Ying, Yuling to clash in women’s singles final as Japanese stars falter
The $60,000 winner’s cash prize of the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals women’s singles event is definitely going to end up in the hands of a China-born player, irrespective of the current country of representation, as the final berths were decided on Saturday.
After three days of exhilarating matches at the impressive Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena in Al Sadd, China’s Zhu Yuling and Han Ying, a former Chinese but now German table tennis player, emerged the last two players standing..
It was a disappointing end for the Japanese duo of Miu Hirano, a 16 year-old sensation and current Women’s World Cup champion, and Kasumi Ishikawa, the number two seed and the winner of the 2014 event in Bangkok, as they were sent packing by the Chinese-origin players in the semis.
While Ishikawa suffered an emphatic 4-0 (16-14, 11-3, 11-8, 11-7) defeat in the hands of Yuling, the number three seed, her compatriot Hirano was also sent packing by the same margin by Ying who secured her final berth in style, winning 4-0 (11-2, 11-4, 11-3, 11-5).
Hirano was seeded tenth while Ying was next at eleventh.
Theoretically according to seeding both were upset, but in reality neither outcome was a surprise.
Hirano may have finished the year higher on the ITTF World Women’s Singles Standings than Ying but the odds prior to the contest were very much in favour of the technically very correct 33 year old backspin player who dominated the match from start to finish.
With world number one and Rio Olympics gold medalist Ding Ning out of the frame due to illness which necessitated her pulling out of the quarter-final clash against Ying, all eyes were on Yuling and the 21-year-old right-handed player delivered in style.
The first set was the only one that gave the Yuling, two-time winner of the World Junior Table Tennis Championships, any fright but after overcoming the initial scare, she was from thereon in cruise control as she obliterated hers slightly older opponent.
Memorably, Kasumi Ishikawa had beaten Zhu Yuling in the Girls’ Team final at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Bratislava but of the other eight encounters, she had just one win to her credit; that being at the GAC Group 2013 Austrian Open in Linz.
For Hirano and Ying meanwhile, the pair had met on three prior occasions on the international scene; on the ITTF World Tour in 2014 in Kuwait and the following year in the Czech Republic.
Earlier this year they had met again in Kuwait when Ying needed the full seven games to secure victory. Saturday’s clash was however a different ball game as Ying took matters into her hands from start to finish.
“Today I had a good balance between attack and defence, I felt confident. Last time when we played in Kuwait I won the first three games but then Miu Hirano played much stronger than today. I was prepared for a tough match, I’m surprised that I won so easily,” Ying said after the match.
Hindsight is a wonderful method of judging; the contest against Ying was for Hirano a match too far. She had played in the Sun International World Junior Championships and then travelled to Doha; to reach the semi-final stage of the Women’s Singles event at the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, when only 16 years old, was an outstanding achievement.
Earlier in the day, Ishikawa defeated South Korea's Yang Haeun 4-2 (101-2, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7, 13-11, 11-6) in the quarter-final while Hirano was the better of the clash against Hong Kong's Tie Yana. The match ended 4-3 (11-9, 11-7, 8-11, 5-11, 6-11, 11-8, 11-6) in favour of the Japanese.