(By Steve Hopkins)
Worlds Day 2: US Men Continue to Roll
Play continues today for Team USA’s men. Yijun Feng, Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar, and Nicholas Tio enter the tournament as the 38th overall seed , and fourth seed in Group H of the Men’s Second Division. Yesterday they started off the tournament on a roll by defeating Spain, the top seed in the group.
Team USA took on Puerto Rico in group action today at the Liebherr 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships. Puerto Rico’s top two players are ranked at 162 and 204 in the world (Brian Afanador is their top player at No. 162). Team USA has Kanak Jha at World No. 82, but then our other players are all ranked below their top two. This makes the two teams pretty evenly matched on paper.
Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador narrowly defeated USA’s Yijun Feng in the opening set (3-2: 7, 10, -8, -9, 7). USA’s Kanak Jha then won the second set in straight games defeating Daniel Gonzales 3-0. Team USA’s Nikhil Kumar then stepped up again, as he did yesterday against Egypt, to win his match and give the advantage to Team USA. Kumar had a marathon first game, winning 17-15 over Ricardo Jimenez. He then traded close games across the middle of the match, losing the second game, then winning the third, then losing the fourth. This set up a decisive fifth game that followed the script of the first game with the players trading points until deuce – and Kumar fighting to win the final two points and pull out the game. Kumar over Jimenez 3-2 (15, -6, 8, -8, 11).
Kanak Jha then matched up against Afanador in a matchup of each team’s best. Kanak Jha proved the stronger player, taking the first two games and eventually closing out the match 3-1.
Team USA began the tournament with an upset win, and on Day 2, Team USA continues to roll.
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