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.