The London 2012 Olympic Games was the best ever; well that’s the firm belief of the whole British nations from John O’Groats, at the very tip of northern Scotland, to Land’s End in the extreme south west of England.
Whatever your views, there will be moments that stand out in the memory; one of those special moments was enacted in the late evening of Sunday 29th July in the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, a building so long that there is a railway station at each end! You can walk but why not let the train take the strain?
Strain, that was the contortion seen on the face of China’s Li Xiaoxia on that memorable Sunday evening, as she faced Ariel Hsing from the United States; it was her first match of the tournament and clearly she was nervous. The OIympic Games in the eyes of the Chinese populace stands above all other episodes of life; it is the pinnacle.
Conversely, it was the third match in the Women’s Singles event for Ariel Hsing, she had reached her goal, she was under no pressure. In her opening contest she had proved too fast for Mexico’s Cuban born Yadira Silva; in her second duel she had proved patient in her play against the vastly experienced 49 year old Ni Xialian of Luxembourg.
Right handed, pen-hold grip, long pimples on one side of the racket, reversed rubber on the other; it was not a style which Ariel Hsing had ever previously confronted. Nevertheless, Ariel Hsing adjusted, she recorded a six games win.
Next in line came Li Xiaoxia, surely Ariel Hsing would be overwhelmed; in the first game that was the situation but in the second game she responded, levelled matters and after losing the third game, levelled again in the fourth.
Alas, for the United States there was to be no sensation, Li Xiaoxia won the next two games and secured a six games victory but it was the most severe test she experienced in the whole tournament. No other player extracted more than one game from the champion elect.
The superb technique of Li Xiaoxia stood firm; a quality which is evident in all leading Chinese players. They are very complete, able to confront any style with equal dexterity.
Perhaps there are still some gaps to the filled in the armoury of Ariel Hsing.
Eight weeks after her exertions in London, Ariel Hsing won the Intercontinental Cup at the Volkswagen Women’s World Cup in Hangzhou beating New Zealand’s Li Chunli, Brazil’s Caroline Kumahara and Nigeria’s Offiong Edem.
All are players with different styles; Li Chunli is the fast attacking pen-holder employing short pimpled rubber, Caroline Kumahara is similar to Ariel Hsing, a fast attacking player. Offiong Edem is true to Nigerian traditions, a powerful top spin exponent.
Against all three, Ariel Hsing adapted and duly progressed to the main event where she extended Li Jiao of the Netherlands to six games before finding China’s Liu Shiwen too complete and Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus too difficult. She was beaten by both in four straight games.
In opposition to Li Jiao, a left handed pen-holder, Ariel Hsing looked comfortable as she did against Liu Shiwen; against Viktoria Pavlovich she looked distinctly uncomfortable and without doubt against defensive players she is unsure.
It is the one piece in the jigsaw that is required to complete the full picture; the ability to play against backspin artistes, to beat defensive players is then next step.
Outgoing, Ariel Hsing with her bright smile is a massive asset to table tennis; like Ding Ning she has an outgoing personality but she has a big advantage over the delightful Ding Ning. She speaks English and in table tennis we desperately need the best players to speak the accepted international language.
The task for Ariel Hsing is to be able to combat defensive players; when that happens the complete player lives in the United States of America, a very complete player in every respect.