US Olympic Table Tennis Women Advance to Round Three
Liu Juan Wins Her Third Match of the Tournament – And Lily Zhang Wins Her First – As Both Women Keep Their Medal Hopes in Women’s Singles Alive Kanak Jha Falls to Kirill Skachkov in His 2020 Tokyo Olympic Opener in Men’s Singles
(Tokyo, Japan – July 26, 2021) – Liu Juan and Lily Zhang each won a Second Round match in the morning session of the Women’s Singles table tennis event at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. America’s number one player on the men’s side, Kanak Jha did not fare as well in the Men’s Singles event, losing to Kirill Skachkov of the Russian Olympic Committee team. Both US women entered in the individual singles event have now advanced to the Round of Thirty-Two, while both US entrants on the men’s side, Jha and Nikhil Kumar, have been eliminated from the individual singles competition.
Liu won her third match of the tournament in impressive fashion, defeating Barbora Balazova of Slovakia in the best-of-seven match, four games to none (11-9; 11-6; 11-9; 11-7). Although Liu trailed at various points in all four games during the match, she did not lose touch with her opponent, never falling behind by more than two. As with her prior two matches in this Olympic tournament, Liu utilized an impressive combination of power and finesse to keep her opponent off balance. Late in each of the games, Liu was particularly effective with her serve and return game, allowing her to pounce and close out Balazova when the opportunity presented itself.
Zhang, who is playing in her third Olympics, looked sharp against Nigeria’s Offiong Edem in her opening outing in the Tokyo 2020 Games. Despite failing to close out a game point – and eventually losing – in Game One (13-15). Zhang rang off wins in four games in succession, including back-to-back 11-2 victories in Games Two and Three. In Game Four, Zhang held leads of 8-2 and 10-5 before dropping three straight points to Edem. Zhang then used her timeout, regrouped, and made quick work of that game (11-8). Zhang closed out Edem with a 11-6 exclamation point in Game Five to advance to Round Three.
The US Women will be back in action in the Round of Thirty-Two at the TGM at 9:00 PM and 11:00PM (Tuesday, July 27). Liu will face Romanian Bernadette Szocs, while Zhang is pitted against Chen Szu Yu of Chinese Taipei. The times of those matches have yet to be set.
Jha, on the other hand, did not appear to have his best stuff in his Tokyo debut. Skachkov, a tall and rangy player, came out of the gate with an aggressive approach and appeared to put Jha on his heels from the start, leading the entire way in Game One (11-9). Jha bounced back to win Game Two (11-9) and in Game Three led by as many as three, but couldn’t close out Skachkov, who took a two-games to one lead with an 11-9 win. Jha readily ran away with Game Four (11-0) to tie the match at two games apiece. In Game Five, Jha once again held a lead by as many two points, but Skachkov exhibited poise and power under pressure to pull that game out 11-7. The decisive Game Six was pretty much all in Skachkov’s favor, as he charged out to 8-0 lead and closed Jha down (11-4) to advance to the Third Round, where he will face Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov.
Jha’s 2020 Olympic hopes are not over. He will join teammates, Nikhil Kumar and Zhou Xin, when the US faces Sweden in the Round of Sixteen in the Teams table tennis event, which will kick off on Sunday, August 1, at the TGM. Times for the Teams’ matchups are yet to be set.