US Men’s & Women’s Teams Advance to Quarterfinals at Pan Am Games
by Barbara Wei
Both Men’s and Women’s teams finished first in their round robin group to advance to the quarterfinals at the 2023 Pan Am Games. Both teams need only one more win to secure a medal.
The Men’s team had struggled to perform in singles and doubles play earlier these games, with only Jishan Liang progressing past the first round. However, the team of Jishan Liang, Nandan Naresh and Sid Naresh, rose to the occasion, exceeded all expectations, and finished at the top of their group. Against Mexico, Sid and Nandan pounded forehand after forehand to power through Rogelio Castro and Jose Ricardo Villa Can. The brothers surprised even themselves with their excellent play, as they live on opposite sides of the world now and do not often play doubles together. Jishan Liang sealed the deal with nail biting wins over Marcos Madrid (3-2, who had recently earned bronze in singles at this event) and Rogelio Castro (3-0).
In the next round against Cuba, the U.S. men were under pressure, as they knew advancing in 1st position out of the group could make a break a medal at the games. In the opening encounter, Cuba easily took the doubles match 3-0, as they had recently won doubles gold. But Jishan, Nandan and Sid rallied back and each took one singles match to clinch top spot in the group. Mark Hazinski, the Men’s National Team Coach is so proud of his team, saying they had “Unbelievable team spirit and heart... Jishan was our backbone against Mexico and we were able to pull it out 3-2. Sid and Nandan really stepped up in our match against Cuba and we’re able to win some very high pressure matches to help us win 3-2 to finish first in the group. I’m a very happy coach right now!”
On the Women’s side, Lily Zhang, Amy Wang and Rachel Sung dominated in their opening rounds. They made quick work of the Independent Athlete team 3-0. However, against Argentina, the U.S. Women had a slight hiccup, with Amy and Rachel losing the opening doubles match against Camila and Candela. Lily played next, and dropped the first game to Ana Codina 7-11, before coming from behind to win 12-10, 11-7 and 11-8 to tie up the team score 1-1. In the pivotal 3rd match, Rachel Sung made her singles debut against Camila Arguelles. The see-saw match went the full distance, with Rachel eking out a win 11-8 in the fifth. Amy sealed the deal with a 3-0 win over Ana Codina. The women move on to the quarterfinals and look to reclaim gold, which they won at the 2015 Pan Am Games.