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Yuling emerge first semi-finalist of women’s event

16-year-old Hirano on the verge of another history making


ZHU Yuling (5)

China’s defeated Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei 4-2 (8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-8, 11-8, 11-7) to emerge the first semi-finalists in the women’s event of the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Doha on Friday.

With the withdrawal of world number one Ding Ning, the Chinese hopes at $500,000 total prize money event had rested on the shoulders of 21-year-old Yuling, the number three seed, and she did not disappoint when it mattered most.

With I-Ching being one of the most improved player in the past year having moved from a world ranking of 22 to the number seven spot within a year, Yuling no doubt had a battle in her hands.

As if to prove that her improvement in the world rankings was no joke, I-Ching took the first two sets in quick fashion before the two-time winner of the World Junior Table Tennis Championships in girl's singles recovered with a hard fought victory in the third to reduce the deficit.

The game from then on was Yuling’s who took the next three sets in a more comfortable style to end any challenge from the 24-year-old I-Ching.

“It was a hard match having to come back from two-nil down. Cheng I-Ching played very well today, the scores were tight and even in the third game, I could only take the game after 10-10. I think winning the silver medal at the World Cup definitely was a big step in her career; she’s more confident on court, more experienced and is able to handle crucial points better. One reason why I lost in the first two games was because I wasn’t executing my strategy as planned. After that I was thinking of those points and how I could play those points to my favour”, Zhu Yuling.

I-Ching had, defeated the number 14 seed Hina Hayata of Japan 4-0 (11-6, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4) in the round of 16 while Yuling booked her quarters clash on the back of a 4-0 defeat of Japan's Sato Hitomi on Thursday.

Meanwhile, 2016 Women World Cup champion and the youngest player at the tournament Miu Hirano continued her march towards another history with her 4-3 comeback victory over Singapore’s Feng Tianwei in the round of 16 on Friday.

It was no doubt one of the most intriguing matches of the day as the petite Japanese player displayed astonishing determination that belie her age after losing the first two sets of the intense seven-set match.

Tianwei appeared to be cruising to victory at the initial stage after enjoying a rapid 2-0 lead before Hirano fought back to restore parity.

A determined Tianwei, who has an axe to grind with the Japanese after suffering a shocking semi-final loss to her opponent in the semis of the Women World Cup in October, played her best game of the encounter in the fifth set to take the lead once again.

But that was as far as she could go as Hirano eviscerated her in the last two sets to end the match (6-11, 4-11, 11-9, 11-6, 7-11, 11-5, 11-4).

“The match was very interesting and tasking. I played against a tough opponent who is very good. I’m happy that I prevailed at the end and I hope to continue to enjoy this form and hopefully advance into the final,” Hirano said after the match.

In the other round of 16 matches on Friday, Germany’s Han Ying sent Mima Ito of Japan packing after a 4-2 (8-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-2, 6-11, 11-5) win while Korea’s Yang Haeun overcame Germany’s Shan Xiaona 4-3 (6-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 12-10, 11-9).

It was a sweet revenge for the 33-year-old right-handed Ying against a player she suffered an agonizing first round defeat at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour German Open in Bremen.

“I am pleased with my performance today; last time we played, I lost after winning the first three games. Actually that gave me confidence today because winning the first three games last time I knew I had the capabilities to beat her. I feel in good shape and today I was more patient than last time; I kept defending and gradually she made mistakes”, Ying said.

The quarter-finals lineups for Saturday are Tie Yana versus Miu Hirano and Yang Haeun against Kasumi Ishikawa.

In the women's double quater-finals, Yui Hamamoto and Hina Hayata overcame Russia’s Maria Dolgikh and Polina Mikhailova in five games (11-7, 9-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-7); Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching needed the full seven games to end the hopes of Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching and Huang Yi-Hua (11-8, 11-8, 11-9, 5-11, 9-11, 9-11, 11-4).

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