by Simon Daish
28-year-old Zhang Mo played out two very different matches in the opening rounds of the Women’s Singles main draw, but safely managed to seal her spot in the Round of 16.
In a match that went right down to the wire Zhang Mo edged to a seven games win over Korea Republic’s Ji Eunchae (8-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-13, 6-11, 11-2, 11-7) before picking up a fairly comfortable result against Mariia Tailakova of Russia in the evening (11-6, 11-7, 11-4, 13-11), and the Canadian contestant believes that her move to Europe has improved the level of her performances.
“The first match was tight and difficult to adapt, but I was continuously trying to move and activate myself. In the second match I was getting better. In September (2016) I moved to Linz (Austria) where I am enjoying good practice as well as a good coaching which is helping me a lot”, Zhang Mo.
Interestingly Zhang Mo is finding that the ball is producing an intriguing effect compared to the older Celluloid table tennis balls claiming that while her pimples maybe don’t benefit as much through the use of backspin, the faster paced rallies are providing her with plenty of joy.
“When the opponent loops, I can’t give as much backspin with my pimples as before, so it doesn’t make them uncomfortable. But on the other hand I am able to play faster rallies which gives me an advantage”, Zhang Mo.
Over in the top half of the draw Laura Gasnier began the day well with a fine display against Iveta Vacenovska of the Czech Republic, and the French representative enjoyed yet more success in the evening session in Otocec.
Triumphing in five ends Laura Gasnier saw off Luxembourg’s Sarah De Nutte (5-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-9, 14-12) to progress through to the Round of 16 and after the match the French competitor stated that she was thrilled with her performances throughout the day.
“I have played many times through the years against both of these players but I have never won before against either of them. It was very important to be able to adopt good tactics and make the right choices in critical moments. I am very happy, my level is high and my attitude is very positive”, Laura Gasnier.
Yet, despite her success Gasnier hasn’t fully adapted to the ball and while she believes that it may play to the strengths of the short pimples on her forehand rubber she is struggling to gain an advantage with the other side of her racquet.
“… it’s better for my forehand but I feel I can’t give enough spin with my backhand which normally troubles my opponents”, Laura Gasnier.
While Friday’s action may have produced plenty of standout shocks and eye-catching drama, rather intriguingly the insight into how the short pimples are handling the ball provides a fascinating backdrop to the tournament and the sport as a whole.