A member of a team, does that fact bring out the very best? Do some players react and raise their level that vital one per cent, sufficient to secure a place on the medal podium at a major international tournament?
Equally the fact that all members have progressed through a coaching scheme that has seen progression from pre teenage days to senior status, does that add to the equation? The fact the players have been together for a decade and more, is that a telling factor when the subject matter is team spirit?
Does the situation apply to the current women’s team from Chinese Taipei?
Together, Cheng I-Ching, Chen Szu-Yu and Cheng Hsien-Tzu have proved in the past five years a force with which to be reckoned; they were bronze medallists at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur, two years later in Halmstad they reached the main draw with Hsing-Yin included in the selection. In Tokyo at the Zen-Noh 2019 Team World Cup in Tokyo, they were semi-finalists, the might of China ending ambitions.
Outstanding but alone, do the performances compare?
Accepted Cheng I-Ching has excelled at the Women’s World Cup; in 2016 the runner up, in 2017 and 2018 third place, a record of which she can be justly proud but consider the recent WTT Middle East Hub tournaments staged in Doha from Sunday 28th February to Saturday 13th March. It does not make happy reading!
At the Contender tournament, the trio that had secured bronze in Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo, all departed in the opening round of the women’s singles event. Cheng I-Ching lost to Romania’s Bernadette Szocs (12-10, 7-11, 11-8, 11-3), Chen Szu-Yu and Cheng Hsien-Tu to adversaries from the Korea Republic; Chen Szu-Yu when facing Yang Haeun (11-8, 7-11, 11-4, 11-9), Cheng Hsien-Tu in opposition to Jeon Jihee (11-3, 5-11, 11-7, 11-9).
One week later at the Star Contender tournament, the outcome was not electrifying.
Cheng Hsien-Tu was beaten by India’s Manika Batra (11-5, 11-9, 11-4); Chen Szu-Yu after beating Egypt’s Dina Meshref (17-19, 11-4, 11-9, 11-9), lost to Singapore’s Feng Tianwei (11-8, 11-8, 10-12, 8-11, 11-9). Similarly, after accounting for the Czech Republic’s Hana Matelova (11-9, 11-5, 14-12), Cheng I-Ching was beaten by Japan’s Hina Hayata (11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8).
Notably in the women’s doubles events, Cheng Hsien-Tzu and Chen Szu-Yu, presently listed in the no.3 spot on the women’s world rankings, did not excel at the Star Contender tournament, they experienced a quarter-final reverse when opposing Japan’s Satsuki Odo and Sakura Yokoi (11-9, 11-6, 11-8). However, the previous week, they had justified their status; they reached the final, losing to Miu Hirano and Kasumi Ishikawa (11-6, 11-8, 11-6), the partnership presently listed in top spot in the global order.
Doubles is a team event; it was the one bright light for Chinese Taipei in Doha.
Seemingly together, they bring out the best in each other. Somewhat surprisingly on the ITTF World Tour, the cupboard is bare; in the past 25 years the only players from Chinese Taipei to win a women’s singles event are Chen Jing and Tong Feiming.
Chen Jing won in 1996 in Rio de Janeiro; then in 1999 once again in the Brazilian metropolis as well as in Melbourne and the French city of Lievin. Tong Feiming succeeded in 1997 in English market town of Kettering.
Note, Tong Feiming and Chen Jing were both born in China; they changed allegiance; the current group have all honed their skills in Chinese Taipei, it is a fact of which they are all proud, it is the fact that gives them that vital extra one per cent when the team event calls.
Now, if they can make the margin two per cent, could it secure a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games?
Editor: Ian Marshall