Lily Zhang will represent the USA at her 8th World Table Tennis Championships after solidifying her number 1 seeding position by taking proceedings on Day 1 of the 2017 US National Team Trial. She cruised through her first encounter in the quarterfinal stages in straight games over Cadet Girls World Ranked number 3, Crystal Wang. Having put more focus on her studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 2017 this feat, and margin, was made even more impressive.
Amy Wang would come through her quarterfinal encounter with Rachel Sung unscathed, despite the potential threat from the young teen who just weeks ago won the Cadet Girls Singles at the Italy Cadet and Junior Open, without losing a singles match (teams and singles). While Sung battled for supremacy and came close in all 4 of the games, it was the superior experience of Amy Wang, currently ranked 4th in the World for Cadet Girls, which prevailed in the crucial moments and she won all 4 games in their end stages.
Angela Guan would overcome Amanda Malek without much resistance before tumbling to 2008 Olympic Quarterfinalist Wang Chen in straight games. The first real struggle came from Wu Yue, the tournament 3rd seed. In an unexpected turn of events the 2015 Pan American Games champion saw herself 3-2 down against Grace Yang. Composing herself and fighting hard to work back into the match, Wu took games 6 and 7 by margins of 11-1 and 11-4.
The semifinals would see Lily Zhang take down Amy Wang in decisive fashion. The 4-0 result leading to straight sets victories over both the 3rd and 4th World Ranked Cadet Girls, ironically Lily's highest ever Cadet Girls World Ranking was in fact 2nd. A fitting result for the two time Olympian. It was clear to see that her international experience at both Junior and Senior level added a superior dimension to her game which saw her book the first spot in the finals.
It was a very tight battle between Wang Chen and Wu Yue. Jennifer (Yue) Wu had only recently defeated Wang Chen at the 2017 NCTTA South Regionals by a margin of 4 games to 1, though this time it looked like Wang Chen was more determined than ever to avenge the result and to make the National Team. Wu looked to have an effective game plan in place but failed to execute on the important shots. Early on her timing seemed a little bit out and the number of unforced errors crept higher and higher. Still the match remained fairly even and momentum shifted left and right on a constant basis. It was drawn at 2-2 before we knew it but Wang Chen was about to make a defining shift in gears.
Taking a commanding lead in the 5th set it was Wang Chen who drove the match home. Looking more confident and more consistent than Wu, she was able to close out the match in 6 games and advance to the final.
The final would see Lily Zhang start to fall into the same traps as Wu as she tried what could be considered the right tactics but failed in the crucial stages to close out points. In the clutch moments of the 2nd game the drama came to center court as Wang Chen's serve was faulted. Before her frustration got the better of her she called a timeout. She went on to win the game 21-19 and take a 2-0 lead. Wang definitely looked to be in a dominant position. Was Zhang's college focus and lack of high level practice starting to show?
It seemed that Zhang was only just getting warmed up and as the match waged onward it was Lily Zhang who started to find her confidence and form, cutting unforced errors and finding consistency where it was needed the most. All of a sudden the same game plan was becoming more useful and Zhang clutched games 3 and 4 before settling in and taking off to an impressive lead in the 5th game. She set off without looking back and closed out the next two games 5 and 6.
Lily Zhang would take the day, winning 4-2 in the final match and booking a place at her 8th World Table Tennis Championships, an impressive feat for a player of her age.
Congratulations to Lily!
You can see the live stream of her final (last match on the video) and the completed draw from Day 1 of the Women's Singles below!
Video Archive Day - 1 Livestream - Table 1