Jha Steps Up to Reach 2019 Pan Am Cup Final

By Matt Hetherington | Feb. 03, 2019, 11:55 a.m. (ET)

Kanak Jha has stepped up to defeat Brazil's Gustavo Tsuboi in the semifinal of the Universal 2019 ITTF Pan American Cup in Puerto Rico. Tsuboi the second seed and currently ranked 39 in the world, stood in between Jha and a guaranteed place at the 2019 Men's World Cup. 

Yesterday Jha had survived a tough encounter with Ecuador's Alberto Mino, trailing 1-3 before fighting back to win the match in the seventh. It proved to be just the wake-up call he needed heading into the top 4. 

Tsuboi got off to a good start, taking the first game, combining a high quality service game with some devastating powerful attacks. The left hander from Brazil defeated Jha in the 2018 Pan Am Cup in 4 straight games, and was looking to repeat that feat in Puerto Rico. 

It wasn't long before Jha began to pick up some momentum, finding his feet, executing quality serve receive and controlling the points with expert precision. The three-time US National Champion found some exceptional angles out wide to Tsuboi's forehand, opening up space across the table and making his opponent work hard for every point. 

Soon it was Jha who was riding the momentum wave as he picked up the second game to tie the match up, continuing to soar to a comfortable lead in the third. Tsuboi saw the need to regain a foothold in the match and came powering back.

9-7 in the third and Jha called the timeout, returning to his corner and the guidance of Joerg Bitzigeio. The pressure had certainly mounted, but Jha fought it off to seal a 2-1 lead. 

Mixing up his placement and backhand variation, alongside some rapid forehand attacks, Jha caught his rhythm again and pushed forward. He was rewarded with a 3-1 lead. Victory was in sight, but the tenacious Brazilian player was not about to let the match go. 

Again Jha held control, but Tsuboi gave it everything, swinging from both wings to take points. It came down to pivotal moments, and in those moments it was Tsuboi who exerted his status, creating another chance to stay alive in the match. 

Not about to let a lost opportunity get the better of him, Jha settled back in as the 6th game began. 

Tsuboi piled on the pressure again, but Kanak Jha was determined, vocal at times and pumped to achieve his goal. The finals were calling and it would be Kanak Jha to answer that call. 

In front of an electric Puerto Rican crowd, the 18 year old sealed the deal and finished the job. A brilliant performance from Kanak, he goes on to the final stage and will take on the winner of the second semifinal between Marcelo Aguierre and Hugo Calderano.