US Women's Table Tennis Team Defeated By Germany
It was always going to be a tough battle for Team USA in the Women's Table Tennis Team event, drawing European powerhouse Germany in the first round. Despite the odds the team were hopeful and ready to give their best effort for their country.
Coach Massimo Costantini was pleased with the efforts of the team despite the result, "I think we played well knowing that we had a really tough opponent. When you compare the world ranking – they are in the top-30 and we are in the 100s – we knew we had limitations but I’m really happy in their performances and play. They really tried. I can tell in their face. I can tell in their muscles. You can tell when they give up but you can also tell when they are trying."
First out was Jiaqi Zheng against World Number 7 Han Ying. The matchup would prove interesting between Jiaqi's short pimple penhold style against the long pimple defensive style of Han. The match was a great show and proved much closer than the eventual scoreline. Showing great patience in her game, Jiaqi combined long push placements, slow spinny loops and dropshots, eagerly waiting for the chance to make short, sharp forehand smashes to try and win the points. Jiaqi held her own well against the world top 10 player, reaching a crescendo at 9-9 before Han won a crucial point and then played a lucky net shot to win the first game 11-9.
Game two saw another fantastic effort from Zheng, some outstanding rallies and again a lot of patience from Jiaqi. Unfortunately a few rushed smashes cost her some important points and in deuce the German sealed out the second game, 12-10. The mental challenge of trying to come back into the best of 5 match, which is the team singles format, proved to be an uphill struggle with the German player taking advantage of the lead and fighting to seal out game 3 more comfortably.
Lily Zhang would have a test on her hands with the team down 1-0 with the first nation to 3 claiming victory. She faced Shan Xiaona, ranked 21st in the world. Shan, much like Lily's teammate Jiaqi Zheng, is a short pimple penhold attacker. Zhang's speed and dexterity in game 1 was impressive pushing her opponent all the way throughout with fast paced rallies and great topspin acceleration in her close table backhand countering game. The battle to attain game 1 ended much the same way as the first match in the team tie with the German winning a tight 11-9. From there Shan Xiaona picked up momentum and showed her experience and speed, playing strong setups and hammering home forehands from all across the table. Unfortunately Lily was unable to stay in the match despite her best efforts and the German carried through to win 3-0.
The doubles combination of Jiaqi Zheng and Wu Yue proved to almost create a big upset. Doubles partnerships, much like tennis, often rely on the strength of teamwork instead of the sum of two individual players' levels. Jiaqi and Jennifer being Beijing teammates for their whole lives showed a strong chance in this match against the experienced and formidable pair of Shan Xiaona and Petrissa Solja. The German pair were Austrian Open Champions and had reached quarterfinal and semifinal stages in a number of European pro tours in 2015 and 2016 including the European Championships.
Zheng and Wu did a great job and mixed control placement and attacking strokes to force the penholder into the corner and bring the left handed Solja across the table. Their efforts gave them a 2-1 lead in the match and with a 10-8 hold on game 4 they had 2 match points to keep USA alive in the team matchup.
The German pairing stepped it up to win 4 points in a row and force a 2-2 tie and went on to win the match 3-2, giving Germany a 3-0 overall score in the tie and handing them the win into the next round.
"The doubles match, we missed a really, really good opportunity especially in the fourth game. Leading 10-8 with the serve, we just didn’t exploit the advantage we had there." Coach Massimo.
For the Women of Team USA their Rio Olympic Games had come to a close, a fantastic experience and some well fought matches, many positives to take out of the competition and work into their futures. Congratulations for your efforts girls!
Starting 6:30pm the US Men's Team will face Sweden!