by Dominique Plattner, ITTF High Performance Manager
Experience pointed in the direction of Liu Shiwen but status and past results favoured Cheng Meng.
In contests on the international stage, prior to the meeting in Budapest, Chen Meng had won nine of the 11 encounters; the only successes for Liu Shiwen being on the ITTF World Tour in the third round of the women’s singles event in 2012 in Shanghai and at the semi-final stage in Busan at the 2013 Asian Championships.
Furthermore in Budapest, Chen Meng was the no.2 seed, Liu Shiwen, the no.4 seed.
However, who would respond on the day? The answer was Liu Shiwen, the previous excursions to the gold medal contest, no doubt a telling factor.
Road to Semi-Final: Liu Shiwen
- Round One: beat Nadezhda Bogdanova (Belarus) 11-1, 11-8, 11-5, 11-9
- Round Two: beat Hana Matelova (Czech Republic) 11-2, 11-6, 12-10, 11-4
- Round Three: beat Britt Eerland (Netherlands) 11-3, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9
- Round Four: beat Kim Song I (DPR Korea) 11-6, 11-5, 11-6, 11-4
- Quarter-Final: beat Miyu Kato (Japan) 11-9, 8-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-5
- Semi-Final: beat Ding Ning (China) 6-11 9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-0, 11-2
Road to Semi-Final: Chen Meng
- Round One: beat Wong Xin Ru (Singapore) 11-9, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5
- Round Two: beat Lin Ye (Singapore) 11-6, 11-4, 11-7, 11-8
- Round Three: beat Suthasini Sawettabut (Thailand) 13-15, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9, 14-12
- Round Four: beat Feng Tianwei (Singapore) 12-10, 11-6, 11-6, 11-13, 11-7
- Quarter-Final: beat Doo Hoi Kem (Hong Kong) 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, 12-10, 11-4
- Semi-Final: beat Wang Manyu (China) 11-5, 11-7, 11-5, 11-8
Notably Liu Shiwen had reached the semi-final stage surrendering just one individual game; that being in her quarter-final encounter against Japan’s Miyu Kato.
Arguably more significantly in the penultimate round she had recovered from a two games to nil deficit to beat colleague, Ding Ning, the defending champion.
Liu Shiwen was focused, in a rich vein of form; moreover she was a player with a mission; of that fact there was no doubt
Final: Liu Shiwen beat Chen Meng 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 11-0, 11-9
- Match duration: one hour 6 minutes
- Total points: Liu Shiwen 60 – 45 Chen Meng
- Points won on own serve: Liu Shiwen 27 – 19 Chen Meng
- Points won on opponents serve Liu Shiwen 33 – 26 Chen Meng
True to her style, Liu Shiwen commenced play at high speed. She executed short serves towards Chen Meng’s forehand in order to open the table; the reason being because Chen Meng often returns from that side of the table with her backhand “banana” flick. Therefore she exposes herself deep to the backhand.
Both employed the pendulum serve, especially Cheng Meng with heavy backspin. She was in general the more active player; she stepped around her backhand to play strong forehand top spin strokes.
After the early exchanges each changed their placements of services. Chen Meng served more to the middle before directing her first attack wide. Liu Shiwen employed forehand sidespin services standing in a central position; like Chen Meng she directed her opening attacking stroke wide.
A 10-9 Chen Meng held game point; a pendulum backspin service towards her opponent’s backhand; Liu Shiwen missed the return, first game to Chen Meng.
In the second game Liu Shiwen followed a similar tactic; the first attacking stroke was directed towards to the so-called indecision point or to the backhand. If the chance arose she played down-the-line.
However, she continued to experience problems when receiving Chen Meng’s pendulum backspin service. Often Chen Meng directed pushed backspin returns to her adversary’s backhand. She enjoyed success when playing a first attacking stroke with heavy topspin but Liu Shiwen gradually adapted to the Chen Meng serve. She secured the game, parity.
In the third game, Liu Shiwen continued her tactics of the previous game. Chen Meng gradually anticipated better, especially with her backhand, she returned service to her opponent’s backhand. Liu Shiwen also anticipated, prepared to counter attack and cover the angles.
A one game advantage, in the fourth game Liu Shiwen varied her opening attacking strokes, mostly to her opponent’s backhand but on occasions to the forehand. Neither player was comfortable returning service, Chen Meng time and again not achieving the necessary racket angle.
Equally, Liu Shiwen found problems when required to control the play; Chen Meng struggled to choose the right angle of the racket to be able to control the spin. Similarly, Liu Shiwen had problems with the trajectory and control of the spin. Chen Meng prevailed.
Incredible fifth game
Matters level, in the fifth Chen Meng tried to vary her play but totally lost her rhythm. Liu Shiwen didn’t show any mercy, she did not surrender a single point; the exact situation that had applied in the same game when facing Ding Ning one round earlier!
Now Liu Shiwen was confident. More chances accrued after the service; on the receive she returned the pendulum backspin serve with her forehand, controlling the ball much better than in the early part of the match.
Noticeably the level of play extolled by Liu Shiwen rose, she moved ahead 9-6; Chen Meng strained every sinew to force a deciding game. Outstanding rallies followed, Liu Shiwen directed her attacking play to the middle after a backhand to backhand exchange, Chen Meng prepared for down the line attacks from her adversary.
At 10-9 Liu Shiwen held match point, championship point; she showed amazing skill to anticipate a Cheng Meng counter attack. She was in the right place at the right time, a forehand top spin winner secured the title.
Twice the lady in waiting in Budapest Liu Shiwen was crowned queen.