Day 2: The 2015 Team Trials

DAY 2 at the 2015 Pan Am and US Team Trials:

Women’s Trial Event: Day 2

The main story-line on Day 2, was that the top two seeds cruised early. Lily Zhang advanced through her half of the draw with 4-0 wins over her first two opponents (Angela Guan and Judy Hugh) before downing Crystal Wang 4-2 in the Semifinal.  Similarly, Jennifer Wu defeated Diane Jiang and Amy Wang (each 4-0) and then closed out Tina Lin in a tougher semifinal (4-2).

The Zhang-Wue Finals on Day 2 was a rematch of the semifinals of Day 1.  In their first meeting, Lily Zhang was dominant (4-0), upsetting the tournament’s top seed and advancing to the Final. Today when they met it would be the final match of the day, and with more on the line — with TeamUSA as the prize.

As they got underway, Jennifer Wu came out with great energy and intensity. Wu shot out to a lead only to see Lily Zhang catch her at the end to win 11-9.  Game two was almost the same story, with Wu using spinny loops and pace changes giving to provide an early lead (at one point 8-4), only to see Lily Zhang tie the game at 9-9.  Zhang then masterfully mixed up the last two points — moving to 10 with a great drop-shot, and taking the final point with a series of blistering power shots.

The third game continued the trend – an early lead by Jennifer Wu. But at 7-3, Zhang won two points in a row to make it 7-5 in Wu’s favor.  Wu called a time-out to make sure to avoid a third consecutive come-back.  She then proceeded to press her lead to 10-7, only to see Lily Zhang win the next three points (and five of the next six) to eventually seal the victory.  Three straight leads by Jennifer Wu – and three come-from-behind victories for Lily Zhang.

The fourth game was Wu’s game – attacking Zhang’s middle early in rallies and then seeking heavy angles to finish the points. The 11-8 victory was Wu’s first win in 8 tries over the last two days.

The fifth game was even from the start…2-2, then 4-4, then 5-5. Zhang was consistently pressing the pace but Wu would use Zhang’s power against her by aggressively blocking into the corners. The score moved to 6-6, and then 7-7… They continued to exchange points evenly without many unforced errors. Wu took her 8th point with a strong reloop, but then missed a short serve by Zhang (8-8). Wu was then first to 10 with great touch shots, but Zhang struck a clean forehand winner down the line for deuce. The final two points both went to Zhang — a miss into the net by Wu and a great cross-court backhand to seal the victory. Lily Zhang joins TeamUSA.

The Men’s Event
The Men’s event was wide-open on Saturday:  In the top half of the draw, one of Friday’s best, Han Xiao, was upset in a 7-game thriller by Jack Wang in the opening round. Jack was then upset by Jason Plog.  And Plog then fell to Jim Butler in the Semis. The other side of the draw saw And the other side of the draw saw Tim Wang fall to Kunal Chodri in a seven game thriller.  Chodri then defeated Victor Liu on his way to the final.

The final matched Jim Butler and Kunal Chodri — a rematch of the 2014 National Championships three months ago.  The result was the same today — a win by Jim Butler.  The first game was won by Chodri (12-10), but after that the result was all-Butler, with four consecutive wins to seal the victory.  The match may have been more contested than the score indicates (three of the Butler wins were by 2 points only), but from the middle of the third game there was a confidence in Butler that showed through.  He had leads in most of the games, he controlled the tempo, and even as Chodri tied the score in the last game of the match,  Butler seemed focused and unphased.