Point to prove, no better place for a return to action
Needing to prove yourself after a long absence and then finding the ideal venue; when the WTT Contender tournament starts in Doha on Wednesday 3rd March, for one most worthy name on the entry list it that will be the situation.
Crowned world champion in Budapest in April 2019, China’s Liu Shiwen returns to action.
The most recent international encounters experienced were on Saturday 1st February at the 2020 ITTF World Platinum German Open in Magdeburg when she experienced but delight and disappointment. Partnering colleague Xu Xin, she secured the mixed doubles title at the expense of Japan’s Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito (12-10, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7) but then later in the afternoon realised a resounding straight games defeat when opposing Zhu Yuling (11-3, 11-9, 11-3, 11-2).
Plagued by injury in recent times it is a daunting task for Liu Shiwen. Now vastly experienced, celebrating a landmark 30th birthday on Monday 12th April, detailed preparation, rehabilitation, hours of practice, but nothing replaces the heat of battle.
Nevertheless, if there is one city in the world where it is somewhat akin to returning to pleasant pastures, it is Doha. At the ITTF World Tour Qatar Open, no player has reached more women’s singles finals than Liu Shiwen; she has competed in six title deciding contests, winning three and losing three.
In 2011 and 2016 she beat Ding Ning in the final, later in 2018 she overcame Wang Manyu to secure the top step of the podium. The following year in 2019, Wang Manyu extracted revenge to secure the title; thus, as in 2010 when losing to Guo Yue and in 2013 against Ding Ning, it was runners up spot.
Moreover, in Doha, she has appeared in three women’s doubles finals. Always partnering Ding Ning, in 2010 the duo overcame Korea Republic’s Kim Kyungah and Park Miyoung to seal gold, later in 2016 they secured the title at the expense of Japan’s Ai Fuluhara and Mima Ito. Two wins; earlier there had been one defeat, in 2009, the silver medal was their lot, they were beaten by Guo Yue and Zhang Yining.
Now, can Liu Shiwen emulate Ma Long? In 2019, after a seventh month lay-off owing to injury, he won the men’s singles event at the ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open. He then proceeded to retain his men’s singles title at the Liebherr World Championships.
Same in 2021 for Liu Shiwen?
Editor: Ian Marshall
Photo Credit: Remy Gros