Kanak Jha Achieves Qualification for Fourth Consecutive Men's World Cup

By Matt Hetherington | Feb. 04, 2019, 1:22 p.m. (ET)

Another successful campaign for USA's Kanak Jha as he stormed into the final at the 2019 Pan American Cup yesterday in Puerto Rico. In doing so he gained qualification for his fourth consecutive appearance at the ITTF Men's World Cup. On his last showing in Paris last year, he defeated Nigeria's Quadri Aruna to reach the main draw stage. 

Jha's campaign had started off on shaky ground as he trailed 3-1 in the quarterfinal stage against Ecuador's Alberto Mino, but he quickly showed the fighting spirit and determination which has led him to some of the most outstanding comebacks. Indeed the 4-3 turnaround was a parallel to his thrilling comebacks at the North American Olympic Qualification for Rio 2016, and his first National Men's Singles title in 2016.

The match was a strong wake-up call for Jha who came into the semifinals to face a challenging opponent in Brazil's Gustavo Tsuboi, the second seed ranked 39 in the world. The match was a thriller and Kanak brought his best to the table - you can read all about it here.

Heading into the final there was an even greater hurdle awaiting. World number 6 and defending champion of the Pan American Cup, Hugo Calderano of Brazil was the barrier between Jha and the title. 

The match was a great showdown, with a contrast of styles between Kanak's control and deftness against the formidable power of Calderano. That same power that in 2018 had overrun the likes of Lin Gaoyuan and Fan Zhendong from China, was now proving the main difficulty for USA's Kanak Jha. 

Opportunities were created and small leads opened up for Jha, but the rock hard focus of Hugo Calderano created the most difficult situations in the vital points. With devastating power on both forehand and backhand wings, Calderano refused to be tamed by the American star. 

Jha managed to steal away a game in deuce, and even held a lead in the 5th as he trailed 3-1 in games, but Calderano asserted himself and showed why he is the first Latin American table tennis player to make the top 10 players in the world ranking. 

Gold for Calderano, who was full of praise in his post-match interview for the growing competitive level of the US players and impressed by the challenge from Kanak Jha. 

A silver medal at the end of the day, but the main goal achieved, qualification into the 2019 Men's World Cup. Perhaps he will have a chance to stand at the other end of the table from Hugo Calderano again there. 

Great effort by Kanak and congratulations to him on his silver medal!