(by Johnathan Humbles)
Team USA Opens Worlds with a Comeback Victory
Play began today for Team USA’s men. The team of Yijun Feng, Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar, and Nicholas Tio enter the tournament as the 38th overall seed. Team USA is the fourth seed of a six team Group H in the Men’s Second Division. In the group stage, they will play Spain, Iran, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, and Puerto Rico.
Much like the women’s team earlier in the day, TeamUSA’s men started off playing a higher seeded opponent and ended the first match with a loss. The similarities end there.
Out of the gate, USA’s Yijun (Tom) Feng suffered the opening match loss to Spain’s Carlos Machado. It was a hard-fought match from the first serve. Feng managed to keep the match close throughout, winning games two and four. Ultimately, Feng fell just short, losing 3-2 (-9, 12, -6, 11, -8).
Kanak Jha was next to step into the arena. He wasted little time in quickly establishing himself in the match. Armed with his quick flicks, powerful loops, and great blocks, Jha ended his match in straight sets over Spain’s Alvaro Robles (-6, -7, -6). Jha finished just as he started, STRONG.
Watching what had unfolded in front of him, Nihkil Kumar knew his time was now. With the score knotted at one match each, Kumar faced Spain’s Jesus Cantero. Cantero was a larger framed opponent, but Kumar was able to use his speed and agility to best his opponent in straight games (-9, -10, -9).
Seeing the tide shift, and now having a 2 match – 1 match advantage, it was now Yijun Feng’s opportunity to get back on track and secure a victory for Team USA. But it was not to be, Feng fell to Alvaro Robles 3-1.
With the match now tied at 2 sets each, the stage was set for the fifth and final set pitting USA’s Kanak Jha against Spain’s Carols Machado. Both Jha and Machado had won their first match and both were ready. This set had it all; blocks, loops, pushes, flicks and lobs. In the end, Jha rose to the challenge of the five game set. Jha won the first two games by the score of 11-8. Machado bounced back in games 3 and 4. But after some adjustments from men’s coach, Stefan Feth, Jha regained his composure to win the final game. Game, set, match to Team USA.