TABLE TENNIS TIDBITS # 46 By Robert Ho 5-9-19
“Li’l Liu”, Big Bang
At the ’19 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Liu Shiwen of China, # 1 woman player in the world periodically for about a decade, finally won the Women’s World Championship for the first time at 28 years of age, 5’3” tall, weighing 106 lb. If the foregoing description sounds like that of a boxer, it’s meant to be as Liu is a relentless fighter.
At the ’15 World Championship, Ding Ning, already a World Champion at 5’7” and 139 lb., met Liu in the women’s final. With the match tied at 3 games each, the deciding 7th was 2-0 in Liu’s favor when Ding went down with a sprained right ankle. The time required to attend Ding’s injury, including taping was counted as “game time” which led to the remainder of the game and match played under the expedite rule. Liu lost that game 11-8 and Ding was World Champion again.
In their recent Budapest semifinal match, the game scores were -6, -9, 5, 5, 0 (!), 2 in favor of Liu. Notice that Liu lost the first 2 games, then won the next pair. When straining to win the 5th game, a combination of perhaps pressing too hard to win points plus being forced onto the defensive by a withering attack by Liu, twice World Champion Ding failed to win a point! The dominance of Liu was further expressed by only 2 pints won by Ding in the 6th and final game.
In the final, another of the band of strong Chinese women who’s not won the top title, Chen Meng, 5’5” and 130 lb., was vying to become the winner but could not top her “tiny teammate”. The scores were -9, 7, 7, -7, 0 (!), 9. Again 0 for Chen in the 5th game indicates the high risk aggressive play the loser engaged in hoping to win. Liu’s other matches against opponents not from China went 5 games against Kato from Japan and 4 games each against Britt from the Netherlands, and Bogdanova from Byelorussia, but none of those games were lost at 0 with much weaker opponents.
Disrupting the Chinese hegemony in table tennis is a supreme challenge for the rest of the world. Mattias Falck of Sweden is a glimmer of that possibility among the men, but the women currently lack such a threat.