Impressive to say the least, a series of ultra-efficient performances, China’s Wang Nan completed a successful defence of her title at the 2001 World Championships in the Japanese city of Osaka, as two years earlier in Eindhoven the top step of the podium was reserved.
Never in doubt, she reached the semi-final round without the loss of a single game. After overcoming Yugoslavia’s Jelena Gajic, Thailand’s Anissara Muangsuk and Slovakia’s Eva Odorova, Wang Nan ended the hopes of DPR Korea’s Kim Hyon Hui and colleague Li Nan to reach the penultimate round.
It was at that stage, on Saturday 5th May, Wang Nan ended the progress of a three years’ younger compatriot who caught the eye. In the opinion of Italy’s Gennaro Bozza, a veritable mine of information when table tennis in China is the topic of conversation, he suggested that the player in question was “no doubt for the future”.
He was perfectly correct, the player concerned was a certain Zhang Yining.
Facing the adversary who, like Wang Nan, was to win every conceivable major title on planet earth, a four games win was the outcome (21-19, 21-11, 17-21, 21-13).
A place in the final booked, the margin of victory when facing a opposing a colleague in the guise of Lin Ling, later to move to Hong Kong, was similar (14-21, 21-12, 21-12, 21-19).
Arguably, the appearance of Lin Ling in the final was somewhat of a surprise; the greater surprise was the semi-final appearance of DPR Korea’s Kim Yun Mi, a rank outsider.
Only 20 years old, a right handed penholder who used both sides of the racket with pimpled rubberon the backhand, her style is somewhat unique, using the backhand to block on both sides of the table, she produced a cocktail of spins that forcedopponents to make mistakes. At the same time, she was able to play forehand top spins strokes both close and away from the table, thus in open play was very dangerous indeed.
The style certainly worked. Notably in the third round she beat China’s Li Ju, the no.2 seed (18-21, 21-18, 23-21, 21-17), before overcoming Hungary’s Krisztina Toth (21-15, 21-9, 21-15) and Romania’s Mihaela Steff (22-20, 21-11, 21-15) to reach the semi-final stage where Lin Ling ended adventures (21-14, 14-21, 21-15, 21-11).
Most imposing from Kim Yun Mi and Zhang Yining but Wang Nan was in a class of her own, the top seeded position more than justified.
Editor: Ian Marshall