(by Steve Hopkins / Photo by ITTF)
Guaynabo, Puerto Rico was 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.
The top two finishers in each event qualify automatically for the World Cup. Those players were Brazil’s Hugo Calderano and USA’s Kanak Jha. Calderano defended his 2018 crown with three dominant wins: over host-country’s Afanador (4-0), over fourth seeded Aguirre (4-2), and at times a dominating performance over Kanak Jha in the final (4-1). Kanak Jha, who in February just broke the World Top 50 for the first time took yet another step forward with his upset of Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi. But, in the end, Calderano was too strong for the field. He made very few mistakes, was crisp with his short game, was comfortable enough to be creative and to vary his shots, and at times was over-powering.
Hugo Calderano repeats as the Pan Am Cup Champion, and Calderano and Jha both earn automatic bids to the World Cup. Calderano claim the gold, Jha wins silver, and Tsuboi won the consolation match to secure the bronze.
In the women’s event, top seeded Mo Zhang eked by USA’s Lily Zhang with a 4-3 opening win, but then dominated the fourth seeded Bruna Takahashi 4-0. USA’s Jennifer Wu advanced to the semifinals with a win over Gui (4-0), but then lost a tight 4-3 match against Adriana Diaz.
The final was then set between the top two seeds, Canada’s Mo Zhang and Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz. Diaz pulled out a 4-1 win in front of her home crowd. The four wins were about as close as possible winning the first game 13-11, the second game 11-8, the fourth game 11-9 and the fifth game 11-9.
Adriana Diaz and Mo Zhang claim the automatic bids to the World Cup. Adriana Diaz wins gold, Mo Zhang brings the silver back to Canada, and USA’s Jennifer Wu won the consolation match to claim the bronze medal.
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