Kanak Jha (L) poses for a photo after winning his fourth national title at the US National Table Tennis Championships on July 5, 2019 in Las Vegas.
Kanak Jha didn’t take long to seal his place in U.S. table tennis history Friday night in Las Vegas.
Winning the first game of his men’s singles final against Nikhil Kumar by a dominating score of 11-3, Jha went on and defeated Kumar in five games in the US National Table Tennis Championships. Jha, a 2016 Olympian, becomes the first man to win four consecutive men’s singles national titles.
In addition to Jha, the only other man to win three consecutive U.S. singles titles was two-time Olympian Sean O’Neill from 1987 to 1989. Jun Gao holds the consecutive record for U.S. championships, winning seven straight women’s singles titles from 1996 to 2002.
Jha defeated Kumar, 11-3, 11-7, 11-7, 10-12, 11-7.
But there was more to his special night in Vegas.
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Jha was the top seed in both the singles and doubles tournaments, teaming up with fellow Olympian Yijun Feng in the doubles to defeat Kumar and Nicholas Tio in straight sets. Jha’s two victories Friday marked the first time he won both singles and doubles titles.
Jha is the first to win four consecutive singles championships, but Dan and Rick Seemiller teamed up in a brother duo to win eight straight men’s doubles championships from 1976 to 1983.
David Zhuang, a three-time Olympian, has the most national singles championships in USA Table Tennis history with six.
Jha made his Olympic debut in Rio in 2016, competing in both singles and doubles. In the 2014 ITTF Men’s World Cup, Jha became the youngest ever to play in the world cup at age 14. Two years later, he became the first athlete born in the 2000s to qualify for a U.S. Olympic Team. Last year, he competed at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 and earned bronze, the first men's Olympic or Youth Olympic table tennis medal for the U.S.
Lily Zhang, a two-time Olympian, won her fifth women’s U.S. singles championship, defeating 14-year-old Rachel Sung, 11-8, 11-7, 12-10, 9-11, 11-6.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.