The Centre of Attraction at the Evergrande Real Estate Asian Cup
Winner of the Women’s Singles event at the Salwa Cup Kuwait Open in February and currently occupying the no.1 spot on the ITTF Women’s World Ranking list, China’s 18 year old Liu Shiwen is very much the centre of attention in Guangzhou, for the Evergrande Real Estate Asian Cup which starts on Friday 26th March and concludes on Sunday 28th March 2010.
Born in Liaoning Province in the north of China, the birthplace of both Li Xiaoxia and Ding Ning, who are also competing; the inhabitants of the southern Chinese city will have their eyes focused on the petite Chinese teenager not only because she statistically the best player in the world.
They feel she is one of their own.
“I started to play table tennis in Liaoning but I moved to Guangzhou when I was eight years old”, explained Liu Shiwen. “I moved because my coach moved here and then in 2004 I joined the national team in Beijing.”
On joining the national team she made her first appearance at international level by competing in the World Junior Championships in the Japanese city of Kobe.
Incredibly at the tender age of 13 years; she lost only one match in the whole proceedings.
In the semi-final stage of the Girls’ Singles event, she was beaten by the eventual winner, colleague Chang Chenchen; all other titles went her way.
Often I am asked the question why is China so good at table tennis?
Liu Shiwen gave you one of the answers; table tennis is important, she wanted to succeed, she had confidence in her coach, so she moved home. In how many other countries of the world would that happen?
Furthermore, the move underlines one of the reasons why Liu Shiwen is now the no.1 ranked female player in the world; it was a very brave move for an eight year old girl to make.
Watch Liu Shiwen play and she is brave, very brave.
At the Press Conference held on Thursday 25th March, Li Shiwen took all the attention in her stride, quietly and politely left the meeting ready to prepare for a competition which has 16 male and 16 female players.
Competition commences with groups of four; the top two progressing to compete for places one to eight and the rest for places nine to sixteen; all matches being best of seven games.
Home for the competition is the Guangzhou Gymnasium, the same venue as was used for the Evergrande Real Estate World Team Championships in 2008 and interest in the event is high.
Some 28 technical officials will be on duty but the number to note is that of journalists and cameramen; over 100 accreditations have been awarded.
Seeded no.1, Liu Shiwen starts as the favourite but she will face strong opposition from her colleagues, the no.3 and no.4 seeded players respectively, Ding Ning and Li Xiaoxia.
Equally, Feng Tianwei of Singapore is a threat. She is the no.2 seed.
Meanwhile, in the Men’s Singles event the Chinese trio of Ma Lin, Zhang Jike and Xu Xin are the top three seeds with Singapore’s Gao Ning at no.4 and, in a sport where the vast majority of players are right handed, half the number of entrants are left handers.
Note in particular Group C which comprises China’s Xu Xin, Korea’s Seo Hyun Deok, Japan’s Koki Niwa and Iran’s Noshad Alamiyan; all are left hander. The others are Singapore’s Yang Zi, Japan’s Kasahiro Chan, Hong Kong’s Ko Lai Chak and Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An.
Three days of high class table tennis awaits; as in 2008 those visiting the tournament will be thoroughly entertained and for the Guangzhou public they will be supporting one player in particular, the player they regard as the home town girl; the superb Liu Shiwen.
Group A: Ma Lin (CHN), Yang Zi (SIN), Kasahiro Chan (JPN), Tse Ka Chun (HKG)
Group B: Zhang Jike (CHN), Ko Lai Chak (HKG), Wu Chih-Chi (TPE), Ibrahem A-Hasan (KUW)
Group C: Xu Xin (CHN), Seo Hyun Deok (KOR), Koki Niwa (JPN), Noshad Alamiyan (IRI)
Group D: Gao Ning (SIN), Sharath Kamal Achanta (IND), Kim Min Seok (KOR), Chen Chien-An (TPE)
Group A: Liu Shiwen (CHN), Wang Yue Gu (SIN), ZHANG Rui (HKG), Yuri Yamanashi (JPN)
Group B: Feng Tianwei (SIN), Huang Yi-Hua (TPE), Misako Wakamiya (JPN), Neda Shahsavari (IRI)
Group C: Ding Ning (CHN), Seok Ha Jung (KOR), Nanthana Komwong (THA), Beh Lee Wei (MAS)
Group D: Li Xiaoxia (CHN), Lau Sui Fei (HKG), Yang Ha Eun (KOR), Poloumi Ghatak (IND)