27 Oct 2019

The penultimate day of play, Saturday 26th October, completed; the nation very much to the fore at 2019 Latin America Team Qualification tournament in Lima for places in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is Brazil.

In the contests that will decide who gains the one precious place in each discipline; in the men’s team they meet Argentina, in the women’s they confront Puerto Rico.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Unbeaten records were maintained but for Puerto Rico, the top seeds in the women’s event, who as the previous day, started the action, there were anxious moments. Adriana Diaz, Melanie Diaz and Daniely Rios found the no.3 seeds, the Chilean outfit comprising Daniela Ortega, Valentina Rios and Paulina Vega in determined mood. A 3-2 victory margin was the end result in favour of the Caribbean island.

Good start for Chile

Daniela Ortega and Paulina Vega gave their team the ideal start by beating Melanie Diaz and Daniely Rios (11-8, 8-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-6), before Adriana Diaz levelled matters by overcoming Valentina Rios (11-8, 11-6, 4-11, 11-4). Parity, once again Chile took the lead, Daniela Ortega accounted for Daniely Rios (11-6, 8-11, 11-6, 11-9). The point of no return, Adriana Diaz responded to beat Paulina Vega (11-9, 6-11, 11-6, 11-8), prior to Melanie Diaz prevailing in opposition to Valentina Rios (11-7, 11-7, 11-7) to seal the victory.

“The match against Brazil is going to be a like a war, it will be the most important match of all. We are focused on classification. I’m very happy to have won all my matches so far, I’m going to prepare thoroughly for tomorrow and correct any mistakes.” Adriana Diaz

“Chile has a very strong team. They have very experienced players; we knew it would be a tough match, we were prepared for a battle and it was a battle. In the doubles they played much better than us, they were more together. We will give everything against Brazil; this year we have faced each other twice with a victory for each team. It will definitely feel like a final for us and we hope to achieve the goal.” Melanie Diaz

“From the beginning we were quite focused, I didn’t get the results I wanted but my teammates did very well and we managed to win. Lima is one of our favourite countries, here we won the gold medal in the Lima 2019 Pan American Games. If we classify for Tokyo it will be like we have a special tattoo or something that is related to this beautiful country. The match against Brazil is going to be a final. They have a very strong team. We will do our best.” Daniely Rios

“We fought for every point against the current Pan American Games champions. It was a nice experience to face Adriana again after so many years. I felt comfortable, we have been making changes within the team and sometimes it takes a while to get used to it. We are hopeful that at some point we will gain qualification because we have a great team with clear objectives; I think South American table tennis has improved a lot. Now many players from this region play in Europe.” Paulina Vega

Paulina Vega (left) and (right) Daniela Ortega secured the doubles but the end result was defeat for Chile (Photo: Daniela Yalico)
Life less exacting

Tense moments for Puerto Rico, life was less fraught for the Brazilian combination of Caroline Kumahara, Bruna Takahashi and Jessica Yamada. The no.2 seeds, they posted a 3-0 win in opposition to the no.4 seeds, Peru’s Ana Aragon, Lucciana Cisneros and Mariagrazia La Torre.

Caroline Kumahara and Jessica Yamada commenced matters by beating Ana Aragon and Mariagrazia La Torre (11-8, 11-5, 13-11), Bruna Takahashi overcame Lucciana Cisneros (11-2, 11-8, 11-4) to set the scene for Jessica Yamada. She duly completed proceedings by overcoming Ana Aragon (11-1, 11-6, 11-5).

“Many of the players I have faced so far are my idols and models in this sport. I’m very happy and excited to have this opportunity and I always enter each match to give my best for the team and for my country. I have learned a lot about tactics. It is an honour to be able to face players of such a high level. Tomorrow we will face a very strong rival, Chile, we will give our all and take the opportunity to learn.” Lucciana Cisneros

“It was a pleasure to play against Peru, I hope that their players can improve and raise their level to remain competitively high. We are very motivated to win and get the pass to Tokyo. Brazil has excellent players. I believe in my team because we have worked so hard to be here and to win this qualifier. We have a good relationship as a team, we are always together, all that will adds up. We will fight to the last point. We need to stay focused because it will be a very difficult match tomorrow, we are playing very well and I think it is possible to win. We entered the match very focused against Peru and we did not give them a chance to play their best game.” Jessica Yamada

On the opening day of play Puerto Rico had recorded a 3-0 against Peru, by the same margin Brazil had overcome Chile.

Bruna Takahashi beat Lucciana Cisneros in the contest against Peru (Photo: Diana Yalico)
Similar success for men’s team

Success for Caroline Kumahara, Bruna Takahashi and Jessica Yamada was soon followed by success by the same margin for their male counterparts. The trio comprising Hugo Calderano, Vitor Ishiy and Gustavo Tsuboi, the top seeds, showed no hint of charity when facing the no.3 seeds, Chile’s Nicolas Burgs, Gustavo Gomez and Juan Lamadrid.

Vitor Ishiy and Gustavo Gomez secured the doubles at the expense of the spirited combination of Nicolas Burgos and Gustavo Gomez (11-9, 10-12, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8), before Hugo Calderano overcame Juan Lamadrid (11-7, 11-8, 11-4) and Gustavo Tsuboi prevailed against Gustavo Gomez to end matters (11-3, 12-10, 11-6).

“I played against Gustavo Gomez a couple of times and I managed to win, today it was much more complicated but I was able to win again. They played very well in the doubles, they played better at the beginning of the match. I took a little risk and responsibility during the game, Vitor and I have played few times together but we know that we have to progress and evolve as a pair.” Gustavo Tsuboi

“Everyone played very well, we won have won both matches 3-0. We are satisfied with our level and we will remain focused to achieve the goal. We know the Argentine players very well, they are a very strong team and they have done well during these qualifications. Our coach will study their game a little so we are prepared.” Hugo Calderano

“Nicolas and myself have been playing quite well. We are establishing ourselves as the main doubles pair in the Chilean team, we get along well on and off the table. Having confidence with your partner helps face difficult moments in a match.” Gustavo Gomez

Gustavo Tsuboi overcame Gustavo Gomez to secure a Brazilian win (Photo: Diana Yalico)

Totally focused

Similarly, the no.2 seeds, Argentina’s Gaston Alto, Horacio Cifuentes and Pablo Tabachnik were totally focused when facing Peru’s Adolpho Cucho, Felipe Duffoo and Rodrigo Hidalgo.

Gaston Alto and Horacio Cifuentes commenced proceedings in style beating Adolfo Cucho and Felipe Duffoo (11-6, 11-3, 11-4), prior to Pablo Tabachnik overcoming Rodrigo Hidalgo (11-7, 6-11, 13-11, 11-9) and Horacio Cifuentes accounting for Felipe Duffoo (11-5, 11-7, 11-4).

“Today we decided to try the duo of myself with Gaston for the match against Peru. We have been doing well lately. We gained second place in men’s team at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games. At the Pan American Championships we beat the Brazilians Vitor Ishiy and Eric Jouti. We are aware that against Brazil there can be no margin for error. We plan to make it a great match.” Horacio Cifuentes

“Very happy for the win against Peru, we have completed our first goal, now we will try to beat Brazil in the final. The match against Brazil will be difficult. I don’t have as much current international play as the rest of my teammates. Brazil is the clear favourite because of their position in the team rankings.” Pablo Tabachnik

On the opening day of play Brazil beat Peru 3-0, Argentina recorded a 3-1 success in opposition to Chile.

Felipe Duffoo (furthest from camera) experienced defeat against Horacio Cifuentes in the contest that brought the day to a conclusion (Photo: Diana Yalico)

The draw

Decision day and one wonders could the draw play a major factor in the outcome. Usually, in the Olympic system coaches play their best players in the two singles matches. Draw A,B,C that player competes in the second and fourth matches; if the lot is X,Y,Z the player in question competes in the second and fifth matches.

It could well happen the arguable “best player” only plays once if proceedings do not go your way; that is exactly what happened to Brazil at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games when they faced the United States at the men’s team semi-final stage. They drew X,Y,Z, they lost 3-1, Hugo Calderano was the one winner but he only played once.

In the men’s team event, Brazil will no doubt want Hugo Calderano to play second and fourth, the so-called “quick ones”; the same may well apply to Argentina in the guise of Horacio Cifuentes. Most certainly it will be the scenario in the women’s fixture, Brazil will want Bruna Takahashi to play second and fourth, so will Puerto Rico in the guise of Adriana Diaz.

For one team in each deciding fixture, the hope will come true but for only one; the draw may will have a major effect.

2019 Latin American Team Qualification Adriana Diaz Brazil Puerto Rico Argentna

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Day 3 - 2019 Latin American Team Qualification