(by Steve Hopkins)
USA Table Tennis continued its T2 Challenge Series this week the first match of Season 2. The players this week were Jimmy Butler from Team Alpha and Deng Zhen from Team Omega. At 50 years old, Butler is one of the most decorated male players in US history, and Deng Zhen is a 21 year old rising female star. The advantage in rating goes to Butler who has a 150 point advantage. The match is being played at Houston WAB Club, Houston International Table Tennis Academy.
In the opening game, Deng Zhen’s backhand (and her medium pips) affected Butler’s timing. First game to Deng Zhen 11-6. Butler was strong early in the second game – but after a comeback, it was Deng who got to 10 first. Butler then scored two clutch points in a row for the 11-10 win, evening the game score 1-1.
Butler again jumped out in the lead at the start of the third game. That lead expanded to 7-3 before holding on for the 11-9 win. 2-1 Jimmy Butler. In the fourth game, it is Butler again up a pair of points – but Deng reeled him in earlier this time, tying the score at 5-5. Butler this dominated the next 6 points, including a high lob to get him to 10. Butler was then up 3-1, as the T2 time limit expired – making the remaining games in the match first to 5 points. This Fast 5 element keeps T2 matches moving quickly.
Deng scored 4 of the first 5 points to take a 4-1 lead. She then held on to win 5-3. Butler remains ahead 3-2.
In the final game, the players traded points up to a 4-4 tie. Butler then serves deep and Deng Zhen hits her backhand long and that ends the match. The winner of the first match of Season 2 is Jimmy Butler.
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