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US Junior Teams Among Top 8 in the World

By Matt Hetherington | Dec. 04, 2018, 8:57 p.m. (ET)

The US Junior Teams have excelled at the 2018 World Junior Table Tennis Championships in Bendigo, Australia. Both teams won their respective groups - the girls fighting hard to beat France by a 3-2 margin in the penultimate matchup, as well as a comfortable win over Canada, while the Boys defeated Australia and Singapore.

With both teams in good shape, many of the players having come straight from the Pan American Championships in Chile, the quarterfinal stage was calling.

Luck wasn't particularly in favor of the USA as both the boys and girls teams drew China for their quarterfinal round, but they didn't go down without a fight. Kanak Jha was exceptional in defeating Xu Haidong to hand the USA a point for the boys, while Amy Wang locked in a win over Huang Fanzhen. In the end it was 3-1 in both ties for China, undoubtedly the best team in the world.

Enter the 5-8 playoff stages and the girls played off against two tough Asian nations. Chinese Taipei proved too strong as it overcame the US side 3-0. The girls went on to face Hong Kong for the 7/8 placing match but lost out 3-1 with Crystal Wang taking a win in the tie. After three tough matches against top Asian teams, the USA finished an honorable 8th position.

The boys had a tough road but began the placing stages with a win over Iran. Nick Tio won an important match from 2-0 down to hand the USA a 2-1 lead, after Sharon Alguetti had sealed the first point against Amin Ahmadian. Kanak Jha wasn't able to overcome Amirezza Abbasi in his match, the Iranian playing strong to win 3-2, and Kanak looking a little fatigued from a very heavy competition schedule. Despite that he rallied to claim the winning point for the USA.

The team went on to face Romania in the 5/6 playoff. In an intense showdown it was Romania who took the early lead. They registered a double 3-2 scoreline as Cristian Pletea overcame Sharon Alguetti and Rares Sipos won over Nick Tio. 

Kanak Jha held steady to win the third position match against Cristian Chirita.

The next match may have been the highlight of the day, Nick Tio fighting hard to beat Cristian Pletea. Pletea a former European Cadet Champion and currently ranked 140 in the world for mens. The win tied up the match 2-2 and gave USA a chance to avenge their loss of 2017 to the Romanians.

Alas it was not to be as Rares Sipos proved too strong on the day for Sharon Alguetti. The Romanians stole away a 3-2 win and left the USA with a very respectable 6th place finish, 2 places higher than last year.

The team really performed outstandingly across the team event, and captured some excellent wins. They made great finishing positions, and could have even further shown their potential perhaps if not for their quarterfinal draws against China. Congratulations to our players and coaches Gao Jun and Joerg Bitzigeio!