by Ian Marshall, Editor
Last year Sweden was very much the favourite country for Mima Ito when facing Chinese opposition.
In the opening match in the women’s final at the Liebherr World Team Championships in May in Halmstad, she beat Liu Shiwen (11-9, 8-11, 5-11, 11-8, 12-10); when they met again at the quarter-final stage in Stockholm in November at the Seamaster ITTF World Tour Swedish Open, she repeated the feat. She recovered from the brink of defeat in the fifth game to record a quite sensational seven games win (3-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9).
A recovery against Liu Shiwen, it was the same in the next round in opposition to Ding Ning, she lost the opening two games before emerging successful (3-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9). Hard fought wins but in the final against Zhu Yuling, Mima Ito played the best match of her life, if there is such a phenomenon, she was in the zone. She overwhelmed the top seed in four straight games (11-3, 11-3, 11-5, 11-8).
It was the sheer speed, the machine gun like error free attacking play that left Zhu Yuling and those sitting watching the play in the Eriksdalshallen flabbergasted.
Now, the task for the Chinese coaching staff is the find an answer to their nemesis; one suggestion might be to bring Li Xiaoxia out of retirement! Against the fast close to the table style using short pimpled rubber on the backhand, the London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist was pretty good; controlled heavy top spin play from both wings proved a most effective solution, poor Ai Fukuhara, short pimples rubber on the backhand, suffered nightmares against the Chinese star.
However, that is dreamland, it’s not going to happen but there is another suggestion that has been presented by the Chinese media. They suggest that they are sending Liu Shiwen, Chen Meng and Wang Manyu to compete in the forthcoming Seamaster 2018 ITTF Challenge Series Portugal Open to be staged in Lisbon from Wednesday 13th to Sunday 17th February in order to study in detail the play of Mima Ito.
Just one problem; today, Saturday 19th January, Mima Ito withdrew from the tournament!