New Challengers Vie for Maiden National Titles

By Matt Hetherington | May 09, 2019, 1:25 p.m. (ET)
Zhou Xin

New challengers are coming to the 2019 US National Championships. While the names may be new to the singles roster at one of the USA's biggest table tennis events, they are certainly not unfamiliar. 

This year marks a special point on the life roads of several high level table tennis players of Chinese origin. Four players who have made great contributions to US table tennis over the years, as competitive players and coaches, have been granted US Citizenship. 

Zhou Xin is a former Chinese National Team player who has been one of ICC's top coaches over the years, being involved with US Olympians and top  national team players. Now they may have to face him across the table. Zhou was a teammate of former world number one Xu Xin and has competed at the highest levels of table tennis in China, including the renowned Chinese National Games, often regarded as the most high level table tennis tournament on the planet. 

Zhou has been rated as high as 2766 in the USATT ratings, making him one of the highest level players residing in the USA. Should he reach form before the US Nationals, he will be a dangerous contender for the crown. In an interview in 2016, Zhou stated his desire to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games, this US Nationals could be the place for him to stamp his name in the limelight for consideration.

Joining him in the men's singles draw are two of the most active ex-pat Chinese players on the US tournament scene. Liang Jishan and Zhang Kai have remained dedicated to competing actively across the US for many years since arriving in the USA. Liang recently became crowned National College Men's Singles Champion for the second time last month, while Zhang also won the crown last year.

Liang, well known for his explosive forehand game, has been rated over 2700 also, and is often featured as a finalist or champion in many of the big tournaments around the US, the likes of the Badger Open, Aurora Cup, Arnold Challenge and many others. 

Zhang Kai is east coast based and has been the dominant player at his home club of Westchester Table Tennis, where he has won the open singles crown a record number of times. Since his first return to the USA in 2012, Zhang has competed in over 120 USATT sanctioned tournaments. Liang, who arrived in 2011 has competed in over 140 events. 

Also joining the mix is Table Tennis America's Liu Dan. Liu was one of the ICC's leading coaches for a long time, now helping the new generations at Table Tennis America. He is also become a member of the US National Coaching Development Team, where he assists the US National Teams in their training camps across the country. Liu has also maintained a 2600 USATT rating level and will prove a danger to many of the US domestic players competing in the men's singles draw.

With four exceptionally skillful players entered in the Men's Singles for this year's US National Championships, it promises to be packed with intense and high level matches.  What will this mean for 3-time US National Champ Kanak Jha? Well certainly a bigger challenge and more depth at the top level of the draw. Can the current world number 40 pull of a victory in the midst of all these challengers? We will soon find out!

Be sure to follow the livestreaming for the event as it begins July 3rd, or get your entries in for the event. 

Final entry deadline May 20th, entries received later will not be accepted. 

Entry and Event Information can be found here.