by Ian Marshall, Editor
After on the opening day of play accounting for Russia’s Maria Malanina (11-1, 11-4, 11-4, 7-11, 11-5), she beat Romania’s Bernadette Szocs (12-14, 11-9, 11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 11-8), before on the second day of action securing her place in the main draw by ousting Nadezhda Bogdanova of Belarus (11-7, 11-5, 11-7, 11-5).
Notably, Nadezhda Bogdanova was very much a player in form; in the previous round she had beaten Spain’s Maria Xiao in a thrilling seven games contest decided by the very narrowest of margins (11-5, 6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-8, 14-12).
Most significant result
Without question the most significant result was the win against Bernadette Szocs, presently named at no.17 on the world rankings and the highest rated player on duty in the qualification tournament.
“I felt no pressure, I could play freely; I felt I had a good chance and I think the important fact was that my backhand was stronger than hers.” Yang Xiaoxin
The backhand is a major strength of Bernadette Szocs; in fact it’s a major strength of virtually all Romanian female players! The key factor, with regards to Yang Xiaoxin, is that she uses long pimpled rubber on the backhand, thus it made life difficult for Bernadette Szocs to establish a fast attacking rhythm to her play.
Later, against Nadezhda Bogdanova, it was a very similar scenario.
“I enjoyed the match against Nadezhda, she didn’t play that fast, she’s young, she is a promising player.” Yang Xiaoxin
Significantly, it was the second occasion when Yang Xiaoxin had played Nadezhda Bogdanova; they had met at the 2018 Luxembourg Open, Yang Xiaoxin had also prevailed. However, it was the first time she had ever played Bernadette Szocs in an international tournament or any other competition for that matter!
However, is Bernadette Szocs a stranger?
Yang Xiaoxin commenced representing Monaco in 2013, having played for several years in the French League. Later on the ITTF World Tour she won the women’s singles event in Croatia and in 2016 in the Czech Republic; such evidence suggests a main draw place was no surprise.
“I think it was just fate that I eventually played for Monaco; now the aim is to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, I was not eligible to play in Rio. I arrived in France in 2005 and played for Lys Le Cannoy. I played there for five years.”
Experienced gained but note the name of the player with whom during those years, Yang Xiaoxin practised.
“Bernadette Szocs was also a member of the team!” Yang Xiaoxin
Strangers, not all; Yang Xiaoxin was well acclimatised to the style of Bernadette Szocs; the place in the main draw no surprise at all!