Within a fortnight, Chinese youth paddler Sun Yingsha has made a name for herself in the table tennis world as the 16-year-old claimed her first ITTF World Tour title at the Japan Open and broke into the final at the China Open later.
Although losing to world No.1 Ding Ning 4-1 in the women's singles final at the China Open here on Sunday, Sun has recorded a perfect start at the ITTF World Tour tournaments as she has won all her first 11 matches, including victories over big names of Liu Shiwen, Chen Meng, and Feng Tianwei.
"The China Open was just my second World Tour event, I had set my goal before the competition that not lose to foreign players and just try to play game by game. Maybe it was because nobody noticed me before that gave me some chances," Sun said after the semifinal on Saturday, in which she defeated No. 2 seed Liu Shiwen without losing a single game.
However, the clash against Olympic champion Ding Ning exposed Sun's weakness, implying there is still much room for her to improve. After losing the first game, top seed Ding quickly backed to track and took four straight games to claim her third singles title at the China Open, also snapping Sun's magic run in recent two weeks.
"It was my normal form today, Ding pushed too much pressure on me especially in her service," Sun said after the final, "I won the first game, but then Ding got to know my tactics and then dominated the situation. I can see that I still have to learn a lot from those top players like Ding."
Born in the new millennium in Shijiazhuang, northern China, Sun first caught the attention of the public in 2015 when she won the singles title at the Junior National Championships and was then recruited into the second-string national team the same year. This January saw another key moment for Sun, as she was promoted into the first-string national squad with two other girls after team trials.
When Japanese budding star Miu Hirano successively knocked out three Chinese players to win the Asian Championships title at Wuxi, China in April, the Chinese team started to look through Miu's game. And in order to prepare for the Dusseldorf World Championships, the national team chose Sun to imitate Hirano as training partner for her teammates.
At the Japan Open last week, Sun won the singles title after Chen Meng eliminated Hirano in the semifinal. In fact, Sun also tasted victory over Hirano at the Asian Junior Championships last September. The two players of similar age are seen as the tomorrow of women's table tennis.
"Sun is very young, but we can see that she has great potential. She is a player with her own thoughts," said Grand Slam champion Ding.
On her advice for her youth teammate, Ding added that there would be more challenges ahead of Sun, and she should move on step by step.
"Now, other players got to know her and study her. She will face more difficulties than before, which means she should work harder than before," Ding said.