by Simon Daish
Makings of a champion
Appearing at the tournament for the first time, eyes were focused on Miu Hirano to see how she would respond to meeting the world’s finest at the Liacouras Center. To put it simply, she handled the occasion brilliantly!
An admirable performance to reach the penultimate round, Hirano summoned up some of her very best table tennis to stun top seed Feng Tianwei. Jubilant scenes followed as the Japanese star took one step closer to making her dream a reality – she had already eliminated the favourite, the next player standing in her way was none other than second seeded Cheng I-Ching.
The line-up for the gold medal contest was unexpected. For Hirano, her World Cup debut had resulted with a spot in the final, while her opponent at the final hurdle Cheng had failed to negotiate round one of the event at her previous two attempts. A first-time champion would be crowned!
Still very early into her professional career, Hirano would have been forgiven for a few nerves. However, it was quite the opposite as the teenage ace stormed into a commanding lead, clenching her fist with every winning rally.
Ahead three games and leading 6-4 in game four, Hirano faced a potential halt in momentum with her Chinese Taipei counterpart launching a “time out” call, which, ultimately, didn’t yield the desired effect. At 10-6, Cheng managed to save two championship points, but that was all. Hirano was the worthy 4-0 victor (11-9, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8) and the 2016 ITTF Women’s World Cup champion!
“I’m very happy with the victory; it all feels like a dream to me! With the prize money, I’m going to do some shopping for my family, coaches and friends.” Miu Hirano
Don’t miss Hirano in action!
An incredible day for a wonderful talent, who you can see make her return to the international stage this November as part of #RESTART!
Included on the player roster for the 2020 ITTF Finals, scheduled from Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd November, Miu Hirano will take on fellow giants of the sport in an epic finale. A bronze medallist at the 2016 edition of the event, the Japanese star is ready to light up the stage again four years later.