Lily Zhang stood on center court at the Brooklyn Bowl a year ago holding the pressure, surrounded by spectators on both ground level and on the mezzanine above. On that occasion she won her third US National Women's Singles title over her Rio Olympic Teammate Jiaqi Zheng.
July 7th she hopes to have earned her place in the final again, this time to be hosted by The Silverton Hotel and Casino, where she will aim to claim her 4th National Title. Celebrating her 21st birthday this past week, Lily Zhang admits that she used to dread the pressure of nationals, but has come to embrace it over the years.
'I've really learned to channel that pressure into a feeling of pure anticipation and adrenaline' - Lily Zhang.
And no doubt the competition will offer the adrenaline she desires. Over 750 players will travel to Las Vegas and the Women's Singles Event is one of the main events, Lily will battle not only for the title but for the $8,000 top prize.
She recognizes that the road will be tough with two other Olympians in the Women's Singles draw - her Rio 2016 teammate Yue Wu and 2008 Beijing Quarterfinalist Wang Chen. Zhang is able to step back and look at the big picture, citing that any current or former national team members could potentially pose a threat. Her mindset is not to underestimate any opponent and to play every match with an equal amount of dedication and fight to win.
The new venue at The Silverton Hotel and Casino looks to continue a growing tradition in hosting major finals sessions in exciting new venues to improve the promotion of table tennis as a competitive sport.
'It's really refreshing to see a new spin on table tennis. It shows off a more fun side of table tennis that's both entertaining and professional.
I hope the changes will bring more exposure to the sport.' - Lily Zhang.
Zhang will join hundreds of other athletes, competing in over 95 different table tennis events - from teams, singles and doubles to National Youth Team trials and the trial for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games - an event in which Zhang won America's first ever Olympic Table Tennis Medal.
The competition will run from July 3rd through to July 8th at the Las Vegas Convention Center, with the Finals Session on July 7th at The Silverton.
You can purchase 1-day or 6-day spectator passes at the 2017 SuperMicro US National Table Tennis Championships Spectator Passes Page
Relive the 2016 US National Final between Lily Zhang and Jiaqi Zheng