Top-ranked Chen Meng wins 1st table tennis event following 8-month hiatus

Weihai, China, Nov 10 (efe-epa).- China’s Chen Meng, the world’s top-ranked women’s singles table tennis player, had to deal with a striking contrast of styles in her semifinal and final matches here Tuesday but ultimately showed her versatility and mental toughness to capture the Dishang 2020 ITTF Women’s World Cup.

The event marked the return of international table tennis tournaments following the conclusion of an eight-month coronavirus-triggered hiatus.

The 26-year-old Chen, who won the event in her first-ever appearance, came out on top among a strong field at the Weihai Nanhai Olympic Center in this northeastern city that included two talented 20-year-olds: Japanese world No. 2 Mima Ito and Chinese world No. 3 Sun Yingsha.

The world No. 1 won her semifinal and final matches on Tuesday, first defeating Chinese-born German defensive specialist Han Ying 4-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9, 7-11, 9-11, 11-4 and then capturing the title by rallying from an early deficit to defeat the attacking Sun 11-13, 11-6, 11-9, 11-6, 11-8.

“I feel very happy to be stood here with the trophy. This will help my confidence going into the next tournament and I hope that at the ITTF Finals (from Nov. 19-22) in Zhengzhou, (China), I can continue my good form and win another title,” Chen was quoted as saying afterward on the International Table Tennis Federation’s website.

Her final two contests of the tournament could hardly have been more different.

The 25th-ranked Han, a player who frustrates her opponents with her chopping style, proved early on that her game can work at the very highest level of the game.

She jumped out to an 11-4, 7-2 lead by eliciting a surprisingly high number of unforced errors from Chen, who struggled to find the right mix of patience and aggression.

But a key turning point occurred late in the second game, with the top-ranked player going on a 9-1 run to draw level and then finding more openings to attack in taking the third game 11-8 and narrowly edging Han in the fourth game 11-9.

But the crafty 37-year-old Han stormed back in games five and six by employing a mixture of attacking and defensive strategy.

During that stretch, she succeeded in lulling the world No. 1 into lengthy rallies, including one in the sixth game that lasted an incredible 81 shots.

In the end, however, Chen proved she had the mental toughness to weather her opponent’s unorthodox style, playing her best table tennis of the match in the deciding seventh game to clinch the victory in an hour and 22 minutes.

The final was more straight-forward for the top-ranked player, with Chen finding her comfort zone against an opponent who looks to attack on virtually every point.

Although Sun rallied from a 6-10 deficit to win the first game 13-11 and then grabbed a 5-1 lead in the second, Chen dominated the rallies the rest of the way to earn a convincing victory.

While the 20-year-old world No. 3 struck plenty of winners and bothered Chen with her blistering pace of shot, too many unforced errors proved to be her undoing.

The title was Chen’s 19th in ITTF senior competitions, while her record in finals is now a highly impressive 19-5.

Japan’s Ito, who lost to Sun in six games in the semifinals, took third place by defeating Han 11-2, 11-7, 11-9, 11-4. EFE-EPA


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