29 Sep 2018

First stage groups, the goal to reserve a top two place and thus join the top eight seeds in the main draw; that is the scenario on the first day of play at the Uncle Pop 2018 ITTF Women's World Cup, proceedings commence in Chengdu on Friday 28th September.

Furthermore, the fact a second position is sufficient for progress is good news for the top four names. Li Jie of the Netherlands and Canada’s Zhang Mo, in addition to the Romanian duo of Elizabeta Samara and Bernadette Szocs do not necessarily start as favourites to end matters in first place!

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Li Jie of the Netherlands is the highest listed; in her opening contest she faces a quite prodigious challenge; she confronts fellow defender DPR Korea’s Kim Song I, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games silver medallist. They met earlier this year at the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships in Halmstad; the verdict went in favour of DPR Korea.

The saving grace for Li Jie is that in the same group appears the name of Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm; in four meetings in world ranking events, the most recent being the 2017 Europe Top 16 Cup in Antibes, she has always beaten Matilda Ekholm. Notably, Matilda Ekholm and Kim Song I have never met; a test for the Swede, I suspect that Kim Song I is player Matilda Ekholm would rather avoid than confront,

Next in line to Li Jie in ranked order is Elizabeta Samara. Against Egypt’s Dina Meshref, she has a fine record, four international encounters, four wins, including success earlier this year at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Croatia Open. However, facing Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu, life has proved difficult; two meetings in world ranking events, two wins for Chen Szu-Yu, the most recent being the Team World Cup in London earlier this year.

Undoubtedly the group is a major test for Dina Meshref, who in the most recent three editions of the tournament, has progressed to the second phase, the only African player ever to achieve the feat. She has never beaten Chen Szu-Yu in four international meetings but all were in junior days; much has changed since 2011.

Elizabeta Samara starts as favourite in her opening contest but if one player commences with confidence, it is Canada’s Zhang Mo. In her initial engagement, she meets Australia’s Jian Fang Lay. Make a list of all 12 players in the first phase in Chengdu that Jian Fang Lay, who made her debut in the competition in 2000 in Phnom Penh, did not want to meet; it is Zhang Mo. Earlier this year at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games they confronted each other at the quarter-final stage of the Women’s Singles event; Zhang Mo won in four straight games conceding just 15 points.

Confident against Jian Fang Lay but less so in her second contest where Hungary’s Georgina Pota awaits; just over two years ago when they met at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the Hungarian prevailed. Most certainly for Jian Fang Lay, it is a daunting task; she has played Georgina Pota on two prior occasions, both at the Women’s World Cup. She experienced defeat in 2014 in Linz, the same last year in Markham.

It is a similar situation for Bernadette Szocs. She opens her account against Wu Yue of the United States, the player she beat at the 2017 Universiade but in her following contest Austria’s Liu Jia, who has never met Wu Yue at international level, awaits. In five prior meetings, the encounter on the ITTF World Tour in 2014 in Ekaterinburg is the only success for Bernadette Szocs when opposing Liu Jia. More significant is the fact that Liu Jia prevailed when they met at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf, their most recent duel.

Conversely, earlier this year Bernadette Szocs won the Europe Top 16 tournament but last week at the Liebherr 2018 ITTF European Championships she departed proceedings in the quarter-finals, losing to the champion elect, Poland’s Li Qian. Somewhat similarly, Liu Jia departed at the hands of lower ranked Polish opposition; she experienced a second round defeat when facing Katarzyna Grzybowska-Franc.

Good news for both Bernadette Szocs and Liu Jia that there is no Polish player on duty in Chengdu!

The group phase will be played in entirety on the first day; the main draw starts on Saturday 29th September.

Uncle Pop 2018 ITTF Women’s World Cup: Statistic provided by Beijing Sport University

World Cup 2018 Uncle Pop Women's World Cup Bernadette Szocs Elizabeta Samara Zhang Mo Li Jie

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