Lily Zhang has continued her fantastic run in 2017 by claiming gold in a dominant final showing against Canada's Mo Zhang. On their 7 previous international encounters it was Mo Zhang of Canada who held the 5-2 advantage, twice USA's Zhang won in 7 games. This final showdown at the 2017 ITTF Pan American Cup in Costa Rica would defy the odds as both players fought for gold and World Cup Qualification.
Both players had overcome the field to uphold their seeding, both currently ranked in the top 100 players in the world after superb showings at this years World Table Tennis Championships and various other tournaments.
As the showdown began it was Lily Zhang who made the first move, proving dominant in the many backhand to backhand exchanges, sometimes stepping around and playing inside out to the wide backhand. She focused on the backhand side, keeping away from the forehand short pimples of Mo Zhang on many occasions. Combinations of heavy topspin and speed made a strong case for victory as Lily Zhang took the early advantage.
Variation continued to be the leading force in the match with Canada's Zhang struggling to find her rhythm. Unlike others before her Lily had no issue playing across to the forehand short pimples of Mo Zhang, loading the ball up with topspin and looking for wide angles to try and exploit a weakness. Confidence was definitely on the side of the American. As the match continued it was Lily Zhang who fought her way into the controlling position, even in close encounters it was USA's Zhang who came out on top.
As the match progressed the challenges only grew greater for the Canadian player, currently ranked 60th in the world.
Lily Zhang held her nerve and took a 3-0 lead. Looking to seal a victory and record her most dominant victory over her opponent in their careers. She would do just that, taking the 4-0 win and winning the first ever Pan American Cup, adding another exceptional result to her list of accolades.
USA High Performance Director was pleased with the day citing a "superb win from Lily and furthermore a great 3rd place from Jennifer."
"The sweep in the final may have looked like an 'easy' win, but it wasn't. Lily prepared very well for the match and showed her best table tennis at the right moment here in the final. Today we certainly expected a much harder match than the previous days. We knew if Lily could play her best and execute the right tactics against Mo Zhang then she would have a great chance to be the champion here. Her ability to be able to play and execute the game plan well was exceptional today." - Jorg Bitzigeio, USATT High Performance Director.
Congratulations Lily and Jennifer for your podium finishes and great performances!