World Junior Experience Builds on Long-term Plan for Team USA

By Matt Hetherington | Dec. 05, 2017, 10:13 a.m. (ET)

While no medals came home with team USA from this year's World Junior Table Tennis Championships in Riva Del Garda, Italy, a stronger and more united team came back from Europe than that which had left. The team performed exceptionally to make the quarterfinals in both the Boy's and Girl's team events, with the boys narrowly missing out on a guaranteed medal in the deciding game against Romania. 

With a 9-1 win record in the team event, Kanak Jha showed great promise heading into the individual events. Currently ranked 9th in the world for Junior Boys, Kanak was looking for some big results, but his hopes would be thwarted by perhaps the outstanding performer of the entire tournament. Truls Moregard of Sweden was a player in hot form and would end Jha's run in the round of 32 in a tightly contested match. Moregard would go on to upset two of China's best and reach the finals, ending with a silver medal.

"Kanak lost in the last 32, a close 3-4 against the later vice-world champion Moregard from Sweden, but having a good chance to advance. In 3 out of 4 games he lost he was leading, 7-3 in third and 5-3 in seventh, but the Swedish player did well  too, so we needed to accept the loss. It would have been nice to be able to see how Kanak would perform in the next round against the Japanese because in Italy he was in a really good shape over the whole week. Although he lost in last 32 Kanak showed a good progress at WJTTC and his development as a player and person is continually improving." - USATT High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio.

Sharon Alguetti also advanced to the main draw after winning a 7 game clutch match over New Zealand's Alfred Dela-Pena in the group stage. Alguetti lost out in a very well fought 4-2 match against Rempert of France. His performance in the deciding match against Russia in the team round of 16 will no doubt be a good memory for the rest of his career in the sport!

Nikhil Kumar and Adar Alguetti weren't able to progress through the group stages and experienced some ups and downs during matches but no doubt take away valuable experience to continue developing their games for future international events. 

All of the USA's junior girls team made it through to the main draw with three of the girls placing second in their qualification groups. Crystal faced a tough match against rising Romanian star Elena Zaharia who defeated teammate Amy Wang at this year's World Cadet Challenge, Zaharia proved to be the better player on the day and Crystal advanced second place from her group. 

Ishana Deb, Rachel Sung and Crystal Wang all had difficult first rounds due to their group finish position and were able to advance no further. Amy Wang fought well to claim a win over Stina Kallberg in the round of 64 before coming up against Tianyi Qian of China in the last 32. Wang would not be able to overcome the challenge but did well to win a game before bowing out, 4-1.

A strong doubles field saw most of the US doubles pairings in the Boys, Girls and Mixed Doubles events ground to a halt either in the opening main draw round or the second round. Tough pairings from Korea, China and Germany along with other strong European pairs proved too strong for the US Juniors.

"Our team showed a good performance for our level at this WJTTC and especially in the team events the results have been great! Our program is based on longterm development and we need time to develop our new mentality and adjust to the new program. This is a process and our results in 2017 will give us confidence to move forward and work harder." - USATT High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio.