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Kanak Jha Overcomes Challenges to Join US Team at Final Hurdle

By Matt Hetherington | March 27, 2017, 1:17 a.m. (ET)

 Kanak Jha Olympian Table Tennis Us National Men's Team 2017

The final day presented a big pressure situation for a handful of players who had started out with high seedings on day 1 but remained in the draw on day 3. In fact all of the top 7 seeds would still be in to fight on the last day. One such player, Kanak Jha, initially the number 1 seed had lost on both days 1 and 2 to the eventual winners, both of whom exceeded expectations with their incredible play. On day 3 he would have to bring out his best and work hard to get through the matches on the road to victory.

The first round would see no major upsets, but the pressure started to build in the quarters. The standout performer of day 3 would be Nikhil Kumar, while having not performed to his best on days 1 and 2, Nikhil found his A game as he moved towards the later stages. He would clutch a tight victory over Krish Avvari in the quarterfinals to start the big build for his campaign. Sharon Alguetti would overcome TJ Beebe with relative comfort who had progressed after Shao Yu's default in the round of 16. 

Kanak Jha would systematically dismantle Victor Liu as he shut down his strong forehand game and controlled the points. The big quarterfinal match would see the resurgence of Gal Alguetti who would reverse his day 1 result by eliminating Nicholas Tio to move into the semifinals. He produced some outstanding rallies and demonstrated a great balance of attack and control.

Unfortunately his run would come to an end in the semifinals as Kanak Jha repeated his deep investment in tactical play, forcing Gal into playing more aggressively and ultimately forcing a greater number of errors and eventually some frustration. The result would be a straight games win for Jha and no doubt disappointment for Gal Alguetti who had some very impressive matches across this tournament and really lifted his game throughout.

The second semifinal was one of the big spectacles of the day. The matchup between Sharon Alguetti and Nikhil Kumar From the word go it looked like a whitewash as Alguetti took control of the match and overwhelmed Kumar. Before long it was 3-0 and Sharon Alguetti seemed to be positioning to finish off the match, however Kumar was just starting to push back. The 4th game would fall for Kumar.

In a massive turn of events we saw Sharon take a 10-6 lead as he powered through to a finishing position. Match point to make the final and put himself in contention for both the 3rd or 4th team spot. What came next would come as a complete shock. Nikhil Kumar would lift the bar and come flying back, not only into the game which he would win 12-10, but the match. With a huge momentum surge Nikhil Kumar took 4 games in a row, claiming games 6 and 7 11-5, 11-4. Confidence had faded for Alguetti who seemed overwhelmed by Kumar's sudden resilience. 

Nikhil would head into the final to produce one of the matches of the tournament against Kanak Jha. The style matchup was complimentary as both players attacked consistently and focused on moving the placement of the ball. There were many exciting rallies and while Kanak seemed to have his game plan in place, he struggled to contain Kumar on many occasions. Nikhil would win a very tight game to set up a 3-2 lead, but Kanak Jha would lay it all out on the line and throw his last efforts into the match. 

The last two games would close out the match for Kanak Jha who may not have found his best form for this tournament, but certainly, with the help of Coach Stefan Feth and father Arun Jha, had found ways and strategies to utilize the tools that he had in his possession at each given moment to maximize his chances of winning. 

Congratulations to Kanak and also Happy Birthday to his coach Stefan Feth who is no doubt relieved that this challenging weekend is over!

Video and completed draws below!

2017 US National Team Trials - Day 3 Semifinals and Finals Session

  

 

Day 3 Men's Singles Completed Draw

 

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