Jha, Zhang defend US table tennis singles titles

LAS VEGAS (AP) Kanak Jha and Lilly Zhang each won their second straight U.S. national table tennis titles Friday night.

The top-seeded Jha beat No. 9 seed Nikhil Kumar 11-9, 16-14, 11-3 11-1 in 30 minutes to become the first men's back-to-back champion since Timothy Wang in 2012-13.

Zhang, the top women's seed, defeated her Olympic teammate and No. 2 seed Jennifer Wu 11-5, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 to win her fourth national singles crown. Zhang, who also won in 2012 and 2014, is only the fourth woman to win four or more national singles crowns.

Jha, 17, of Milpitas, Calif. did not drop a game in the tournament and won his last two tournaments in Argentina last month.

''Right now I am in good form,'' said Jha, who was the youngest men's table tennis player in Olympics history last year. ''I never thought about the scores. I tried to refresh and be fully focused on each match.''

Jha scored with big forehands throughout the final against Kumar, 14, of San Jose, Calif .

Zhang, 21, of Palo Alto, Calif. was equally flawless the entire tournament and never lost a game in four matches. An Olympian in 2012, Zhang dominated Wu, 27, of New York, with blistering groundstroke winners.

Zhang, entering her junior year at California and majoring in psychology, is hoping that her victory will be an inspiration to other players.

''This is really special for me and I hope it shows to the junior players that they don't have to give up the sport and their passion and can do both,'' Zhang said after the 30 minute final.''

Both champions earned $8,000.

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