Perfect Run for USA in Pan Am Games Team Group Stages

By Matt Hetherington | Aug. 09, 2019, 2:29 a.m. (ET)


The team events got off to the perfect start for the US Men's and Women's teams at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, with four matches played and four victories to clear the group stages and advance to the quarterfinals. 

For the Women it was plain sailing as they cruised past both Guatemala in the morning and Argentina in the afternoon, both by 3-0 margins. Amy Wang made a strong debut at the event, with the support of both Lily Zhang and Wu Yue who had already competed in both the singles and doubles events. 

Wang took two straight games wins in the opening doubles and singles matches against Guatemala, continuing on against Argentina with one more decisive singles win, 3-0. 

The Women's team are defending champions and are likely favorites in the event, given the strong depth across all three of their players. 

The Men's team faced two tough matches, an opener against Ecuador followed by a difficult tie against Puerto Rico - the team which USA had lost to at the previous 2015 games. 

A doubles rematch was the debut for Nick Tio and Nikhil Kumar, who again went all the way to the deciding game to repeat the win against Ecuador's Alberto Mino and Emiliano Riofrio. Solid tight play and accuracy from Kumar and balanced attacking from the forehand dominant Tio proved again to be a recipe for success. 

The order placed Jha in the second position where he dispatched of Rodrigo Tapia in four games, leaving Nikhil Kumar with the difficult task of taking down Mino in the third match.

The youngster rose to the occasion, showing his fighting spirit and positive attitude in the face of a challenge and pushing all the way to the end of the match where, under immense pressure, he delivered his best. The final game fell an astounding 11-3 for Kumar, gaining the valuable finishing point for the USA to win 3-0. 

A formidable opposition lay in wait, that of Puerto Rico, and it was USA's opportunity to showcase their skill. Afanador, Gonzalez and Naranjo posed a real threat to the team if they faltered even for a second. 

Gonzalez and Afanador showed their prowess by swiping away the all-important premier doubles match to give the Puerto Ricans the early lead. This pushed more pressure onto the USA to deliver in the singles matches, in a tough order. 

Kanak Jha quickly leveled the score to relieve some of that pressure, with a 3-0 win over Angel Naranjo. 

Once again it was Nikhil Kumar in the hot seat, with Brian Afanador at the other end of the table. Afanador, currently ranks 101 in the world - over 120 places higher than Kumar.

Again attitude was the playmaker and Kumar's fiery spirit and heart was a key factor in the result which would help give the US Men's team a crucial advantage in the team tie. The 3-1 win, off the back of a victory over Mino of Ecuador, speaks clearly of Nikhil Kumar's ability to deliver for the team under pressure. The two excellent match results today mirroring his exceptional performance at the last World Team Championships where he went undefeated in the third team position in division 2, up until the team's final match against Netherlands.

With a 2-1 lead in-hand, it was down to the reliable Kanak Jha to stamp the final result - a 3-1 win over Daniel Gonzalez.

Excellent performances by both our Men's and Women's teams with honorable mentions going to Amy Wang for her strong debut into the event, and Nikhil Kumar for his two outstanding wins to deliver vital points for the US men's team to clear the group stage. 

Now the team will spend the morning preparing and waiting as other team matches conclude, before they find out who their quarterfinal opposition will be. 

Well done to all team players, coaches and leadership!