Women’s World Cup marks return to action
A break in international action since mid-March when play concluded at the ITTF Challenge Oman Open in Muscat, the Uncle Pop 2020 Women’s World Cup marks a return to top class action.
Originally listed for Bangkok, the three day tournament is scheduled to commence on Monday 8th November at a venue in China, yet to be nominated.
It will be the 24th edition, an event that since the inaugural meeting in 1996 in Hong Kong when at the final hurdle Deng Yaping beat Yang Ying, has been dominated by Asia, in particular China. The winner has always been from the continent and only once not from the world’s superpower of the sport; in 2016 in Philadelphia Japan’s Miu Hirano overcame Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching to reserve the top step of the podium. Notably there was no Chinese representation.
Furthermore, on only one occasion has there not been an all Asian final; in 2012 in Huangshi, in the title decider, Liu Shiwen, the most successful player of all having won five times, accounted for Romania’s Elizabeta Samara in the title decider.
However, there were mitigating circumstances, Guo Yue, like Liu Shiwen from China, withdrew at the last moment. The only European player ever to reach the final and, as matters began, not anticipated; in her very first match of the tournament, Elizabeta Samara was beaten by Germany’s Wu Jiaduo. Later she accounted for Hong Kong’s Jiang Huajun and Singapore’s Feng Tianwei to top the group; Wu Jiaduo lost to both Asian players and thus after an inspired start finished in fourth place.
Meanwhile, on only five occasions has it not been an all Chinese final. Additional to Philadelphia and Huangshi; Wuhu, Kuala Lumpur and Sendai all witnessed Chinese success in the final when opposing adversaries from foreign shores.
In 2001 in Wuhu, Zhang Yining accounted for DPR Korea’s Kim Hyon Hui to seal gold, an age in which three players, as opposed to the current two, were eligible. Wang Nan withdrew before a ball was hit in anger, Zhang Yining accounted for Li Ju in the quarters.
Nine years later, in Kuala Lumpur with just two players per national association eligible, Hong Kong’s Jang Huajun stole the show; at the semi-final stage she beat Guo Yue, before losing to the latter’s Chinese national team compatriot, Guo Yan.
Runners up spots for DPR Korea and Hong Kong, in 2015 in Sendai, it was the same for Japan. After accounting for Li Jiao of the Netherlands in the penultimate round, the surprise quarter-final winner against Zhu Yuling, Kasumi Ishikawa experienced defeat at the hands of Liu Shiwen.
Liu Shiwen and Zhu Yuling are the two previous winners who are on duty this year; pertinently Zhu Yuling is the only player against whom Liu Shiwen has ever experienced defeat in the Women’s World Cup. Zhu Yuling prevailed in the final in 2017 in Markham by the narrowest of margins; at the same stage in 2019 in Chengdu, when they met again, Liu Shiwen extracted revenge.
Could they meet again in the final in 2020?