25 Nov 2018

Tense hard fought contests, the next generation emerged successful at the semi-final stage of the Men’s Singles event at the Sparta 2018 ITTF Pan American Championships in Santiago, Chile on Sunday 25th November.

Top seed, Kanak Jha of the United States, 18 years old, followed by two years the senior, Argentina’s Horacio Cifuentes, the 5 seed, both resisted spirited recoveries to book their places in the title deciding contest.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Kanak Jha established a three games to one lead against Brazil’s now 37 year old Thiago Monteiro, his age almost the sum of those of Kanak Jha and Horacio Cifuentes, before eventually succeeding against the experienced no.8 seed, in the full distance (10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7, 8-11, 9-11, 11-6).

Meanwhile, in not a too dissimilar manner, Horacio Cifuentes secured the opening three games in opposition to Paraguay’s 25 year old Marcelo Aguirre, the no.2 seed, before prevailing in six games (11-8, 14-12, 11-6, 6-11, 8-11, 11-9).

Success for Kanak Jha, it was success in a contest that ebbed and flowed; a fact witnessed in the very first game. Kanak Jha led 10-8 only to lose the next four points. Throughout the opening game Thiago Monteiro had proved strong with his backhand attacking strokes directed across the diagonal to the body of his adversary. If Kanak Jha could release his forehand immediately after the service, he was clear favourite, time and again Thiago Monteiro prevented the tactic being used to full effect.

Long serves deep to the backhand of Thiago Monteiro from Kanak Jha greeted the start of the second game; a good start was needed it was maintained. He levelled matters but then in third, Thiago Monteiro established a 7-5 lead. He lost the next point and promptly called “Time Out”. It proved a crucial stage of the engagement, Kanak Jha responded to lead 9-7, before by the minimal two point margin securing the game.

The momentum was now with the teenager; he won the fourth game and appeared to be honing in on victory; Thiago Monteiro had other ideas. The Brazilian secured the fifth and sixth games but in the seventh trailed 5-2 at the change of ends; the gap was too great, on his second match point, Kanak Jha succeeded.

“Yes, it was a very hard match, Thiago is a very clever player, he made it very uncomfortable for me to play, he changed the rallies a lot, changed the placement; in the end I’m just pleased that I was able pull through.” Kanak Jha

A most focused approach from Kanak Jha, it was exactly the same for Horacio Cifuentes. In particular his ability to stay in the rally when all seemed lost was quite exceptional against a most skillful adversary. I had to blink, was I watching China’s Fan Zhendong in disguise? It is the ability perform the same expertise that has taken him to the top spot on the world rankings,

Undoubtedly, a major turning point came in the second game; Marcelo Aguirre led 10-7, Horacio Cifuentes saved all three games points, before saving two more and then converting on his first opportunity. It was a major boost for the Argentine who controlled the third game.

Stiffening the sinews, fighting for the cause, Marcelo Aguirre responded. In the fourth games Horacio Cifuentes led 4-1, he then lost the next four points and promptly called “Time Out”. However, it was Marcelo Aguirre when benefitted from the break; he surrendered just two more points and then secured the fifth game.

Alas for Paraguay, he was not able to complete the recovery; at 10-9 in the sixth game, Horacio Cifuentes held match point, at the first time of asking he succeeded.

The final will be staged later in the evening session of play.

2018 Pan American Championships Kanak Jha Marcelo Aguirre Horacio Cifuentes Thiago Monteiro

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Day 6 - 2018 Pan America Championships