Main challenger, no longer a teenager
Listed in second spot on the world rankings, a wealth of experience gained in a decade of international play, on Wednesday 21st October, Japan’s Mima Ito is no longer a teenager, she celebrates her 20th birthday.
Moreover she is one of the favourites to claim honours at the forthcoming Dishang 2020 Women’s World Cup, play commences in Weihai on Sunday 8th November.
In 2011 on the ITTF World Junior Circuit in Chinese Taipei, only 10 years old at the time, she caused an absolute sensation by winning the junior girls’ singles title; the youngest ever such winner.
Unfazed by the situation, in the latter stages she beat colleagues Eka So (11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 11-9) and Rika Suzuki (12-10, 9-11, 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7), prior to overcoming Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Yee (12-10, 11-5, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5) to seal the title.
Staying close to the table, a variety of services, a cocktail of service returns, attacking at speed, close to the table, the severity of play from the short pimpled rubber on the backhand quite devastating, in recent years Mima Ito has become the player regarded as the greatest threat to Chinese excellence.
The claim bears considerable substance. Consider her recent performances against the only Chinese players, currently competing, who in women’s singles events have won world titles; Liu Shiwen, the reigning world champion, Ding Ning three times world champion and Rio 2016 Olympic Games gold medallist plus Zhu Yuling, the 2017 Women’s World Cup winner.
Mima Ito has beaten Liu Shiwen on the last two outings; in 2018 she prevailed in the final of the women’s event at the Liebherr World Team Championships in Halmstad, as well as later in the year on the ITTF World Tour on the opposite Swedish coast in Stockholm.
Against Ding Ning, in the most recent four meetings on the international stage it is honours even. On the ITTF World Tour in 2019, Mima Ito won in China, Ding Ning in Australia; this year Ding Ning prevailed in Germany, Mima Ito in Qatar.
Meanwhile facing Zhu Yuling, on the two most recent meetings, both on the ITTF World Tour, Mima Ito has succeeded. She won in 2018 in Sweden, as well as the following year in Austria.
Now do those results make Mima Ito the favourite in Weihai? The problem for Mima Ito is that none of three illustrious names will compete city on the Shandong eastern seaboard city in November. The Chinese names in question are 26-year-old Chen Meng and Sun Yingsha, a young lady from the same generation as Mima Ito, she celebrated her 20th birthday earlier this year in April.
Against these two, life for Mima Ito on the international stage is not so rosy; in five meetings she has never beaten Chen Meng, in seven engagements she has only won twice when facing Sun Yingsha, the most recent being at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open.
Notably, in 2019, Sun Yingsha prevailed on four occasions, at the World Championships in Budapest, on the ITTF World Tour in Germany, at the Team World Cup in Tokyo and at the T2 Diamond in Singapore.
However, in the matches against Chen Meng and Sun Yingsha, none have been decided in straight games; always in defeat, Mima Ito has won at least one game.
If you can win one game, you have displayed you can succeed; will the theory come to fruition in Weihai?
Editor: Ian Marshall