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Zhang and Wu Advance to Second Round in Rio

By Matt Whewell | Aug. 06, 2016, 2:34 p.m. (ET)

Lily Zhang Rio Olympics Table Tennis 2016

Zhang and Wu Head into Round 2 of the Olympic Women's Singles Draw


The youngest member of Team USA, 16-year old Kanak Jha kicked off the 2016 Rio Olympics with a preliminary morning match-up against the 111st-ranked player in the world, Nima Alamian of Iran. After a 50-minute delay due to backups on the courts, Jha took center stage on Table #1. Meanwhile on Table #4, compatriot Lily Zhang faced off with Venezuela’s Gremlis Arvelo, currently ranked 80th on the July ITTF World Rankings.

 

Jha lost the first game to Alamian, 3-11, but made adjustments during the break. After trading points to open the second game, Jha took an 8-7 lead and held on for the 11-7 win. After dropping the third game 7-11, the fourth and fifth games were as tight as can be. Jha and Alamian went back and forth on points, with the upper hand going to the server most of the time. Unfortunately, Alamian took game four 11-9 and sealed the match with a 12-10 game five win.

 

“The last two games were very close games. I had a chance in all of them,” said Jha after the match. “But when it got close, [Alamian] has a really good serve and set himself up for the first attack. Then, when it’s close – like the 9-9, 10-10 – I got a little more nervous and he would attack.”

 

Two courts away, Lily Zhang came out of the gate strong against Arvelo and swept the contest winning 11-3, 11-5, 11-5 and 11-7. She took just 17 minutes to complete the match sweep with 22 of her 44 points coming on the serve.

 

“I was definitely a little bit nervous when I got out there but as the games went on, I felt more comfortable with myself and my strategy,” the 2014 Youth Olympic bronze medalist said. “I just went out there and played my best.”

After another short delay it was Wu Yue's turn to face her first ever table tennis match at the Olympic Games. The Pan American Gold Medalist came up against surprise European Games semifinalist Eva Odorova from Slovakia. Ranked at 91 in the World and with 15 seasons in the French Pro League under her belt, Jennifer's opponent certainly presented a challenge. 

Despite the hurdle it was Wu Yue who came out firing, after dropping the first game 11-3 it was Wu who made the adjustments and forced a more aggressive and well placed game plan, swinging the match around and winning 4 games in a row against her experienced opponent. She won the 5, 9, 6 and 8 to claim the match in 5 games.

All smiles and very happy with the result, a superb start for Team USA on the first morning of the singles event. “I was nervous during the first game but then I settled down and was really excited for the experience." Taking a win will certainly add to that experience!

Yijun Feng will face his first round match against the experienced veteran He Zhiwen at 16:45 AMT. Best of luck!

Morning Session Results:


Kanak Jha 1-4 Nima Alamiyan, Iran (Preliminary Round)

Lily Zhang 4-0 Gremlis Arvelo, Venezuela (1st Round)

Wu Yue 4-1 Eva Odorova, Slovakia (1st Round)

 

Next up for Zhang and Wu will be the Round of 64 later tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET as Lily squares off against Shao Jieni from Portugal and Jennifer meets Mathilda Ekholm from Sweden. Live coverage of tonight’s match can be seen on NBCOlympics.com.

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Kanak Jha

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Lily Zhang

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