by Ian Marshall, Editor
Local eyes very much focus on Brian Afanador and Adriana Diaz, both well-known sporting personalities in the Caribbean island.
Last year Brian Afanador successfully progressed through the group stage thus booking a quarter-final place where Brazil’s Hugo Calderano, the top seed and champion elect ended progress.
A meeting in the round of the last eight last year; should Brian Afanador, the no.8 seed, excel expectations and negotiate his way through the quarter of the draw in which Paraguay’s Marcelo Aguirre is the no.4 seeds, a semi-final meeting against Hugo Calderano could be an option.
Seeking a third consecutive title, colleague Gustavo Tsuboi, the no.3 seed, aims for a second. He was successful in the inaugural tournament in 2017 in San José, Costa Rica; he appears in the same quarter of the draw as Ecuador’s Alberto Miño, the no.7 seed, the same half as Kanak Jha of the United States, the runner up one year ago.
Notable names but if there is one notable opening round men’s singles contest, it is that between Argentina’s Horacio Cifuentes, the no.5 seed and Nikhil Kumar, the no.11 seed.
Last year in Guaynabo, Nikhil Kumar was a revelation; the no.15 seed, he finished in first place in his initial phase group ahead of Mexico’s Marcos Madrid, the no.5 seed and the Dominican Republic’s Emil Santos, the no.10 seed. Later in the year on the ITTF World Junior Circuit, he was a junior boys’ singles semi-finalist in Hungary, the runner up in Spain.
Equally, on his one previous Pan America Cup appearance, in 2018 in Asuncion, Horacio Cifuentes reached the quarter-finals and like Nikhil Kumar enjoyed a successful 2019. At ITTF Challenge Series tournaments, he partnered colleague Gaston Alto to men’s doubles gold in Poland, whilst in both Spain and Paraguay, securing the under 21 men’s singles title.
In Guaynabo, Horacio Cifuentes starts as favourite. On the two meetings in 2019 against Nikhil Kumar, on both occasions, the Pan America Games in Lima and the Pan American Championships in Asuncion, the Argentine prevailed. However, that could count for naught, Nikhil Kumar is a gifted young man, out for revenge and a step higher than last year.
Men’s Singles Round One – Order of Play (seeded positions in brackets)
- 10.00 Manuel Moya Chile (14) v Alberto Miño Ecuador (7)
- 11.30 Emil Santos Dominican Republic (12) v Marcelo Aguirre Paraguay (40)
- 13.00 Marcos Madrid Mexico (6) v Gaston Alto Argentina (9)
- 14.30 Nikhil Kumar United States (11) v Horacio Cifuentes Argentina (5)
- 16.00 Gustavo Tsuboi Brazil (3) v Marko Medjugorac Canada (13)
- 17.30 Hector Berrios Puerto Rico (16) v Kanak Jha United States (2)
- 19.45 Brian Afanador Puerto Rico (8) v Kevin Montufar Guatemala (15)
- 21.15 Hugo Calderano Brazil (1) v Jeremy Hazin Canada (10)
Familiar foes; it is potentially the same for Adriana Diaz in the women’s event; she is drawn in the same half as Wu Yue of the United States, the no.3 seed and in the same quarter as Mexico’s Yadira Silva.
At the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, Adriana Diaz experienced defeat at the hands of Wu Yue at the quarter-final stage of the women’s singles event but one must take into account age; at the time Adriana Diaz was only 14 years old.
Notably last year, she beat Wu Yue at the semi-final stage in Guaynabo and later in the penultimate round in the women’s singles event at the Pan American Games.
Likewise at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, Adriana Diaz experienced defeat at the hands of Yadira Silva in the women’s team event but on their most recent meetings, the women’s singles events at the 2017 ITTF Pan American Championships and the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games, the Puerto Rican has prevailed.
Adriana Diaz prominent in the top half of the draw, in the opposite half of the draw, elder sister, Melanie, is on duty; the no.6 seed, the potential quarter-final opponent being Lily Zhang of the United States, the no.2 seed. Significantly, very much a player in form; a semi-finalist at the Uncle Pop 2019 Women’s World Cup and more recently, the winner in December at the United States Open.
Women’s Singles Round One – Order of Play (seeded positions in brackets)
- 10.45 Paulina Vega Chile (7) v Camila Arguelles Argentina (10)
- 12.15 Sophie Gauthier Canada (15) v Wu Yue United States (3)
- 13.45 Zhang Mo Canada (4) v Eva Brito Dominican Republic (14)
- 15.15 Ana Codina Argentina (12) v Bruna Takahashi Brazil (5)
- 16.45 Mabelyn Enriquez Guatemala (13) v Lily Zhang United States (2)
- 19.00 Adriana Diaz Puerto Rico (1) v Jessica Yamada Brazil (11)
- 20.30 Melanie Diaz Puerto Rico (6) v Daniela Ortega Chile (9)
- 22.00 Esmerlyn Castro Dominican Republic (16)v Yadira Silva Mexico (8)
Memorably, Lily Zhang won in San José three years ago; two years ago, the Canada’s Zhang Mo emerged the winner. The no.3 seed, she is the same half of the draw as Lily Zhang, the same quarter as Brazil’s Bruna Takahashi, the no.5 seed.
Last year Zhang Mo and Bruna Takahashi met in the semi-final round, the verdict went in favour of the Canadian. There is a debt to settle.
The quarter-finals will be played on Saturday 8th February, the semi-finals, third place match and finals on Sunday 9th February.