29 Oct 2018

A home win, for those sitting in the tiered seating it is always welcome; a home win against the odds is even more welcome. It might not occasion ecstatic celebration but after having watched players from the host nation fall like leaves on a wet autumn afternoon, a win against the odds brought a ray of sunshine.

Such was the situation on the afternoon of Monday 29th October in the first round of the Women’s Singles event in the qualification tournament for places in the ensuing Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open; Li Fen accounted for Korea Republic’s Choi Hyojoo (11-5, 10-12, 9-11, 11-7, 11-9, 12-10).

by Ian Marshall, Editor

An upset, a surprise, it is a matter of opinion; currently, Li Fen is listed at no.128 on the current Women’s World Rankings, Choi Hyojoo appears at no.61.

However, the listing rather belies the level at which Li Fen can play; in 2013 in Shwechat, she was crowned European champion. Now how does that match with Cho Hyojoo?

In 2015 she won the Women’s Singles title at the ITTF World Tour Croatia Open, in addition to securing the Under 21 Women’s Singles crowns in both Bulgaria and Zagreb. Most significantly, she has a penchant for Stockholm; in 2016 she won the Under 21 Women’s Singles at the ITTF World Tour Swedish Open.

Now three years later, she found Li Fen just that fraction too safe and perhaps just slightly too experienced. Li Fen nullified the lethal quicksilver forehand of the 20 year old from the Korea Republic.

“Before the match I watched a video of her playing, I knew she was fast and was very strong from the forehand; for me I had change to pace of the match, keep changing the tempo. She plays with short pimples on the backhand; I’m quite accustomed to that style. I focused my top spin play towards her backhand, not playing too fast but with a lot of spin. Also, at times I changed my service, I served long to her backhand and that caused her problems.” Li Fen

Success for Li Fen but there were some nervous moments; in the sixth game at 10-9 she held match point, it was saved, at 11-10 it was same again, coach Peter Sartz, a wise man, called “Time Out”. It proved a prudent move.

“He told me to keep following the tactic, spin the ball to the backhand but above all, keep calm.” Li Fen

Notably of the ten Swedish players who commenced the day in the Women’s Singles qualification tournament, Li Fen is the only one who remains.

World Tour 2018 Seamaster Swedish Open Li Fen

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