by Kabir Nagpal
Ito and Chen make early waves
The day began with two big match-ups as Jeon Jihee took on Mima Ito and Chen Szu-Yu faced Doo Hoi Kem at the Weihai Nanhai Olympic Sport Centre.
In the first match, Japan’s Mima Ito reached the quarter-finals of the Dishang 2020 ITTF Women’s World Cup in some style – beating Jeon Jihee in under 44 minutes, recording a magnificent 4-1 (6-11, 11-7, 11-7, 13-11, 11-7) win. The tables – and pace of the game – were turned by Ito in stunning fashion as she carved out openings to exploit against her Korea Republic opponent, with ease from the second game onwards.
“I am very happy to be here and it is an honor to be playing in the Women’s World Cup and happy to have got my first win here as well.” Mima Ito
Meanwhile, Chen Szu-Yu the group stage sensation from Chinese Taipei recovered from being 1-3 down to the seeded Doo Hoi Kem securing a 4-3 (8-11, 11-4, 3-11, 10-12, 11-3, 11-7, 11-6) win in just under 58 minutes, Chen showcased calmness, strength in her will and the desire to reach the quarter-finals by eliminating her opponent who had one foot in the door already.
“I think I was physically slightly affected after the matches yesterday, I was not able to get into a rhythm thus was not able to get game mood quickly plus I was a little anxious. Towards the end, maybe I was getting a little tired which helped to slow me down and made less errors. (On facing Mima in the QF) Will take it as a chance to learn from the match. Her style of play was after all quite special and there is no one in Chinese Taipei who is able to counter her style right now.” Chen Szu-Yu
Lily comes of age
A year and a month ago, Feng Tianwei had defeated Lily Zhang in the 2019 Women’s World Cup third-place playoff. Despite a strong fight from the in-form American, it was the Singaporean veteran who ran out a clear 4-1 (11-6, 11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 15-13) winner, especially after a stunning fifth game. Down 7-10 Feng saved three consecutive game points before saving an additional game point to stay in the contest then it was Zhang turn to embrace her inner warrior self as she held off two match point opportunities. However, at the third attempt Feng finally converted (15-13) to seal the win and collect the bronze medal.
As fate would have it, the young American would face the challenge she left unmatched from last year in the very first knockout round of the Dishang 2020 ITTF Women’s World Cup.
Once the draw was made, Feng Tianwei was the seeded opponent for Lily Zhang and fans of both athletes knew that ‘revenge’ was going to be a word used far too often in the description of this match. However, it was another term which seems to now fit the narrative: ‘coming of age’.
Because that is exactly what Lily Zhang did – that is, after showing her exciting and youthful exuberance when she took a 3-0 lead (11-7, 11-8, 11-9) over her conqueror from 2019. There was a sense of confidence which was missing in their previous encounter; even the experienced athlete could feel this would not be the same game.
Yet, Feng Tianwei was in no mood to settle the ceremony. She began what looked like the comeback of the day. Winning two games on the trot (11-8, 11-8), the cool and calm nature of Feng was starting to show – and starting to affect the nature of the flow of the match.
In the sixth game with the score reading 3-2 in the favor of the American, the experience of Feng Tianwei was talking at the Weihai Nanhai Olympic Sport Centre as the Singaporean levelled at 3-3. Changing the speed of her shots like it was a dial in her hand; Zhang saved two game points and secured a 13-11 win in the sixth to seal her place in the quarter-finals – banishing the ghosts of her past once and for all. (11-7, 11-8, 11-9, 8-11, 8-11, 13-11) win.
“I didn’t expect the results today, I played her in the third place match last year; she is an incredible player, someone I have looked up to. I have watched a lot of her matches growing up and to have the chance to play her and win against her was really incredible for me. I didn’t even expect to win this match and to play against Chen Meng. After all she is world number 1, I am just happy to be able to play against her and I will try to learn from it” Lily Zhang
Han steals the limelight at the end of round
Han Ying certainly made a ploy to steal the limelight from Lily Zhang, in her absolute thriller of a match against Sofia Polcanova. The Austrian had an initial lead which was quickly evaporated by the resilient German, equalling the score twice before winning the decider (11-7, 9-11, 5-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 11-6) to successfully reach the quarter-finals. With a delightful run of shots in the seventh game, Han was clearly more clinical of the two in this one hour two minute epic!
However, there was no need for epic-length battles for Chen Meng, Cheng I-Ching, Kasumi Ishikawa and Sun Yingsha – all three of whom rounded up their first knockout stage wins in five games or less. It was especially true for Chen Meng, Cheng I-Ching and Kasumi Ishikawa, all three of whom recorded straight game victories over Bernadette Szocs (11-6, 11-1, 11-3, 11-7), Wu Yue (11-5, 11-4, 11-8, 11-3) and Suh Hyowon (11-8, 11-7, 11-5, 11-4) respectively.
For Sun, the challenge was to swiftly advance past the Puerto Rican Adriana Diaz, who was never going to make it easy for her opponent from China. The battle of the young women saw Sun playing like she had no time to spare – racing to a 2-0 (11-5, 11-5) lead before Diaz returned with a game of her own. Nevertheless, the Chinese 20-year-old was playing like a veteran, and that meant there was no chance for a comeback as Sun recorded a 4-1 (11-5, 11-5, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7) win in 40 minutes.
“Today is my first match and it has been some time but we finally have our #RESTART. It has been a difficult journey, and I will cherish every match I play. I was actually quite excited to be playing today. Everyone here is a tough opponent, I am just going to be focusing on each match and each point I play” Sun Yingsha