Six US Olympians entered the draw of the 2017 SuperMicro US National Championships and as the crucial rounds arrive the position was almost the same with 5 remaining. With a first prize of $8000 dollars on the line in both the men's and women's singles every player was hungry to reach the penultimate rounds. There were plenty of close calls and plenty of triumphs.
One Olympian showed that age and experience are still mighty tools in this strategic sport, that player was Khoa Nguyen. A two time US Olympian in 2000 and 2004, Khoa led one of the upsets of the day by coming back from a 3-1 deficit to take out the tournament #2 seed Sharon Alguetti in the 7th game. He would then continue on to overcome 2004 Olympic teammate Mark Hazinski - taking a commanding 3-0 lead before sealing out the match 4-2. Khoa will play current US World Team member Nikhil Kumar in tomorrow's Quarterfinal.
Top seed and defending champion Kanak Jha is yet to drop a set, winning his first two encounters 4-0. He first defeated Yahao Zhang the #17 seed handily before advancing into the round of 16 and taking down #13 seed Gal Alguetti by the same margin. He faces Victor Liu in tomorrow's Quarterfinal match.
While it was smooth sailing for 3 time champion Lily Zhang, two Olympians had difficulties. Zhang took care of Crystal Wang in her quarterfinal match in straight games and sealed her place in the semifinals. She will take on Wang Xinyue with the winner booking their place in the final table celebration at the Silverton Casino and Hotel on Friday night.
Second seed Wu Yue had her work cut out for her from the starting blocks as she found herself being pressed by #16 seed Joanna Sung. Despite her significantly lower rating Joanna held her own and mounted a strong challenge against Wu, the 2016 Rio Olympian. Tied a 3-3 it would be down to Wu to draw on all her experience to survive the match and keep her hopes of winning her first ever US National title alive. She would seal out the 7th game 11-5 and advance to the next round. A 4-0 win over Grace Yang would revitalize her campaign and add some confidence back to her game as she heads into the final to meet a formidable opponent.
Waiting in the wings for an epic semifinal clash is 2008 Beijing Olympic Quarterfinalist Wang Chen. She had been pushed all the way to the edge by young rising star Rachel Sung. Just one year ago at the 2016 US National Championships the scenario had been similar with Sung coming out in surprising form and grinding the match to 7 games, she repeated the feat her in Las Vegas again. In the end it was Wang Chen who clutched the match in an incredibly close encounter to set up a semifinal appearance with Wu Yue.
So 5 Olympians remain in the draw and many other strong players. Fantastic matches are ahead with 3 tables of live action on TeamUSA YouTube channel and on Facebook Live on USA Table Tennis. Join us tomorrow for our pre-game shows and more exciting table tennis live from the Las Vegas Convention Center!