World Cup Day 1: Kanak Logs Early Upset
(By Steve Hopkins/Photo by ITTF)
The Liebherr 2018 Men’s World Cup is underway in Paris, France. This three day event begins Friday with group rounds and will advance to elimination rounds on Saturday and Sunday. Twenty of the best players in the world are present, with each qualifying through regional Continental Cups and world ranking. The venue for the tournament is the Disney Event Arena at Disneyland Paris.
The list of 20 elite players invited includes 8 of the top 10 in the World with Fan Zhendong, Timo Boll, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, and Lin Gaoyuan entered as the top four seeds. Twelve players are set to compete in four groups. The top two from each group advance to the elimination round (where the top eight seeds await). Kanak Jha, USA’s only entrant is the 18th seed. He was the lowest seed in his group and not expected to advance. However, Jha has already scored an early headline with an upset in his initial round robin.
Kanak’s group included France’s Simon Gauzy and Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna. Gauzy (World Ranking No. 16) has won the group by defeating Aruna 4-3 and defeating Jha 4-0. However, the main story of the day is that Jha has pulled out an impressive 4-2 win over Aruna. Jha won the first two games, and then split the next four to hold on for the win. Aruna is number 21 in the world, so this is Jha’s second best match result ever and insures he will continue to move up the world ranking list. Jha has finished second in the group, so he will move on to the elimination rounds. The group matches for Group B:
- 1-3 France GAUZY S vs. JHA K United States 4-0 (6,10,11,9)
- 1-2 France GAUZY S vs. ARUNA Q Nigeria 4-3 (-7,-10,-5,9,6,5,5)
- 2-3 Nigeria ARUNA Q vs. JHA K United States 2-4 (-7,-9,8,-7,8,-8)
Two of the other groups finished as expected without upsets. Korea’s Sangeun Jeong has won Group C and Denmark’s Jonathan Groth has won Group D. The other group with upsets was Group A where second seed Vladimir Samsonov has won, and where third seed Emmanuel Lebesson has finished second. Brazil’s Hugo Calderano was the unfortunate top seed in Group A who has finished third.
The knock-out round begins on Saturday. The top half of the draw includes the top two Chinese players; Fan Zhendong and Lin Gaoyuan (the first and fourth seeds). The bottom half of the draw features a pair of Germans; Boll and Ovtcharov (the second and third seeds). Kanak Jha will face Lin Gaoyuan.
Jha played last week in the Youth Olympic Games and managed to secure a bronze medal for the United States, the first such medal ever won by a U.S. male athlete in the sport. It may have been the perfect warm-up for the World Cup as he has started this event hot. Since the series of popular ads in the 1980s, it has been common for great athletes in their moment of celebration to look at the camera and say “I’m going to Disneyland”. Clearly after winning America’s first men’s medal at the Youth Olympic Games last week, Kanak was ready for this trip to Disneyland.
Check in with ButterflyOnline.com for more updates throughout the event.