19 Oct 2020

The highest ranked female player in Europe, Austria’s Sofia Polcanova will be looking to do her country and continent, proud when she takes to the stage at next month’s Dishang 2020 ITTF Women’s World Cup (Sunday 8th to Tuesday 10th November) and 2020 ITTF Finals (Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd November).

ITTF caught up with the 26-year-old star ahead of her return to the international arena to talk all things 2020.

by Simon Daish

Road to recovery and an unforgettable day

Lockdown for some players proved frustrating – in many ways the time spent at home proved a positive experience for Sofia Polcanova as she channelled her focus into recovery.

Undergoing surgery on her hip a few months into the global lockdown restrictions, Sofia’s extended spell away from the table came at a rather opportune moment with the decision to freeze the ITTF World Rankings list in effect. There was plenty of opportunity to rest and little ground lost for the Austrian:

“I had surgery in May and so far, the recovery is going well. I started to practise in September – there are still ups and downs but I am trying to stay positive. Lockdown had a positive impact on me. I had time to rest and I took care of my injury.”

In amongst all the uncertainty the year has brought about, 2020 will live long in the memory for Sofia for another reason, as she and long-term partner Peter officially tied the knot in August. Unfortunately, due to the current climate, not all of Sofia’s family were able to attend the special occasion but a wonderful day was still had by all:

“I didn’t have so much stress with the wedding preparation itself, I had more stress trying to find out if my family could come to Austria. My mother lives in Moldova and, in the end, she unfortunately couldn’t come to the wedding. We still decided to get married, because now you can’t be sure what will happen next year. It was still the best moment in my life, and we ended up having a nice celebration with all our friends and my second family in Austria.”

Back in action

Fans will see Sofia twice at the upcoming #RESTART events with the Austrian star poised to enter the spotlight at both the Dishang 2020 ITTF Women’s World Cup and the 2020 ITTF Finals. Sofia booked her ticket to the former of the two events in February this year, following her third position finish at the 2020 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup in Montreux, Switzerland.

Sofia’s past track record at the Women’s World Cup paints a promising picture, reaching the quarter-finals in 2018 and 2019. Only recently back in the training hall, Sofia is keeping her expectations in check knowing the quality of opposition awaiting her:

“Personally, I just want to be prepared as well as possible, both physically and mentally. I will see from match to match. My health is the most important thing right now. As for the opponents I think that all, who are playing there are tough to beat.”

Ready to challenge the best at #RESTART events (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Hopes of a continent

#RESTART action approaching at a rapid pace, Sofia can hardly contain her excitement for the return of international table tennis, not least because her first appearance at the ITTF Finals awaits:

“I am very excited that the tournaments are starting again and very thankful to be part of it. Of course, it will not be easy for me, I have just started training in the middle of September because of my injury but I will give my best. It will also be my first Finals in the singles competition, so it is something special.”

There’s further incentive for Sofia at the end of year ITTF Finals. One of the most prestigious and important events on the calendar, astonishingly the annual ITTF Finals hasn’t featured European involvement in the women’s singles category since 2017! This time out the continent will be represented by two players, with Sofia taking one of the slots and Germany’s Petrissa Solja the other.

Back-to-back years without European involvement, Sofia understands the pressure surrounding the event:

“It is very important. In women’s table tennis the domination from the Asian players is significant, so I am very thankful and proud to compete in the Finals as a European player.”

Features Sofia Polcanova #RESTART