by Ian Marshall, Editor
The no.2 seed, on the concluding day play, after ending the brave run of Lily Zhang from the United States, the no.18 seed (11-6, 11-1, 11-5, 11-5), she beat colleague Zhu Yuling, the top seed (11-6, 11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 15-13) to arrest the title. In the opposite half of the draw, in the penultimate round Zhu Yuling had overcome Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, the no.7 seed (11-1, 11-13, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-5).
“I was much younger the last four times when I won the World Cup; this World Cup is the last one before Tokyo 2020, so this title is very special to me. Today’s final was really tough and close. I am very happy that I did not give up and still tried my best even when I met some difficulties during the match.” Liu Shiwen
Success for Liu Shiwen meant she reversed the decision of two years earlier when in the Canadian city of Markham she had been beaten by Zhu Yuling in a tension packed seven games final (11-13, 8-11, 11-7, 11-8, 10-12, 11-9, 12-10); a result that is significant. It is the only match that Liu Shiwen has ever lost when competing in the Women’s World Cup.
Gold in Chengdu means that she has now won the Women’s World Cup title five times; previously she succeeded in 2009 in Guangzhou, 2012 in Huangshi, the following year in Kobe, before emerging victorious in 2015 in Sendai.
Moreover, Liu Shiwen is now the most successful player ever in the history of the tournament that dates back to 1996 in Hong Kong. She now goes one ahead of compatriot Zhang Yining who won in 2001 in Wuhu and 2002 in Singapore, prior to succeeding again in consecutive years, in 2004 in Xiaoshan and in 2005 in Guangzhou.
Meanwhile, adding to the list, she joins compatriots Deng Yaping, Ding Ning, Li Xiaoxia, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining as the players who have won both the Women’s World Cup title and the women’s singles title at a World Championships.
One more accolade, she lines up alongside Deng Yaping, Ding Ning, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining, as those who have held both titles at the same time. There is one more, she is in alliance with Ding Ning, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining who have won both events in the same year. Wang Nan achieved the feat in 2003, Zhang Yining in 2005 and Ding Ning in 2011.
No ITTF World Tour title
Somewhat strangely, despite winning the two world titles on offer this year, in a year when every ITTF World Tour women’s singles title has been won by a Chinese player, for both Liu Shiwen and Zhu Yuling the cupboard is bare. The best for each is runners up spot; Liu Shiwen was the silver medallist in March in Qatar, the same fate as befell Zhu Yuling in January in Hungary.
“I did not win any title after the World Championships. I reflected and raised the higher requirements of myself; this time I did not think my previous results at World Cups. I just played this tournament as though it was the World Championships and even the Olympic Games.” Liu Shiwen
Defeat for Zhu Yuling on her fourth appearance in a Women’s World Cup tournament, additional to winning in Markham, she was a quarter-finalist in 2015 in Sendai.
Return to form
The consolation for Zhu Yuling is that to some extent it is a return to form. Last month in Yogyakarta she was not selected for the women’s singles event at the ITTF-ATTU Asian Championships; earlier this month she departed in the first round at the ITTF World Tour Swedish Open in Stockholm, beaten by Japan’s Miyu Nagasaki.
“I have not been in good condition recently. I think I performed well in this tournament. I tried my best to win every point from the very first match.” Zhu Yuling
It is somewhat the same for Feng Tianwei who beat Lily Zhang to secure third place (11-6, 11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 15-13). It is now over two years since she appeared in an ITTF World Tour women’s singles final, in 2017 she won in the Korea Republic.
However, at the recent ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open, she reached the semi-final round beating China’s Chen Meng en route, before losing to Japan’s Mima Ito. The result in Chengdu matched her best ever finish in a Women’s World Cup; in 2008 in Kuala Lumpur she secured the bronze medal position, a feat she also achieved in 2013 in Kobe and in 2016 in Philadelphia.
“I am very satisfied with my performance here. Actually my goal was to reach the top eight but now I even bring home the bronze medal. I am very happy; this was my first time to play against Lily. Today she posed a lot of threats. She is an outstanding player. I know she is a top student as well. It is not easy for her to achieve this high level.” Feng Tianwei
Notably in now nine appearances, Feng Tianwei had reached the semi-final round seven times; she ended matters in fourth place in 2009 in Guangzhou, 2011 in Singapore and 2012 in Huangshi.
Meanwhile, for Lily Zhang it was totally new horizons, far exceeding her two previous ventures; in 2016 on debut in Philadelphia she had departed in the opening round, in 2017 in Markham she had not advanced beyond the group stage.
“Liu Shiwen was just too strong for me. She did better in every aspect than me. I will keep this match footage as I am sure I can learn a lot from her.” Lily Zhang
In Chengdu, it was one step short of a podium place but Lily Zhang left the Chinese city knowing that she was the first player ever from the United States to reach the semi-final stage of a Women’s World Cup tournament and the first ever born outside Asia or Europe to achieve the feat.
It was a remarkable performance.