Liu Shiwen, Budapest or Kobe, her best performance?
The runner up in 2013 in Paris, the same again two years later in Suzhou; at last on her third appearance in a women’s singles final at a World Championships Liu Shiwen emerged successful.
On Saturday 27th April 2019 in the Hungarian capital city of Budapest, she stood on the top step of the podium, proudly holding the Geist prize aloft.
In the opening round she beat Nadezhda Bogdanova of Belarus (11-1, 11-8, 11-5, 11-9), before accounting for the Czech Republic’s Hana Matelova (11-2, 11-6, 12-10, 11-4), Britt Eerland of the Netherlands (11-3, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9), DPR Korea’s Kim Song I (11-6, 11-5, 11-6, 11-4) and Japan’s Miyu Kato (11-9, 8-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-5) to book her place in the semi-finals.
En route to the penultimate round, she was never extended the full seven games distance; she maintained that record of success in the remaining two rounds but also set a record, a first for a World Championships. Most unusually at the semi-final stage and in the final, when ending the hopes of illustrious colleagues, she secured the fifth game without the loss of a single point.
She beat Ding Ning, the defending champion (6-11, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-0, 11-2), prior to securing the title at the expense of Chen Meng (9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 11-0, 11-9).
An outstanding performance but was it the best of her career; was not the best at the 2004 World Junior Championships staged in the Japanese city of Kobe from Sunday 28th November to Sunday 5th December her best?
She emerged the most successful player. She concluded the tournament with three golds and one silver medal to her name; she lost just one match in the whole eight days!
Most pertinently, she was only 13 years old.
In the girls’ team event, lining up alongside Chang Chenchen and Fan Ying, at the semi-final stage in a 3-1 win against Korea Republic, she beat Park Seonghye (11-7, 11-5, 11-1); in the final, again playing in the third match of the engagement, she accounted for Yuka Ishigaki (11-7, 11-4, 11-5).
Later, in the mixed doubles, she joined forces with Zhou Bin. In the later rounds, they accounted for Chinese Taipei’s Chiang Hung-Chieh and Chiu Yi-Wei (11-4, 11-7, 11-6, 10-12, 11-7), prior to ending the hopes of Korea Republic’s Cho Eonrae and Shim Serom (11-3, 11-6, 11-9, 11-5) to reserve a place in the final.
Fine efforts but the performance in the final exceeded all expectations; the duo recovered from a two games to nil deficit to beat Ma Long and Chang Chenchen (7-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5, 11-5) to secure the top prize.
Outstanding; in the girls’ doubles partnering Chang Chenchen it was no different. In the round of the last eight pairs, they beat Russia’s Natalia Bolshakova and Yulia Prohorova (11-7, 11-3, 11-3, 11-2), prior to ousting Korea Republic’s Jee Minhyung and Shim Serom (12-10, 11-5, 12-14, 11-9, 11-6) to reserve their place in the title deciding round.
Just as in the mixed doubles final they faced colleagues; they beat Fan Ying and Wang Xuan (11-7, 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 9-11, 11-3) to emerge champions.
Imposing but arguably the most imposing performance accrued in the girls’ singles event. At the quarter-final stage she beat Jee Minhyung (11-9, 12-10, 11-8, 9-11, 8-11, 11-8), before securing victory against Japan’s bright hope, 16 year old Ai Fukuhara. Liu Shiwen kept mind, body and soul together to win by the very narrowest of margins (5-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8, 4-11, 11-8, 12-10).
A place in the final booked; it was in that match she experienced her only defeat. She lost to Chang Chenchen (11-9, 11-3, 9-11, 11-3, 11-9).
Welcome Liu Shiwen!
Editor: Ian Marshall
Photo Credit: Remy Gros