Over the weekend, we hosted our 4th annual Winter Two-Person Teams Tournament. The two-person teams format lends itself to compelling competition, as match-ups change several times within a single team match. With over 100 players representing 7 states, we had a great mix of local players and out-of-towners competing in the U2500, U3000, U3500, U4000, and Open Division.
Saturday featured the U3000 and U4000 events. Both events started with a full field of 16 teams broken into 4 groups of 4. After completion of the round robin groups, the top teams from each group advanced to a single elimination bracket. The U3000 event saw three local teams advance along with Jay Nelson and Zach Smith from West Virginia. The WV boys advanced to the finals against Shahriar Elias and Anav Gupta, both teams winning their semis in 5. The local team of Shah and Anav came out victorious in the end, winning 3-1. Anav is one of the up-and-coming junior players here at the club, having doubled his rating since July of last year! In the battle for 3rd, Triangle Table Tennis members Bobby Kern and Tushar Kulkarni squeaked out a 3-2 victory against fellow club members Bo Lankenau and Jason Hodak.
In the U4000, there was an even split in the final four between TTT players and competitors who had traveled from outside the Triangle. Carlos and Luis Rodriguez, hailing all the way from Broward TTC in Miami, matched up against Elias Gomez and Brendon Mrzlak from the Charlotte area in the first semifinal. The other side of the bracket saw Jerred Miklowcic and Aldin Soneja battling against Edward Li and John Lee. Both semis went 3-1, with the Rodriguez brothers and Jerred and Aldin meeting in the finals. The Miami team was able to close the deal, beating Jerred and Aldin 3-1. In the 3rd place match, John and Edward bested Elias and Brendon 3-0.
Sunday brought new faces and new hopes. The U2500 event was a 6-team round robin event almost entirely comprised of Triangle Table Tennis members, save for Joe Linkous and Stephen Chapel from Virginia. Playing straight through until all the matches were completed, this event truly made the winners earn their prizes. At the end of the day, the podium was full of TTT members, with Anav Gupta (again!) and Adi Jain in the top spot. 2nd place was occupied by Jason Hodak and Bill Howard, followed by Dan Burns and Werner Medrano in 3rd.
In the U3500, there was drama even before the knockout stages. Two of the four groups ended in a 3-way tie, with Steve Emmons and Justin Foxworth advancing on a 1-game differential, and Shiguang and Jingxiong Lu advancing based on their points ratio! These two teams met in the semis and Steve and Justin punched their ticket to the finals with a 3-1 victory. The other semifinal featured Maksim Kovalev and Moustapha Nasser against fellow club members Oscar Galavis and Sue Nolte. Maksim and Moustapha dispatched their opponents 3-1, pitting them against Steve and Justin in the finals. Both the 1st/2nd match and the 3rd/4th match went the full 5 games, with Maksim and Moustapha taking the crown and the Lu’s snatching bronze.
The field in the Open Division had many of the top players from Triangle Table Tennis, including almost the entire coaching staff. Visiting players Chien-Hsuan Ko and Junkai Yang did what they could to upset the seedings, coming in as unrated players and advancing from the group stage. The top-seeded teams of Brian Pace and Derek May, Rachid El Boubou and Yu Di, and Stephanie Sun and Gregg Robertshaw, all advanced without losing a match. Once they got past the round robin stage, #1 seeds Rachid and Yu Di had a free pass all the way to the finals, getting a bye into the semis and then accepting the default from their opponents in that match. Brain and Derek battled Gregg and Stephanie for a shot in the finals. Even with Stephanie upsetting Brian in their singles match, the longtime doubles team of Pace/May emerged with the 3-1 win and a chance at the title. However, the well-rested top seeds proved themselves up to the task, dropping only 1 game in the finals matches en route to the gold medals. In the 3rd place match, Gregg and Stephanie bounced back and beat Jinhai Feng and Zhicong Chen to secure their spot on the podium.
Overall, the tournament was one of our biggest Two-Person Teams tournaments to date and the competition was fierce across the board. Here are a few fun notes to sum things up:
- In each event that advanced teams to a single elimination bracket, at least one visiting team made it to the knockout stage.
- In 86% of matches, the team that won the doubles match went on to win the overall team match (108/126).
- In 4 out of 5 events, the top seeds went on to win the event.