31 Dec 2018

The winner of every major title the sport has to offer, China’s Deng Yaping perfected the fast attacking close to the table attacking style of play, using pimpled rubber on the backhand and reversed smooth rubber on the forehand. Now since her retirement from international play, for whatever reason, that style has not been heavily promoted; the world’s major titles have been won by players using the reversed smooth rubber on both sides of the racket.

Now, over two decades later, a larger ball and now made of plastic not celluloid, in 2018 two young ladies proved that a very similar style of play can still prove most effective at the very highest levels; step forward Japan’s Mima Ito and China’s He Zhuojia.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

A silver medal was the lot for Japan at the Liebherr World Team Championships in Halmstad; notably throughout Mima Ito remained unbeaten, the most significant success being in the final against China when in the opening contest she beat Liu Shiwen. Arguably in the third game she took some risks but you had to admire her positive approach.

Fast forward to the Seamaster ITTF World Tour Swedish Open in Stockholm in the first week of November and once again her machine gun like rapid fire attacking play, giving her opponents minimal time to react, proved successful. Furthermore, once again Mima Ito displayed that the might of China held no fears; a fact that arguably describes her attitude, no inhibitions.

In fact in Stockholm, every player she beat was born in China; the only one not in Chinese colours being Feng Tianwei of Singapore who she overcame in the second round, after accounting for the pen-holder Zhang Qiang. A third round place booked, she repeated her success against Liu Shiwen before accounting for Ding Ning and Zhu Yuling to secure the title.

Conversely in Stockholm, it was a reversal of fortune for He Zhuojia; she suffered her only defeat of the year against a player not representing China. She was beaten by Germany’s Han Ying, originally from China, in the concluding preliminary round; otherwise for the player who uses medium length pimpled rubber on the backhand as opposed to the shorter pimpled used by Mima Ito, it was success after success.

Notably on the Seamaster ITTF World Tour she reached the semi-final stage in Australia, Hong Kong and Austria before at the Grand Finals in Incheon finishing in runners up spot.

An outstanding year, has He Zhuojia now succeeded Wu Yang as the Chinese bodyguard? The player who protects her colleagues from foreign foes; that fact is open to conjecture, one fact is certain, Mima Ito has a distinct liking for Sweden!

2018 Review of Year Mima Ito He Zhoujia