by Ian Marshall, Editor
If you do not enjoy watching Liu Fei play, you do not like sport, dance or any activity that demands the grace of movement.
Required to qualify, the 25 year old from Jiangsu Province caused a major opening round women’s singles upset; she beat Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.8 seed in five games (11-6, 7-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-6).
“I felt relaxed today, I was able to adapt to the conditions in the hall and to my opponent’s style of play; in the vital points I felt comfortable when defending.” Lui Fei.
Defend, defend, defend
Very much Lui Fei followed the policy of the celebrated defender from the Korea Republic, Kim Kyungah, bronze medallist at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games; at the crucial stages she proved to be the veritable brick wall. If it is close, keep returning the ball with backspin, maintain the pressure and break your opponent’s heart.
“I thought about attacking time and again but Kasumi never gave me the chance; I would set myself up for an attack but then it was not possible.” Lui Fei
The movement exerted by Liu Fei is a delight to behold, the balance superb; if she was an ice dancer she would receive ten out of ten for technical excellence, the same for artistic impression.
Moreover, in an era when the defensive player is less and less in evidence, there more such players in the women’s game than for the men, Liu Fei underlines the fact that the art can still prove successful. Adaptation is a key factor and adapting to the plastic ball; the spherical object on which it is arguably more difficult to impart heavy degrees of backspin.
“I only played in China using the celluloid ball; playing internationally it has always been the plastic ball. I think it’s just a question of adapting. I know I must be very patient when I play.” Lui Fei
Now what does the future hold? Can she rise to the greatest heights, can she match her compatriot, Tong Ling, the winner of the women’s singles title at the 1981 World Championships in Novi Sad, the last defender to secure the prized title?
“I’ve never thought about that; I’ll just be myself.” Liu Fei
Every defender is different, sheer delight and whatever her ranking may record, she is world class. I need less than the fingers on one hand to name players from outside the boundaries of China who might beat her and even that might be too many!
Wu Yang, also a defender, was the bodyguard, protecting her colleagues against foreign invaders; the number of players from foreign shores against whom she lost, you did not need a calculator to assess the answer.
Now she has a worthy successor, a new bodyguard, the name is Lui Fei.