2018 Pan America Cup Recap
(by Steve Hopkins)
The final day of the 2018 Pan America Cup has concluded. The culmination of the three-day event in Asuncion, Paraguay was the finals on Sunday.
The Men’s Final pitted the top two seeds, both Brazilians: Gustavo Tsuboi (World No. 45) and Hugo Calderano (World No. 11). When these two have played in the past, there have been close games but generally Calderano has come out on top. There was a wrinkle in the final as Calderano won the first game, only to fall in the next two. But even with momentum and a 2-1 game lead, Tsuboi could not hold off his teammate. Calderano won three straight to take the title as well as the automatic bid to the World Cup for the title-holder. Calderano over Tsuboi 4-2 (9, -8, -10, 6, 7, 13)
The other men’s match was for 3rd and 4th place. It matched American Kanak Jha against Paraguay’s Marcelo Aguirre. Jha was favored slightly, and did not disappoint.
Jha won the first game 11-6. Jha maintained a slight lead through the second game and reached 10 first. They then traded points until Jha won the game 15-13 to pull out the narrowest of victories and extend the lead to 2-0. The third game was just as close – with Aguirre missing a serve at 10-10 and then falling 12-10 to give Jha a 3-0 lead. But after two close wins in a row, the momentum finally shifted with Aguirre scoring decisive victories in the next two games (11-6, and 11-9). But Jha turned around the final game for an 11-6 win to finish in third. It was a solid result for Jha consistent with his world ranking and another step forward.
In the women’s final, Canadian Mo Zhang faced America’s Wu Yue. Yue took the first game and the early lead, but Zhang dominated the next three games to take a commanding lead. The final game was very close, but when Zhang pulled out a 13-11 victory, she sealed the title. Zhang over Yue 4-1 (-8, 8, 4, 5, 11).
In earlier rounds, Team USA’s Men (Yijun Feng and Kanak Jha) performed well. Feng had a tough draw on Friday in the group round where he faced Marcos Madrid (Mexico) and Brian Afanador (Puerto Rico), both of whom were seeded higher than Feng. Feng began the day with a win over Madrid (4-3). However, Feng then lost to Afanador (1-4). Afanador then lost to Madrid (2-4) to create a three-way tie. The tie was broken by winning percentage with Afanador winning with a 6-5 record (in games overall), Madrid finishing second with a 7-6 record, and Feng in third with a 5-7 record. Afanador advanced from the group into the Main Draw.
Kanak Jha was seeded into the Main Draw. His first match was Afanador on Saturday morning. Kanak won the match 4-2 (9, -12, -7, 6, 8, 10) to advance to the semifinals. He then faced Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi (World No. 54) Saturday evening. Tsuboi was too much for the young American, winning 4-0 (4, 8, 8, 4). Tsuboi will play Hugo Calderano in the finals on Sunday. Kanak Jha will face Paraguay’s Marcelo Aguirre for third place.
Canada was represented by Edward Ly and Marko Medjugorac. Both finished third in the first stage round robins and did not advance. The matches were competitive, but this will have to be chalked up as another valuable learning experience as they continue to develop.
Team USA’s Women were represented by Xinyue Wang and Wu Yue. Wang was third seed in her group, but won both matches to advance. She defeated Puerto Rico’s Melanie Diaz 4-3 and defeated Canada’s Alicia Cote 4-0. Wang then advanced to play top seeded Mo Zhang (Canada) where her run ended. Zhang over Wang 4-1.
Wu Yue was seeded into the Main Draw. She defeated Brazil’s Caroline Kumahara (4-1) to reach the semifinals. She then defeated Mexico’s Yadira Silva (4-2) to reach the finals.