by Simon Daish
Germany and Romania still European top dogs
The two victorious nations from the 2017 European Championships successfully retained their status as continental champions as Germany and Romania secured men’s and women’s team gold respectively at the Liebherr 2019 European Championships.
Possessing a perfect record in the lead up to the men’s team final, Germany also emerged with a 3-0 win over Portugal in the title decider as Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska combined to beat Marcos Freitas, Joao Monteiro and Tiago Apolonia with devastating effect.
Romania came mightily close to achieving an unblemished record in the women’s team event with Poland the only side not to fall 3-0 at the hands of the top seeds. At the final hurdle, the Romanian line-up of Bernadette Szocs, Daniela Monteiro Dodean and Elizabeta Samara held off a brave effort from Portugal’s Shao Jieni, Fu Yu and Leila Oliveira to further cement their place at the summit of the European game.
Lily Zhang is a real star!
Long held in high regard, Lily Zhang showed the world exactly why at the 2019 ITTF Pan American Championships with a quartet of title victories at the prestigious tournament.
The 23-year-old United States star was truly mesmerising throughout the course of the event, storming to women’s singles gold without dropping a single game across her five encounters! Lily Zhang also played a key role in helping Team USA to women’s team glory following impressive outings against big-time rivals in Puerto Rico and Brazil.
Seeded first for the draw Lily and Wu Yue lived up to expectations in the women’s doubles race by standing atop the medals podium while the mixed doubles contest saw Lily and partner Kai Zhang win an all United States final against Nikhil Kumar and Amy Wang. Successful in all four events she was eligible to compete in, Lily Zhang was surely the player of the tournament.
Japanese players love competing in Asuncion
Making its debut on the ITTF Challenge Series calendar the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Paraguay Open was a huge success and if there’s one thing we’ve learnt following the close of the competition it is that players representing Japan seem to very much enjoy Asuncion as a setting.
All in all Japan captured five gold medals in the Paraguayan capital: Masataka Morizono was responsible for two of those celebrations with victories in the men’s singles and men’s doubles events, partnering Slovak Republic’s Lubomir Pistej in the latter, while two more came courtesy of Maki Shiomi who emerged triumphant in the Under 21 women’s singles draw before combining with Honoka Hashimoto to women’s doubles success. Hina Hayata contributed the fifth with a simply dazzling display in the women’s singles, seeing off Hashimoto 4-2 in the final.
China still the dominant force in Asia
There were so many stories to tell at the 2019 ITTF-ATTU Asian Championships in Yogyakarta, Indonesia but one stood out above the rest and that was the unrelenting might off Team China with all seven titles going their way!
Untouchable in both team events, China were just as dominant in the two singles competitions with Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto the only player from outside the country to reach the semi-finals. World no.1 Xu Xin kept up his stunning run of form to beat Lin Gaoyuan to the men’s singles crown but in the women’s singles there was somewhat of an upset as 18-year-old Sun Yingsha toppled the likes of Wang Manyu, Ding Ning and World champion Liu Shiwen to lift the trophy.
Defeat for Liu Shiwen but she did enjoy some success, pairing up once again with Xu Xin to form a formidable alliance in the mixed doubles campaign. The two remaining doubles events were won by the second seeded entries as Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan took home men’s doubles gold while Ding Ning and Zhu Yuling showed great class in the women’s doubles.
Rob Davies is European No.1 in Class 1!
One of the finest wheelchair players the world has to offer, Great Britain’s Rob Davies once again demonstrated his strength by adding another continental title to his collection.
Competing at the 2019 ITTF European Para Table Tennis Championships Davies emerged as Class 1 champion at the event for the fourth consecutive time, prevailing over Hungary’s Endre Major at the final hurdle. The highest ranked European player in the Class 1 world rankings, Davies continues to lead the way as one of the continent’s top players.