Tense Engagements as USA Battle to Leave their Mark in Sweden

By Matt Hetherington | May 03, 2018, 3:23 p.m. (ET)

Wu yue table tennis wttc 2018

As the knockout stages of the 2018 Leibherr World Team Table Tennis Championships began in Halmstad, Sweden, the excitement really began to grow. The day began with a scene to be remembered as North and South Korea opted not to play their quarterfinal match against each other in the Women's Team Championship Division, rather to join forces and become one team. It was a special moment as a Unified Korea moved through to the semifinal. Read more HERE.

Playing in the 13-24 position bracket, the US Women's team prepared to take on a challenging Czech Republic side. The match would not be easy, but the girls were ready and had already played some sensational matches so far in the tournament. 

Jennifer (Yue) Wu opened for the American side, she took down Dana Cechova in four games to put the USA on the board. The Czech player currently ranks 105th in the world, another great win for Wu who already recorded some impressive victories this tournament including against Dina Meshref and Georgina Pota. 

In the second match US Olympian Lily Zhang would lock horns with Hana Matelova, the Czech player sitting just outside the world top 50 at number 53. Zhang also in a similar position at number 56 summoned her best and completed a clean sweep in the match, winning 3-0, at times looking unstoppable.

With a 2-0 lead in hand, Amy Wang came out inspired. She took a 2-1 lead over Karin Adamkova, winning 1 and 3 both 11-5 and narrowly missing game 2 which went to the end and fell in favor of the Czech player, 12-10. Knowing the team result was on the line, Adamkova forced her way back and completed the comeback to win games 4 and 5. Czech Republic would score a point back. 

With the matches reversed, Matelova took on Jennifer Wu and leveled the team score at 2-2 with a four game win.

The match wound down to a pivotal moment as Lily Zhang stood under the spotlight. Having found some good form from the beginning of the tie, it would be Zhang who would take early control. The American two-time Olympian was dominant in games 1 and 2 before the Czech player bounced back in the third. In the power position and with a 2-1 lead in hand, Lily Zhang pressed onward and cemented the result. 

The US Women's Team now move on to play in the 13-20 bracket against Thailand tomorrow. 

You can see video of the matches below:
- Wu Yue vs. Dana Cechova
- Lily Zhang vs. Hana Matelova
- Amy Wang vs. Karin Adamkova
- Wu Yue vs. Hana Matelova
- Lily Zhang vs. Dana Cechova

The US Men's Team played exceptionally to gain 2nd position in their group and advance to the 25-36 position knockout in Men's Division 2. They would face the Netherlands in a heated exchange.

In the opening duel, Kanak Jha would engage in a difficult showdown with Ewout Oostwouder. The towering Dutchman proved exceedingly quick over the table given his height and also exhibited a formidable array of powerful strokes in the rallies. Oostwouder sealed game two in deuce to rally to a 2-0 lead, but Jha clawed his way back to take the third game. Things were looked up for Jha and he fought neck and neck with his opponent. Again the game came down to a standoff, but the dutch player would prevail, winning 13-11 and locking in the first point for the Netherlands.

Tom (Yijun) Feng would assume the task of evening the scoreline. His match Laurens Tromer was well executed and Feng looked in control throughout. Tight serve receive and aggression played well in favor of the American and he quickly ended the match in straight games.

In the third match, Nikhil Kumar would experience his first defeat of the tournament, having won all 5 of his encounters so far. He toughed it out against an in-form Rajko Gommers. Gommers just yesterday had launched an impressive 3-0 win over 2009 European Champion Michael Maze. It would be a face-off between two left handers as Kumar fought for every point. Alas, Gommers proved too strong on the day and grasped another crucial point for Netherlands.

Kanak Jha returned to the table to redeem his first match defeat, he would succeed. A comfortable performance for Jha as he sailed to a 3-0 win and handed over to teammate Feng to bring the match home.

It was 2-2, could they bring it home? The task was far from simple, a high quality opponent and indeed it would be Ewout Oostwouder who would return to the table to face Feng. 

The Dutchman, who last year recorded impressive wins over England's Sam Walker and Denmark's Jonathan Groth, would assert his position from the very beginning. Each game saw points fall back and forth between the two as each worked to try and pull ahead. Oostwouder's long reach and control over the ball worked to his advantage and he found small victories in the vital points at the end of each game. 

Those few points in the ending stages would prove to be fundamentally important as the Dutch player finally ground his way through and landed the result for his team. A 3-0 defeat for USA's Feng but a well fought showing against a strong opponent. 

"Coming in as the youngest team (15, 17, 17 and 21 years old) into the tournament,the US Men's team played extremely well throughout the tournament and I am very satisfied with their performance and results. 

The team showed superb team spirit overall, worked very well together and left a good mark at the end of the competition. Compared to the world's 2 years ago, our Men's team improved by 18 positions in the final standing." - Stefan Feth, US Men's Team Coach.

You can see the match videos below: 
- Kanak Jha vs. Ewout Oostwouder
- Feng Yijun vs. Laurens Tromer
- Nikhil Kumar vs. Rajko Gommers
- Kanak Jha vs. Laurens Tromer
- Feng Yijun vs. Ewout Oostwouder

So the US Men's Team campaign is over as they finish in 33rd position, an impressive effort! From the word go the Men's team gave it their best and stunned the competition by defeating Spain on day 1 of the competition, the 4th seeds in the division, they went on to upset Kazakhstan in the group stages, also securing wins over Luxembourg (a reverse result from 2 years ago) and Puerto Rico. Their only losses were both 3-2 at the hands of Iran and Netherlands. Congratulations to our Men's team players - Kanak Jha, Tom (Yijun) Feng, Nikhil Kumar, Nick Tio and Coach Stefan Feth on a brilliant performance.