(by Steve Hopkins)
Guaynabo, Puerto Rico is host to the Universal 2019 ITTF Pan America Cup. Sixteen participants were invited and seeded based upon World Ranking. Four players were seeded into the semifinals, and then the rest of the field are placed in 3-person round robins with the winner advancing to the knock-out rounds. The top four men are Hugo Calderano (BRA), Gustavo Tsuboi (BRA), Kanak Jha (USA), and Marcelo Aguirre (PAR) and the top four women are Mo Zhang (CAN), Adriana Diaz (PUR), Jennifer Wu (USA), and Bruna Takahashi (BRA). The qualifying round was held on Friday.
In the men’s groups two of the top seeds advanced as expected (Puerto Rico’s top player, Brian Afanandor and Alberto Mino of Ecuador) and two lower seeds surprised by advancing (USA’s Nikhil Kumar and Canada’s Jeremy Hazin). On Saturday, the qualifiers met the top four seeds – and the latter showed why they had been seeded so high. Hugo Calderano dominated Brian Afanador 4-0, Marcelo Aguirre dispensed with Nikhil Kumar 4-1, and Gustavo Tsuboi finished off Jeremy Hazin 4-1. The closest match of the day was Kanak Jha who lost the first two games to Alberto Mino 11-9 and then split the next two games to find himself behind 1-3. However, Jha found his rhythm in the fifth game and dominated the final three games to win. Jha over Mino 4-3: -9, -9, 7, -8, 4, 6, 6). The semifinals and finals will be held Sunday. Calderano is matched up against Marcelo Aguirre and Kanak Jha will face Gustavo Tsuboi.
In the women’s groups, two of the top seeds advanced as expected (USA’s Lily Zhang and Brazil’s Gui Lin) and two others advanced after upsets (Mexico’s Yadira Silva and Canada’s Alicia Cote). However, just like with the men, the seeded players eliminated the qualifiers on Saturday. Top seed Mo Zhang had her hands full with USA’s Lily Zhang, but Mo Zhang won the match 4-3. Zhang will face Bruna Takahashi who defeated Yadira Silva 4-2. USA’s Jennifer Wu dominated Gui Lin 4-0 to advance and she will face second seed Adriana Diaz who defeated Alicia Cote 4-0.
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