Lily Zhang competes at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 6, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
LIMA, Peru – After competing individually this morning, USA Table Tennis players Yue Wu and Lily Zhang paired up in the women’s doubles table tennis event at Pan American Games Lima 2019. The duo lost to sisters Adriana Diaz and Melanie Diaz of Puerto Rico 4-3 to earn the silver medal at Videna National Sports Village.
Behind cheers from the boisterous crowd, the sisters from Puerto Rico began the decisive set on a 6-0 run. The U.S. managed to cut the lead to 10-7, but one final error ended their chances for an unprecedented comeback.
“In every game there was an advantage to one side,” Zhang said of the match. “You could see the score. We each won one game. And we felt better on one side. But in the seventh game we let that lead go a little bit and we were too far behind. It was a little too late to catch up.”
After sweeping Mexico’s Clio Barcenas and Yadira Silva 4-0 and winning 4-1 against Canada’s Alicia Cote and Mo Zhang, Team USA looked to be in prime position to defend their gold medal from four years ago. However, several uncharacteristic errors from the two caused issues, and there is little room for that in the fast-paced scoring system of table tennis.
The U.S. clinched game one thanks to its ability to climb back from 3-1 and 5-3 deficits. After tying the score at 5-5, the duo closed the match on a 6-2 run thanks to Zhang’s powerful forehand shot and a few mistakes from the Puerto Rican team.
Six unforced errors caused the U.S. to drop game two. Five of those errors came from shots that went long. The errors allowed Puerto Rico to start a 5-0 run that brought the score to 8-5. Though the U.S. managed to come back within one at 9-8, Wu’s final shot of the set missed the right side of the table. The Diaz sisters rejoiced in their victory.
The U.S. fought through several more errors to clinch game three and take a 2-1 match lead. After getting out of a 3-1 hole, thanks to a cross-table backhand shot from Wu, both Zhang and Wu hit shots into the net, allowing Puerto Rico to regain an 8-7 lead. However, Zhang’s cross-table forehand shot past the Diaz sisters put the U.S back into the lead at 9-8. After a brief tie, Puerto Rico sent a shot beyond the table, and Wu let out a scream that gave the U.S. the momentum needed to finish the set with a 12-10 victory.
In game four, the U.S succumbed to its errors. This time, Zhang and Wu failed to return several shots. Those that they did connect on went long. Tied at 4-4, the Diaz sisters went on a 5-0 run to break open a 9-4 lead in the set. The U.S. was in prime position to make a comeback, but Zhang’s return clipped the net and fell just past the table, leading to an eventual 11-7 victory for the Diaz sisters.
The U.S. appeared to clean up the errors in game five. The duo started the game on a 7-1 run. But the set was still plagued with errors not seen in their previous matches. What should have been a swift victory turned into a bit of a battle. At 10-4, Zhang wound up for the home run shot, but the scorched shot was sent into the net. The potential momentum changing shot failed. The U.S. limped to an 11-6 victory.
The U.S. found itself in another hole in the beginning of game six. After a 4-1 hole to start the match, they managed to tie the score at 5-5 after Adriana Diaz whiffed on a shot. However, back-to-back long shots allowed Puerto Rico to go on another 4-1 run, with the momentum leading to a 11-8 win.
Things just did not click in the final game of the match for the U.S. After the Diaz sisters muscled a 3-0 lead, the U.S. called a timeout, hoping to stop their surge. Out of the timeout, Zhang’s return clipped the net. The ball went long off the table, and Puerto Rico scored yet another point. By 6-0, the Puerto Rican crowd was on its feet, cheering for the sisters. The U.S. managed to silence the crowd for a brief moment by going on a 4-0 run. But the deficit was just too much.
Nonetheless, the duo remained positive that they’ll bounce back in their next doubles match.
“We’ve been playing doubles for two years now,” said Zhang. “I feel like we know each other’s games well and each other’s styles. We have really good chemistry. But props to our opponents. They played absolutely out of their mind.”