An art disappeared, absent in Weihai
Staged from Sunday 8th to Tuesday 10th November in the Chinese city of Weihai, the name of the winner of the 2020 Women’s World Cup is a matter of conjecture but one fact is certain; it will be a player who uses the shake-hands grip.
Every protagonist, who has accepted the invitation, uses that method of holding the racket.
In fact the tournament has always been won by a shake-hands grip player, a tradition started in 1996 in Hong Kong at the first ever tournament when China’s Deng Yaping emerged successful.
However, note who she beat in the final, colleague Yang Ying, a pen-holder and the player with whom she was to partner to women’s doubles gold in Manchester at the 1997 World Championships.
It is the only occasion when a pen-holder has reached the final at a Women’s World Cup tournament. Also on duty in the inaugural tournament, players with the same grip, Luxembourg’s Ni Xia Lian and Hong Kong’s Chan Tan Lui reached to quarter-final round where shake-hands grip players, Sweden’s Marie Svensson and Wang Chen, at the time on duty for China, respectively ended progress. The one further pen-holder, Korea Republic’s Park Haejung did not progress beyond the group phase.
Four pen-holders on duty, the following year in 1997 in Shanghai, the number was one less; New Zealand’s Li Chunli led the charge. She secured third place.
Alongside Yang Ying, she remains to this day, the only other pen-holder to gain a podium finish at a Women’s World Cup tournament. The further pen-holders in Shanghai, Chai Po Wa was beaten by Li Chunli in the quarters, Ni Xialian did not advance beyond the group stage.
Li Chunli, Ni Xialian, Park Haejung and Yang Ying all appeared in 1998 in Taipei City; thus matching the entry of the first tournament but since that date, the numbers have fallen.
In 2000 in Phnom Penh Australia’s Jian Fang Lay made her debut and of the pen-holders is the player with the greatest number of appearances, eight in total. Li Jiao of the Netherlands is next in line with seven, Ni Xialian has competed six times.
Further down the order Chile’s Berta Rodriguez has been on duty three times, promoting the pen-hold grip for Latin America.
Significantly, there is one common factor, all the players names started their careers in the 1980s; the history of the tournament reflects the change of thinking with regards to techniques for female players.
The pen-hold grip may well be considered the better when playing close to the table but from the backhand, the shake-hands grip is considered the more effective. However, is it not possible for a female player to have a strong backhand using the pen-hold grip?
China’s Wang Hao, a player who excelled from the backhand, proved it’s possible for the men by becoming world champion in 2009 in Yokohama.
The Chinese do say “today’s men’s technique is tomorrow’s women’s technique”; will that theory hold good when we consider Wang Hao? We wait with baited breath.
Editor: Ian Marshall