US Men’s & Women’s Teams Secure Medals at Pan Am Games
by Barbara Wei
The US Women’s team continued their quest for gold in their quarterfinal match against Cuba. The women breezed through and won 3-0 despite significant crowd support for Cuba. Rachel Sung and Lily Zhang opened the match with a 3-1 win in doubles over Estela Crespo and Daniela Fonseca. Amy then got through Lizdainet Rodriguez in a tight 3-2 match, taking that last game 11-3 with some signature backhand rips. Then, Lily sealed the deal, with a 3-1 win over Daniela Fonseca. Fonseca has short pips on her backhand, and is a lefty, making playing her very uncomfortable.
Next up, the women faced Brazil in the semi-final. A longtime nemesis, the US Women barely prevailed at the recent Pan Am Championships and looked to repeat the feat in Santiago. The team prepared diligently, given the challenges they’ve had against the team in the past, especially against Brazil’s #1 player Bruna Takahashi. The preparation paid off, and the women made quick work of the Brazilian team, winning 3-0 in less than an hour. Amy Wang and Rachel Sung opened strong with a 3-0 win over Bruna Costa Alexandre and Giulia Takahashi. Then, Lily played on-fire, and took her first win against Bruna Takahashi after close to 10 straight losses. Finally, Amy’s signature backhand rips and forehand counters were too much for Giulia Takahashi, and she won 3-1. The women move on to the gold medal final and will play Puerto Rico.
The US Men performed a hat trick to finish their Pan Am Games with a bronze medal. From the very first match in their group stages, they had their backs against the wall, yet continued to pull through again and again. In the group stages, they overcame Mexico and Cuba 3-2, needing to keep their cool in extremely tight matches. Then in the quarterfinal, they played Peru. In the second match Jishan Liang was down 0-2 against Felipe Duffoo but turned the match around and won 3-2. If he had lost, the U.S. would have been down 0-2, a difficult position to be in. Nandan then overcame Rodrigo Hidalgo Garcia in a close match to move the U.S. team into the semi-final and secure bronze.
The U.S. men played with such heart against Canada in the semifinal but came up short and lost 2 matches to 3. Eugene Wang (CAN) is a known formidable opponent, so the U.S. team focused on winning matches against the others on the team. Jishan and Sid overcame their opponents 3-1, pushing the team tie into the final match. Nandan and Eugene Wang stepped onto the court – a classic youth vs. experience match. Nandan’s surprising backhand loops down the line gave Eugene trouble to start, but Eugene was able to adjust. Nandan kept up with Eugene point for point, and in the spirited 6th game missed a few critical forehand counters and lost 11-13.
Play concludes on Sunday, November 5th with the Women’s and Men’s Team Finals. In the evening, the Pan Am Games closing ceremony will officially end the games, and provide a celebration for all the athletes of the incredible 2023 Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile.