(by Barbara Wei)
2016 Arnold Table Tennis Challenge champion, Jian Li successfully defended his title at this year’s 2017 competition. A modern defensive chopper, Jian Li found success for a second time dropping only 4 games total throughout the competition. He hopes to continue to inspire others with his powerful loops and very playful and creative defensive play both at the Arnold and at future tournaments.
En route to the championship $3,000 prize, Jian Li successfully overcame Tong Zhang (2594) from powerhouse collegiate team Mississippi College in the quarterfinals 4-1 before facing top seeded Ruichao Chen (2703) in the semi-final. This semi-final matchup was hotly anticipated as it pitted one of the fiercest serve and attack players in the country (Ruichao Chen) against one of the best defenders (Jian Li). Jian dropped the first game 4-11 and was also down 2 games to 1 before winning 3 games in a row to clinch the title. Careful control of chops and improved return of serve helped Jian Li overcome this very difficult hurdle before reaching the final.
The final match up of Jian Li vs Jishan Liang (2669) was a repeat from 2016. Jishan, having beaten Jian most recently at Westchester Open tournaments, was in good form to lead in the first game 9-7 before Jian turned it around and won 11-9. The momentum changed after the first game with Jian taking control of the match for the next 2 games. Jian Li, up 3 games to 0, had 5 match points in game 4 but wasn’t able to close, losing the game 16-14. With new determination and a calm and composed style, Jian Li chopped and looped his way to success in game 5, 11-8. In addition to the $3,000 prize, Jian Li also became the first player to repeat as the champion since the Arnold Table Tennis Challenge became a four star USATT sanctioned event.
Competition continues on the 3rd day of play at the Arnold Table Tennis Challenge with 7 events including the Under 2500 RR and the NCTTA College Alumni event.
Continual coverage of the 2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge and stories about the athletes will be available at ButterflyOnline.com, or via Butterfly North America’s Twitter and Facebook pages.