The second day of the 2017 ITTF North American Hopes Qualification Tournament would decide the two players, one boy and one girl, who will represent North America at the 2017 ITTF World Hopes Trial in Luxembourg. The top 10 boys and top 8 girls had been decided on day 1 by round robin qualifications. The format saw two groups of five boys and 2 groups of 4 girls where the top player would advance to the penultimate round.
The consolation rounds also took place across the course of the day with a series of intense and hard fought matches right from the start at 9:30am. The Lily Yip Table Tennis Center was buzzing as young kids, parents, spectators and coaches alike gathered on the sidelines to support each other amid a number of fantastic matches. The home crowd were in strong support of LYTTC's Jayden Zhou and Faith Hu as they made their case for the top spot, but there would be many challenges for them to face.
Jayden Zhou would advance from the first Boy's second stage group, overcoming all of his opponents. He faced tough opposition from two young players from California, Ted Li and Aziz Zarehbin. His biggest battle was a 5 set showdown with Aziz who came out firing. The two had been finalists in the 2015 US National Under 11 Boys final where Jayden had fought his way to the National Title. Again the two were neck and neck. In the fifth game it was Jayden Zhou who took a commanding lead and closed out the game and match. He followed up with a 3-1 win over Ted Li to top the group.
In the other Boy's second stage group it was Ved Sheth who beat out the competition from the second seeded position in the group. He claimed 3-0 wins over every opponent to sail through his group. He was victorious against group top seed Ethan Liu of California and Illinois' little big shot Nandan Naresh.
Entering the last stage of the competition with only one spot available to Luxembourg, both players made thorough preparations before stepping up to the table. The early lead went to Jayden, showing calmness and calculation, no doubt from his experiences in big matches as the 2014 US Open 10 and Under Champion and 2015 US National Under 11 Champion. He showed great skill in serve and return and also strong placement and table coverage. Ved fought hard to cling to each game, playing some strong forehand openings and combining serve and third ball attacks.
Alas it would be a crowd-pleaser for the home-side as Jayden Zhou of Lily Yip Table Tennis Center asserted himself as the top seed and took the seat to Luxembourg in three straight games, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9.
The Girls Singles Qualifier would see top seed Swathi Giri overcome her 4 player group with comfortable wins over Sarah Jalli (USA) and Emily Tan (Canada) and a 5 set win over Fiona Nie (Canada). The second girls group would see the tournament second seed upset as the home club's Faith Hu stormed the field and took out Linda Shu in a tight contest. The speed of Faith Hu would be a deciding factor, particularly in the 4th game as she neared the home straight and honed in on the win.
A notable performance was that of tournament wild card Shishi Hu, who had overcome some fairly big obstacles to compete in the Hopes Tour (read more). She played well to make the top 8 girls in the contest and had some close battles in the second stage group.
The final would prove to be a great matchup of styles, the quick hands of Faith Hu against the much taller Swathi Giri with a commanding forehand and speed over the ball. It would be Swathi Giri who would take the lead in the match, executing some great shot combinations and shutting down openings from her opponent. The first game she would narrowly close out 12-10, the second 11-7. It was in the 3rd that Faith Hu made her biggest statement, taking a big lead. She led 10-6 before Swathi tried to push her case for a 3-0 win.
As Swathi closed in for the comeback it was eventually halted as Faith Hu took the last point to win 11-9 and bring herself back into the match. Still trailing 2-1 she would have a task on her hands to claim the match, but momentum had started to shift back into balance. A close 4th game would see many back and forth exchanges and the game came to a bottleneck.
In the moments of pressure both players held their nerve and dug their heels in for a grueling head to head. As Swathi held match points Faith struck back but wouldn't be able to claim enough to draw up the game. Swathi would be victorious, earning the Girl's qualification spot for Luxembourg; 12-10, 11-7, 9-11, 119.
The Consolation rounds had a host of impressive performances to note. David Mandelstam of Canada was champion of the Boy's Consolation draw, upsetting his group stage opponents and continuing on to defeat both his semifinal and final opponents with comfort. In the Girl's Consolation draw it was Tiffany Lam who won her round preliminary consolation group and continued on to win the final group with ease over both of her opponents.
A big thank you to all of the players, coaches, parents and supporters for travelling from afar to compete in the tournament. Fierce competitive spirit and talent were at the foray but the underlying tones of friendship, sportsmanship and persistence were the greatest winners over the two days. There was sweat, tears, smiles, laughter, moments of success, moments of disappointment and many other shows of emotion. The kids wore their hearts on their sleeves and above all was emerging passion.
USATT must thank the organization of Andy Horn and Tournament Referee Roman Tinyszin along with the wonderful hosts and facilities at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center in New Jersey, USA, notably Judy Hugh and Cory Eider. A big thanks must be given to the helping hands of the Young Officials Seminar who came in to umpire many matches after completing umpire training as they undergo their umpiring education.
We wish everyone safe travels home and hope you will continue your hard work!
Full Results can be found here: 2017 ITTF North American Hopes Qualification Tournament Homepage