Tense Moments, 7 Game Duels Decide 2017 US Open Crowns

By Matt Hetherington | Dec. 22, 2017, 3:07 p.m. (ET)

The penultimate round of the 2017 US Open Table Tennis Championships presented by Supermicro was extended to the fullest with both matches going the full 7 games. Under the lights and ambience of centercourt at The Foundry, inside the SLS Casino and Hotel, 4 Japanese players would battle for the highest honors in the tournament - the Men's and Women's singles titles.

With a full house in the audience, the first match was ready to begin. MC Ryan Willard set the place alight with atmosphere and the first two finalists, Yuki Shoji and Chiaki Kato of Japan would set foot on centercourt. 

Shoji a short pimple defender would have her work cut out for her against the quick and consistent Kato. Both players had fought hard to reach the final round, Shoji with a dazzling semifinal with expedite, while Kato had earlier accounted for second seed and 2016 Rio Olympian Wu Yue. 

Shoji's defensive style proved to be key in slowing down the rapid Chiaki Kato, rallies extended and endurance was pivotal. Great patience was displayed by both players but Kato was struggling to hit through the defensive wall of Shoji. One of the outstanding factors in the match was the power that Shoji possessed in her attacking game. Irony was on the cards as it was Shoji, the defender, who powered through Kato, often winning her attacking setups outright as she blasted the ball wide to the forehand corner.

Kato fought point for point, consistency the key, the rallies were long and the stamina of both players was put on show. Shoji delighted the crowd, often chopping back Kato's 'winners' or retrieving balls from wide on the wings. The match extended to the 7th game and had become a true battle of willpower with both players giving all their energy in some incredibly long points. 

As the 7th game began it appeared cracks were beginning to show and possibly fatigue was setting in for Kato. Shoji took full advantage and combined patient setups and sometimes counterattacking strokes to power home with an 11-4 in the final game. 

Satisfaction for Yuki Shoji who had defended her way to the top, a 4-3 victory and the 2017 US Open trophy in her hands!

The Men's Singles Final between Kohei Morimoto and Taimu Arinobu would prove to be equally as enduring. Arinobu had overcome 2 former US Open Champions on his way to the final table, beating 2014 champ Tao Wenzhang and 2015 champ Tao Wenzhang. Morimoto had launched a deadly assault in the semifinal to end the run of Jun Han Wu in 4 straight and decisive games. 

It was a slower start for Morimoto as Arinobu powered out of the starting blocks, quickly establishing himself in the dominant position out on the table. Both players had a very high level of service and it was Arinobu who was able to capitalize on that first. Often stepping round and using his forehand off the corner it was Arinobu who succeeded in pushing Morimoto back off the table on a number of occasions. 

Morimoto rallied and forced his way back into the match, both players exerting positive vibes and pumping up their confidence. Arinobu succeeded in opening up the weaker backhand of Morimoto by attacking wide to the forehand corner first, a key strategy which was used by both players towards the end. 

While Morimoto was slow to begin in the match, he quickly picked up the pace and by the end of the match, as the 7th game neared, he had stepped it up a notch. The rallies became more explosive and counterloops were on the agenda. 

One of the most outstanding points was in the clutches of the 7th as Arinobu fell to the floor, managing to recover the ball and spring back to his feet. Still back from the table he fished the ball higher and Morimoto, under the pressure, send the ball down into the net. 

In the end it would be Taimu Arinobu who would power his way home, after defeating two US Open Champions he had made himself the strongest case to win the title.

 A great performance by all players and two superb finals. Congratulations to the winners!

A big thank you to USATT partners Supermicro, JOOLA USA, Butterfly, Paddle Palace, Triode Media Group, USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, David Del Vecchio and the livestreaming crew and the broadcast team Mark Thompson, Adam Bobrow and the fantastic MC Ryan Willard.