Liu Juan’s Spectacular Olympic Table Tennis Run Ends in Round of Sixteen
New Yorker Becomes Only the Third Player in US Olympic History to Go As Far As the Final Sixteen Players in the Olympic Table Tennis Tournament
(Tokyo, Japan – July 27, 2021) – American Liu Juan’s spectacular run in the Women’s Singles Event of the Olympic Table Tennis tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Games came to an end this evening in a loss to Singapore’s Yu Mengyu at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Liu, who resides in New York, won four matches to go all the way from the Preliminary Round to the Round of Sixteen before being eliminated. She is only the third US table tennis player Olympic history to make it that deep into the tournament.
After defeating Romania’s Bernadette Szocs earlier today, Liu returned to the TMG this evening to face Yu, who is ranked forty-seventh in the world but beat the number eight player, Cheng I-Ching, earlier in the day. Liu started strong and played well in the early going but dropped the first three games in the best-of-seven match by identical scores of 9-11. In each of those games, Liu held at least one lead at some point – and, in Game Two, she twice led by as many as four points. However, when the game got harder, Yu got better, and she was able to close out each of those first three games with explosive runs at the end. In Game Four, Liu broke through by ringing off the last three points of the game to win 11-8. She did the same thing in Game Five to go from an 8-6 lead to an 11-6 win and draw within a game headed to Number Six. In that one, Yu found her form and stormed out to an 8-2 lead, but Liu did not go away quietly, rather she drew within one at 8-9 before Yu pushed a pin into Liu’s comeback balloon.
Despite the disappointment from the loss, Liu’s tournament performance was impressive from any number of perspectives. She was the only player who started the Women’s Singles event in the Preliminary Round and advanced as far as the final sixteen. She won four matches to do so, beating the 175th player in the world (Olufunke Oshonaike of Nigeria), the 77th (Galia Dvorak of Spain), the 54th (Barbora Balazova of Slovakia), and the 26th(Szocs).
As far as US Olympic efforts, Liu’s is one for the ages. As noted, she is only the third individual in US Olympic history to go as far as the Round of Sixteen in table tennis. In the Beijing Games of 2008 Wang Chen (who is an alternate on the US squad for Tokyo 2020), went all the way to the Quarterfinals before being eliminated and ending up tied-fifth in the Women’s Singles table tennis event. In those same Olympics (2008), Gao Jun, who is the current US Olympic coach – and who won a Silver Medal for Team China in Women’s Doubles in 1992 in Barcelona – got to the Round of Sixteen for the United States before being knocked out and ending up tied-ninth.
The American’s are not out of it in table tennis for the Tokyo 2020 Games. The Team Events are upcoming. The Men’s Team faces Sweden in the First Round on Sunday, August 1; and the Women’s Team takes on Chinese Taipei in their First Round matchup on Monday, August 2.