06 Dec 2019

The opening round of the women’s singles event at the Benemax-Virgo 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus North American Open in Markham, Canada; the feature match for the locals was between the host nation's Zhang Mo and Poland's Magdalena Sikorska.

Plenty of support for Zhang Mo but it was defeat; currently ranked 21 in the world, the no. 6 seed, she was beaten by Poland's Magdalena Sikorska, currently listed at 245; she experienced defeat by the narrowest of seven game margins (11-8, 11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 7-11, 11-9, 12-10).

Matt Hetherington presents a match report

It was a slow start for Zhang, whose tentative play in the rallies presented an early advantage for Sikorska. She combined short reverse pendulum serves to the forehand with a balanced game of control spin and aggression.

For Zhang the small problems began to increase as she fell behind, losing both the first and second games of the match. A quiet crowd of spectators watched on, wondering the fate of their local heroine.

As the third game began, Zhang came out firing. Playing with more concise strokes, third and fifth ball attack set ups and decisiveness, the Canadian quickly began to settle herself and climb back into the match.

Zhang took back the next three games as Sikorska was left trying to stop the momentum.

As spirits began to rise again the Canadian supporters brought a positive vibe to the venue, helping Zhang on her way. She led 3-2 in the match and looked to be on the right track.

Sikorska had other plans and was far from done, she took off to a strong lead in the 6th, not fazed by the pace changes and difficulty of Zhang’s short pimple forehand side. She pulled to a 7-4 lead.

As Zhang sped to catch up, trailing by just one point at 8-7, Sikorska called “time out”.

A lucky break in a fast-paced backhand exchange, followed by an unforced error on a loose serve receive handed two points to Sikorska. The match would go to seven games.

Neck and neck throughout, it was Zhang who changed ends with a pivotal lead, increasing it to 7-5. Sikorska battled back to trail 7-8, forcing a “time out” by the Canadian. Zhang’s call for a break was initially effective. She held two match points at 10-8.

Sikorska had the serve and forced a receive error before the ball found the top edge of Zhang’s racket, the match was in a deadlock. 3-3, 10-10.

The Polish player held her nerve under the pressure to pull off an outstanding upset. Much to the disappointment of the Canadian fans, the singles run of Zhang Mo on home ground was over.

Challenge Series 2019 North America Zhang Mo Magdalena Sikorska

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Day 3 - 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Benemax-Virgo North American Open