TMS 2005 Chinese Taipei Open, a first and last for Gao Jun
Women’s doubles silver medallist partnering Chen Zihe at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games in her native colours of China; over a decade later, when on duty for the United States, Gao Jun enjoyed her most successful ever outing on the ITTF Pro Tour, nowadays rebranded as the ITTF World Tour.
At the TMS 2005 Chinese Taipei Open, staged in Taipei City from Thursday to Sunday 19th June, she won both the women’s singles and women’s doubles events.
Moreover, it was the first title she had ever won on the ITTF Pro Tour and it was to prove her only women’s singles such success. Moreover, it was the first time she had ever partnered Spain’s Shen Yanfei, the player with whom she was to win three further ITTF Pro Tour women’s doubles titles.
Never in great danger, Gao Jun progressed in style to the women’s singles penultimate round. She defeated three Japanese players, Yuka Shiosaki, Haruna Fukuoka and Ai Fujinuma, to book her place in the semi-finals where she overcame her women's doubles partner, Shen Yanfei in six games (11-6, 11-6, 5-11, 6-11, 11-2, 11-7).
In the final she faced Li Jiawei; the Singapore player taking a two games to nil lead before Gao Jun responded to capture the third. However, it was the fourth game that proved the turning point. Gao Jun won the game 18-16 to level matters and then won the next two, both by the narrowest of margins, to clinch the title. It was Gao Jun's skill over the table, returning the service short, blocking the attacks of her adversary and when the opportunity arose, attacking quickly with the forehand that tilted the match in her favour.
Also, these were the qualities that proved paramount in her partnership with Shen Yanfei, as the duo won the women's doubles title. The combination of the right-handed pen-hold grip style of Gao Jun, short pimples, using one side of the racket only, opened opportunities for the left handed Shen Yanfei, a shake hands grip player who used short pimples on the forehand and reversed rubber on the backhand.
"She plays aggressively, I try to make the openings for her ", said Gao Jun. "I'm the controller, she's the killer."
Unseeded, they beat second seeds Lau Sui Fei and Song Ah Sim of Hong Kong in the opening round before accounting for Ai Fujinuma and Reiko Hiura in the quarters and the duo of Haruna Fukuoka and Sayaka Hirano in the semis.
In the final they faced Sun Beibei and Wang Yuegu who had beaten the Koreans Lee Hyangmi and Moon Hyunjung, the latter's colleagues Lee Eunhee and Nam Hyejin in the quarters and the top seeds Tie Yana and Zhang Rui in the semis. In the penultimate round the Singapore duo had recovered from two games to nil deficit to secure victory, in the final they lost the first three games, won the fourth but there was to be no repeat of the semi-final round recovery and the pairing of Gao Jun and Shen Yanfei secured gold (11-7, 12-10, 11-6, 4-11, 11-6).
A full schedule for Gao Jun but the busiest player on duty, especially on the Saturday was Sun Bei Bei; in fact she was so busy that her under 21 women's Singles final had to be postponed to the following morning!
In the women's singles, she beat second seed Tie Yana in seven games in round two before losing to Shen Yanfei in the quarters. In the under 21 women's singles she overcame Chinese Taipei's Lu Yun-Feng and Huang I-Hwa at the quarter and semi-final stages respectively to book a final-round meeting with her Singapore compatriot, Xu Yan, a match she duly won in five games.
The defeat of Tie Yana was a surprise but it was comparatively minor when compared with the feats of Yuko Watanabe, a player whose name did not appear on the ITTF Women's World Ranking list at the time of the tournament. The 20-year-old student, who was studying Japanese literature at Chuo University in Tokyo, almost exited proceedings in the qualification group stage. She beat Korea's Sung Jung Ah in five games but lost to Chinese Taipei's Li I-Chen in six games; however, the latter did the Japanese player a favour by falling to Sung Jung Ah in six games and so Yuko Watanabe was through to the main draw on games ratio.
A right-handed shake-hands grip player, reversed rubber on the forehand, short pimples on the backhand, Yuko Watanabe made the most of her opportunity. She beat Singapore's Zhang Xueling in round one and then, in round two, Hong Kong's Lau Sui Fei, both contests being resolved in seven games.
The match against Lau Sui Fei was quite remarkable: Watanabe lost the first game 11-0, won the second 11-6, lost the third 11-1 and the fourth 11-6 before eventually securing victory. However, there were to be no further heroics; she fell in the quarters to Lau Sui Fei's colleague, Zhang Rui.
Progress to the round of the last eight; it was an outstanding effort but overall, the tournament belonged to astute play, that of Gao Jun.