(by Steve Hopkins)
After 8 months of waiting, the ITTF Tour is back. The Dishang 2020 ITTF Women’s World Cup, the first of the three ITTF RESTART events got under way on Sunday with the Group Stage. The Group Round consisted of 13 players fighting for the right to play the top 8 seeds with the top 2 advancing from each group.
The U.S. had two players participating and both advanced out of the Group Stage. Lily Zhang and Jennifer Wu each made it to the Round of 16 with matches scheduled for Monday. Lily Zhang would face Feng Tianwei of Singapore (World No. 9), and Jennifer Wu would face Cheng I-Ching of Taipei (World No. 8). Both US players outperformed their ranking in the groups and it was a success just to make it this far. But the journey is not over, after an upset win by Lily Zhang.
Lily came out strong in her match against Feng Tianwei. She was crisp with heavy chop service returns, often deep – and her forehand loop was the strongest shot from either player as it often hit at a heavy angle near to the net and landed as a winner wide of Feng’s forehand. Lily and Feng traded points in the first game, with Lily jumping ahead each time, just to see Feng tie the score. Lily established a 7-5 lead by winning a long backhand exchange, and she held on to that lead for an 11-7 win.
The second game saw Lily jump out to an early lead. She had two points that ended with reaction blocks – with Lily returning Feng’s best attack for winners. The largest lead was 9-4 before Feng fought back within 1, but Lily put the game away 11-8. Lily up 2-0.
It was Feng who started fast in the third game winning the first three points and then maintaining that lead until reaching 7. But Lily scored four points in a row to take a 9-7 lead, and then held on for an 11-9 lead and a 3-0 advantage in games.
The next two games went to Feng with almost the same script. Each game was within one point late, but both went to Feng by the same score of 11-8.
In the sixth game the players were tied at 4-4, and then Feng won 4 points in a row and seemingly had the game in hand. But it was Lily who found a new gear and won 6 of the next 8 points to tie the game at 10-10. Lily took a 12-11 lead with a great backhand crosscourt winner, and then sealed the victory when Feng’s last loop sailed long. Lily Zhang wins 4-2.
Jennifer Wu fell to Cheng I-Ching 4-0, losing to the fourth seed after a great run. Adriana Diaz fell 4-1 to the Sun Yingsha, the World’s No. 3 player.
Lily Zhang is now scheduled to play in the Quarterfinals against World No. 1 Chen Meng. The match is scheduled for 7a (Eastern Time)
ITTF TV has been following the matches via livestream.
Check in at ButterflyOnline.com for updates on the progress of this event and other events.
World Cup Update 3:
Lily Zhang bounced back in her second match today. Within the group, she was seeded second but was upset by the fourth seed in her opening match. Lily’s second match puts her back in contention – it was a win over top group seed Adriana Diaz (4-2). The top two advance, so while Lily is not guaranteed to move on, she is in a much stronger position.
Its the first Day of the Women’s World Cup and both Americans have logged an upset win.
World Cup Update 2:
Jennifer Wu was on fire from the first point. Playing the top seed in her group, World No. 20 Petrissa Solja (GER), Jennifer won 11-5, then 11-4, and then in a closer third game pulled out an 11-7 win. Jennifer dominated every aspect of the game, placing short balls better, winning points off of serves, and hitting decisive winners with her forehand.
In the fourth game, Solja jumped out to an early lead but then missed two balls in a row. She called time out tied 4-4. Coming out of the time out, there was a clear momentum shift and she went up 7-5. Jennifer hit a winner that tipped the net to pull within one, but that was as close as she got as Solja was able to hang on for the11-9 win. 3-1 in games with Wu in the lead.
Game five saw both players less sure. Lots of misses early from both players, but a few great shots from Solja provide her with an early 6-3 lead. It is now Solja playing safer balls, and mixing in some very strong forehand winners. Jennifer is hanging on, but more tentative within the points. Solja maintained a 2 point lead throughout the game, eventually winning 11-8. The score is now 3-2 with Wu in the lead.
Solja dominated at the start of the sixth game, running off the first four points. The lead held through 5-1 and then 6-2, and ultimately 11-3. One chance left – score tied with the game score 3-3. Jennifer began with high energy in the seventh game – with audible cheers with every point. The first two points went to Jennifer, just to see it tied at 2-2. The score was again tied at 4-4 and then 5-5. A nice roll by Jennifer game her a 6-5 lead and a strong backhand down the line extended that lead to 7-5. The players exchanged points to an 8-6 Jennifer advantage. A great series by Solja cut the lead and then Wu attacked the backhand side to secure a 9-7 advantage. Again, Solja cut the lead in half with a strong serve – and Jennifer called time-out (up one point in the final game against the World’s No. 20 player). Solja missed a great short service return as Jennifer jumped up 10-8. The next rally was at a blistering pace with Jennifer’s final block going long 10-9. Jennifer pulls out the final point with three sharp balls to Solja’s backhand. a big upset for USA’s Jennifer Wu.
Lily Zhang fell to a determined Margaryta Pesotska in the opening round of GROUP 2 at the Women’s World Cup. Pesotska won the first game 15-13, and then dominated the next two games to take a 3-0 lead. But Lily pulled out an 11-7 win, and dominated the next game to pull within one game.
Lily shifted to a safer, more deliberate style through the final three games. She struck the ball earlier and played more balls towards the center of the table – changing from forehand to backhand but driving flat balls with pace. Pesotska on the other hand seemed to concentrate on spinnier balls, especially on the forehand side. Both players kept a blistering pace with long rallies. In Game 6, Zhang took an 8-6 lead only to lose two in a row and face an 8-8 tie. Zhang then served and won a long rally, and then played two great shots – one down the line and then a very wide backhand shot for the winner). Pesotska then caused two backhand error by Lily to tie the score. A miss across the middle gave Pesotska the lead, and then a great diving forehand loop wide of Lily’s forehand gave Pesotka the upset win.
ITTF TV’s livestream can be found here: https://tv.ittf.com/livestream/weihai-2020-table-1/2221255
Check in at ButterflyOnline.com starting Thursday for updates on the progress of this event and other events.