Exceptional Performances Round off Superb Premier National Youth Ranking Tournament

By Matt Hetherington | April 02, 2018, 9:20 p.m. (ET)

The first US Youth National Ranking tournament drew to a close at the Broward Table Tennis Club in Davie, Florida, setting the standard for future events. Broward's team of staff and facilities offered an impressively high standard, with Carlos Zeller and Terese Terranova, along with their amazing team of volunteers ensuring that the tournament was a great success. 

The level of competition only grew stronger as the Junior Boy's and Girl's fought it out for the top spots in the event and as the final rounds grew nearer the matches only got more and more intense. Some players were still giving it their all, even on the 4th day pf grueling competition. The Junior Boy's competition featured National Team members Nikhil Kumar and Nicholas Tio, both of whom left that evening for Croatia to prepare for the World Championships in Halmstad, Sweden. Michael Tran was also a main contender in the event, rounding off a very strong top three above the rest of the field.

Most of the Junior Girl's singles was made up of contenders from the Cadet Girl's event, led by Rachel Yang, who would rely on her defensive style to stave off her opposition, while in the Mini-Cadet Boy's event Ted Li would look to convert his position after having narrowly lost the Cadet Boy's Singles final just 2 days before.

The Mini-Cadet Girl's Singles would see Sarah Jalli emerge with gold, a proud moment for her and coach Samson Dubina from the Ohio state. Jalli battled off Emily Tan from SVTTC and bronze medalist Linda Shu from Texas based club - Houston International Table Tennis Academy. 

In the Mini-Cadet Boy's Singles knockout final the contenders would put on an incredible show with Aziz Zarehbin from Alameda Table Tennis Club pushing Ted Li to the wire. The match would go the full distance, as many crucial matches in the tournament had so far. Li continued to exhibit a strong service game and great spin control in points, while Zarehbin fought for every point and showed off his fighting spirit, even near the end of the match ending up at the back barrier lobbing and to conclude the point, exiting the playing area and dodging spectators to try and lob a ball back. The match was an incredibly impressive display of the young upcoming talent in the USA, congratulations to Ted Li on the victory and to both players, along with bronze medalist Aneesh Raghavan for their excellent results. 

The Junior Girl's event would be won by defender Rachel Yang from the California Table Tennis Club. Yang's combination of short pimple defensive style with some surprise attacking strokes was a class act as she powered through the giant round robin format to take the top spot in the event. Yang showed great patience and finesse throughout her matches and finished the event with just one loss to Swan Warrior's Swathi Giri. Yang made up for the result by overcoming top seed Tiffany Ke in 5 games (live stream video below).

Ava Fu and Ayane Saito would tie with an impressive 8 wins and just 3 losses each, with the former (Fu) recording a 3-1 win over Saito to secure the second position in the tie situation. Saito finished in the bronze medal position after recording 3 upset wins over the 1, 3 and 4 seeds in the competition. 

In the Junior Boy's event there was one major match which hung in the balance, it was the semifinal between Nick Tio and Michael Tran. Tran held the psychological advantage in the match, having converted 8 results over Tio and remaining thus far undefeated to his teammate. The speed of young Michael Tran against the full table forehand style of Tio had always proved particularly effective, the match promised to be a thriller. At the recent Senior National Ranking Tournament in Ohio, Tio had finished second in the men's draw, despite his outstanding performances the result with Tran had still been defeat.

The Junior singles event in Florida would prove to be a breakthrough turning point for Nick Tio, he showed some improvement in his backhand game, but was unmatched in his forehand game. Despite Tran's rapid speed, Nicholas Tio was a man on a mission, to finally break the cycle. In three tight games he would do just that, a result which Michael Tran couldn't help but applaud, sharing a smile and a sportsmanlike embrace with his opponent upon the conclusion of the game.

Tio would advance to the final where he would meet Nikhil Kumar from Swan Warriors Club. The two players will represent the USA in their first World Team Championships in Sweden at the end of the month, both already having competed in their first World Championships last year in Dusseldorf for the individual events. The match was an excellent display of tactical table tennis, mixing effective serve and receive, tight play and confident attacking strokes. Tio was deadly as ever on his forehand, while Kumar showed great touch and control, patient to create opportunities before opening the salvos on his opposition.

The clash would extend to the 5th game and both players would push for a strong finish, but it was Nick Tio of the California Table Tennis Club who would continue his success for 2018 with another brilliant ranking tournament result, taking gold in the junior boy's singles event. 

Michael Tran would round off the medals with a win over Jonathan Li to claim the bronze medal position.

You can find results, final standings and information from the event on the Youth National Ranking Tournament Homepage.