by Ian Marshall, Editor
Notably, she is somewhat alone, not only is she the only player still standing not from Japan, she is the only player remaining whose status suggests she should not have reached the quarter-finals. She is the no.13 seed; Kasumi Ishikawa occupies the top seeded spot, Miyu Kato is the no.4 seed, Saki Shibata, who Cheng Hsien-Tzu meets in the quarter-final, is the no.7 seed.
Most importantly from her point of view, it would appear she is growing in confidence, the most severe test to date being in the opening round against qualifier Kim Vermaas of the Netherlands, when at the start of the sixth game she faced the point of no return. The challenge met, she prevailed in seven games (9-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-8, 11-5).
Once again the adage that the first match can be the most difficult was endorsed. In ensuing rounds the progress was less traumatic as she ended Italian hopes. She beat Georgia Piccolin, like Kim Vermaas, a qualifier (11-9, 11-4, 11-6, 11-4), before ousting Debora Vivarelli, the no.22 seed (11-8, 12-10, 11-6, 13-11) to gain a quarter-final place. It was at that stage she underlined her quality. She beat Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut, the no.6 seed (11-8, 12-10, 12-10, 8-11, 1-11, 11-6) to reserve her place in the penultimate round.
It is the second time that Cheng Hsien-Tzu, who is becoming an increasingly familiar face on the international scene, has reached an ITTF Challenge Series women’s singles semi-final, the one other occasion was in 2017 in Slovenia.
Most notably last year the only ITTF World Tour tournament in which she did not compete was in Sweden; reaching the latter stages of the women’s singles proved a step too far but in the women’s doubles she enjoyed notable success.
Change of partners
At the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, partnering Li Yu-Jhun, a quarter-final place was achieved. Earlier in 2018 the pair had reached the semi-final round on the ITTF World Tour in Japan and in 2017 at the ITTF Challenge Series tournament in Belgium. Following the efforts in Budapest, the name of the partner changed; Cheng Hsien-Tzu joined forces with Chen Szu-Yu.
On the ITTF World Tour they reached the semi-final stage in Japan, the Czech Republic and Germany before being the runners up in Austria; the end result was a place in the Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, where a semi-final finish was achieved.
A formidable partnership, Cheng Hsien-Tzu is now being very much established in the Chinese Taipei first team selection. She was a member of the bronze medal winning outfit alongside Cheng I-Ching and Chen Szu-Yu at the ZEN-NOH 2019 Team World Cup in Tokyo and at the more recent 2020 ITTF World Team Qualification tournament in Gondomar.
Alas in Tokyo she did not enjoy the best of fortunes, she won just one match; that being her very first engagement. She partnered Chen Szu-Yu to success in opposition to Priscilla Tommy and Anolyn Lulu in the contest against Vanuatu. Fast forward to January and to Gondomar, in the first match she had to play, in fact what was to prove her one and only match, she partnered Chen Szu-Yu to success against Stéphanie Loeuillette and Yuan Jia Nan. The result set her team on course to a 3-0 win over France and a place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Undoubtedly Chinese Taipei harbours medal aspirations in Tokyo and even sooner in Busan at the Hana Bank 2020 ITTF World Team Championships, where Cheng Hsien-Tzu, lines up alongside Cheng I-Ching, Chen Szu-Yu, Huang Hsin and Li Yu-Jhun.
They are the no.3 seeds, Cheng I-Ching and Chen Szu-Yu may be the star names but could Cheng Hsien-Tzu -Yu prove pivotal?
Could she be the player that holds the key, they key that unlocks the medal cupboard.