A first ever appearance in a European Championships final of any description for a Polish female player; Li Qian won the Women’s Singles title in Alicante on the early evening of Sunday 23rd September.
At the final hurdle, the no.5 seed, she recovered from a two games to nil deficit to beat Ukrainian qualifier, Margartya Pesotska, imposing her authority on proceedings as the contest advanced (8-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-6, 11-2, 11-2).
Not only was it a first appearance for Poland, it was not too dissimilar for Ukraine; Margaryta Pestoska, the runner up in 2009 in Stuttgart when beaten in the final by Germany’s Wu Jiaduo, is her country’s only player since independence in 1990 to have reached a European Championships final.
Alas for Margaryta Pesotska after making a confident start, gradually the self-belief drained from her mind; after losing the first six points of the sixth game, the writing was on the wall, the result of their most recent meetings was repeated.
A decade ago at the Evergrande 2008 World Team Championships in Guangzhou, Margaryta Pesotska had emerged successful; ever since that encounter the verdict has ended in favour of Li Qian. She won when they met in the second round of the Liebherr 2015 European Championships in Ekaterinburg, at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Kumpur and later in the same year at the European Olympic Games Qualification tournament in Halmstad.
“It was difficult because no one plays like Pesotska. I beat her at the Olympic Qualifications in Sweden and that was a close match as well. I was under pressure because we had to play under expedite rule but now I am so happy. At the start I could not find my game. Finally, everything came together.” Li Qian.
Defeat for Margaryta Pesotska, the reverse endorsing the theory that all defenders are different; in the third round in Alicante, Magaryta Pesotska had beaten Germany’s Han Ying in five games (12-10, 11-9, 11-9, 4-11, 13-11).
Moreover, notably in an era when attacking play is in the ascendancy, Li Qian returning to international play after a two year break following the birth of her first child, is the third defender to be crowned European Women’s Singles champion since the dawn of the Millennium. Germany’s Qianhong Gotsch won in 2000 in Bremen, Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus in 2010 in Ostrava and in 2012 in Herning.
Now in 2018, the name reads, Li Qian, a watershed for Poland.