by Kabir Nagpal
2009, Guangzhou: First of many for Liu Shiwen
The Volkswagen 2009 Women’s World Cup was held in Guangzhou, where a young 18-year-old Liu Shiwen took the world by storm as she overcame her senior Chinese compatriot, Guo Yue in stunning fashion. The score line read 4-3 (11-5, 9-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-3, 3-11, 11-3) in favour of the rookie, who claimed her first-ever World Cup gold medal.
For Guo – a 2008 Olympic Games women’s team champion – it was all about losing the first game which gave her opponent an apparent confidence she clearly used. It was an evenly matched battle as the scores finally approached 3-3 and the decider was needed. Liu showcased her class – which we have seen so many times since – and started her journey of becoming the most successful female athlete in the competition.
2011, Singapore: Job done for Ding Ning
After seeing her colleague proceed at a young age, Ding Ning followed the example of Liu Shiwen. She defeated Li Xiaoxia – the world no.1 at the time – Ding had earlier claimed the title of World champion in Rotterdam.
Both Chinese players wowed the crowd but it came down to Ding’s supremely amazing forehands which helped her dominate in a 4-1 (11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 14-12, 11-9). She became only the fourth female athlete to win both the World Table Tennis Championships singles title and the World Cup; her predecessors being Deng Yaping, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining.
2014, Linz: Ding Ning dominates outside Asia
Six years ago the Women’s World Cup ventured outside Asia for the very first time – reaching Linz in Austria. However, it was a familiar figure who eventually lifted the trophy – China’s Ding Ning.
In a re-match of the 2011 final against Li Xiaoxia, Ding once again came out on top, winning in straight games (11-7, 11-9, 13-11, 11-5). There was a maturity in her handling of the final, as she did not allow her opponent to even recover one game as she had three years prior. Establishing herself as the best female table tennis athlete of the time, Ding Ning truly wore the crown as the “Queen of Hearts”.
2016, Philadelphia: “Hurricane Hirano” makes history
As the Women’s World Cup ventured farther west than ever, newer waves in the competition began to flow. One of these was the onset of a younger generation taking centre stage, most notably of whom was 16-year-old Miu Hirano from Japan.
“This is like a dream. I am extremely happy to win the title. I hope that I can get something for my family, coaches and friends back in Japan.” Miu Hirano
Acclimatising and relishing in the occasion, Hirano secured the title in Philadelphia after accounting for Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching in a most impressive manner. The teenage sensation won in four straight games (11-9, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8) and in so doing became the only non-Chinese winner of the tournament in history.
2017, Markham: Down to the wire
You know it’s an amazing final when the one of the players has never lost a match in the tournament’s history – and the other is bent on making sure that record is upheaved.
Liu Shiwen faced Zhu Yuling in what was probably the closest ever Women’s World Cup final, as Zhu secured the top step on the podium after seven incredible games. Winning 4-3 (11-13, 8-11, 11-7, 11-8, 10-12, 11-9, 12-10), she saved a critical match point in the vital seventh game which had the crowd biting their nails.