by Ian Marshall, Editor
Now at the Uncle Pop 2018 ITTF Women’s World Cup, which commences in the Sichuan Province Gymnasium in the Chinese city of Chengdu on Friday 28th September and, as throughout the history of the tournament will be played over a three day period, the mantle of Nordic responsibility falls on the shoulders of Matilda Ekholm.
A total of 16 players on duty in Hong Kong 22 years ago; four groups in the initial stage, players finishing in first and second positions advancing to the main draw, Marie Svensson started as a rank outsider. Games ratio the determining factor, she finished ahead of Yang Ying and Romania’s Otilia Badescu with Germany’s Nicole Struse in fourth place; after losing in straight games to Otilia Badescu, Nicole Struse had withdrawn from proceedings.
Successfully through to the quarter-finals, Marie Svensson overcame Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian; the eventual outcome was fourth place, she was beaten in the play-off match by Wang Chen, presently of the United States but at the time representing China.
Now just as Marie Svensson commenced proceedings as player not listed high in the order of merit; in Chengdu, it is a similar scenario for Matilda Ekholm. She commences play as the no.15 seed and must thus compete in the initial stage groups; her task is to finish in one of the top two places and thus gain entry to the main draw where the top eight names start their challenge for honours.
The seeding advises that unlike Marie Svensson, in the initial phase group Matilda Ekholm will not be the lowest listed player; the challenge is as to whether she can progress and then negotiate the initial two rounds in the main draw.
Current form suggests that such a goal is a tough task. At the just completed Liebherr 2018 ITTF European Championships in Alicante, Matilda Elkholm, the no.6 seed, did not advance to her allotted quarter-final place in the draw. After accounting for Lithuania’s Kornelija Riliskyte (11-3, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8) and in a much closer duel Stéphanie Leouillette of France (11-9, 10-12, 10-12, 10-12, 12-10, 11-7, 11-6), in the third round she was beaten by Germany’s Han Ying in four straight games (11-7, 11-7, 11-6, 11-2).
Defeat at the hands of Han Ying; defeat at the hands of a defender. In the first phase of play in Chengdu there are two backspin players who potentially could be in her group, two players she will no doubt hope to avoid. Li Jie of the Netherlands is the no.9 seed and thus the highest ranked in stage one, DPR Korea’s Kim Song I is the no.18 seed.
No great disasters in recent tournaments but Matilda Ekholm is hardly tearing down walls, she needs to move up a gear if she is to match Marie Svensson; for her, over two decades ago she entered the Women’s World Cup with a degree of confidence, in 1994 in Birmingham she had been crowned European champion.
Uncle Pop 2018 ITTF Women’s World Cup: Statistic provided by Beijing Sport University