The birds were singing and the weather was simply amazing as we hosted our 2018 September Open Tournament this past Saturday, 9/29/2018. Players arrived with hopes of gaining rating points, maybe win some prize money, certainly compete in challenging matches, but, most of all, simply to enjoy the sport of table tennis. The events were: U700, U1350, U1600, U2050 and a Big Ball Event.
The U700 had several players competing for the first time. How would the top two players, Daniel Zhang (279) and Sara Gulabani (191), fair against the unrated newcomers? Would they succeed? The answer is yes, indeed! Daniel and Sara’s countless hours of training paid off. But first, let’s also give newcomer Jonathan Fisher some credit as he won 1 game against Sara and went an astonishing 5 games with the top seed Daniel. He nearly came out victorious! Nonetheless, 1st Place would be decided in a battle between the top two seeds. Daniel with the higher rating just did not have enough fire power to beat Sara. She has tremendously improved her gameplay and it was on display! She won 3-0 and handed Daniel his only loss of the day. Sara went 8-0 and only lost 1 game all day to the rookie Jonathan Fisher. Congratulations Sara, you have come a long way and the fruit of all your training has sprung forth!
There were a total of nine participants in the U1350, which made one large round robin group. Newcomer Mark Tulchinsky (UR) went 7-1 and ended up with the best record. His only loss was to Weiguo Jiang (1136), whose long pips were too much for Mark’s short pips to handle. Nicholas Holt (UR) also did extremely well and finished with a 6-2 record. Nicholas’ two losses came from the top seed Felipe Yanaga and Mark, but managed to beat everyone else. Mark and Nicholas were unable to advance and claim any prize money since it was their first tournament, but they did extremely well in their debut. This brings us to the top three ranking players that were fighting for the prize positions and to be crowned Mr. U1350. Weiguo with his long pips fell short and was just not able to upset Felipe Yanaga (1321) and Roman Potapov (1085). One of the last matches of the event was a grudge match that would determine who would take 1st place! It was Felipe versus the bearded wonder Mr. Roman Potapov! Felipe came out ready and determined which earned him an early 2-1 lead over Roman. But you can never count a Soldier out. Roman miraculously came back and won two straight games to clinch the title. Roman was fierce like a Soldier and as jolly as Santa Claus himself. Roman, we hereby crown you Mr. U1350. Congratulations to Roman for winning in style like a true gentleman!
We had a total of 12 participants in the U1600 event, with two groups of six players. The top two in each group would advance to our next round and have a chance to win some prize money. Roman Potapov (1085), Mr. U1350 himself was back for more. The stakes were higher this time as he joined a tougher event. Yet, this did not phase the bearded wonder as he finished first in his group and advanced to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, he lost to Risheetha Bhagawatula (782) who proved to be a tough competitor. Risheetha was the second lowest rated player for this event and she fought all the way to make it to the finals. Risheetha has taken multiple private lessons, has participated in league play, and open play at Triangle Table Tennis. Her skill level has been improving quite rapidly and in this event she proved her abilities. Let’s applaud Risheetha for such a spectacular performance! Raphael Orenstein (1285) was the 3rd highest rated player of the event. Yet, Raphael had to overcome players like Risheetha and Edson Yanaga (1501). In the semifinals, Raphael made a huge comeback against Edson the top seed. It was 2-1 in favor of Edson and game 4 went to deuce. They battled back and forth, Raphael pulled out the win to make it 2-2. Raphael’s confidence became evident as he won the final game of the match 11-6 and advanced to the finals. Raphael had to face Risheetha who had been proving herself all day. They previously played each other, but it took 5 games before Raphael pulled out the win. He already knew what he was up against. Risheetha was on fire and with full capability of claiming the gold. Yet, the confidence and strategy of Raphael proved to be too much for Risheetha. Raphael won 3-0 and now enjoys his victory as the U1600 winner! Good Job Raphael for your excellent play and overcoming some tough opponents!
The U2050 proved to be the biggest event of the day, with a total of 24 players in four groups of six players! The top two in each group would advance and battle for a chance to win the top prize. As the games unfolded, the groups top three seeded players dominated as expected and fought for the two positions to advance to the next round. But all eyes were on Group 2 as Roberto Morales (1534), the number 4 seed in his group just kept winning. Roberto beat the two top seeded players in his group Wayne Carney (1873) and Aminu Mohammed (1735). Roberto finished the round robin with a 4-1 record and advanced to the next round. Roberto continued his domination by beating Changbo Lu (1687) in the quarterfinals. Roberto then had to face the top seeded Ajay Bains (1913) in the semi-finals. Roberto started to pull away from Ajay with a 2-0 lead, but Ajay fought tooth and nail to rally back and make it 2-2. Roberto had to put in some extra effort and was able to adjust and close out the victory! Roberto was on his way to the finals! Other than Ajay Bains, Moustapha Nasser (1812) was the only undefeated player in the first round. Moustapha played well and did not yield a loss all day. He sprinted to the finals and was ready to face Roberto for gold. Moustapha pulled out a 2-0 lead and looked to be too much for Roberto. Yet, Roberto fought hard and won the next two games in deuce. It was quiet! You could almost hear the players breathing as they approached the tables for the final game to determine the victor! The undefeated Moustapha was ready and would not be shaken by the last two comeback losses that Roberto dished out to him. It was a close game, but Moustapha with his ability, stamina and skill came out on top. Moustapha, like a true warrior, put on a show all day of what hard work and excellence looks like! Congratulations Moustapha for your hard-earned victory! It is well deserved!!!
The Big Ball Event was saved for last and it came with a blast! This time around we incorporated the Big Ball rules which consisted of pimples out with sponge, an orange 44 mm ball, and the net being raised to 17.25 cm. Each match was best 2 out of 3 games and if any game went to 12:12 it would be sudden death. This means that the next point would decide who the winner is. The format for this event was double elimination which gives each player another chance after suffering from their first loss. There were a total of 7 players in this event ranging from unrated all the way up to 2200. As players started to be eliminated, three individuals stood out as they fought for the top spot on the podium. Dennis with his unique lobbing ability and speed just did not have enough energy to surpass Tianyi with his crazy Ninja skills. Tianyi defeated Dennis with ease and was ready to test his skills against the master herself. Stephanie, who was reigning Big Ball Champ, was faced with a new challenge. She had to adapt to using short pips with sponge. Could she do it? She dished out loss after loss to her competitors. Though she kept her usual peaceful demeanor throughout her matches. She had such precision and finesse on the ball that no one even came close to competing with her. But wait a minute! In the distance the ninja play style of Tianyi was headed to the table. He came with fire and wanted to claim the gold. The games were close and you could almost feel the pressure mounting up on Stephanie. The second game of their match Tianyi pulled out a victory! The tides were turning and it looked like Tianyi had a chance to win. However, Stephanie with her adaptability and experience was too much for Tianyi to handle. She was able to overcome the young and upcoming talent of Tianyi, the ninja himself! Congratulations Stephanie on defending your title!