Nigeria’s Offiong Edem on Monday succumbed 4-1 (15-13, 11-2, 11-2, 11-8, 11-6) to the firepower of Lily Zhang of U. S. in the second round of the table tennis women singles event of the ongoing 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The match played at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym saw 24-year-old Edem, who is ranked number 121 in the world, take on a more experienced Zhang ranked 31 in the ITTF World rankings.
Edem had progressed to the second round after she thrashed her Hungarian opponent Dora Madarasz 4-1 in the preliminary round.
She won the toss to serve first in a best of seven second round game against Zhang and started off strong, taking the first four points, before finishing the set 15-13 after a long rally which included three game points.
However, a calmer Zhang slowly spinning the ball and moving around was able to dominate the next two sets 11-2, 11-2, only allowing four points between the second and third set combined.
It was a much tighter game in the fourth set as Offiong, a four-time Olympian, fought back well and came within just two points to tie the set.
But Zhang proved too strong once again and took the set 11-8 for a 3-1 lead.
In the early stages of the fifth set with Lily leading 2-0, Segun Teriola the coaching corner for Edem called for a well deserved timeout to offer a few options and a more effective defensive play for her.
“Heavy spin with the back hand. Go for your shot and make the first attack count. Staying near the table, try and finish the point.
“Take some risks and in terms of spin variation, don’t be afraid to float it when you push,” he said.
Edem took advantage of the break and the coaching tips as she went on a quick two-point streak to tie the set at 2-2.
However, Zhang recovered as she stepped up the tempo with some speed and aggressive play to stretch her lead to 10-3.
Edem rallied and tried hard to stay in the game saving three match points in the process with quick effortless back hand shots.
But Zhang was resilient and stayed composed to finish the set 11-6 for a 4-1 victory at the end of a pulsating game that lasted for 35 minutes with an average and longest rally of 5 and 14 strokes respectively.
Credit to Edem who played quite a match and put some serious pressure on the 2019 ITTF female star.
It was indeed an impressive play from the four-time Olympian after a hard-fought battle and a seriously nerve-wracking start for the five-time U. S. Champion. – NAN.