MARCH 6-8, 2015: Texas Wesleyan University Hosts the 2015 Pan Am and US Team Trials, Fort Worth, Texas
Thirty-five men and eighteen women arrived in Fort Worth, Texas for their chance to secure a spot on Team USA. The trials will select five male athletes and five female athletes. Because there are different residency rules for competing in the Pan Am Games and competing in World Championships, some players competing at the Trials are only eligible to play in the Pan Am Games.
DAY 1 (FRIDAY): Single Elimination Tournament for all Participants – The Winner Qualifies
DAY 2 (SATURDAY): Single Elimination Tournament with a maximum of 16 players. Players are selected in the order that they finished on Day 1 (excluding the winner – who has already qualified). The Winner Qualifies.
DAY 3 (SUNDAY): Single Elimination Tournament with a maximum of 16 players. Players are selected in the order that they finished on Day 1 (excluding the two previous winners). The Top 2 finishers will qualify. *If any player who has qualified for TeamUSA is NOT eligible to compete in the Worlds, then the next highest finishing player on Day 3 will move up and take the open position.
Results of Day 1
Jiaqi Zheng and Kanak Jha qualified on the first day of the Trials. Each earned their top prize with hard-fought matches throughout the day.
Jiaqi Zheng won the women’s final over Lily Zhang in a 7 game nail-biter. Lily continually pressed the pace with aggressive shots on both sides and a barrage of sharp backhand struck immediately after the bounce. Jiaqi varied the pace of the ball and often upset the rhythm of Lily. As the match wore on, Jiaqi was able to work in her aggressive forehand smash which was often unreturnable. In the end, Zheng pulled out a close match and became the first to qualify for the team. Due to eligibility rules, Zheng will play for the Pan Am team only.
On the men’s side, Kanak Jha faced Han Xiao. There are no easy brackets in a tournament of elite players, but Xiao’s path to the final was exceptionally difficult. He faced three-time US National Champion Tim Wang in the first round, then Siliang Wang, then Theodore Tran, before reaching Kanak Jha in the final. Kanak and Han were so evenly matched through the first four games, that only a single point separated them (with scores of 8, -11, -10, and 9). Xiao took the critical fifth game 11-7 to gain the advantage, but Kanak was able to turn the tide and pull out the last two games for the win. Kanak Jha qualifies for both the Pan Am and US Team.
Check back here for more updates throughout the weekend.