Ladies of Team JOOLA Make Proud Return to International Stage

The official ITTF #Restart did not disappoint as the Women’s World Cup captured the attention of patient fans all around the globe. The event marked the first of the 4 events taking place in the China Bubble, and 3 top JOOLA players put their best foot forward, after many months away from the international stage.

USA’s Lily Zhang and Wu Yue, alongside Germany’s Petrissa Solja, were among the players in Weihai, China, as international table tennis competition returned to the limelight.

As we followed the ladies through their travels, a strict quarantine and a socially distanced preparation, it was clear to see the passion and sacrifices made to get back to the sport they all love.

After months of disrupted practice, lockdown and a lack of high-level competition, our players showcased their best in one of the most prestigious events on the ITTF calendar.

Battling in the group stages to reach the main draw, there were no easy matches, and the initial phase saw JOOLA players Wu Yue and Petrissa Solja seeded into the same group. A tough contest, as only 2 of the 3 players would advance.

The first round saw a tough start to the competition, with Lily Zhang playing the first official point of the #Restart in her opening match against Ukraine’s Margaryta Pesotska. It was a slow start as Zhang found her feet in the match, and while she fought hard from a 3-0 deficit, the end result was a 4-2 win for Pestoska.

In the opening match of their group, Wu and Solja would come head to head, a clash of Team JOOLA players. Wu looked confident to begin, taking the first 3 games and showing a high level of consistency in rallies. Solja rose to the occasion and powered back to send the match into the deciding seventh game. In the end it would be decided by the thinnest of margins, Wu taking the match 11-9 in the final game.

Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu would prove a tough opponent for both Team JOOLA ladies, winning 4-2 over Solja and a nail-biting 13-11 in the 7th over Wu. USA’s Wu Yue advanced second in the group. Unfortunately for Solja, she would not advance, but was thrilled with the chance to be back out on the table. An Instagram post from Solja shows a fantastic picture of her with a big smile and the caption “Happy to play.” We were certainly happy to see her at the event and competing too!

View this post on Instagram

Happy to play 🏓 📸 Rémy Gros

A post shared by Petrissa Solja OLY (@petrissasolja) on

While Wu advanced second in the group, the battle was still on for Lily Zhang – who had a Pan American challenge remaining in order to succeed in the group stage.

Zhang would lift the bar to record wins over reigning Pan Am Cup Champion Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico, and fight for a tenacious victory over Canada’s Mo Zhang. Zhang trailed 10-7 in the 7th against her Canadian counterpart, but was able to bring her best to come back and lock in the victory. A countback, due to Diaz beating Pesotska, would see Lily Zhang place first in the group.

Team JOOLA and US fans were excited to see both Zhang and Wu reach the main draw, where they would face even tougher opponents.

Wu came up against Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching. The match proved too great a hurdle for Wu on the day, losing out in straight games to the former World Cup silver medalist. Wu spread the message of gratitude on her social platforms, calling the 2020 Dishang Women’s World Cup a “challenge beyond imagination, but one of the most priceless memories of her life.”

Lily Zhang, a player who stunned the globe in 2019 by placing fourth in the same event, was set to face off in a revenge match – with Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, the same player who had ousted her for the bronze medal last year.

It was an exhilarating match, and early on Zhang looked to have summoned some incredible form. She was able to get a quick handle on the first three games over Feng. Her backhand was reliable under extreme pressure, paired with quick forehand counters and impeccable placement.

With victory potentially on the horizon, Zhang admitted her focus began to hover around the thoughts of winning, and Feng capitalized on the lapse. The 2010 World Team Champion, and renowned world-class player, pushed her way back onto the offensive.

The sixth game would become the battleground for the two players, as Zhang refocused on each point at hand. Feng had gained some dangerous momentum and for Lily Zhang it was time to bring her best to the table.

Deadlocked at the end of the game, Zhang was able to bring home the result, a sweet reversal of the two’s last encounter, and a place in the quarterfinal.

In the post-match interview, Zhang spoke of the difficulty of competing with a high-level and experienced player like Feng, saying, “She’s a player you can never expect to miss” and that she had not expected to be in a position to hold a 3-0 lead in the match.

Moving into the final 8 players, and looking to fight her way back to the semifinals, where last year she had lost out to China’s Liu Shiwen – the eventual champion, 2020 would provide the same tough hurdle.

Zhang faced current World Number 1, Chen Meng of China, making a great effort with close margins in the first and fourth games. Her Chinese opponent proved too strong, winning 4-0, but Zhang labelled it a ‘learning process’ and spoke very highly of the honor of competing with such a quality player.

Chen would go on to win the World Cup, overcoming compatriot Sun Yingsha in the final.

A great return to international level table tennis for all three of these exceptional Ladies of Team JOOLA, congratulations to Lily, Yue and Petrissa for showing determination and sacrifice to work through the difficulties of travel and being in a bubble situation, and putting on a fantastic show for the world to see.

JOOLA commends the ITTF on an incredible #Restart and look forward to seeing more action as the Men’s World Cup, ITTF World Tour Grand Finals and WTT Macao event are yet to come!

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Lily Zhang

Wu Yue

Petrissa Solja

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