20 Apr 2019

Two years ago in Düsseldorf, Japan’s Miu Hirano stood on the third step of the women’s singles podium when play concluded; it was a mighty fine effort from a player only 17 years old at the time.

Now, if that feat is to be repeated by a player of a similar young age or one several years more senior at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, which commence in Budapest on Sunday 21st April, it is going take an even greater effort.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

In the German city, Miu Hirano commenced matters the no.8 seed; to some extent the luck of the draw shone on her shoulders. She appeared in the quarter where there were no players on duty representing China.

Ding Ning was the top seed, followed by Liu Shiwen and Zhu Yuling; the fourth seed was Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, the player whom Miu Hirano faced in the quarter-finals. She rose to the occasion, emerged victorious and thus reserved her place in the penultimate round. At that juncture, a determined Ding Ning avenged the defeat of earlier in the year at the quarter-final stage in Wuxi at the Seamaster 2017 Asian Championships.

High praise for Miu Hirano, it was the first time since 1969 in Munich when Japan had secured a medal in a World Championships women’s singles event; on that occasion Toshiko Kowada had emerged the winner, a player with a very similar sounding first name to that of Miss Hirano, Miho Hamada, had clinched bronze.

Furthermore, it was the first time since the Volkswagen 2005 World Championships in Shanghai that China had not claimed all four medals and members of their team had experienced defeat against foreign opposition. On that occasion Hong Kong’s Lin Ling secured bronze, she beat Gao Jun of the United States to reserve her semi-final place, one round earlier Gao Jun having ousted Cao Zhen.

Significantly, both Lin Ling and Gao Jun learned their trade in China before transferring allegiance. However, there was one notable success in the women’s singles event in 2005 from a player with no Chinese connections. In the third round, Korea Republic’s Moon Hyunjung powered her way to victory against Wang Nan, the winner two years earlier in Paris when Croatia’s Tamara Boros had claimed bronze, the most recent European to secure a medal.

History puts into perspective, the outstanding achievement realised in Düsseldorf by Miu Hirano. It also puts into perspective the Budapest challenge facing the now 19 year old, or that of her highly rated colleagues Kasumi Ishikawa and Mima Ito. Frankly, it puts into perspective the task of any female player not wearing the shirt of the People’s Republic of China.

In the Hungarian capital city, life is different to Düsseldorf; there is no quarter of the draw that will not possess an elite Chinese name. Ding Ning, followed by Chen Meng, Wang Manyu and Liu Shiwen complete the top four seeded names.

A Moon Hyunjung performance now 14 years ago is required.

2019 World Table Tennis Championships Miu Hirano

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