by Ian Marshall, Editor
One such player who was overshadowed by Wang Nan and Zhang Yining, both Olympic and World champions, was a quiet reserved young lady from the city of Shijiazhuang, a two hour train journey from Beijing West Railway Station; the name was Niu Jianfeng.
At the Volkswagen 2003 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals staged in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, she blossomed; she won the Women’s Singles title and with colleague, Guo Yue she added the Women’s Doubles crown.
In the Women’s Doubles final the duo accounted for Wang Nan and Zhang Yining (9-11, 11-3, 11-4, 3-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-8), accepted at the time the best pair on planet earth but it was the Women’s Singles competition that jettisoned Niu Jianfeng into the limelight. She beat Japan’s Aya Umemura (11-9, 11-4, 11-5, 11-7), before overcoming Hong Kong’s Tie Yana (9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5, 11-7) and Guo Yan, also from China (11-7, 7-11, 11-1, 11-4, 5-11, 11-5), before beating Zhang Yining in arguably the most dramatic Women’s Singles final in the history of the competition.
Trailing by three games to two, in the sixth at 9-10 she saved one match point, won the next two and then by the very narrowest of margin secured the seventh (11-9, 8-11, 13-11, 6-11, 4-11, 13-11, 11-9).
She won US$ 26,000 and Volkswagen Beetle car; there was just one problem. She didn’t know how to drive.