Unstoppable Force, Liu Juan Prevails on Debut

By Matt Hetherington | July 07, 2018, 2:01 p.m. (ET)

The 2018 US Nationals hit its peak yesterday evening as the Men's and Women's Singles finals came to their conclusion. Liu Juan and Angela Guan prepared to do battle down on table 1 with a tightly packed audience close to the action and more watching on the livestream. The pressure was on.

For both players it was their first appearance in the final of a US National Championships. 

Angela Guan had reached the semifinal stage on two occasions, this time really finding her footing in two long-winded victories over Wang Xinyue and Wu Yue, truly earning her opportunity to contest the gold medal.

For New York's Liu Juan, a former Chinese National Team player with 9 years of Chinese Super League experience, this was her debut. In 2012 she had her tasted of US competition and took the crown at the US Open, now she had her chance to become National Champion.

It was a fresh style matchup with Liu, a left handed penholder, taking on the long pips defending of Angela Guan.

Where others had failed to stay active and assertive in points, Liu showed her absolute class. Guan did well to stay in the rallies and keep the ball towards the backhand side of Liu, but Liu had plenty of time to position herself off the corner to play forehand.

It was an element of Liu's game which had been a clear strength, her snappy, heavy topspin forehand - combined with a great amount of acceleration. This deadly weapon, combined with a lethal serve, had helped Liu eliminate defending champion Lily Zhang in the round of 16.

One of the key tactics of Liu Juan was to hammer the forehand chop of Angela Guan with her forehand. Anticipating that Guan would struggle to control the heavy spin without the aid of her backhand long pips, Liu pressed the attack to the forehand side and drilled the Great Wall.

Guan did well to throw in many surprises, swiping the ball with her pips, converting from defending to launch attacking winners from nowhere and constantly trying to vary the ball in her defending.

Liu looked comfortable. Years of training at the highest levels in the world's greatest table tennis nation had her in good standing. She maintained her offense, and this factor alone reduced options for Guan, as the ball quality and placement were of such skill.

In the end it would be a 4-0 victory for Liu Juan, her first National Championships title in the Women's Singles. A silver for Angela Guan and a career highlight, a superb effort to have reached her first final and no doubt an experience to be cherished.

She has won the US Open and now the Nationals, so what's next for Liu Juan?

"I want to play in the Olympics!" she says enthusiastically. Indeed with so much class and skill, she is a top contender to achieve that goal. Congratulations to Liu Juan, the new Women's Singles Champion!