by Ian Marshall, Editor
Just under one year ago, the tournament being staged during the first week of November, those are the players that Mima Ito beat to arrest the women’s singles title.
After accounting Zhang Qiang, she overcame Feng Tianwei, Liu Shiwen, Ding Ning and then Zhu Yuling to reserve the top step of the podium.
Thus to some extent she replicated the efforts of her colleague, Miu Hirano. The previous year in April at the 2017 Asian Championships in Wuxi, after accounting for Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut, Korea Republic’s Lee Zion and Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, she had ousted Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling and Chen Meng to secure the title.
We looked back through the history books to find the most recent occasion when at a major international tournament, three Chinese players had been beaten in succession by an adversary from foreign shores. The best we could find was the 1977 World Championships staged in Birmingham when DPR Korea’s Pak Yun Sun, one after another, had accounted for Zhu Xiangyun, Ge Xin’ai and Zhang Li to hold aloft the Geist Prize.
Would we have to wait another 40 years for the phenomenon to occur? Playing with a high level of intensity as opposed to the seemingly free spirit of Miu Hirano, did Mima Ito not go one better than her teenage compatriot?
Overall she beat four members of the Chinese national team, Zhang Qiang at the time 24 years old an aspiring pen-holder trying to make her presence felt; moreover, every player she beat honed their skills in China. Feng Tianwei hails from Heilongjiang Province, moving to Singapore in March 2007 as a result of a Foreign Sports Talent Scheme scholarship.
Now when did this last happen in a women’s singles event at a major international tournament? Five players born in China beaten consecutively by a foreign invader; the answer is simple, never!
Also, there are comparisons that can be drawn between the performances of Miu Hirano and Mima Ito.
At the quarter-final stage in Wuxi, matches being best five games, Miu Hirano had recovered from a two games to nil deficit and saved match points in the fourth to beat a bemused Ding Ning (3-11, 12-14, 11-9, 16-14, 12-10). In the same round in Stockholm, matches best of seven games, Mima Ito trailed Liu Shiwen by three games to one and was on the brink of defeat in the fifth before emerging successful (12-10, 7-11, 7-11, 5-11, 13-11, 11-4, 11-8).
Boosted by the close wins, Japanese confidence blossomed, China showed concern. In Wuxi Miu Hirano beat Zhu Yuling in straight games (11-7, 11-9, 11-8), slightly more difficult in Stockholm, Mima Ito, after losing the opening two games, won the next four to end the hopes of Ding Ning (3-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8).
However note the score lines in the final, Japanese confidence was even higher, Chinese apprehension more acute. Miu Hirano beat Zhu Yuling in straight games, affording her opponent just 19 points (11-3, 11-3, 11-5, 11-8), Mima Ito was only slightly more generous, she permitted Chen Meng 24 points (11-9, 11-8, 11-7).
In Stockholm, in the women’s singles event, Chen Meng, Ding Ning and Zhu Yuling occupy the respective top three seeded positions, Liu Shiwen is the no.5 seed, Mima Ito the no.7 seed, Feng Tianwei, the no.12 seed.