Wu Turns Tables to Claim Women's Singles Honor

By Matt Hetherington | April 23, 2018, 4:01 a.m. (ET)

On the final day of the 2018 iSET College National Table Tennis Championships the action boiled down to the doubles finals and the singles main draws. The women's singles event would build towards a repeat of the 2017 final between two heavily decorated players and US Olympians.

On the top half of the draw it was two-time defending champion Lily Zhang, representing UC Berkeley, who dominated proceedings. She recorded 3-0 wins over Viyaleta Manastyrskaya of Texas Wesleyan and Erica Wu, 2012 London Olympian, from Princeton. She setup a semifinal appearance against Texas Wesleyan's Wenting Zha, the third seed.

There were fast paced rallies but the superior speed and power of Lily Zhang close to the table had Zha on the back foot in many exchanges and it was Zhang who blasted through her opponent. While Zha found her way in one game with some brilliant exchanges and sharper service and receive plays, it was the two-time US Olympian and Pan Am Cup champ who advanced to the final with a 4-1 win.

Jennifer 'Yue' Wu was the big contender on the bottom half of the draw and was gunning to win her first singles title after taking silver in 2017. She took out Lindenwood's Chelsea Edgehill in the opening round, before holding off a challenge from UC Berkeley's Ying Wang, the 2016 Women's Singles Champion.

In the semifinal stage she would face off against the defensive might of Angela Guan. Certainly obstacles were presenting as the match went back and forth, spanning over one hour as the two players fought for every possible advantage. Wu struggled to hit through the wall of consistent chopping from Guan and resorted to very patient setups, looking for potential spaces and trying to entice Guan to play more topspin strokes.

Wu began to find her ground as the match progressed, blasting out inside-out forehands and starting to increase her weight transfer and power on attack. Still Angela Guan consistently chopped away with lots of variation, forcing errors from Wu on a number of occasions and sometimes switching to make surprise attacks with her long pips backhand or with forehand loops.

The match was a true marathon with both players giving it their all. Wu held a 3-2 lead and gained some real momentum. As the finish line entered the horizon, Jennifer Wu became more decisive in her plays and powered to an 11-3 win to end the match 4-2 and set up a change to avenge her 2017 singles loss to Lily Zhang, and also exact revenge from her women's team loss the previous evening.

As the final match began, both players presented their best. Lily Zhang took the upper hand early on, again playing with great speed and power, often early in the bounce. Wu seemed slightly overwhelmed, having come from a much slower paced semifinal and now facing a big increase in speed from Zhang.

The UC Berkeley player pushed out long on occasion, looking for the more spin controlled openings from Wu for her to counterloop with her forehand. Zhang held a 2-1 lead before Wu fought back.

Suddenly it was Jennifer Wu who asserted her game plan and took control of the match. From there on there would be a significant change in the match as Wu grew in confidence, controlling the ball well and making incredibly precise placements into the crossover and out wide. Wu began to reduce her Olympic teammate's grasp on the match and had imposed some effective restrictions on Zhang as the balance in the rallies began to shift in Wu's favor.

Most impressive play from Wu as she positioned herself into a 3-2 lead in the match. Lily Zhang found herself in a difficult spot as Jennifer Wu continued to execute her placements flawlessly and with pace. Finally she pushed herself over the final hurdle and stole the show. Exceptional play by Jennifer Wu to take her first Women's Singles National College title and to add another golden moment to Texas Wesleyan's long history of success at the College National Championships. Well done!

See all results at the NCTTA Champs page.