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Olympics - Womens Singles Event Guide

Women’s Singles – Table Tennis Paris 2024 Event Guide

The women’s singles event competition is by far, the most important tournament any female table tennis player can win. 

Deng Yaping and Zhang Yining are considered the two greatest female players in the history of the sport because they have won two women’s singles events at the Olympics.

Such is the importance of the Olympics. Being an Olympic singles medallist is what separates great players from legends.

We’ll cover the structure, schedule, and stats of the women’s singles event, historically, and for the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics. Let’s begin!

Women’s Singles Event Structure

The women’s singles event’s structure is as follows:

Around 70 players will play in the Olympics, depending on qualification. We’ll go into how to qualify for the event in the following section.

Those 70 players will be narrowed down to 32 by playing a small preliminary set of matches.

Once that’s done, the round of 32 of the Olympics’ main draw starts. This is a single elimination bracket, and it’s the final instance of the tournament. 

Matches are played to the best of 7 games. Each game is played up to 11 points, with the winner needing to be ahead by 2 points.

The Olympics is quite a special event because every match is played to the best of 7 games. 

In the World Table Tennis circuit, most matches are played to the best of 5 games, and best of 7 matches are reserved only for the finals of some special events.

This speaks to the importance of the Olympics when it comes to table tennis. 

For some other sports, such as soccer, the Olympics don’t matter as much. For table tennis, every single match is at least as important as the biggest tournament finals.

For many players, representing their national team on the absolute biggest stage is the highlight of their whole careers.

Most of them have won countless tournaments, but what they’re most proud of, is that they were able to play even one single match at the Olympic Games.

How to Qualify

The rules for the women’s singles event state that each country can only register up to 2 players. This rule has an upside and a downside. 

The upside is that the Olympics are by far the most diverse event in world table tennis. Because of this qualification rule, we get to see players from at least 35 different countries.

The downside to this rule is that lots of top-class players aren’t able to participate in the event. A few countries dominate the individual world rankings, with many players falling out of the Olympic qualification spots.

As for how to qualify, thirty-two places will be allocated based on the women’s team event. Each of the 16 qualified countries will be able to select two female athletes to compete in the women’s singles event. 

Twenty-two more spots will be attributed to individuals through the continental meets organized by the ITTF (six each for Asia and Europe, five for the Americas, four for Africa, and one for Oceania).

A maximum of fifteen players will also qualify through the ITTF World Singles Ranking list as of June 18, 2024.

Finally, any remaining spots are entitled to nations under the Universality system. This is designed to allow under-represented countries access to different Olympic events and any places are decided by a central committee.

This unique qualifying method is one of many things that make the Olympics so special. 

Great players will miss out on qualification

The strongest nations in the sport are China, Japan, South Korea, and Germany, among others.

These countries have more than 2 world-class players, but they can only choose 2 to represent them in the Olympics. 

For example, China has 5 players in the world’s top 10, but only 2 of them will be able to play. This means that we won’t be able to see 3 of the world’s top 10 players on the biggest stage.

If the event selected the top 70 players in the ITTF rankings, 13 would be Chinese, 8 would be Korean, 7 would be Japanese, 4 would be German, etc.

The Olympic system makes it possible for athletes from more than 35 countries to compete, and it makes it easier for non-Chinese players to win the event (or at least get 2nd-3rd place). 

China has historically been the strongest country in table tennis. If all the Chinese athletes within the top 70 could compete, the event would be nearly guaranteed to be won by China, as they have 13 of the best players in the world.

Given that only two Chinese players can compete, it is a lot easier for athletes from other countries to upset them. There is very little room for error.

At the Olympics, we’re guaranteed to have at least 2 non-Chinese athletes in the semi-finals, making it possible for other countries to get to the latter stages and achieve Olympic bronze at the very least.

Even then, the Chinese athletes have been able to dominate their opposition time and time again, so much so, that they’ve won every edition since the women’s singles event was first held in 1988.

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Paris 2024 Top Seeds

The official seeding for Paris 2024 hasn’t been announced yet. 

However, judging from the top players in the ranking and how they’ve been faring in the last important competitions such as the WTT Finals and the WTT Star Contenders, we know who the strongest women’s players are.

Sun Yingsha – China

Sun Yingsha
Source: CGTN

World #1 Sun Yingsha is winning tournaments left and right, and she isn’t showing signs of stopping anytime soon.

Sun has been dominating the scene these past months, to such an extent, that it’s easier to name what she hasn’t won than what she has.

The only important event in which Sun participated and didn’t win was the Singapore Smash. 

The other tournaments in which she participated this past year were the WTT Champions Incheon, the Star Contender in Doha, and the World Team Table Tennis Championships. She won them all. 

And, in 2023, she was the champion of several other important events, such as the World Championships, the WTT Finals Nagoya, the WTT Champions Xinxiang, and the Star Contenders in Ljubljana and Lanzhou.

As you can see, Sun is the player to beat at the moment.

The WTT Champions is one of the most important tournaments in the whole WTT circuit. It gives 1000 points, 400 more than the Star Contenders. 

In this event, Sun completely crushed all of her opposition. She dropped one game against Linda Bergstrom in the round of 16, and she dropped two more in the quarterfinals against Hina Hayata.

After that, she beat Wang Yidi 4-0 in the semi-finals, and she completely outclassed compatriot Wang Manyu in the final, with a score of 11-7, 11-5, 11-4, 11-4. 

I consider this result an extremely important one, as Wang Manyu is the likeliest #2 Chinese player to participate in the Olympics, as she’s the current world #2.

Sun Yingsha is, by far, my favorite to win the event. I believe that Sun is a generational talent and that she can become one of the best female table tennis players of all time.

Her playstyle is a very dynamic and oppressive one. She has nearly uncountable strengths and virtually no weaknesses.

Sun is a very solid and decisive player. She’s extremely strong in backhand to backhand rallies, but she isn’t afraid to step around and hit winners with her forehand.

Speaking of forehand, I believe that Sun has the best forehand on the women’s circuit, and it’s not like she needs it, as she could beat most players while playing backhand exchanges. 

This is why she’s so strong. She doesn’t need to step around as she’s one of the best in backhand rallies, but she does because she has one of the most effective, powerful, and consistent forehands on tour. 

Sun also has extremely good footwork and coordination, with which she can often set up her deadly forehand attacks.

In addition, Sun Yingsha has experience on the biggest stage, as she reached the final of the last Tokyo Olympics, in which she was bested by Chen Meng 4 games to 2. 

Sun had beaten everyone she’d faced 4-0 up until the final match. She fought hard but she eventually lost a very close match in the final.

However, Sun has improved a lot since then, to the point that she looks like a completely different player now. Will she be able to claim Olympic gold this time around? We’ll have to wait and see. 

Wang Manyu – China

Wang Manyu
Source: China Daily

Wang Manyu is the world’s #2 player, and for good reason. This past year, Wang was able to win the event that grants the most points, the Singapore Smash.

In this event, she took out many world-class players, such as Mima Ito (4-2), the current Olympic champion Chen Meng (4-1), and finally, world #3 Wang Yidi (4-1),

However, that is the only event Wang won, as most other important events were won by Sun Yingsha. 

Wang Manyu’s style is very interesting. Her main weapon is her backhand loop and counterloop.

Wang has an extremely strong backhand loop both in terms of speed and spin. She isn’t like other players in the sense that she wants to outlast her opponents in open rallies. What Wang wants is to overpower her opponents with spin and speed. 

One of Wang’s favorite plays is to serve topspin and counterloop the next ball, either with her forehand or her backhand.

Wang likes to stay near the middle of the table to cover more space with her deadly backhand. She is also able to pull this playstyle off because she’s quite a tall player, standing at 176cm. Her wingspan definitely helps when covering shots to her wide backhand.

Hina Hayata – Japan

Hina Hayata
Source: The Japan News

Hina Hayata is currently the best-ranked non-Chinese player in the circuit. If I had to choose a player who could beat the Chinese, I’d say it’s Hina. 

Hina is one of the most well-rounded players in the circuit. She’s extremely fast, and she’s very good at the short game. When she narrowly lost against Sun Yinghsa, she was consistently coming out on top in the touch game.

Hina’s high toss serve is extremely effective, and she likes to use it to set up 3rd ball attacks. In addition, she’s a left-handed player, which opens up many more possibilities and angles for her.

She’s very good at playing backhand exchanges down the line, but she can also take the ball early to play the ball cross-court and surprise her opponents with backhand winners.

Hina has tons of resources that she can use. She has a great backhand flick, she’s very good at touching short, and she’s great in the open game. 

It will be interesting to see whether the world #6 will be able to beat the Chinese players on the biggest stage.

Shin Yubin – South Korea

Source: The Guardian Nigeria 

World #7 Shin Yubin is yet another very exciting player to keep an eye on. 

The Korean player thrives on open rallies. Her best attribute is using her opponent’s speed against them.

She won’t hesitate to serve long or serve topspin to get into the rally. It doesn’t matter if her opponent attacks first, as Shin is extremely good at countering. In fact, her whole game is based around that.

Shin’s biggest strengths are her timing and her coordination. She will take most of her shots in front of her to counterattack and take even more time away from their opponents.

I believe she’s one of the players with the most potential to beat the Chinese based on how risky her playstyle is. Shin’s playstyle is extremely high risk, high reward, and that can surely pay off in Paris.

Paris 2024 Match Schedule

The schedule of the women’s singles event is as follows:

Women's-Singles-Table-Tennis-Olympic-Schedule

The first rounds will be played from Saturday 27th all the way until Wednesday the 31st. This will include all of the rounds before the quarter-finals matches.

The quarter-final matches are to be played on Thursday the 1st, the semi-finals will be played on Friday the 2nd, and the grand final will be played the day after on Saturday the 3rd

Women’s Singles History

Table including past winners from each Olympics in history.

Women's-Team-Olympic-Table-Tennis

The women’s singles event has historically been nearly completely dominated by Chinese athletes. 

28 Olympic medals have been awarded in this event. Of those 28 medals, 19 were awarded to Chinese athletes (68%).

What’s more, the Chinese athletes have won every single competition until now, and they’ve only dropped two second-place medals to Chen Jing and Kim Hyang-mi. Their success has been almost total.

In comparison to the men’s singles event, the women’s singles event is even more favorable to China. In the men’s singles event, there have been non-Chinese winners a total of 3 times, and the medal distribution is also more even.

Two athletes have been able to win back-to-back Olympic singles titles: Deng Yaping and Zhang Yining.

Starting with Deng, she had a very interesting playstyle. Standing at 1.50 meters tall (4′ 11″), she was initially deemed too short to play in the national team. 

Eventually, she was promoted to the senior national team due to her incredible technical prowess. Deng played with long pimples on her backhand side, and she used them masterfully.

She wasn’t a defender, though. Rather, she’d stay close to the table, attacking relentlessly on her forehand side and playing a mixture of strokes with her long pips.

She liked to step around and hit winners with her forehand whenever possible. Otherwise, she could attack, block, or chop block with her long pimples. This forehand and backhand combination was what led to her huge success.

Here’s a video showing the moments in which she won both of her Olympic titles:

I also highly suggest watching her matches, as her style was very unique. 

The other player who won two Olympic singles finals in a row was Zhang Yining. In my opinion, there was never such a dominant female player as Zhang. Zhang was just years ahead of anyone else.

She was dominant to such an extent that she won her first Olympic gold in straight games: 11-8, 11-7, 11-2, 11-2. 

If I had to define her playstyle with one word, it’d be “elegant”. 

She was equally strong on both wings. On her forehand side, she was a prodigious looper, she looped with extreme spin and speed, and she could place the ball anywhere on the table. 

Her backhand was also extremely strong because she simply wouldn’t miss. She had an incredible block, an insane touch, and a superb ability to place the ball. 

Here’s a video of Zhang playing against Japanese legend Fukuhara Ai:

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The Controller

Alvaro’s been playing Table Tennis since he was 15 and is now ranked within the top 100 in his native Argentina. He loves to compete in provincial tournaments and is always looking for ways to improve. Alvaro made his favourite memories with a racket in hand, and he joined the RacketInsight team to share his passion with other players!

Blade: Butterfly Fan Zhendong ALC | Forehand: Butterfly Dignics 09c | Backhand: Butterfly Rozena
Playstyle: The Controller

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