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Ding Ning maintained tradition but stands alone

Monday 15 June

15th June 2020

Ding Ning maintained tradition but stands alone

On Saturday 17th December 2005 in Linz, she maintained tradition but now in 2020 she stands alone; in the Austrian city China’s Ding Ning won the girls’ singles event at the World Junior Championships and thus followed the practice of a left handed player from China securing the title.

Li Qian had won the inaugural edition in 2003 in Santiago, Chang Chenchen had followed suit in 2004 in Kobe. However, neither progressed to repeat the success in the tournament’s senior version; that is where Ding Ning is different from all.

To this date, after 17 editions of the now well-established tournament, no player who stood on the top step of the podium in the girls’ singles event at a World Junior Championships, has gained the same accolade at a World Championships.

Memorably, Ding Ning has achieved the latter feat three times, winning in 2011 in Rotterdam, 2015 in Suzhou and 2017 in Düsseldorf; the bubbly character with nerves of steel and unbridled determination have been the hallmarks of her success, the traits evident in Linz.

Always in the Austrian city we saw a bright smile as she walked around the arena but when the 15 year old was called to order a single minded nature was evident.

Lining up alongside Cao Lisi and Peng Xu, the trio remained imperious as 3-0 victory margins were recorded at every stage of the girls’ team event. In the penultimate round against Spain, Ding Ning beat Carmen Solichero (11-3, 11-2, 11-3), before in final when facing Hungary, accounting for Szandra Pergel (10-12, 11-3, 11-5, 11-6).

Later, partnering Peng Xue, it was girls’ doubles success.  At the semi-final stage they beat Japan’s Yuka Ishigaki and Shiho Ono (11-8, 11-8, 14-12, 13-11), prior to securing the title at the final expense of Spain’s Galia Dvorak and Sara Ramirez (12-10, 11-6, 11-6, 11-6).

Two titles secured; as the curtain closed, Ding Ning asserted herself on proceedings to secure girls’ singles gold. After accounting for Galia Dvorak (11-5, 11-8, 11-4, 11-5), followed by success against Korea Republic’s Shim Serom (11-3, 11-4, 11-8, 11-3), she clinched gold at the final expense of Peng Xue (11-3, 11-5, 11-4, 10-12, 11-5).

Impressive, but there was not to be a full house of titles as Cao Lisi was to achieve in 2008 in Madrid and Chen Meng in 2011 in Manama.

Earlier in proceedings there had been a most unusual happening. At the quarter-final stage of the mixed doubles event, four Chinese pairs entered the arena; all four lost.

Liu Miao and Ding Ning lost to Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Amelie Solja (4-11, 11-5, 11-9, 4-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3); Shi Lei and Liu Kailun fell to the eventual winners, the Korea Republic partnership of Kang Donghoon and Shim Serom (11-13, 9-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9). Likewise, Yang Ce and Peng Xue suffered at the hands of Serbia’s Zsolt Peto and Gabrijela Feher (8-11, , 12-10, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 11-3), Fang Li and Cao Lisi succumbed Frenchman Abdel-Kader Salifou and Romania’s Elizabeta Samara after hold a three games to nil lead (11-13, 8-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-9, 11-7).

Incredibly, three of the four matches went the full seven games distance; in two of those – Shi Le and Liu Kailun, Fang Li and Cao Lisi - the Chinese pair held a three games to nil lead!

Now, when did such a situation last happen, four quarter-final defeats for China and two when in commanding positions? The answer is simple: the 2005 World Junior Championships in Linz!

Editor: Ian Marshall

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