Resounding message in Funchal
They struck gold in the respective team events at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games; at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest they joined forces to secure the mixed doubles title.
Staged in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, in the Atlantic Ocean island they very much announced their arrival; on Sunday 31st October Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen won the respective boys’ singles and girls’ singles events at the 2004 ITTF World Cadet Challenge.
Most notably, at the final hurdle, Liu Shiwen accounted for a player against whom she was later to meet on 25 occasions in world ranking events and beat 16 times; the most recent being at the semi-final stage of the women’s singles event in Budapest, the name Ding Ning.
All four girls’ singles semi-finalists from China; in the penultimate round Liu Shiwen beat Wang Xuan (11-9, 11-2, 11-5, 9-11, 6-11, 11-8), Ding Ning accounted for Feng Yalan (8-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 9-11, 11-9). In the final, Liu Shiwen prevailed in five games (12-10, 14-12, 5-11, 11-5, 11-5); Fang Yalan overcame Wang Xuan (12-10, 11-7, 11-9, 12-10) to secure third place.
A clean sweep for China in the girls’ singles; it was exactly the same in the boys’ singles. Xu Xin beat Jiang Haiyang at the semi-final stage (3-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 11-7, 9-11, 11-5), before overcoming Xu Ke (11-7, 8-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-7) to reserve the top step of the podium.
Jiang Haiyang, a player with the same style as Liu Guoliang, pen-hold, short pimpled rubber on the forehand, reversed on the backhand, finished in third place. In the play-off contest he beat Liu Miao (11-6, 11-6, 11-5, 11-6), the young man who in the penultimate round had suffered agonies against Xu Ke; he had been beaten by the minimal two point margin in the decider (11-5, 11-8, 10-12, 8-11, 12-10, 8-11, 13-11).
Success for Xu Xin, in fact he departed Funchal the most successful player in the whole tournament. Earlier in the proceedings, alongside Jiang Haiyang, Liu Miao and Xu Ke, the boys’ team title had been secured, prior to gold being the end result in the boys’ doubles competition.
Xu Ke resigned to the bench, in the boys’ team final, a 3-1 win had been the order of proceedings against the Asian trio of Soumyajit Sarkar, Kim Gangwoog and Chan Yun Hang. Later in the boys’ doubles final, alongside Liu Miao, the duo accounted for the European partnership of Paul Drinkhall and Mikhail Paikov (11-6, 11-0, 11-7).
Meanwhile, there were two titles for Ding Ning; Liu Shiwen did not figure in the later rounds of the girls’ team event. Partnering Feng Yalan and Wang Xuan, a 3-0 win was the verdict in the title decider when opposing Europe’s Natalia Partyka, Elizabeta Samara and Margaryta Pesotska.
Gold for China; in the girls’ doubles it was gold and silver, in what proved the closest final of the day. Ding Ning and Feng Yalan beat Liu Shiwen and Wang Xuan (11-8, 11-9, 11-13, 11-13, 12-10) to strike gold.
Overall, the message was clear, resounding; Xu Xin, Ding and Liu Shiwen made their names known.
Editor: Ian Marshall