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2020 US Olympic Trials - Womens Stage 1: Rounds 1 and 2

By Larry Hodges | Feb. 28, 2020, 10:34 p.m. (ET)

Tiffany Ke and Angela Guan went deuce-in-the-seventh. Photo by Bruce Liu

The women played two rounds of Stage One on Friday morning and afternoon, at 11:30AM and 1:00 PM. Here are the Results (which include the Qualifier played on Thursday - page below that). They are in two groups of eight. They will play two more rounds tonight, and the final three rounds tomorrow. Then the top four in each group will advance to a Final Eight (Stage Two), with carry-overs, and so four more matches. (As mentioned previously, players ranked in the top 250 in the world are seeded by world ranking, and then by rating. And so the top two seeds are Wu Yue and Amy Wang. Because the Omnipong software seeds by rating, to force the proper seeding, Wu Yue and Amy Wang were given "seeding" rating of 3000 and 2950.)

There were no real upsets so far, and 11 of the 16 matches were 4-0. However, the barn-busting match of the first two rounds, and the only one to go seven, was Angela Guan (2458) versus Tiffany Ke (2297). It was a great contrast in styles. Angela is an incredibly steady chopper, with long pips on backhand, with occasional forehand attacks. Tiffany plays with short pips on the forehand, and plays very aggressive hitting from both sides, along with an occasional backhand loop. Tiffany's main tactic was to roll soft topspins, over and over, with great steadiness, into Angela's long pips. The light topspins meant she'd get a light backspin return, so she could keep rolling - until she got the right ball, and then she'd go for the big kill. When she got the shot, it often took several smashes to get past Angela. To overcome this, Angela would move the ball around, and occasionally, if Tiffany played too many soft topspins, she'd suddenly forehand smash. Often Tiffany would just counter hit these back, and the rally would continue.

The match started at 11:30AM. At 12:15, all the other women's round one matches were done, and they sent out the men. Nearly all of the men's round one matches were done when this match finally finished at 12:48 pm, after one hour and 18 minutes! In game seven, Angela led 10-7 match point. At 10-8, Angela missed two straight forehand smashes, and it was deuce. Tiffany missed a backhand loop, but then deuced it at 11-all with an edge. Tiffany misses another backhand loop, and faces her fifth match point. Angela pushes on the edge, but Tiffany reacts and pushes it back, and the rally continues. Then, after Tiffany attacks several, Angela suddenly smashes, and this time it hits - and it's match to Angela, 8,-8,7,-9,-8,4,11. Afterwards, as Angela lay on the floor stretching - she needs to prepare for her 1:00PM match just twelve minutes after finishing this one - I asked her about the match, and she just shook her head and said, "Every match is tough."

The only "upset" in the first two rounds also involved Angela. In her second match, the one she had twelve minutes to prepare for, the 2458-rated Angela played the 2457 rated Wang Chen. Wang wins the first easily, and leads 10-9 in the second. Then Angela is up 11-10, then Wang is up 12-11. At 12-all, Wang served a fast and dead serve to Angela's elbow, and she chopped it into the net. Then Angela missed a smash, and Wang won the game and (maybe the previous match had drained her?) the match, 3,12,2,3.

There was some excitement in Wang Chen's first match as well, against Sarah Jalli (2302). Wang has this nasty habit from years ago, when it was legal, of hiding her serves with her non-playing arm. (I stood behind Sarah and verified this.) The umpire wasn't calling it, so Sarah's coach, Samson Dubina, called for the referee. The referee began watching, as well as making sure the umpire would call this if it happened, and from there one Wang pulled her arm out more quickly. It was still borderline, but not so extreme or obvious as before. Wang won, 5,4,4,7.

One of the rules for the Trials is that players with obvious conflicts play early, so there's less chance of dumping later on if one is out of contention. And so the twins, Rachel (2414) and Joanna (2302) played in the first round. I went over to cover it, and found that they both had the same hair style! Fortunately, I knew that Rachel is lefty, and Joanna righty, so I knew which was which. Rachel won, 6,-6,8,7,-12,7.

The next two rounds will be at 5:30 and 7:00 PM.