Zhang Mo inbeaten throughout
Photo By: Thorsten Gohl
2014 ITTF North America Cup (Click here to access this section)
The youngest and the most senior emerged as the winners of the respective Men’s and Women’s events at the 2014 ITTF-North America Cup in Burnaby on Thursday 27th June.
Kanak Jha of the United States, only just 14 years and seven days old, the no.6 seed at the start of proceedings, overcame compatriot Adam Hugh, the no.4 seed, at the final hurdle (12-10, 11-8, 11-9, 6-11, 11-4) to secure the Men’s title.
Over a decade older, Canada’s Zhang Mo, the no.2 seed, at the ripe old age of 25 years, some seven years the senior than any other competitor in the Women’s event, overcame 12 year old Crystal Wang of the United States, the no.6 seed, to secure the top step of the podium (11-4, 8-11, 11-13, 11-4, 11-7).
Success for Kanak Jha, born on Monday on Monday 19th June 2000, becomes the first player to win a Continental title born this century and could he be a threat to China’s Yu Ziyang?
Just under one week ago, Yu Ziyang; born on Friday 23rd May 1998, at the age of 16 years and 30 days became the youngest ever winner of an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles when he succeeded in Yokohama last Sunday.
Could Kanak Jha surpass that record?
In fact can Kanak Jha beat the record of the youngest ever ITTF World Tour winner; on Sunday 21st September 2003 when Guo Yue won the Women’s Singles title at the Volkswagen Open Japan on Sunday 21st September 2003, she was 15 years and 66 days old.
Nearly Never Happened
Success in Burnaby against all expectations for Kanak Jha and it was an achievement that nearly never happened!
“He wasn't on the original entry list when the deadline was over”, explained Zoltan Benczik, the ITTF Competition Manager on duty. “The United States entered him only when they were given two extra places after not receiving any entries from Bermuda.”
An opportunity was afforded, the opportunity was seized.
“I never expected to come to the finals and even make it to the World Cup”, said Kanak Jha. “I am very happy and I definitely will play my best there; it will be a great experience."
Undoubtedly it will be an immense educational experience for a young man in Burnaby whose mind was most certainly focused on the task in hand, undaunted by the pedigree of his opponents.
“In the final I knew that I had what it takes to beat him, but it was mostly a mental game”, said Kanak Jha “It was important to win the first few games to set the tone of the match.”
Clearly Kanak Jha had learned quickly; the two met in the group stage in the very first match when Adam Hugh had won by a similar margin to which he was to suffer defeat. He had won in five games (11-7, 10-12, 7-11, 11-8, 11-4).
Kanak Jha en route to the Liebherr Men's World Cup Photo by Thorsten Gohl
Meanwhile, for Zhang Mo it will be her third appearance in the Women’s World Cup; previously she played in Guangzhou in 2009 and the following year in Kuala Lumpur.
A semi-final success again compatriot Anqi Luo and a final over Crystal Wang had secured her invitation for the prestigious event later this year.
“The difference between Anqi and Crystal is definitely their style”, said Zhang Mo. “It was a bit harder against Anqi Luo as we play each other a lot; it was more difficult, the home crowd was great, helping me a lot.”
Next in Line
Gold for Kanak Jha and Zhang Mo with the silver medals being in the possession of Adam Hugh and Crystal Huang; bronze and the position of second reserve for the ensuing Men’s World Cup and Women’s World Cup competitions both went to the United States.
In the Men’s event, Jim Butler, the no.8 seed, beat Canada’s defending champion André Ho, the no.2 seed (13-11, 7-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8); whilst in the counterpart Women’s contest Lily Zhang, the no.1 seed defeated Anqi Luo, the no.3 seed (11-4, 11-6, 11-4).
“Yesterday was a very tough loss and I was very disappointed, but today I am happy”, reflected Lily Zhang. “It was a good lesson, to take the experience for the future.”
Experience, no player in the whole tournament possessed the experience of 43 year old Jim Butler who appeared more than satisfied with third place.
“André Ho is a quality player and I try gain wins against quality players, it builds me up”, said Jim Butler. “I was not focused on the home crowd; I just did what I had to do to beat him.”
Fourth place for André Ho, next in line came Timothy Wang of the United States, he gained fifth place with Zhang Yahao, also from the United States followed by Canadians Pierre-Luc Theriault and Marko Medjugorac completing the top eight names.
Meanwhile, in Women’s event, the United State trio of Erica Wu, Prachi Jha and Diane Jiang secured fifth to eighth positions; Canada’s Amy Nicholls concluded matters in eight spot to complete the list of elite names.
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ITTF-North America Cup: Thursday 26th June - Memorable Moments in Burnaby