by Ian Marshall, Editor
Amongst a host of accomplishments in 2019, at the prestigious Pan American Games in Lima, Hugo Calderano retained his men’s singles crown, Adriana Diaz emerged the women’s singles champion. The wins booked places in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Presently Hugo Calderano is listed at no.7 on the men’s world rankings, on the counterpart women’s list, Adriana Diaz is no.20, the highest of her career.
However, note their major opponents in Guaynabo, both from the United States; Kanak Jha in the men’s singles, Lily Zhang in the counterpart women’s event.
Runner up last year
A bronze medallist in 2018 in Asuncion, one year ago Kanak Jha was the runner up; in Guaynabo on Sunday 3rd February, he was beaten by Hugo Calderano in five games (11-2, 12-14, 11-8, 12-10).
Now fast forward to late November and the Chengdu Airlines 2019 ITTF Men’s World Cup; in the Chinese city, facing Kanak Jha, Hugo Calderano needed the full seven games to gain success. Moreover, he had to recover from a two games to nil and three games to one deficit before achieving victory (9-11, 9-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-8).
Now Kanak Jha is named at no.25 on the men’s world rankings, having reached a career high of no.22 last September; when last year in Guaynabo the names were drawn out of the hat, he stood at no.51.
Also second seed
At the Universal 2020 ITTF Pan America Cup, Kanak Jha is the no.2 seed; it is the same for Lily Zhang in the women’s event. The winner in 2017 in San José, last year in Guaynabo, Lily Zhang experienced a quarter-final exit at the hands of Canada’s Zhang Mo (11-9, 8-11, 14-12, 11-8, 9-11, 10-12, 11-6), the eventual runner up.
Maybe not the best start to the but the last four months were in sharp contrast. In September Lily Zhang won the women’s singles title at the 2019 ITTF Pan American Championships in Asuncion; sensationally in October in Chengdu she reached the semi-final round at the Uncle Pop Women’s World Cup, before ending the year in the best possible fashion. In December, she was named “Breakthrough Athlete of the Year” at the ITTF Star Awards gala, before securing the women’s singles title at the United States Open in Fort Worth.
One year ago when the draw was made for the Universal 2019 Women’s World Cup, Lily Zhang was listed at no.95 on the women’s world rankings, she is now at no.28, having been named at no.26 in December and January.
Major challengers to the hopes of the defending champions; also note that with one exception, every previous medallist is present. The one exception is Eric Jouti, the men’s runner up in 2017 in San José. Only two players per national association are eligible, the one further representative from Brazil in addition to Hugo Calderano is Gustavo Tsuboi, the now 34 year old no doubt eager to maintain his outstanding record in the tournament.
On every occasion he has secured a podium finish. Moreover, he has the full collection but the evidence does not bode well for this year; he keeps falling one step down the order. In 2017 it was gold, the next year silver, last year bronze.
Likewise in the women’s event, Wu Yue of the United States and Canada’s Zhang Mo have secured medals all three previous editions of the tournament. Wu Yue won silver in 2018, bronze in 2017 and 2019; Zhang Mo secured gold in 2018, silver in 2017 and 2019.
Hoping for repeat success or even better; in the men’s singles event, Argentina’s Gaston Alto, bronze in 2017, is the no.9 seed, in the women’s singles Brazil’s Bruna Takahashi, bronze in 2018, is the no.5 seed.
- Reigning champion: Hugo Calderano (Brazil)
- South America: Manuel Moya (Chile), Alberto Miño (Ecuador)
- Central America: Marcos Madrid (Mexico), Kevin Montufar (Guatemala)
- Caribbean: Emil Santos ( Dominican Republic), Hector Berrios (Puerto Rico)
- North America: Jeremy Hazin (Canada), Marko Medjugorac (Canada), Kanak Jha (United States), Nikhil Kumar (United States)
- Host association: Brian Afanador (Puerto Rico)
- Latin American ranking (November 2019): Gustavo Tsuboi (Brazil), Marcelo Aguirre (Paraguay), Horacio Cifuentes (Argentina), Gaston Alto (Argentina)
- Reigning champion: Adriana Diaz (Puerto Rico)
- South America: Paulina Vega (Chile), Daniela Ortega (Chile)
- Central America: Yadira Silva (Mexico), Mabelyn Enriquez (Guatemala)
- Caribbean: Daniela Fonseca Carrazana (Cuba), Esmerlyn Castro (Dominican Republic)
- North America: Zhang Mo (Canada), Sophie Gauthier (Canada), Wu Yue (United States), Lily Zhang (United States)
- Host association: Melanie Diaz (Puerto Rico)
- Latin American ranking (November 2019): Bruna Takahashi (Brazil), Camila Arguelles (Argentina), Jessica Yamada (Brazil), Ana Codina (Argentina)
The total prize fund is US$16,000.00