by Kabir Nagpal
Egypt, China, Romania, Brazil, the United States and Vanuatu are the nations in question.
Dina Meshref, the continent’s top female player, leads Egypt; for a team ranked no.24 in the world, the African Champions have a roster which resembles a team much closer to single digits.
Runners up at 2019 ITTF-Africa Cup in Lagos, Yousra Helmy is once again on duty. She lines up alongside the likes of Reem El-Eraky, Farah Abdel-Aziz and Marwa Alhodaby, the fans in Tokyo will be hoping for something very special. Having missed out on the main draw last year in London, Egypt will be seeking a last eight place.
The 2019 Asian Champions, China has a women’s team that will make any side quiver. Bringing their quality to the tables in Japan will be a set of 2018 champions. Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen and Wang Manyu line up alongside an elite pair of debutants, world no.1 Chen Meng and the rising star of China, Sun Yingsha.
Notably, 2018 ITTF Team World Cup winner Zhu Yuling doesn’t make the squad but there is still a serious ruthlessness about China going into these championships. Every one of their athletes has gold in their sights. Will anyone be able to stop them?
Romania will pin high hopes on their women’s squad to go even better than the quarter-finalsfinish achieved at the 2018 version of the Team World Cup. Gold medallists at the Liebherr 2019 European Championships, Romania will be led by Bernadette Szocs, Daniela Monteiro Dodean and Elizabeta Samara.
The Butterfly 2019 European under 21 champion Adina Diaconu will also provide her extremely fast brand of play; a fact of which most of opponents are aware. Many are yet to figure out the best way to beat her.
Seeded just outside a potential main draw place last time out, Brazil will have their Pan American Championship squad to thank for this year’s top six seeding. Bringing hugely experienced names like Bruna Takahashi, Jessica Yamada and Caroline Kumahara, the world team ranked no.23 has every chance of making the latter stages of the tournament.
The close to the table playing style, strong backhand, Bruna Takahashi has always posed heavy questions of her opponents. Can she lead her side to a medal finish?
United States of America
Runners up at the 2019 Pan American Championships, the United States of America will be highly motivated in Tokyo after the stunning performances of Lily Zhang and Wu Yue at the recent Uncle Pop 2019 ITTF Women’s World Cup. Joining this impressive roster will be 16 year old Amy Wang, who just so happens to be the world no.1 in the Under 18 rankings.
It will be a new venture for the United States. Last year they were seeded tenth and thus came through a group with Japan and Brazil as their opponents. After securing a second position in the group, they ran into eventual winners China in the quarter-finals. In such stunning form this time though, can they upset the narrative from that very stage and reach the semi-finals?
After the withdrawal of Team Australia, bronze medallists at the 2018 ITTF Oceania Championships Vanuatu is set to fight with their vigour and keep an eye for unimagined glory in Japan.
Ranked no.52 in the world, they will have the 40 year old veteran Anolyn Lulu lining up next to her younger compatriots in 2008 Olympian Priscila Tommy and Stephanie Qwea. Can the Pacific Islanders spring a surprise?