As Lily Zhang captured her 5th US title in the Women's Singles at the 2019 US National Table Tennis Championships, mother nature applauded and the city of Las Vegas shook to its foundations.
Spectators were awestruck when, moments after the trophy presentation, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake was recorded in California, leaving the stadium lights swinging and a curious buzz around the audience.
For Lily Zhang it didn't ruin the special moment of becoming National champion for a 5th time, marking her name among the greats of US Table Tennis.
The two-time Olympian and full-time professional player had to face the pressure of her younger and upcoming US table tennis teammates.
In the quarterfinal she made it past Crystal Wang, and in that same round some relief came to the draw. Zhang's teammate and usual rival Wu Yue was eliminated by Rachel Yang. With defending champion Liu Juan not in the event, this presented a golden opportunity for Zhang to return to the top spot.
Her hopes were almost cut drastically short in what could be considered the most nerve-wracking match of the whole event.
In the semifinals she came up against Amy Wang. Where Zhang was a Youth Olympic Bronze medalist, Wang had also qualified for the event and reached the quarterfinals.
Zhang holds a high women's world ranking, while Wang is currently ranked second in the world for Junior Girls.
It was a true clash of styles and Zhang quickly found herself in trouble as Amy Wang hit impeccable form, hammering serve returns and countering to extreme angles and precise placements with ease. Thing were beginning to look tough for Lily Zhang as she trailed 3 games to 1 and Amy Wang looked ready to bring home a huge upset.
But Lily Zhang with an 11 to 0 career match record against Wang, was not ready to pass up an opportunity for another national title. She switched up a gear and focused on heavy spin and explosive follow-ups. Wang's confidence began to crumble. A sharp blow in the 5th handed Zhang an 11-3 win, a result she would repeat for another two games.
While Wang had started so well, the mental pressure of an overwhelming comeback hit her hard. Zhang clawed a 4-3 win and advanced to the final.
In the final she faced Rachel Sung, the left hander who had moved past Rachel Yang in the other semifinal.
Zhang started strong and showed her international class in the match. While Rachel Sung was formidable in the rallies, staying close to the table and producing some exceptional placements.
Experience under pressure became the deciding factor as it was Zhang, already 4 times National Champion, who clutched the crucial points to close out each game.
Sung had to find answers quickly as she trailed 3-0, and she did just that.
Impressive as ever, at just 14 years of age and in her first US National final, Rachel Sung took the fight to her opponent. The 4th game produced brilliant rallies, with Sung raining down winners with pinpoint accuracy to finish points.
The 4th game loss was a wake up call for Zhang and she raised the bar in order to close the match out. Ripping some sensational inside out forehand winners and doing an excellent job of covering the table, Lily Zhang found herself in position to bring the match home.
A super moment as she did just that, 5 US National titles for Lily Zhang - truly a fan favorite of the US table tennis community, and incredibly deserving of the crown.
For Rachel Sung, a silver medal and a triumph to reach the final at only 14 years of age.
Congratulations to Lily and Rachel on an entertaining and intense final and on their medals!