by Kabir Nagpal
There are few who can match the intensity and rigour of play that Egypt’s Dina Meshref brings – Meshref was the winner of the 2019 ITTF Africa Cup where she dropped just the one game to glory – a form she will be hoping to replicate in Weihai as she leads her continent’s charge at the tournament.
After claiming the runners up spot in the group stages last year, Meshref lost to Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa in the first knockout round. She has made the final 16 four times in her previous seven appearances at the event, and will be determined to go one better – at the least – when she takes to the table this Sunday.
Doo Hoi Kem
2019 was an impressive year for Doo Hoi Kem, who achieved consistent finishes across the ITTF World Tour, however more so in doubles than singles. It will be her fifth World Cup, having enjoyed a previous best finish of reaching the quarter-finals in 2018.
Previously, she has had an upward curve in this tournament as she went from a group stage finish in 2016, then the round of 16 in 2017 and the last eight in 2018. However, she was unable to go past her first knockout round opponent in Chengdu last year. Petrissa Solja defeated her 4-2 (6-11, 11-13, 11-8, 11-9, 11-5, 11-7). Nevertheless, she has always proven to be tough cookie for her rivals, often pushing them to a deciding game.
Europe’s flag bearer in the tournament will the CCB 2019 Europe Top 16 Cup winner, Petrissa Solja. The German international has previously seen herself reach the semi-finals in 2015 and also the quarter-finals last year. Having had a taste of the bronze medal five years ago, she showcased some impressive wins over Feng Tianwei, Ai Fukuhara and then Li Jiao.
During the lockdown she has been noted to be very active in her training sessions, and certainly has the podium in her mind. Will the German continue her solid progress with another strong display on the World Cup stage?
Recently awarded as Puerto Rico’s ‘Athlete of the Decade’, the exciting Adriana Diaz is a name that is sure to live long in the memory. Winner of the 2019 Pan American Cup, Diaz has displayed a sense of calm which is way beyond her 20 years of age. Yet, that does not prevent her from being delighted with the return of table tennis action:
“I am very excited! I have missed the competition. I have been competing constantly since I was six years old, and I need the adrenaline, the pressure, and the feeling of competition. I have been practising here in Puerto Rico with my sister Melanie, teammates and my dad. We used the quarantine lockdown to analyse matches and understand my dynamics as a player… I’m feeling prepared for the three upcoming events in China.” Adriana Diaz
Having made history in 2016 when she became the first female table tennis player from Puerto Rico to qualify for the Olympic Games, she has since progressed to win all four Pan American singles titles. Although she was unable to qualify from the group stages last time around, her determination looks set to push her within reach of the semi-finals.
The biggest success story from last year’s Women’s World Cup and the Star Breakthrough Award winner, Lily Zhang will not be aiming for anything less than her semi-final finish from Chengdu in 2019.
Winner at the Pan American Championships, Zhang has repeated proven herself as a ‘giant-killer’ in competitions across the globe, and the United States athlete even gave the eventual winner from China, Liu Shiwen, a run for her money in their closely faught semi-final. What does Lily have up her sleeve this time around?