshall, Editor
The more incisive player, the more consistent, Liu Shiwen secured the opening game.
Staying close to the table, playing at an electric pace, early timing and creating angles, Liu Shiwen established a 7-3 lead in the second game; then perhaps a moment of hesitation, she made errors trying to force the pace of the play. The Ding Ning won the next three points but never levelled; quick efficient short strokes, Liu Shiwen surrendered just one further point. She led by two games to nil.
Liu Shiwen ahead but never count out Ding Ning, if there is one player who is mentally strong it is Ding Ning. Playing more aggressively, in the third game she went ahead 7-1; she duly secured the game, before in the fourth following suit to level matters. Throughout she favoured the squat so-called “tomahawk” serving style, a technique that has become her trademark. Matters were level.
Notably, in the opening four games, the player who had seized the early lead had built on that advantage. The fifth game was very different; Ding Ning lost the first four points, responded to win the next six; Liu Shiwen reduced the gap to one point at 7-6 but that was the nearest she came. Ding Ning now held the advantage.
Once again, in the sixth game, it was Liu Shiwen who made the better start, she went ahead 5-1; only this time she never relinquished the advantage, playing in the same mode as in the opening two games, she prevailed. A deciding seventh game beckoned.
At the change of ends in the decider, Liu Shiwen led 5-1 after Ding Ning had elected for “Time Out” when losing 3-1; it was a lead she never surrendered. At 10-6 she held four match points, she needed just one. The title belonged to Liu Shiwen.
“This is my first time here in Australia, playing the Australian Open. The road to the title was very tough, but I am so happy that I finally won. Both of us made some slight changes to our tactics during the match. Ding Ning is a very strong opponent, even though I took the victory today, there’s still a lot of little details that I need to review and learn from this match. I’m very thankful to my fans who came here to support me and watch me play at the Australian Open.” Liu Shiwen
The meeting in Geelong was for each player a 27th appearance in an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles final; moreover, it was the 13th time that they had faced each other.
Prior to the meeting in Geelong, Ding Ning had won seven of the encounters; in 2011 she had succeeded in Austria, the following year in Slovenia, before in 2013 winning in both Qatar and Russia. Later in 2014 and 2016, she was victorious on home soil in China, as well as in the latter year in the Korea Republic.
Meanwhile, Liu Shiwen prevailed in 2011 and 2016 in Qatar, as well as in 2012 in the Korea Republic. Additionally she won in 2015 in Poland and one year later in Tokyo.
Overall Liu Shiwen has now won 13 ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles titles, the total of 14 such accolades remains for Ding Ning.