19 Oct 2019

Second position in her initial phase group on the opening day play at the Uncle Pop 2019 ITTF Women's World Cup in Chengdu; against all odds, on Saturday 19th October, Lily Zhang reserved her place in the semi-finals.

It was one of the most outstanding performances in the history of the tournament first staged in 1996, the year the young lady from California was born and one of the most remarkable by a United States player in the past 70 years; one has to turn the clock back to the 1951 World Championships in Vienna when Leah Neuberger was a women’s singles bronze medallist.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Beaten in her very first match of the tournament by Romania’s Bernadette Szocs (11-9, 8-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-3); second place in the initial phase group and thus progress to the main draw gained courtesy of success in opposition to Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz (12-10, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11), on the second day of action Lily Zhang excelled all expectations.

The no.18 seed, she beat Japan’s Miu Hirano, the no.4 seed and winner in 2016 in Philadelphia (12-10, 11-8, 8-11, 8-11, 8-11, 11-5, 11-5), prior to accounting for Austria’s Sofia Polcanova, the no.8 seed in yet another full distance encounter (11-9, 8-11, 11-8, 4-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-8) to reserve her place in the penultimate round.

First player

Thus, Lily Zhang becomes the first player from the United States and only the second from the Pan American continent to progress to the semi-final stage of the tournament.

Also she is the first player not born in either Asia or Europe to reach the penultimate round. In 1997 in Shanghai both Canada’s Geng Lijuan and New Zealand’s Li Chunli advanced to the last four, as did Wang Chen in 1996 in Hong Kong when in Chinese colours. Later Wang Chen represented the United States at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. However, all were born in China, as opposed to Lily Zhang who is native born.

Accepted that prior to 2009 in Guangzhou only 16 players competed, Lily Zhang is the lowest seeded player ever to progress to the semi-final round of the Women’s World Cup.

Feng Tianwei

A surprise semi-finalists and there was one more; Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, the no.7 seed, after overcoming Bernadette Szocs, the no.9 seed (11-8, 12-10, 11-8, 11-8), accounted for Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.3 seed (12-10, 7-11, 11-8, 8-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-7) to reserve her last four place.

Upsets but not where China was concerned; both Zhu Yuling, the top seed and Liu Shiwen, the no.2 seed, advanced smoothly to the penultimate round. Zhu Yuling beat Canada’s Zhang Mo, the no.14 seed (11-2, 11-3, 11-3, 11-4), followed by success in opposition to Germany’s Petrissa Solja, the no.11 seed (11-4, 11-1, 11-6, 11-7).

Meanwhile, Liu Shiwen ended Chinese Taipei’s hopes. She accounted for Chen Szu-Yu, the no.13 seed (11-9, 11-4, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6), before overcoming Cheng I-Ching, the no.10 seed.


At the semi-final stage Zhu Yuling meets Feng Tianwei, Liu Shiwen opposes Lily Zhang; play concludes in Chengdu on Sunday 20th October.

World Cup Lily Zhang

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Day 3 - Uncle Pop 2019 ITTF Women's World Cup