2018 US OPEN Recap
(By Steve Hopkins)
This year’s US Open was held at a new location – the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. The Convention Center brought one of the premier table tennis events in North America to the doorstep of Disney and the other Orlando-area attractions. In addition to the new location, the event also featured a new format.
This year’s US Open separated players into two tracks: Elite and Performance. The Performance track is intended for players of all levels. The Performance track competitions are intended to provide a minimum of 12-15 competitive singles matches over the course of the tournament. By design, players will face more competition in their skill and development level and this format should allow for players to have flexibility to enter doubles and classic events. The Elite track was designed for the highest-level players and applied a stringent set of qualifications as a prerequisite for entry. The Performance track included three types of events: TIERED, AGE, and CLASSIC TABLE TENNIS. Approximately 500 players played within these tracks in 2018. Each player competed in three round robin groups – one to determine their division, and two additional round-robins within their division. The result was designed to provide more matches overall, and more matches between evenly matched players.
At the top of the Elite Track was the Open and Juniors events. These feature some of the best players in the world and the results affect the world rankings.
In Men’s Singles, Canada’s Eugene Wang faced Germany’s Tobias Hippler in one semifinal. Wang has become a fixture at US tournaments including two previous US Open titles. Hippler has been a rising junior star in Germany and at 19 is just now beginning to appear in adult tour events. On this day, the savvy veteran won out – with a straight set victory. Wang over Hippler 4-0 (8, 4, 11, 4). The other semifinal was between two Japanese teammates Ryohei Kanoya and Takeshi Atsuya. Kanoya had been the more impressive, losing only one game in his previous three matches (including a 4-1 win over top seeded American Kanak Jha). He continued the streak with a 4-2 win over Atsuya. Kanoya over Atsuya 4-2 (-15, 8, 6, -8, 9, 7).
The final was an exciting match of offensive skills. Kanoya pressed the pace taking full swings from both sides and Eugene Wang took the role of a counter-puncher, blocking and softening Kanoya’s attacks but carefully placing the ball and picking his spots for strong attacks. The first four games had results separated by the slimmest of margins, but Kanoya got the best of the exchange and held a 3-1 advantage (Wang won the first 11-9, Kanoya then won the next three at 12, 11, and 9). But with a 3-1 lead and a tight score in the fifth game, Kanoya relaxed. Wang pulled out that fifth game at 11-7, and then dominated the sixth game (11-1) to tie the score. In the deciding game, the two battled to a 10-10 tie. Wang then won two in a row, including an epic blistering final point with 10 strong shots landed before Kanoya missed the 11th ball from his backhand side. Eugene Wang is champion again – his third US Open title.
In Women’s Singles it was an all-USA final. Californian Lily Zhang dominated her semifinal match against Denmark’s Nina Mittleham to reach the final and New York’s Liu Juan went through Eka So 4-1 to reach the final. Zhang and Liu then wowed the crowd with an incredible offensive performance. Zhang struck first with an 11-4 win and carried the momentum until late in the second game. However, Liu tied the game late and held on for a 14-12 win in game two and that turned the tide. Liu won three of the next four games to claim her second US Open title 4-2. Liu over Zhang 4-2 (-4, 12, 7, -8, 5, 12). Liu Juan is a coach at the New York Indoor Sports Club, a WE ARE BUTTERFLY club in New York City. Lily Zhang is in college now, but the Olympian has spent much of her youth training and playing at ICC – a WE ARE BUTTERFLY club in Milpitas California.
The Junior and Cadet singles have all concluded. Canada’s Edward Ly logged first place in both Junior Boys and Cadet Boys. Jeremy Hazin of Canada finished second in Junior Boys, and Aditya Godhwani from California finished second in Cadet Boys. Jiaqi Lin of Texas won the Junior Girls event with a 3-2 win over Tiffany Ke of Maryland. Californian Rachel Sung finished first in Cadet Girls, with fellow-Californian Faith Tung the runner-up.
Visit ButterflyOnline.com for the latest table tennis news and information.