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2020 US Olympic Trials - Womens Stage 1: Rounds 5 and 6

By Larry Hodges | Feb. 29, 2020, 9:12 p.m. (ET)

Wu Yue pulls of incredible comeback! Photo by Bruce Liu.

There was only one upset in the sixteen matches played in these two rounds. Only one match went seven games - and that was a spectacular comeback from down 0-3 between two strong contenders. We'll get to that!

But first, here are the Results! The current standings after six of seven rounds - and remember that the top four from both groups advance to a final RR of eight, with carry-over matches.

Group One
Wang Huijing, 6-0
Wu Yue, 5-1
Crystal Wang, 5-1
Rachel Sung, 3-3
Joanna Sung, 2-4
Lavanya Maruthapandian, 1-5
Faith Tung, 2-4
Kylie Lam, 0-6

Group Two
Amy Wang, 6-0
Liu Juan, 6-0
Wang Chen, 4-2
Angela Guan, 3-3
Sarah Jalli, 2-4
Tiffany Ke, 2-4
Neja Saju, 0-6
Amanda Malek, 1-5

In Group One, the match of the day was Wu Yue's great comeback against Rachel Sung. In the first three games, Rachel seemed the aggressor, and she went up 3-0 in games. But starting in game four, Wu went super-aggressive, attacking and counter-attacking just about everything, and showing just how well she can play when pressed. Over and over Rachel now found herself reacting to Wu's attacks. Wu also looped more (rather than counter-hitting, Rachel's strength), attacked the middle more, and served more long, especially to the middle. Wu won the next three games. In the seventh, Wu goes up 7-0 and wins the match, -9,-11,-4,9,8,7,3.

With one round to go, Wang Huijing is 6-0 (24-7 in games), and Wu Yue and Crystal Wang are 5-1. All three have clinched advancing. (Wu and Wang Huijing will be playing in the last round, while Crystal plays Kylie Lam, 2099.)

Rachel Sung (2414) is 3-3, and plays Faith Tung (2189) in the last round. If Rachel wins, she clinches the fourth spot, and advances - but with a 0-3 record from carry-overs. If she loses to Faith, she falls to 3-4, and Faith would also be 3-4, and would win head-to-head in a two-way tie. If Joanna Sung (2302) wins her last match against Lavanya Maruthapandian (2193), she would also be 3-4, forcing a three-way tie. In this case, Rachel defeated Joanna, 4-2; Joanna defeated Faith Tung, 4-2, and Faith would have defeated Rachel. If Faith wins 4-0 or 4-1, she advances; if she wins 4-3, Rachel advances; if she wins 4-2, it's a three-way tie that goes to points!

In Group Two, all sixteen matches were 4-0 or 4-1. But there were two of great consequence, both involving Wang Chen (2457), the oldest player here at 46.

Against Amy Wang (2499, age 17, no relation), Amy won the first, 11-9. That's when things got interesting. Near the end of the game, Wang Chen was warned for spinning the ball out of her hand when she served. Between games the referee was called, and there was a lot of discussion between the umpire, referee, and Wang Chen, and even USATT CEO Virginia Sung got involved - apparently, Wang Chen believed she was being targeted because of a reputation for getting faulted. (She has been faulted many times for hiding the serve with her non-playing hand, and there have been accusations by opponents about spinning the ball out of her hand.)

They finally started the second game. Wang Chen took a 9-5 lead. She took a timeout at 9-8, then went up 10-8. But Amy deuces it, goes up 11-10, gets a net dribbler to go up 12-11, and wins 13-11. In game two, Amy is up 10-9, wins 12-10. In game three, Amy wins a third straight close one, 12-10, but Wang Chen wins game four, 11-7. Tactically, Amy is going after Wang Chen's wide forehand every chance, especially at key points, and it's effective.

Using this tactic, Amy leads 10-3, septuple match point. And then . . . it's 10-all!!! Amy gets another match point at 11-10, and still another at 12-11, and each time Wang deuces it. Someone whispers to me, "If Amy loses this, I don't think she can recover." Now Amy is a really calm player, and I don't think losing this game would have caused her to fall apart any more than one who has just blown nine match points. However, Amy smashes a backhand, and serve and backhand loop kills, and she's won the match, 9,11,10,-7,12.

Afterwards, I spoke with Amy's coach, Cory Eider. He said, "I don't have to tell her tactics. Her creativity is her strength. If you tell her what to do, it hurts her creativity. She does everything, I just let her play." Thanks, Cory, for putting all us professional coaches out of a job!

Wang Chen is now 4-1, but now has to play the top-rated player, Liu Juan (2651), who hasn't lost a game. Liu wins the first, 11-7, but Wang, moving penhold looping Liu side to side with her backhand pips and often into off-balance shots, wins game two, 11-6. This ended Liu's streak - she won her first 21 games here until losing this game. In game three, Wang leads 10-9, but Liu serve and rips a forehand. They follow with a vicious rally, which ends with Liu getting an edge to lead 11-10. Then Liu serve and rips another forehand to win, as Wang nods her head, perhaps appreciating the nice shot. Liu wins game four 11-5. In game five, Liu goes up 3-1, then is behind 3-4, then scores eight in a row to win the match, 7,-6,10,5,4. This leaves Liu at 6-0 (24-1 in games), and Wang at 4-2.

Another match of consequence here was Amy Wang (2499) over chopper Angela Guan (2458). Angela led 9-5 in the first, but lost six in a row. In the second, it was also 9-9, and again Amy wins, 11-9. In the third, Angela leads 9-7, and then it's once again 9-9. This time Angela leads 10-9 and 11-10, but Amy wins again, 13-11, and wins the match, 9,9,11,7.

The only upset? Amanda Malek (2131) defeated Neha Saju (2156), 6,8,2,7.

At this point, Liu Juan and Amy Wang are both 6-0, and have clinched advancing. (They play each other in the last match. Liu is 24-1 in games, Amy 24-3.) Wang Chen is 4-2, and has also clinched advancing even if she were to lose her last match (to Neha Saju). Angela Guan is 3-3, and if she wins her last match (against Amanda Malek), she would be 4-3 and clinch advancing. If Angela loses her last match, she is 3-4. Sarah Jalli and Tiffany Ke are both 2-4, and play each other in the last round. Whoever wins will be 3-4, and could then be tied with Angela. However, since both lost to her (Tiffany in that excruciating deuce in the seventh match), Angela has already clinched advancing. So advancing will be Liu Juan, Amy Wang, Wang Chen, and Angela Guan. (This is my analysis, not the official USATT one.)

The final round of Stage One is tonight at 4:45 PM.