Hurdles Overcome on the Road to Gold at ICC

By Matt Hetherington | March 30, 2019, 3:30 a.m. (ET)

There were many challenges on the road to gold for the young players competing at the ICC Table Tennis Center today for the first Youth National Ranking Tournament of 2019. Day one had already produced some brilliant matches, but as the Cadet Boy's singles entered the semifinal stages, the medals were in plain sight. 

As the girl's continued their giant round robin, the boys entered the penultimate knockout rounds, the top 4.

Daniel Ng had finished strong on day 1, having turned around a couple of defeats to beat Mudit Mahajan and Ethan Ruan to close out the day. Nandan Naresh of course had upset older brother Sid, one of the event favorites and the reigning national cadet champion. The two would meet in the semifinal, while on the other side, a repeat of Sacramento's final last year - Matthew Lu and Ted Li.

Ng was quick to get into the attacking zone, keen to prevent the kind of confidence from Naresh which had seen him perform so well on the opening day. With precision and a high level of execution it was Ng's forehand game which dominated proceedings and gave him a position in the final. 

Meanwhile on table two it was Matthew Lu who was knuckling down to push past his second place finish of the last youth national ranking tournament. Having lost to Ted Li in last year's final, he now pushed his case for one step further. With snappy forehand counters and impeccable timing, it was Lu who looked to have all the weapons. 

Into the final and Lu didn't look back. He pre-empted Ng on multiple occasions, catching the ball early and launching some devastating counters. 

In the girl's event it seemed that Nandan Naresh had inspired the underdog siblings as Emily Tan and Joanna Sung stepped up. Emily Tan defeated older sister Angie, while Joanna Sung raised the bar to defeat younger, but higher rated, sister Rachel. 

In USATT tournaments, Rachel Sung holds a 15-1 win record against her sibling, Joanna's last recorded win back at the 2013 US Open. Emily and Angie Tan have a 2-2 record, so now the younger sibling takes the advantage. 

Naresh still holds the most impressive upsets as his record before yesterday's win against older brother Sid was 17-1.

The defeated sisters still recovered to make podium finishes upon the completion of the giant round robin with Angie Tan picking up silver and Rachel Sung taking bronze, but Joanna Sung was the big winner of the day with the gold medal. She had been vocal, confident and decisive in her matches, showing offensive prowess against all oncomers. At the last Youth Ranking tournament she had finished 11th place in the Cadet Girl's singles, and today she took the top spot, a vast improvement in performance in a short space of time. 

In the Hopes events there were some incredible talents on display as some players punched way above their weight, literally! 

The matches produced some unbelievable rallies for players of such a young age, with some eyewatering winners played by players not much taller than the table surface. It was thrilling to see the future of the sport on display and a really great skill level across the board. 

Darryl Tsao proved to be the forerunner in the boy's event, taking the first place finish, while on the girl's side it was Natalie Chan who emerged successful.

Congratulations to the medalists in the Hopes and Cadet Events, you can follow all the results and news below:

- 2019 US Youth National Ranking Tournament Homepage - 28-31 March, ICC Table Tennis Center