China’s Ding Ning in action during the finals of the Volkswagen 2011 Women’s World Cup.)

She’s not part of China’s 2012 Olympic team yet, but World No.2 Ding Ning certainly boosted her selection chances after calmly dispatching her compatriot and World No.1 Li Xiaoxia with a score of 11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 14-12, 11-9 in the finals of the Volkswagen 2011 Women’s World Cup (VWWC) held in Singapore over Oct 28 to 30.

Ding Ning’s immediate reaction after winning the second set against Li Xiaoxia.

The year just keeps getting better for the affable Chinese paddler, as before this win, the 21-year-old had recorded victories in 3 pro tours, as well as a single’s title at the World Table Tennis Championships.

Her debut win at this US$150,000 [S$190,360] tournament also makes her only the third paddler in history to win both the World Table Tennis Championships and the World Cup in the same year.

Speaking in Mandarin, she said, “I’m definitely very happy to win the World Cup and the level of competition was extremely strong.

“But I didn’t think too much before the competition because it was my first time taking part and I just wanted to enjoy the whole process,” added the media-friendly Ding Ning, who’ll be going home with the winner’s cheque of USD $45,000.

On her victory, she commented, “It’s not so much that I’ve beaten the World No.1, I’m just happy that I’ve won the competition. I’ve met Xiaoxia on several occasions before this and we’re also teammates.”

Ding Ning posing for photographers with her prize and the Volkswagen World Cup

However, while she was lapping up her World Cup victory, things were less rosy on the Singapore front as local hope Feng Tianwei had to deal with a harsh dose of disappointment.

Always winning, it’s very rare to see a frown on the face of Singapore’s top ranked paddler.

With Wang Yuegu failing to advance from the quarterfinals the day before and Li Jiawei unable to progress from the group stage, the hopes of the 1,800 spectators along with President Tony Tan rested on the shoulders of World No.4 Feng Tianwei.

President Tony Tan and Er. Lee Bee Wah cheering for Feng Tianwei.

But despite enjoying the raucous support of the local crowd, the 25-year-old couldn’t find an answer to Ding Ning’s comeback, surrendering her first set lead and eventually succumbing to a 1-4 defeat.

“I didn’t handle some situations that well and I didn’t fully utilise my chances,” a disappointed Feng told UrbanWire. “After I won the first set, Ding changed her strategy and I found myself having difficulty keeping up.”

Her disappointment was further compounded when she lost the bronze medal match against Hong Kong’s Tie Yana, an opponent she’d always beaten in their 3 previous meetings.

Hong Kong’s Tie Yana in action during the bronze medal match.

After an 11-3 first set victory over Tie Yana, Feng lost the next 4 sets and crashed out of the bronze medal match with another 1-4 defeat.

“Tie played very well and I couldn’t adjust to the pace of the game. There were also loopholes in my technique,” she explained.

Feng Tianwei was unable to display her usual explosive style of playing. Feng in action against Wu Xue of the Dominican Republic.

Even though the home crowd didn’t get to see a local paddler on the podium, Er. Lee Bee Wah, President of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) was satisfied by the performance of the 3 national paddlers.

“It was a pity that a Singapore flag was not up there, but the players have done quite well – look at Jiawei, she put up a very good fight against Ding Ning whereas in the past, lots of people have said we are afraid of China,” she said.

Singapore’s Deputy Head Coach of the Women’s Team was delighted to be able to watch the formidable competition first hand, as it would help Singapore prepare for the next Olympics.

“There’s definitely a possibility of us having to face some of these players next year,” said the former national player, who won 2 gold medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

Singapore’s Deputy Head Coach of the Women’s Team (right) giving instructions to Feng.

Local sports enthusiasts were also treated to displays of the world’s top 16 paddlers at this prestigious table tennis tournament, where Olympic qualification points are up for grabs. Apart from our local representatives, their constant cheers for foreign players like Viktoria Pavlovich and Ding Ning were very much appreciated.

Belarusian Viktoria Pavlovich’s unique style of playing certainly won the hearts of the fans.

“I heard cheers for other paddlers and myself throughout the tournament and I’m very grateful for their support,” said Ding Ning.

Ding Ning repaying the support by signing autographs for the fans.
Ding Ning hitting autographed table tennis balls into the stands.

Feng will now represent the Republic with the rest of the women’s team at the World Team Cup in Germany before flying to Jakarta to lead Singapore’s charge in the table tennis campaign in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

“Out of the 5 events [to be held there], the target submitted to the Singapore National Olympic Council was 3 gold medals, but unofficially, I want them to do their best. I need not say anything more,” said Er. Lee.