by Ian Marshall, Editor
She is the top seed in the women’s singles event.
In Chengdu, Ding Ning dominated matters, she beat Austria’s Liu Jia and Korea Republic’s Suh Hyowon, followed by Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa and colleague Zhu Yuling to arrest the title; the overall record in terms of games read 16-1; the only player to extract a morsel of comfort was Suh Hyowon in the quarter-finals, when she had the temerity to secure the third game (11-6, 3-11, 5-11, 11-6, 11-3).
It was one of the most commanding performances in the history of the competition which dates back to 1996; the performance suggested she was very much on course to successfully defend her women’s singles title at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships.
However, since that date in major international events, it has been semi-final sadness. Such finishes for the vast majority of players would be seen as major successes but Ding Ning has set such high standards, having won every premier title the sport has to offer, they are disappointments.
On the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour in early November she was beaten by Japan’s Mima Ito, one month later at the Grand Finals in Incheon by He Zhuojia; more recently this year colleagues have ended progress. In March at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Premium Qatar Open she departed at the hands of Wang Manyu, at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships her reign was halted by Liu Shiwen.
Wang Manyu and Liu Shiwen are the names to note; the fact that they are colleagues and thus familiar with playing styles is a factor but of the 27 meetings in world ranking events since Ding Ning met Liu Shiwen in 2007 at the Volkswagen Open China, Liu Shiwen has won 16 of the encounters. Even more decisively of the three encounters with Wang Manyu, Ding Ning has lost all three.
In Shenzhen the odds are that they may well meet, China occupying the top five women’s singles seeded places. Zhu Yuling is the top seed followed by Chen Meng, Wang Manyu and Liu Shiwen.
Now Liu Shiwen and Wang Manyu are names Ding Ning may wish to avoid in Shenzhen; or should she take a different view? They are names she should want to play, face the challenge, prove she is the best female player in the world.