Kanak Jha Ends 33 Year Drought at 2018 Men's World Cup

By Matt Hetherington | Oct. 23, 2018, 11:56 a.m. (ET)

33 years ago in 1985, Eric Boggan advanced to the Main Draw at the Men's World Cup of Table Tennis. It marked the 4th occasion which he had achieved that feat, on three occasions he finished 7th, and once 8th. Many strong American players followed, but stumbled in the group qualifications, the likes of Cheng Yinghua, Jimmy Butler, Sean O'Neill, Khoa Nguyen, John Onifade, Danny Seemiller, and more recently Feng Yijun. 

Up to 2000 the Cup was groups of 4, with the top 2 players advancing to the final 8, presenting a marginally tougher challenge. In the years 1992 and 1994, Butler, O'Neill and Cheng Yinghua finished 3rd in the groups to finish in the 9-12th placings, as did John Onifade on an earlier occasion in 1989, defeating Swedish great Jan-Ove Waldner on his path!

Fast forward to the present and there are 4 groups of 3, with direct entry for the top 8 seeds. Despite the changes no US player had succeeded in reaching the main draw. 

That milestone was overturned following a spectacular performance by Kanak Jha which saw him reach the main draw of the recent Leibherr ITTF Men's World Cup, hosted by Disneyland, Paris. 

His group stage saw a tough duo of opponents. At 16th and 21st on the October World Rankings, it was going to be a tough draw for Kanak as he settled in to face France's Simon Gauzy and Nigeria's Quadri Aruna. 

Fresh off the back of a historic bronze medal in the men's Youth Olympic Games table tennis event, and a stunning win over Taipei's Lin Yun-Ju, there was a lot of excitement to see if Jha could carry the form and bring some magic to Disneyland.

His opening match against Gauzy saw some close games and opportunities, but the frenchman on home ground laid down the law and brought home a 4-0 win. The result dampened some chance of reaching the main draw, especially as the second match began and Quadri Aruna raced to a 3-0 lead. If Aruna won 4-0 then Jha would need to beat him by the same margin, simply to force a point countback.

Alas, on his home crowd Gauzy found his feet and threw all possibility of surrender to the wind. He charged back and brought home a 4-3 win. A door opened for Kanak Jha. 

A win over the current African Champion, Quadri Aruna, would send him into the main draw. 

At the 2017 World Cup the two had faced off, with Aruna claiming victory in 6 games. Kanak Jha was looking to reverse that result. 

Indeed he did just that. A 4-2 win for Jha, who played with tact and consistency. Throughout the match he controlled the short ball masterfully, then opening into the rally his placement variation proved a key factor, along with his agility and light footwork.

It marked another exciting result on Kanak's journey. He led on into the main draw, facing China's Lin Gaoyuan. Tied at 1-1 and leading 6-3, he showed his ability to match the best in the world as he started down the barrel at the current world number 5. 

His results continue to be exceptional and we congratulate him on another great tournament and for representing the USA to the highest standard!