by Kabir Nagpal
Captain of the ITTF World Professionals team competing at the Chinese Super League, Lily Zhang has made a name for herself over the past 15 months. The American athlete has showcased top drawer performances in consecutive Women’s World Cup tournaments and also the first edition of the World Table Tennis event in Macao.
Her attacking playing style is tough to counter for most opponents, and while her world ranking is currently at 30 – it is by no means an indicator of her immense talent. The next step for Zhang will be an all important World Tour victory and further appearances in latter stages of the world competitions – maybe even the Tokyo Olympics!
Always the shining star from the land of the rising Sun, Mima Ito saw her rise to world no.2 in 2020 and rightly so. Winner of the bronze medal at the Dishang 2020 Women’s World Cup and gold at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open, there is no shortage for silverware for the Japanese.
Video cameras rolling, opponents and coaches studying her play; could maintaining her present status and challenging for the top spot on the world rankings prove her most difficult task of all? Recently she swapped places with Sun Yingsha in the most recent World Rankings. Ito’s ambition for 2021 will most certainly be regain that spot – and even challenge for the elusive world no.1.
The Queen of Hearts has not had the best of times this past year, and in part that has been down to the missing opportunities and injury troubles. Ding Ning has seen a slight change in her ranking in the most recent release, finding herself up to world no.5.
A silver medal in Hungary earlier in 2020 was followed by her semi-final finish in Qatar, after which her persistent health issues kept her away from action. When she was able to compete again at WTT Macao, there were glimpses of her form that made her the Olympic Champion in 2016. Given that the time is coming for her to defend her title, will Ding begin 2021 with a vengeance?