By Neha Aggarwal
Lily Zhang stunned the world, especially the Germans, as she knocked out host nation’s Sabina Winter in a nail biting seven games encounter.
A match where both the players were on quite the same level, saw some fantabulous counter topspin rallies from behind the table, close to the table counter attacks and some big smashes from Lily Zhang.
Lily, the 51st seeded player in the tournament beat Sabina Winter, the 25th seed (7-11, 4-11, 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-6, 11-6). After the win, Lily’s face shone bright, with big smiles she happily flashed.
“I am just so elated right now. Making it to the best 32 in the World Championships is a dream come true, it is one of my best results so far. I am just so happy.” – Lily Zhang
Lily started the game shaky, Sabina taking an early lead of 2-0. But Lily soon found her rhythm and got back in to the game making it 2-2 to level the match. Tension was building up in the packed Messe arena as the German fans cheered louder than ever before for their star player.
Winter dominated the fifth game, giving Lily no chance to attack, which was evident in her body language. However, tables turned from the sixth game onwards as Lily followed the strategies well as advised by her coach, Jorg Bitzigeio, stayed closer to the table, kept her attacks quicker and powerful eventually winning the match 4-3.
“At 2-0 I just changed my entire mindset, I was shaky and was not used to the stadium. But then I let myself loose, played my game, and waited for the rallies. My coach told me not to rush as she is really good from far away of the table.”
Lily had barely trained for the World Championships as she had school commitments. She finished off her finals exams just two weeks before she landed in Düsseldorf, thus this win makes it even more special. “I just feel so lucky being here. I had a busy year with university. I prepared the best I could and I fought as hard as I could,” she said.
Jorg Bitzigeio, the newly appointed USA Table Tennis High Performance Director, said, “We strategized well, but all credits to Lily as she executed all the strategies so well. I am very happy for her. Winning over a German player on table one here in Düsseldorf is special for her.”
There is more to Lily’s success, partnering Wu Yue, she made it to the round of 16 in the women’s doubles.
Certainly a big day for the Americans as in the men’s singles, Kanak Jha made it to the round of 64 as well.