At the end of a very long three days for two players the ordeal was not yet over. A 7 set duel had just come to a close and Kanak Jha had qualified as a member of the 2017 National Team. Recovering in a chair by table 1 was Nikhil Kumar who had played exceptionally, but now would have to fight again to try and secure the fourth spot on the team. As finalists on Days 1 and 3 (Kanak finalist on Day 2 already qualified), it would be a grand final showdown between Nicholas Tio and Nikhil Kumar to complete the US National Men's Team.
While Nikhil had found some amazing form to fight off match points and win four games in a row against Sharon Alguetti and then push Kanak Jha to 7, there was some fatigue showing as he tried hard to recover before the match. Nicholas Tio had sat watching and waiting and had begun to prepare for the possibility that he may have a chance to fight for a team spot. The chance had arisen and now Nick Tio would battle for it.
The fatigue began to show early on from Nikhil as he struggled to adapt to the more offensive style of Tio. Where Sharon and Kanak had given him much more topspin rallies to work with, Nick Tio focused more on keeping the ball tight, using more backspin and short balls combined with devastating forehand openings. His third ball attacks and initial loops had enough power to put Nikhil on the back foot and stepping back off the table started to become a habit for him as the match went on.
The games would be incredibly close, 9s and deuces, but Nick Tio's more dominant style caused for more efficient winning of points and less drawn out rallies. Nick adopted a very all or nothing approach, either making an error or blasting a winner. The tactic paid off and he was able to win the match 4-0 and make his first ever World Championships. For Nikhil no doubt disappointment at finding such good form and having opportunities to make the team, but a very valiant performance, particularly in the semifinal and final stages of the day. A big credit to him and we hope he will build on this experience and come back even stronger next time.
Crystal Wang would have a simpler pathway to the 4th spot. She would advance to the Day 3 final and ,despite losing the match to Angela Guan, would still make the 2017 US National Women's Team. Due to Angela being the day 2 finalist and having qualified in the third spot, it would be between Crystal Wang, the day 3 finalist and Wang Chen, the day 1 finalist, as to who would make the team.
Under the circumstances of the day and her earlier match, Wang Chen had defaulted and left. This scenario meant that Crystal would be the only player in contention for the fourth place on the team and would be awarded the position.
So the full 2017 US National Men's and Women's Teams would be decided over a very successful event.
1. Adar Alguetti
2. Kunal Chodri
3. Kanak Jha
4. Nicholas Tio
1. Lily Zhang
2. Wu Yue
3. Angela Guan
4. Crystal Wang
We wish to extend a very warm thank you to all the players who competed and put their hearts on their sleeves as they fought for a place on their national team. We are incredibly proud of, not only those who succeeded, but those who traveled and sacrificed so much to compete here this weekend, of course also the coaches and parents who made this journey with their players. An enormous thank you to Triangle Table Tennis Center and their amazing staff for bringing this event together, the in-house support of Butterfly North America and their staff, our partners at Joola, the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance for their support of the event, Nittaku/Paddle Palace for the tournament ball sponsorship and our amazing team of officials led by Tournament Referee Roman Tinyszin.
My greatest thanks of course are reserved for the media supporters who came to make this event so incredible online. The technical support and hard work of David Del Vecchio is really an unparalleled force in these big events, a big thank you to him. Also a huge thank you to USATT CEO Gordon Kaye who joined me on commentary and provided so much support in so many different areas of the tournament, including taking on the role of tournament director, mediating, helping produce media, commentary, hospitality and of course liaising with players, parents, coaches and tournament staff/support crew. I would also like to thank Brian Pace for coming on board to offer his knowledge in the commentary and provide some great post-match interviews and the support of Johnathan Humbles, Earl, Tony and Logan Rietz who supplied many great photos and media support throughout the three days.
And of course to round it all off, a big thank you to you readers and viewers of the live streams for supporting the continuing development of major events coverage. We will be back with more in 2 weeks at the NCTTA National Championships!