by Kabir Nagpal
If there is an in-form youngster right now in table tennis, it would have to be Sun Yingsha. The 20-year-old is set to play her very first World Cup, and is heading to Weihai with a head full of steam, and a bag full of medals.
After spending 2019 with the ‘qualifier to winner’ theme in her sails, 2020’s truncated season has seen Sun win the women’s singles gold at the “Tokyo 2020 Preparation for China Table Tennis Team – Olympic Simulation Games” in Lingshui City where she was in scintillating form against Wang Manyu. Can she upset the order of play and reach within touching distance of the gold?
Well, Sun Yingsha will certainly have competition in her venture to reach the gold – none more so than from the shining star herself, Mima Ito. The highest ranked Japanese woman in the world (no. 2) is perhaps the major threat to Chinese hegemony in table tennis.
A total of eight ITTF World Tour women’s singles titles to her name – and a silver medal at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open in Doha – Ito is very much in the hunt for a podium place in Weihai at the very least. Her previous appearance was in 2016 at Philadelphia when she exited at the quarter-final stage. Can she go one better – or more?
At this point, what can be said about Chen Meng that has not been said already? Possibly the fact that the undisputed world no.1 is about to play what will be her very first Women’s World Cup!
The winner of the women’s singles gold at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open has been impressive in the short term and also in the longer term. At that point, Chen had gone 150 days without defeat – which is more the trend than the exception. All that remains to be seen is, for the woman who has won gold time and again, who can keep the Chinese away from the top step on the podium?
Making her seventh appearance at the tournament, the 28-year-old brings a level of experience to this event of which few can boast. Cheng I-Ching has not finished outside the quarter-finals for four consecutive years – three years in the top three.
The Chinese Taipei athlete was defeated by eventual champion, Liu Shiwen in Chengdu last year; this time around in Weihai, Cheng is set to showcase her talent again on the grand stage with hopes of a bronze-medal or higher.
Last but certainly not the least, Kasumi Ishikawa was one of the star performers at last year’s edition of the Women’s World Cup in China. It took a seven-game thriller against Singapore’s Feng Tianwei to eliminate the Japanese attacker – a match which could have swinged either way.
A true battler at the table, Ishikawa will want her eighth appearance at the event to be one better than her previous best finish of runner up in 2015. Having lost in the final to a menacing Liu Shiwen that time, Ishikawa can feel the luck of the draw might just favour her this time around.