2019 ITTF-ATTU Asian Championships
Yogyakarta, Friday 13th September
A hurricane hit Wuxi, will Yogyakarta experience the same?
The line-up reads Chen Meng, Ding Ning, Wang Manyu and Liu Shiwen alongside Sun Yingsha; that is China’s selection for the women’s team and women’s singles events at the forthcoming 2019 ITTF-ATTU Asian Championships which start in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta on Sunday 15th September.
Add Zhu Yuling to the list who only competes in the women’s doubles partnering Ding Ning and you have the top six names on the current world rankings.
Simply the numbers add up to the fact that the outcome is a foregone conclusion; well that is what we thought just over two years ago when the biennial tournament was staged in Wuxi.
China who on that occasion selected Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen, Zhu Yuling, Chen Meng and Wu Yang duly won the women’s team title; they recorded 3-0 wins against Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong and Japan. No moments of drama; thus in the women’s singles event, logic suggested that four of the five names would compete in the semi-finals.
Enter the arena Miu Hirano who joined forces with Mima Ito, Hitomi Sato, Hina Hayata and Miyu Kato; on her 17th birthday, Friday 14th April 2017, she caused an absolute sensation.
She reached the quarter-final round; surely that would be the stage where adventures would end, she faced the redoubtable Ding Ning, at the time the reigning Olympic and World champion. The match commenced and everything pointed in the direction of a quick one-sided contest. Ding Ning surrendered just three points in the opening game, before in the second winning the first five; that was the stage at which matters changed.
Playing without a care in the world, seemingly oblivious to the fact she was competing in a match that decided a medal at a major international event and was opposing the best player in the world, Miu Hirano recovered; she lost the game but only by the minimal two point margin. The next three games were just as close, match points being saved in the fourth; time and again Ding Ning looked to the bench to Kong Linghui sitting courtside. Doubts were increasing in her mind; Miu Hirano in a manner of total innocence was just enjoying playing table tennis.
Eventually a five games win (3-11, 12-14, 11-9, 16-14, 12-10) was the result; Ding Ning had been hit by a hurricane.
On the following day of action, in the next round the strength of the hurricane increased; there was trepidation in the Chinese camp. In straight games she beat Zhu Yuling (11-7, 11-9, 11-8), prior to seizing the title with an equally uninhibited success in opposition to Chen Meng (11-9, 11-8, 11-7).
Thus for only the second time since the Asian Table Tennis Union had assumed the organisation of the tournament, the women’s singles title belonged to Japan; the predecessors being Tomie Edano in 1974 in Yokohama and Chire Koyama (the former He Zhili when representing China) in 1996 in Singapore.
A quite staggering performance and it is that level of performance required in Yogyakarta if the China is to be prevented from a clean sweep of women’s singles medals.
In Yogyakarta, Miu Hirano joins forces with Kasumi Ishikawa, Miyu Kato, Hitomi Sato and Saki Shibata.
Editor: Ian Marshall
Photo Credit: Nittaku