US Women's Team Turn the Tables for Gold in Paraguay

By Matt Hetherington | Sept. 05, 2019, 10:57 p.m. (ET)


Just weeks ago at the Pan American Games, the US Women's Team had taken bronze in the team event after a narrow loss to Brazil. In contrast, the US Men had upset the Brazilian side to move into the final before eventually taking gold.

Now three weeks later, the roles were reversed. In the Men's Semifinal the US team fell to Brazil 3-1 and exited the competition with a bronze medal. They had only narrowly surpassed Argentina, the team they beat for gold at the Games a few weeks prior.

As the US Men's team had avenged their female counterparts in Peru, now the task was upon the US Women's team to return the favor in Paraguay.

The Women's team had already launched an exceptional 3-0 win over Puerto Rico in the semifinal, the team which had won the Pan Am Games. The team match saw an exceptional result with Amy Wang overcoming Adriana Diaz to give the team an important advantage.

Into the final and an order change for the USA would see Crystal Wang coming in to play at the final hurdle.

Ultimately the tie would go the full distance. Zhang and Wu opened with the doubles, landing USA the first point with a 4-game win over Jessica Yamada and Caroline Kumahara.

Bruna Takahashi proved to be the thorn in the side of the USA, taking 2 points in the team tie after defeating both Crystal Wang and Wu Yue. Takahashi was steadfast and held her nerve against Wu in particular.

Before that encounter took place, Lily Zhang overcame Caroline Kumahara in a very back and forth match. No games deuce, the two traded sets. Ultimately the pattern continued and fell in favor of Zhang who sealed the win in the 5th and gave the USA a 2-1 lead.

Now an intense showdown would take place between Wu Yue and Bruna Takahashi, for Wu gold was in reach, Takahashi needed to keep her team alive.

The first two games against the former Pan Am Games champion, Wu, saw Takahashi take a significant upper hand. She led 2-0 but had won those two games by the narrowest of margins. In fact Wu had held a 9-7 lead in the 2nd game before losing 11-9, a sure sign that she was making the right moves – with an urgent need now to make an impact in the most crucial points.

Wu was nowhere near out of the fight and after trailing 6-4 in the third game, an all-important timeout came from Coach Gao Jun on the bench.

Switching predominently to the backhand serve, she came soaring back. Where Takahashi had power, Wu had consistency and excellent placement.

Alas, despite catching up to 2-2, Takahashi stole away the 5th game, and Brazil tied the team encounter 2-2. The pressure fell to Crystal Wang.

Wang had plenty of support on her bench as she took on the world ranked 154, Yamada, from Brazil.

The young Wang, who just finished time in training with the Chinese National Team in LA, got off to a good start, a blistering backhand counter down the line handed her the first game, 11-7.

The match would follow a similar pattern as Yamada's clash with Lily Zhang. It was a true tug of war as Wang pulled ahead and Yamada leveled.

With a lot of experience for her age, Crystal Wang showed nerves of steel as she handled the pressure of competing in the all-important final match. Her backhand over the table was formidable and forehand attack intimidating.

Yamada preyed on loose serve returns from her hook service and executed lots of varying serve receive patterns.

It had all the intensity a decider needed.

The fifth was an even contest, though Wang took the advantage – leading 5-4 as the players switched sides.

Every point had respective teams on their feet.

A good serve sequence at 6-6 saw Crystal Wang take a 2-0 lead, could she pull away?

She held a 9-6 lead. The following 2 points saw Yamada throw up a slow topspin open, chopped away into the net by Wang.

A long fast serve by Wang was anticipated and hit for a forehand winner. The pressure was on.

Once again, a timeout call by Coach Gao Jun would prove significant as the lead shrunk to just one point.

Back to the table, with serve in hand and a moment taken to breathe and refocus – for Crystal Wang this was by far the most vital point of her competition so far. Winning it lifted the pressure a little off her shoulders as she held two match points.

Yamada still had two serves and used the first to set up a bold step around forehand, blocked long by Wang. There was one championship point remaining.

The true test of composure came at that moment, as the Brazilian player clipped the net. Wang held her nerve and made a sensible, decisive and firm long push. It was enough to force the error from Yamada.

Crystal Wang had carried USA over the line. Where they had lost out 3 weeks ago to Brazil, now they were victorious. A gold medal for the US Women's Team of Lily Zhang, Wu Yue, Crystal Wang, Amy Wang and Coach Gao Jun. Congratulations!