Return of the Defender
Ian Marshall (2010)
It is now almost 30 years since the last defensively minded player won a singles title at a World Championships; in 1981 in Novi Sad, China’s Tong Ling was crowned Women’s Singles Champion. In the intervening years the attacking player has dominated the scene but, more athletic than ever, it would now seem that the age of the defensive player is alive and well! Certainly that would seem to be the message with regards to the current state of female table tennis at the highest level. It is a fact which will delight many with spectacular table tennis increasingly on the menu.
China’s Wu Yang was secure, safe and impassable at the Volkswagen World Junior Championships in the Columbian city of Cartagena de Indias in December 2009 as she progressed to win the Girls’ Singles Final. Meanwhile at the recently completed Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, no less than four of the eight quarter finalists in the Girls’ Singles event were backspin players. Japan’s Ayuka Tanioka, North Korean Kim Song I, Moldovan Olga Bliznet and the host nation’s Isabelle Li were the young ladies in question with Isabelle Li exceeding all expectations to reach the final where Gu Yuting ended golden aspirations.
Similarly on the senior scene, the female defender is alive and well. The Korean duo of Kim Kyung Ah and Park Mi Young both appear in the top 10 of the ITTF Women’s World Rankings and both will be on duty at the forthcoming Volkswagen Women’s World Cup in Kuala Lumpur and at the UAE World Team Cup Classic in Dubai. Both are defenders but as opposed to the new teenage generation, they are much more in the traditional mode.
Notably the young Asian defensive players possess a forehand topspin. None are as dynamic as China’s Fan Ying at the art of service and the first forehand attack but all tend to be able to play forehand topspin in a controlled manner. It is an art that Kim Kyung Ah and Park Mi Young have tried to develop late in their careers; however they tend to employ more a forehand drive rather than a topspin, the amount of rotation imparted on the ball being somewhat less and they are not over dynamic with the first attack.
Nevertheless they are both prodigious adversaries, both own ITTF Protour Women’s Singles titles and in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai they will delight the crowds. Three decades after Tong Ling thrilled the world, the defender returns!