The 2019 Pan American Junior Championships finally reached its conclusion in Thailand, ahead of the 2019 ITTF World Junior Championships. US players Victor Liu and Nikhil Kumar had both reached the semifinal in Mexico and were set to fight for the gold.
In the semifinals it was Victor Liu who succeeded in progressing to the final, he defeated Panama's Jacobo Vahnish in 4 straight games, while Chile's Nicolas Burgos narrowly managed to edge out Nikhil Kumar, 4-3.
Liu and Burgos took to the table for the final.
Burgos was steady and gained the early advantage. While the games were close, Liu wasn't able to capitalize and found himself 2-0 down.
Fighting through the third, it was neck and neck, but Liu managed to capture a small lead - one which made all the difference as he clutched the game and put himself on the board.
A few points early into the fourth and Liu's confidence began to grow as he set up decisive third ball attacks and executed powerful strokes to gain the upper hand. His strong serve game helped him gain a foothold in the match, locking down on the serve receive to open up a significant lead. Taking the game 11-4, Liu looked to be finding his momentum.
Opening up a phenomenal 7-0 lead in the fifth, Burgos was struggling to find answers and his execution had loosened in tight play. USA's Liu wasted no time in converting points off both serve and receive. 11-5 for Liu and a 3-2 lead in the match.
Burgos settled into the 6th and kept the scoreline level. Towards the end of the game the Chilean played some exceptional forehand combinations to take the upper hand. The match would go to the 7th game.
Not unfamiliar territory for Burgos, who had already survived one seven game encounter in his prior match. Liu slipped behind in the 7th and at 4-2 Coach Qi Wei called timeout.
With two serves in hand, Liu immediately evened at 4-4.
Burgos then did the same with his serve, holding a 2-point lead. It was a game of service advantage.
Liu narrowly missed a backhand third ball opportunity, taking just one of the two points on offer from the next sequence. The pressure was mounting.
The two point lead had to be broken by Liu as the end of the match loomed, he did just that and drew the final game at 8-8.
Burgos switched things up and opened off the backhand serve, his steady but well placed forehand loops finding their mark.
The Chilean succeeded in opening his advantage again and with two match points in hand, he put a steady forehand opening on the table. Liu's opportunity presented itself, but his powerful forehand counter made its way off the end. Burgos had succeeded.
While the Chilean would take gold, it was a silver and bronze for Victor Liu and Nikhil Kumar respectively and a well fought final.
USATT are grateful for the opportunity to complete the Pan American Junior Championships and have our players given a chance to play for their final positions.
Congratulations to both players and to Coach Qi Wei.