08 Oct 2016

One year ago in the Japanese city of Sendai, Germany’s Petrissa Solja was very much the player to steal the show, causing a notable quarter-final upset by beating the host nation’s Ai Fukuhara; eventually she concluded proceedings in third place.

In Philadelphia at the Seamaster 2016 Women’s World Cup she was again involved in an upset; only on Saturday 8th October, she was on the receiving end.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

The no.4 seed, she was beaten in six games by Spain’s Shen Yanfei, the no.13 seed (5-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-2).

A six games success for Shen Yanfei, the result came immediately after victory by a similar margin had been recorded in the opening match of the second day’s play, when Japan’s Mima Ito, the no.3 seed, according to plan, had overcome Austria’s Sofia Polcanova, the no.14 seed (8-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-8, 13-11, 11-8).

The classic encounter may be regarded as the attacking player versus the defender. However the contest between Mima Ito and Sofia Polcanova had its classic edge; it was the trademark Asian close to the table attacking style of Mima Ito against the European top spin technique of Sofia Polanova.

“Although it’s my first World Cup match, I wasn’t nervous and I enjoyed myself. The start of the match wasn’t smooth as Polcanova is very tall and she has a lot of strength, so I wasn’t used to that; as the match progressed, I adapted and played better.” Mima Ito

It was the third time that Mima Ito and Sofia Polcanova had met on the international scene and although there was a notable difference in seeding; past results suggested that there was no gap at all.

Age must always be taken into consideration with regards to Mima Ito, who is just less than two weeks away from her 16th birthday; Sofia Polcanova celebrated her 22nd birthday last month. However, honours were even prior to the duel in Philadelphia.

“I played very well but in the end she was just better. She changed the tactics after the fourth game and played more to my forehand. In the last game she risked more. I think I gave a good performance here and hope I can do better in the future.” Sofia Polcanova

In 2014 on the GAC Group ITTF World Tour, Sofia Polcanova won in Spain; Mima Ito redressed the balance at the Grand Finals later in the year in Bangkok.

Success in Bangkok, it was success in Philadelphia but it was much harder earned success than in the Thai capital city, when Mima Ito had won in four straight games;

The crucial stage of the duel in the American city came in the fifth game; Mima Ito led 10-8, Sofia Polcanova won the next three points, she was on the brink of seizing the momentum, it was not the be the scenario. The next two points went to Mima Ito, in seconds the momentum had switched.

An electric start was the order of proceedings from Mima Ito in sixth game, she established a 10-4 lead; bravely Sofia Polcanova saved four match points but she could make it five. Mima Ito had booked her quarter-final place.

“She is very young and strong, so I was very well prepared coming into the match. Also I had to think strategically against her in order to win; that worked well. In the last game, I was in control of the game and she lost her rhythm.” Shen Yanfei

A contrast in styles it was very much the same situation in the immediately ensuing contest between Petrissa Solja and Shen Yanfei; the former the top spin player not too dissimilar from Sofia Polanova, the latter, like Mima Ito making use of short pimpled rubber on one side of the racket. The difference is that for Mima Ito, the short pimpled surface is on the backhand, for Shen Yanfei on the forehand.

“I knew she would change her tactics. I made a lot to mistakes on the first ball but there were many good rallies when she won the point. It was one-one and I could have won the third game, it was my chance but I could not make it. After Olympics it’s always difficult to play, it was hard there and after we came back there were many interviews with the press so we had less practice. I was nominated for this tournament a little late so my preparation was not well. It was thus hard to focus but I am happy to be here.” Petrissa Solja

Over the year the style has proved most effective for the now 36 years old; it caused Petrissa Solja a host of difficulties, the German not able to establish a rhythm to her play.

Leading three games to two, Shen Yanfei established a 3-0 lead in the sixth; Petrissa Solja called “Time Out”, it was to no avail. The Spaniard was playing with increased confidence, a last eight place was reserved.

World Cup Women's News Mima Ito Petrissa Solja Shen Yanfei Sofia Polanova