US Junior Teams Unite in World Junior Championships Quarterfinal Advance

By Matt Hetherington | Nov. 27, 2017, 8:24 p.m. (ET)

The US Junior Boys and Girls table tennis teams are making waves in Italy at the 2017 World Junior Table Tennis Championships in Riva Del Garda. The event which begins with Junior teams began on the 26th November and will conclude after the individual events on the 3rd December. 

The boys made a strong start with two group wins over Tunisia and Chile, both 3-1, Kanak Jha played the role of the foundation in the team, bringing the team 2 points in both of their group matches and allowing Adar Alguetti to bring home the third point in both teams. Kanak was able to avenge his Pan Am Junior Championships loss against Burgos of Chile in the second match, showing that he has already made great progress training and competing in Grenzau, Germany. 

The team advanced into the second stage group phase and Nikhil Kumar had a superb 5th game clash against his opponent from Chinese Taipei, holding an early lead in the deciding game, but wasn't able to hold on as his opposition pushed back. The one point in the 3-1 loss for USA came from Kanak Jha as he overcame Feng Yi-Hsin in four games.  Chinese Taipei's top player, Lin Yun-Ju -currently ranked 5th in the world for junior boys, scored two points on their way to victory over Adar Alguetti, 3-1, and Kanak Jha, 3-2.

The big match for the boys was against Russia, the match which would decide whether they reached the quarterfinals for the first time or if they went into the 9-12 playoff stage. Coach Joerg Bitzigeio altered the lineup in the hopes that Russia would put their defensive player in the second position spot, the insight was correct and it was time to see whether USA could capitalize and take the upper hand. 

Vladimir Sidorenko, ranked 18th in the world for junior boys, would open with a 3-1 win over Sharon Alguetti but Kanak Jha hit back with a 4 set win against the defensive player Abusev. With the team tied 1-1 Adar Alguetti would have a tough match with Ionin, fighting hard but losing in a back and forth 3-1 match. Russia had the lead and the pressure fell upon Kanak Jha to hold off Vladimir Sidorenko, who despite being ranked marginally lower than Jha (currently 9th), had beaten him just weeks ago in Poland. 

It would be Jha who would exact revenge in a very intense straight games match with the second and third games both going down to the wire, the young American was able to close both out and win 3-0. Now as Russia and USA went head to head in the final match, both teams were fighting for a spot in the World Junior Championships quarterfinal. 

Now all of the pressure lay upon the shoulders of Sharon Alguetti, a player who had struggled to find his form on the first day of the competition, but would have himself tested by the chopper from the opposition team, Artur Abusev. This match would prove to likely be one of the most momentous and exciting matches of the tournament. 

"Sharon started well against Abusev but he lost his patience against the chopper after he lost the first game 15-17. Second game went too fast and easy, so before the third match I forced him to change the tactic and he did well. Being patient, looping to his forehand and slowing down the match was the right way. After being down in game 5 by 0-6 he got back his patience and then the match turned into a real thriller." - Jorg Bitzigeo, Boys Team Coach.

Thrilling would be the perfect way to describe it, as the USA looked defeat in the face - Sharon trailing 2-0 in game in the decider, the game began to change, Alguetti woke up and pushed harder back into the game. Each game was close and a true battle of wills, Alguetti fighting for a place for his team in the quarterfinal. Games went to deuce but Sharon Alguetti pushed onward into the 5th game. Indeed he did face a daunting 6-0 deficit before settling and fighting to the end. As the final game narrowed down to deuce, Alguetti faced the greatest of pressure and burst through the other side victorious. Team USA would overcome the higher seeded Russia in the most epic of fashions, advancing to the final 8 teams. 

USATT Coach and High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio was pleased with the team performances so far and credited the team for their great preparation and more importantly their ability to behave as a team and a unit together, with all members of the team working hard to contribute towards the end results of the team as a whole. 

While the boys were busy finding their way to a historical advance, the girls were looking to repeat and surpass their results of previous years. The US Junior Girls team achieved podium finishes in the team event in both the 2014 and 2015 World Junior Championships where they had record bronze medal performances. The team will be looking to match or surpass those records in Italy.

USA's girls team received direct entry into the second stage group phase of the tournament due to their seeding, they were matched with a strong Chinese team and Brazil, featuring one of their biggest rivals, Bruna Takahashi, a player who has defeated USA youth players in a number of Pan Am events in the past year.

The start against China was as difficult as expected with the Chinese team fielding their top junior players for the event. Amy Wang played well to claim one game in her match against Wang Manyu, but it was 3-0 for China and USA would focus on its match against Brazil for a place in the quarterfinals. 

It would be a dominant showing in that match with team USA taking a 3-0 win over their Pan American rivals. Crystal Wang stepped up to take on and defeat Bruna Takahashi while Amy Wang and Rachel Sung took out their singles matches against Livia Lima and Alexia Nakashima. A superb performance by the girls to take out Brazil, the 12th seeds, and secure their place in the top 8.

Moving into the quarterfinals for the first time with both a boys and girls team representing the USA is an exciting prospect and with the medal rounds so close we wish the team players and coaches all the very best. The girls will take on a tough South Korean team, while the boys face off against Romania. Good luck and fight hard!

You can follow all the results and draws here on the - World Junior Championships Homepage