Supporters Raise the Roof, China Lifts the Corbillon Cup
2016 World Team Table Tennis Championships
Courtesy of ITTF
The venue was the Malawati Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the final of the Women’s Championship Division at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday March 6th.
I stress that point because you could have thought you were sitting in the Peking University Gymnasium in the Beijing complex that hosted the 2008 Olympic Games.
Cauldron of Noise
A venue with seating for some 10,000 spectators; some 60 per cent of more, employees of the title sponsor, were present dressed in either red or white shirts, raising the roof when one of their adored heroines drew breath, let alone hit a table tennis ball.
The task for Japan in such a cauldron of noise, one where Japanese voices were reduced to a quiet whisper, was equivalent to King Canute trying to hold back the incoming tide.
Taking No Chances
Simply the odds were stacked in favor of China and Kong Linghui, the Head Coach, was taking no chances.
At the semi-final stage against Chinese Taipei, he had selected one of the new age players in the guise of Zhu Yuling; it could hardly have described as a risk, the 21 year old is currently listed at no.3 on the Women’s World Rankings.
However, true to the best traditions Chinese thinking, the mastermind was taking no chances.
He selected Liu Shiwen, Ding Ning and Li Xiaoxia; all players who had previously experienced a Women’s World Championships Team final.
Notably, Kong Linghui gave Liu Shiwen, the position of responsibility; she was the first player in action for China.
After the trials and tribulation of the 2010 final when only just 19 years old she had lost to Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei in the defeat against Singapore, she had not played in the final in Dortmund and two years ago in Toyko she had played in the third position in the team.
Now in 2016, she entered the final as the top ranked player in the world, the faith extolled by Kong Linghui was rewarded but he took no risks.
Liu Shiwen led by two games to nil and 9-8 in the third after Ai Fukuhara had won two consecutive points; he called “Time Out”; shrewd move, she won the next two!
Liu Shiwen emerged victorious 11-5, 11-6, 11-8
“We have a strong team, good preparation so that helps when you have to play a pressure match”, said Liu Shiwen. “Also the support was tremendous, I hope that will continue!”
A judicious “Time Out” call by Kong Linghui; he did the same again in the third game of the contest between Li Xiaoxia and Kasumi Ishikawa, only time the situation was very different. Li Xiaoxia trailed two games to nil and was 7-8 in arrears.
The break worked; Li Xiaoxia captured the game. Following the policy of directing controlled attacking strokes towards the backhand of Kasumi Ishikawa and when the chance arose fast and wide to the forehand, Li Xiaoxia dominated the fourth game before gradually asserting her authority on the fifth to emerge success.
“I have great support from my team but the main factor when I was losing and took the “Time Out” was to believe in myself”, said Li Xiaoxia.
May I respectfully suggest the main factor was to stop Kasumi Ishikawa executing her forehand top spin. Li Xiaoxia did that with great effect to secure victory (6-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-5).
A hard fought task, equally in the contest that concluded proceedings, there were some testing times for Ding Ning against Mima Ito who continues amaze; the 15 year old won the first game before the reigning World Champion responded to exert her authority on proceedings (8-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-1).
Again in Hands of China
Once again the Corbillon Cup was held aloft by China with Li Xiaoxia gaining the award for being the most valuable player of all.
It was the 13th appearance for Japan in the final of a Women’s Team event at a World Championships, the fifth time they had been runners up.
Conversely for China it was the 20th time they had secured the title in 25 final visits.
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