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Proud US Campaign in Dusseldorf Comes to an End

(BY MATT HETHERINGTON)

The ever exciting campaign of the 2017 US National Table Tennis Team has come to an end on Day 5 of the 2017 ITTF Liebherr World Table Tennis Championships. On Day 4 the mission towards singles success had been thwarted in the round of 32 men’s and women’s singles draws, but with significantly impressive performances by Lily Zhang and Kanak Jha.

For Zhang she had faced a very strong opposition in Li Jie of the Netherlands, one of the world’s top defensive players but also with a lethal offensive game in her repertoire. Despite this, Lily Zhang looked ready for the challenge and played some outstanding points, at many occasions of the game putting Li under immense pressure. The end result would be 4-1 for the Dutch chopper and Lily Zhang’s singles campaign would be over. Her greatest progress in the Women’s Singles to date at a World Championship.

Kanak Jha would bow out to training partner and Swedish teammate Mattias Karlsson, currently ranked 27 in the World. The task seemed a huge mountain to climb, facing a much higher ranked opponent and one familiar with your game, along with one of your practicing club coaches on your opponents bench. In the face of this challenge it was the 16 year old Rio Olympian who rose to the occasion and showed us that his hard work overseas has not been wasted. At one point during the match the pair were tied at 2-2 and 9-9 before the Swedish player was able to escape the situation and convert the set. Even though Karlsson won the match 4-2, Kanak Jha showed perhaps some of his best table tennis on the international stage to date. A truly impressive performance.

The last opportunity for team USA to continue came early this afternoon as Lily Zhang and Wu Yue looked to continue their incredible run in the women’s doubles event. On this occasion their opponents would be Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling of China. An incredibly tough opposition but our two US superstars didn’t let it phase them too much and brought their best game to the table. While the skill of their opponents could have seemed intimidating, it was Wu and Zhang who made the first strike and took game one in deuce. Suddenly the question was raised, could they perhaps pull off this monstrous upset?

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