Kanak Jha Overcomes Intense Battle to Claim WJC Finals Gold

By Matt Hetherington | Feb. 04, 2018, 12:37 p.m. (ET)

kanak jha world junior circuit final

TTTeamUSA have performed outstandingly in Luxembourg, led by Kanak Jha winning the Boys Singles title in incredibly fashion at the 2017 ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals. The trio of Jha, Sharon Alguetti and Amy Wang qualified for the event from performances on the circuit across 2017. Competing among the top 16 boys and girls from the circuit, the three competed with absolute merit. 

Kanak Jha would be the player to steal the limelight with his incredible win of the Junior Boys Singles event. Of course in the group stages he would take a close loss to Egypt's Youssef Abdel-Aziz, presenting the first early challenge for the young American. He would rally himself and fight back to win the group by countback and continue into the main draw. 

"I started off with a tough loss, was a bit nervous that match and didn't play my best game. After this I just told myself the most important thing is to fight for every ball and not worry or overthink while playing" - Kanak Jha. The refocus became clear as he accelerated into the main draw and found his footing. In the quarterfinal he would excel with a 4-0 win over India's Shah before advancing into the semifinal and repeating the 4-0 result over Ivonin of Russia. Two brilliant wins under his belt and he headed into the final with India's Manav Thakkar. 

Thakkar had a breakthrough year in 2017, reaching the top 10 rankings of the World Junior Circuit, the second Indian player to do so ever. It was not clear to see why as he came out of the starting gates strong, playing with consistency and tact. 

"Manav is a very consistent player, so the most important thing was for me to be patient in the rally and wait for the right ball to attack" stated Kanak. Indeed the match was a battle of consistency and wits, both players frequently engaging in rapid backhand to backhand exchanges and constantly looking for opportunities to shove each other off balance or position for the forehand attack. The games went back and forth, Jha seemed more commanding in games which he won, Thakkar claiming games in tight fashion with unwavering nerves. 

The match would boil down to a seventh and deciding game with points going back and forth up to the halfway point before Kanak Jha made his move for the finish line. Elation for the young Olympian as he won the decisive final point and claimed one of the most prestigious event titles on the ITTF Junior calendar. Congratulations Kanak!

In the girls singles Amy Wang had a great win in the group over India's Archana Kamath to advance second before her run was cut short in the quarterfinal in a nailbiting 7-gamer with Chinese Taipei's Su Pei-Ling, who eventually reached the final. Nevertheless an impressive result from Wang who in the 7th game had held a 9-6 lead before losing out 13-11 against the impressive form of Su. 

Sharon Alguetti did us proud by showing his grit and determination. In the group stages he performed well to win 2 games against Rares Sipos of Romania, also having an intense duel with Francisco Sanchi of Argentina who he overcame 4-3. Alguetti would finish 3rd in the group, not enough to advance into the main draw, but his tournament was far from over. 

Collecting himself and pushing forward, Alguetti would contest the 9-16 draw, winning 4-1 over Thailand's Yanapong Panagitgun, then going on to beat Artur Abusev of Russia, a player who he had also beaten in Italy at the World Junior Championships last December. Alguetti would go on to play the final, where he would again meet Sanchi of Argentina. 

On this occasion he would up his game to the max and power through his opponent to win 4-1. 

Congratulations to Sharon on stepping up in the 9-16 draw to claim the best available position by fighting to the very end!

Positive comments from USATT High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio who was impressed by the three players and labelled it a great tournament for TTTeamUSA, most notably in terms of the winning attitudes of the three players on duty in Luxembourg. A brilliant effort by the team and a great start to 2018!