Top Two Seeds, Brazil and United States Reach Women’s Team Final
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Zheng Jiaqi (USA)

Top Two Seeds, Brazil and United States Reach Women’s Team Final

Top Two Seeds, Brazil and United States Reach Women’s Team Final
2015 Pan American Games
Courtesy of ITTF

Status prevailed as matters commenced on the morning of Tuesday July 21st at the 2015 Pan American Games in Markham, Toronto; Brazil, the top seeds and the United States, the second seeds, both prevailed in their Women’s Team semi-final duels.

The United States quelled any hopes the host nation may have harbored of securing the top step of the medal podium; the trio formed by Zheng Jiaqi, Lily Zhang and Wu Yue was in no mood for charity. A three matches to nil success was posted against the third seeded Canadian outfit comprising Zhang Mo, Anqi Luo and Alicia Cote.

However, for the Brazilian trio formed Gui Lin, Caroline Kumahara and Ligia Silva, life was more testing, when faced with the fourth seeded Puerto Rican outfit of Adriana Diaz, Melanie Diaz and Caroline Kumahara.

Repeat Result of One Year Earlier 
A three-one victory margin was the order of the day with Adriana Diaz giving the Brazilians more than food for thought.

Earlier, this year at the ITTF-Latin American Championships in Buenos Aires, Adriana Diaz had lost to Gui Lin on two occasions but at the ITTF-Latin American Cup in 2014 in Paraguay, she had emerged successful in their quarter-final encounter.

In Toronto, she repeated the form of just over one year ago to beat Gui Lin in a dramatic opening five games encounter (7-11, 11-9, 11-7, 4-11, 13-11).

Caroline Kumahara 
Success for Adriana Diaz but it was to be the only success for the Caribbean island as Caroline Kumahara proved safe and secure to guide the Brazilians home.

She accounted for Melanie Diaz (11-6, 5-11, 11-9, 11-7) and Carelyn Cordero (11-8, 11-9, 14-12), with sandwiched in between Gui Lin and Ligia Silva combining to secure the doubles against Carelyn Cordero and Melanie Diaz (11-8, 11-8, 11-5).

Forget Match Score 
“I tried not to think of the match score, especially in the first match I played when we were down one-nil; I tried to keep calm, play consistently, put the ball on the table”, said Caroline Kumahara, who throughout played in a most mature and controlled manner.

“Carelyn and myself, we have played each other many times, she knows my style, I know how she plays; so it was a case of playing point by point”, continued Caroline Kumahara. “Today I did not think the quality of my play was that good but mentally I felt strong.”

Team Effort 
A fine effort from Caroline Kumahara and understandably, Hugo Hoyama, the Brazilian coach was delighted with her performance; however, he saw the win as a true team effort.

“Gui Lin lost but she reacted well; with Ligia she played well in the doubles”, he said. “There is a unity in the team; they are very much together, they fight for each other.”

Competitive 
A pleased Brazilian coach and it was a not too disappointed Puerto Rican coach in the guise of Bladimir Diaz.

“We lost but we competed against a team who won the Second Division at last year’s World Championships and next year will play in the Championship Division; today we showed we are at the same level”, said Bladimir Diaz. “We are growing, we are improving all the time; in four years’ time we have a big chance.”

In 2019, the Pan American Games will be staged in Lima; in Toronto it was Women’s Team bronze for Puerto Rico. What will it be in the Peruvian capital city? It is food for thought.

Short Play 
A place in the final for Brazil after a difficult start; there were no such early problems for the United States.

Zheng Jiaqi was unrelenting as she beat Zhang Mo in three straight games (11-9, 11-4, 11-3) to set the United States on the road to victory. She underlined the difference that had been apparent the previous day, when in a similar vein, they had beaten Cuba by the same emphatic score-line.

In power play, aggressive top spin rallies there may be better players in the room; in short play in the nuances of the sport there is no better in the Atos Arena.

Brazil vs USA in Women's Team FinalBrazil vs USA in Women’s Team Final

Rhythm 
“I played Zhang Mo about eight years ago at the U.S. Open and I lost in seven games”, said Zheng Jiaqi. “The first game was close because I found it difficult find a rhythm to my play; when she plays from the forehand the ball comes to you very flat.”

Notably, Zhang Mo uses short pimpled rubber on the forehand; thus when she attacks from that side of the racket the degrees of top spin is less than could be anticipated from the smooth reversed rubber.

“After the close first game I slowed down and focused my attentions on keeping the ball short”, concluded who Zheng Jiaqi who exercised a main facet of her skills to the full.

Lily Zhang 
One match to nil ahead, the United States extended their advantage; Lily Zhang overcame Anqi Luo (14-12, 11-7, 11-8), before Zheng Jiaqi returned to the table to partner Wu Yue and end proceedings. They beat Alicia Cote and Zhang Mo (11-9, 11-3, 11-8) to seal their place in the final.

“I was a bit shaky, a bit nervous in the first game against Anqi”, said Lily Zhang. “After I won the opening game, I relaxed; I change the rhythm of the play, changed my top spin attacking strokes, sometimes fast sometimes slow.”

Harmony Established 
Lily Zhang established a tempo to her play, so did Wu Yue and Zheng Jiaqi; the duo was soon in harmony.

“Actually we don’t play together that much, I live in Newark, Jiaqi lives in California”, explained Wu Yue. “However we are good friends and she is so good with her short play, it creates openings for me to attack.”

Different Histories 
Success for Brazil and the United States, countries with very differing fortunes in the Women’s Team event; in the eight previous editions of table tennis in the Pan American Games only once has the United States not reached the Women’s Team final; that was four years ago in Guadalajara.

Conversely, Toronto is the first time for Brazil.

MEDAL COUNTS

  • Canada – 2 Bronze Medals (Men’s Team & Women’s Team Events)
  • Puerto Rico – 2 Bronze Medals (Men’s Team & Women’s Team Events)

Teams Main Draw: Men’s, Women’s
Singles Qualification Groups: Men’s, Women’s
Detail results are available at Toronto2015.org

Day Three: Medalists known, color to be decided in Men’s Team and Women’s Team events
Photos by Thorsten Gohl

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