by Ian Marshall, Editor
Thus the duo added to their list of successes; some two weeks ago they had won in Yogyakarta at the 2019 ITTF-ATTU Asian Championships, previously, they had succeeded on the ITTF World Tour just under one year ago in Linz, before earlier this year winning in both Hungary and Qatar.
The result means they add 200 points their collection and now lead the mixed doubles standings (800 points); they replace Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem at the top of the order. Beaten by China’s Lin Gaoyuan and Wang Manyu in the opening round in Stockholm (12-10, 11-5, 11-9), they add 13 points to their collection and now occupy the no.2 spot (783 points).
Meanwhile, Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito add 100 points to their tally but remain in fourth spot (600 points), behind Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching (763 points), not on duty in Sweden.
Now, are these the pairs that will contest the medals next year at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games?
In Stockholm, Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem did not fire on all cylinders but earlier in the year they won in Australia and in the Korea Republic. Note the pairs they beat; in Australia it was Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito, in Korea Republic the partnership to suffer was Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen, the only occasion the Chinese pair has experienced defeat.
Now consider Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching; two titles this year, in Hong Kong they accounted for Korea Republic’s Lee Sangsu and Choi Hyojoo, more significantly in China, Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem.
It is close between all four pairs, the records suggest Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen starts as favourites in any tournament but is the partnership of Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito, the combination on the upward trend?
“Today was a 50:50 match; I think we are pretty much level with Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen. They were better today in the short play in the second and third games; that gave them the advantage, it was the difference.” Jun Mizutani
Certainly the difference in the Stockholm final was minimal, a fact that was reflected in the response of Xu Xin and Ma Lin, the coach sitting courtside; himself no mean mixed doubles player. In 1999 he partnered colleague Zhang Yingying to gold at the World Championships in Eindhoven, four years later he repeated the feat in harness with Wang Nan in Paris.
Earlier in the day it had been a tired Xu Xin who had experienced a men’s singles quarter-final defeat at the hands of colleague, Liang Jingkun (11-6, 11-8, 11-7, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9), after losing the opening game in the mixed doubles final, he was highly motivated. Every point won was greeted by a guttural cry of success. Liu Shiwen, being the lady was of course most demure.
Notably, in the deciding game, Ma Lin was like a jack-in-the-box, every point his charges won, he was on his feet clapping with gusto and matching Xu Xin’s vocals.
End of 32 year reign
Success for Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen; they ended the 32 year reign of Chen Zhibin and Chen Jing. They won in 1987 when the tournament was held in Linköping, the most recent occasion when mixed doubles was held at the Swedish Open. At the final hurdle they beat Boris Rozenberg and Valentina Popova, at the time representing the Soviet Union.
Equally just as today, the contest went the full distance (21-14, 19-21, 21-15), in those day three games, each game to 21 points. Times have changed but one factor remains the same, the nation of the winning pair; in 2019 China retained the title, Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen maintained proud tradition.