by Simon Daish
Journey to the top
Rewind back to 2015 and Petrissa Solja, aged just 21 at the time, secures a major accolade with an impressive bronze medal finish at the Women’s World Cup in Sendai, Japan.
In April 2016 Solja’s stock rose higher still, as she achieved a personal best ranking position of no.13 and a few months later helped Germany to women’s team silver at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, the best finish by a European team in the history of the event.
Firmly established as one of the leading names in the European game, that fact was backed up at the 2017 Europe Top 16 Cup in Antibes where Solja finished runner up for the second time. Then came one of the most special moments in her career on a personal level, winning mixed doubles bronze alongside China’s Fang Bo in front of the German crowd at the 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf.
Fortunes take downward turn
However, Solja’s fortunes were about to change as she went on to endure a difficult spell on the international stage for the remainder of the year, appearing just twice on the ITTF World Tour in 2017! Selected to represent her country at the 2017 European Championships but injury problems caused her to withdraw from the German squad, coincidentally Germany went on to lose out to Romania at the final hurdle.
Upon her return to the scene in 2018 Solja struggled to rekindle her previous form, succumbing to a shock opening round defeat at CCB 2018 Europe Top 16 Cup didn’t have much to write home about on the ITTF World Tour front, failing to qualify for main draw action on four of her seven ITTF World Tour outings that year.
There were positive signs for the German towards the back end of the year with Solja once again achieving a top eight finish at the Liebherr 2018 European Championships, replicating her result at the 2016 European Championships.
On the up but a point to prove
Looking to put the past couple of years behind her, Solja claimed a big win at the 2019 Hungarian Open in January beating Europe’s highest world ranked player Sofia Polcanova. The story became better still for Solja, clinching the women’s singles trophy at the CCB 2019 Europe Top 16 Cup. Further silverware came at the 2019 European Games in Minsk, where Solja took home gold medals in the women’s team and mixed doubles categories.
It’s been a roller coaster of emotions for Solja over past couple of years. Ranked 70th in the women’s world rankings list in January 2018, as of September 2019 she finds herself at position no.21. Without wanting to move too far ahead of ourselves, it looks as if Solja is finally beginning to find her footing on the global stage again. Success in Montreux means that Solja has received her invitation for next month’s Women’s World Cup in Chengdu.
There’s still plenty of work for Solja to do if she’s to return to her former glory with further evidence of that point coming at the Liebherr 2019 European Championships in Nantes: in Germany’s meeting with Portugal, Solja lost out to Fu Yu in a tight five-game affair but, it was her encounter against Shao Jieni that arguably caused the bigger stir as she surrendered a two-game lead on her way to a 3-2 defeat. As a result Germany suffered elimination at the quarter-final stage, having finished in the runner-up spot two years earlier.
Overall there’s room for improvement but there’s no doubt that Petrissa Solja is on her way back and it will be exciting to see what the German can achieve in the remaining months of 2019 and beyond.