Kanak Jha Upsets Mattias Falck In USA’s Losing Effort to Sweden
Sweden defeated USA 3-1 in the opening round of 16 of the men’s team event at the Tokyo Olympics. Sweden won quite comfortably, with Kristian Karlsson and Anton Kaellberg defeating Zhou Xin and Nikhil Kumar 3-0 in doubles, Kaellberg defeating Zhou 3-0 in singles, and Karlsson defeating Kanak Jha 3-0 in singles. Sweden will face Japan in the quarter-finals.
However, Jha was able to pull off a 3-1 upset against Falck in the match between the two ace players (i.e. the players that play two singles matches). We provide a full recap of the match below.
Jha built an early 3-1 lead in the first game off of two pet plays that he would rely on throughout the match: a long fast serve to the elbow and a slow opening to Falck’s elbow.
However, Jha made a slew of errors including a couple of missed backhand openings, a push into the net, and a missed forehand flick to find himself down 7-5.
At 7-5, Jha then missed a block from the elbow and a backhand counter-roll to fall into a deeper 9-5 hole. Jha won a backhand-backhand rally, but missed another counter into the net to go down 10-6. Falck then missed a backhand roll into the net, and then Jha got a bit lucky as Falck missed a backhand loop against a high-short push from Jha, and Jha won another net ball to close the gap to 10-9. On the fourth game point, Falck surprised Jha with a deep long push to Jha’s forehand. Jha was able to land a decent quality loop wide to Jha’s forehand, but he was not able to recover in time as he missed the follow-up backhand kill, giving Falck the first game 11-9.
A series of ambitious shots paid off for Jha early in game 2 as he landed two forehand flick kills, a hard backhand counter-roll wide, and hard loop to Falck’s elbow in the first ten points. Coupled with his usual pet plays, Jha was able to take a commanding 8-2 lead in game 2.
Falck tried to switch things up with a backhand serve down 8-2. He won the first point to make it 8-3 and then threw away any possible momentum by missing his next serve. Falck missed yet another long fast serve return from the middle to make it 10-3.
Jha then flicked into the net to make it 10-4, and despite getting a net ball on the next point, lost another backhand-backhand rally to make it 10-5. Falck then won another two points off aggressive responses to Jha’s chiquita, making it 10-7.
Jha called time-out and came back with a half-long serve to the forehand that he had previously not yet served into the net; however, Falck gave an equally surprising soft open down-the-line to the backhand, and Jha blocked it into the net. On the next point, Jha pushed the ball half-long to Falck’s forehand again, Falck opened to Jha’s backhand again, and this time Jha was able to land in a backhand counter-roll that Falck hit into the net, giving Jha the second game 11-8.
Falck won the first point of the third game with a nice rally from far behind the table, and then Jha missed a chiquita to give Falck a 2-0 lead. Jha then proceeded to win two straight points off slow spins, two straight points off of nice forehand winners, and two straight points off of wide long fast serves that Falck hit out.
Falck and Jha were able to hold their own serve on the next eight points (with Jha receiving some help from an edge-ball), giving Jha a 10-6 advantage. Falck won another lucky point of his own to help narrow the gap to 10-9. However, he pushed Jha’s next serve into the net to lose the game 11-9, resulting in another failed comeback and a 2-1 lead for Jha in games.
Jha and Falck exchanged several missed openings and first blocks to start game 6 as Jha built an early 5-4 lead, prompting Falck to call time-out. After the time-out, Jha and Falck had a nice exchange of well-placed shots, with Jha coming out on top with the 6-4 lead.
Falck was then able to go on a 4-1 mini-run to take an 8-7 lead thanks to two missed openings from Jha and a pretty long rally from way behind the table from Falck. Jha then ripped a half-long serve on the next point to level it at 8-8. Jha won the next point thanks to his bread-and-butter long fast serve to the elbow to go up 9-8.
Jha then gave a long serve and a half-long push to Falck’s elbow on the next two points. Falck, who had mostly been stepping around to take the slower elbow shots with his forehand earlier in the match, stepped to the right to take two surprising big backhands. Jha missed both blocks, giving Falck a 10-9 advantage.
Jha saved one game point with an opening to the elbow, Falck earned himself another game point with a long rally, and then Jha saved another game point with an opening to the elbow, making it 11-11.
Jha and Falck exchanged missed openings to keep it level at 12-12. Jha then got a net ball during a backhand-backhand exchange to take match point. He was then able to convert match point with a wide forehand kill against Falck’s opening from the elbow. Jha won the game 14-12 and the match, leveling the team match score at 1-1.
If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.