By Robert Ho

16 Asian Olympic Trials:  Zhu “Helps” Ching Lose


Hongkong was the site of competition for Asian players to qualify for the Olympics.  There were a number of interesting upsets.

Liu Shi Wen of China, while never having won a world championship, has ranked #1 in the world for extended periods of time because of her numerous wins on the World Tour.

Her match with Doo Hoi Kem of Hongkong, 25th in the world resulted in a 4-2 upset win for Doo.  However Li Xiao Xia of China, a past world and Olympic champion was 4-1 too much for Doo.  Li appearrd to have a good chance of becoming Olympic champion for a second time.

Another big upset was 16 year old Mima Ito of Japan, winner of the 2015 German Open at age 15, trouncing twice world champion Ding Ning of China 4-2.  Ito then lost to her countrywoman Kasumi Ishikawa 1-4.  In turn Li Xiao Xia topped Ishikawa 4-0.

A match that illustrated rapid recognition of a tactical-technical advantage by an experienced and accomplished player leading to a win was the Zhu Yu Ling (China)—Cheng I-Ching (Hongkong) encounter.  Zhu, (ranked #1 in the world for a short period during the past year) won the hotly contested first game 14-12.  She won the next 2 at 5 and 4 respectively.  In the 4th, Cheng led 6-1 (including a net point), 8-4, 8-7, 9-7, 9-8, 10-8 (including a “net”), 10-9, 10-10, but finally lost the 4th and final game 14-12.  During the close 1st game it became apparent that when attacking a push or a short serve, or in counterattacking, Cheng made many unforced errors with the ball going long even when she was in good position to make her stroke. When she backhand looped a serve to her backhand or forehand “killed” a block down the line to her backhand, the ball went long many times.  Apparently, Zhu recognized these tendencies in the 1st game which guided her choices in ball placement and stroke selection thereafter.  Maintaining all other elements of stroke technique constant, it was as if Cheng failed to “close” her bat angle that little bit more to keep the ball on the table.  Zhu did not win by overpowering Cheng as much as by exploiting Cheng’s faulty technique with prescient ball placement when attacking/counterattacking, and soft pushes, well timed and aimed.  Cheng failed to correct her technical deficiencies for the whole match contributing to her downfall.

Another big upset was Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan’s 4-2 win over Xu Xin (China’s #3 in the world).  Ma Long’s win over countrymen Zhang Ji Ke 4-2, and over Fan Zhen Dong 4-1 was not unexpected as Ma has been playing at a high level since winning the world championship in 2015.