Lily Zhang and Kunal Chodri had set the ball rolling for team USA with three solid wins over seasoned opponents in the Mixed Doubles preliminary draw, they had qualified with 15 other pairs to the main draw. In the first round they had struck a big challenge. They would play Fang Bo of China and Petrissa Solja in front of her home crowd, as if their opponents were not difficult enough, they would play on table 1 under the lights and cameras and in the face of a German crowd.
Fang Bo of course the singles finalist in Suzhou and Solja a left hander and a proven force to be reckoned with in doubles, quite a challenging opposition. The match began and the Germans had gathered in support of Solja. The first game would see the US pair continue where they left off taking it 11-9. USA had the advantage of having played three matches already while their opponents hadn't yet played a competition match. Nevertheless they had practiced frequently since the tournament began.
With the first game under their belt for USA the pressure fell on the crowd favorites and number #7 seeds in the tournament. They struck back and Fang Bo's powerful forehand game came to the foray. In game 2 the multinational pair seemed to find their rhythm and get on a run, 11-4 the score and they drew at 1-1.
Perhaps the spectators in the stands thought at that moment that momentum had shifted firmly in the favor of Solja and Fang, that after a first set bumpy start they were set for plain sailing. They were about to be proven very wrong and a lot of US fans were about to start getting very excited.
Combinations of quick exchanges close table from Lily, superb placement and perhaps some of the most outstanding table tennis we have seen from Kunal Chodri were the order of the day as USA took a 2-1 lead with another 11-9 victory.
Again as the players swapped ends and the serve and return combination changed it was the China/Germany pair who surged ahead yet again and proved too dominant for the US team. Fang Bo again unleashed his overpowering forehand and the match was drawn at 2-2.
Again team USA upped their performance and headed out to a lead. All eyes were on the match on both sides of the stadium as eyebrows started to raise and people started to wonder, just maybe, whether this US pair could pull it off. Kunal was in fine form, hitting some unbelievable forehands and with both players executing some brilliant counters in the face of world class shots. 11-5 the game fell and Team USA took a 3-2 lead, just a game away from pulling off an unbelievable feat.
Again ends changed and the service order switched, Fang Bo was out in force this game and Solja had him backed up. 11-2 and the match went to 7 games.
In the 7th and final set there were sparks of brilliance from Zhang and Chodri but it was Fang and Solja who stole away the win to make the next round and stay alive in the competition. An unbelievably fantastic match from Kunal and Lily, one of the star studded moments of the day, perhaps not the result they wanted but nevertheless an amazing performance.
Mixed Doubles Main Draw Results