15 Jun 2019

We meet again; such is the scenario at the semi-final stage of the women’s singles event at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Lion Japan Open on the morning of Sunday 16th June.

In the top half of the draw, the host nation’s Miu Hirano, the no.9 seed, faces China’s Liu Shiwen, the no.4 seed; in the lower half it is an all-Chinese affair, Cheng Meng, the no.2 seed, confronts Sun Yingsha.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Undoubtedly, the odds very much favour of Liu Shiwen; she is the reigning World champion and is very much in the ascendancy when confronting Miu Hirano.

On the international scene, including the first meeting at the 2015 Asian Championships in Pattaya, Liu Shiwen has won all six encounters; their most recent being last year at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Lion Japan Open in Kitakyushu when they met in the quarter-finals. Liu Shiwen won in four straight games (11-4, 11-7, 11-3, 11-4); for Miu Hirano the signs are ominous.

Notably, we remember just over two years ago in Wuxi when Miu Hirano beat the cream of China to win the women’s singles title at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships but Liu Shiwen was not a member of that group. Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling and Cheng Meng were the players to suffer; since that time none has lost to Miu Hirano.

The tournament in Wuxi was special for Miu Hirano; is that not the situation with regards to the ITTF World Tour Lion Japan Open for Sun Yingsha?

She has just one ITTF World Tour women’s singles title to her credit; moreover, she has faced Chen Meng on just one occasion at a world ranking tournament and she won. The two occasions coincide; she beat Chen Meng in the final in Tokyo at the 2017 ITTF World Tour Lion Japan Open!

Semi-finals concluded; the women’s doubles final ensues; Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu face Chen Meng and Liu Shiwen. Each has won one ITTF World Tour title as a partnership; Chen Meng and Liu Shiwen succeeded in 2015 in Chengdu; Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu prevailed earlier this year in Doha.

Now, it is the policy of many coaches whenever possible to pair a left hander with a right hander but with the modern day “banana” return of service (forearm approaching the vertical, wrist relaxed and circumnavigating the ball) in addition to the players of the present day era being increasingly strong from the backhand, is two right handers not the better option?

Seems the Chinese coaches agree! All four women’s doubles finalists are right handed!

World Tour 2019 Seamaster LION Japan Open Chen Meng liu shiwen Sun Yingsha Miu Hirano

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Day 2 - 2019 ITTF World Tour LION Japan Open

Match Highlights