US Men’s Olympic Table Tennis Team’s Tokyo 2020 Games Ends in a Loss to Sweden
Kanak Jha Wins His First Singles Match in the Team Competition Against the Number Eight Player in the World – But the US is Unable to Solve a Powerful Swedish Squad
(Tokyo, Japan – August 2, 2021) – The American men’s Olympic Table Tennis Team was knocked out of the Team Event in a 3-1 loss to Sweden this morning at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Kanak Jha, the top rated American in the tournament, won his first singles match against Sweden’s Mattias Falck, who was the Number Eight player in the world coming into the Olympics. But the Swedes proved too much for the US, as Sweden claimed the doubles match and two other singles matches to advance to the quarterfinals in the Team Competition.
The Team Competition Format kicks off with a doubles match, and the US sent the tandem of Nikhil Kumar and Zhou Xin, the reigning US National Champion, against Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson and Anton Kaellberg. The US pair started well, and actually held a couple of leads early in the first game, but the Swedes’ partnership seemed to blossom and get stronger as each game progressed. This resulted in a 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 straight games win for the Swedes who won the final four points in Game One, the final five points in Game Two, and eight of the last nine in Game Three.
The first singles matchup of the Team event for the men pitted Jha against Mattias Falck, a big, tall and rangy player. Although Jha dropped the first game, 9-11, it was apparent he came to play on this day. He won Games Two and Three on the strength of a complete skill set, utilizing deft touch and deceptive power to keep Falck off balance. Falck did not go away lightly in either of those games, however, staving off three game points before succumbing in Game Two (11-8) and then holding off four game points in Game Three before dropping that one, 11-9. Game Four was about tight as it can get, as it was tied nine different times before Jha ended up winning, 14-12, and taking what would prove to be the only match the US would get in the Men’s (or Women’s) Team Competition.
With the Team Match tied at one-one, the US sent Zhou Xin out for his first individual competition in his Olympic career. He faced the guy who’s proven to be a bit of a thorn in the US side in these Olympics, Anton Kaellberg, who actually knocked Nikhil Kumar out of the Men’s Singles competition and had just been an extremely important part of the doubles win for Sweden in this Team match. Kaellberg lived up to reputation in this regard against Zhou Xin, who progressively got stronger throughout the match but could not figure out a complete answer for Kaellberg, who claimed the match in three straight games, 11-7, 11-8, and 11-8.
With the US table tennis team facing elimination from the 2020 Tokyo Games, the men’s squad sent out Jha for his second foray into the singles arena. This time he faced Kristian Karlsson, a quick and powerful lefthander. Once again, Jha appeared to have some of the better elements of his game in tack, taking Karlsson to extra points in Game One before losing 12-10. But in Games Two and Three, Karlsson caught fire and ripped through the final two games to close out of the US, 11-5, 11-6.
As with our Women’s Team, USATT takes this opportunity to commend our US Men’s Olympic Team for their commitment and efforts to represent our country and our organization on the highest level. USATT also wants to, once again, thank all of the table tennis fans who provided their support to America’s Olympic effort. Thank you.