2005 Newgy Robo-Pong Open

Stefan Feth claims the first 2005 Newgy Robo-Pong Open Men’s Singles Champion title by defeating David Zhuang 4-1 in the final round. Read More for Alan Williams’ exciting tournament writeup!

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NEWGY Robo-Pong Open
September 17th/18th
Murfreesboro, TN
Every new venture is something like raising a child, from conception to adulthood; you worry, sweat, fret, guide and agonize over your baby. For NATT and NEWGY, putting on this brand-new event was much like that. I’m pleased to say that the delivery went well, if not flawlessly, and that plans are afoot to celebrate a second birthday. It’s a metaphor much on my mind, especially since the first NEWGY Robo-Pong Open Champion has dedicated his victory to his mother.

It’s not possible to say too much in the way of appreciation to NEWGY. This outstanding company, in the person of Larry Thoman, Roger Dickson, Joe Newgarden and their whole crew, went out of their way to build an event that catered to the entrants. Every player who entered was given a free tee-shirt, compliments of NEWGY. The welcome player party they held on Friday was free to every entrant. They completely underwrote the Open Singles prize money, which was as large as that offered at the US National Championships. NEWGY also held a series of seminars with top coaches and instructors on the day before play began. From first-hand experience, I can assure you, the reader, that NEWGY cares deeply about the growth and success of table tennis in America, and rarely asks public credit for their efforts.

Public credit is also owed to Tournament Referee Wendell Dillon, and his crew, Chance Key, Mark Shervington and Mike Wetzel. Together they comprised the competent umpiring crew essential to any good event. Middle Tennessee State University was a gracious first-time host, but even so, there were issues with the hall. Air-conditioning currents played havoc on several tables, requiring the feature courts to be switched from one through four to nine through twelve. A quick trip to Home Depot acquired the landscaping tarp that was used as blackout drape on some ‘problem glass’. All I can say is that neither were issues during the initial site visit, showing the dangers of evaluating a room in March for a September event!

There were a good many players that were new to us at NATT, and, practically unanimously, they expressed their gratitude for the event’s existence. Not only was it the first four-star tournament in Tennessee in quite an extended period of time, it marked the revival of the Tennessee State Championships, after a ten year lapse! Larry Thoman proved that time was no obstacle to success, nailing the Tennessee Men’s Singles and Senior Singles titles. Larry won the Tennessee State Games in 1996, when they were last held. At the Robo-Pong, he also came second to Aldis Presley in the U-2125, an impressive tournament for the transplanted Pennsylvanian.

Another Pennsylvania born player added both the Over 40 and Over 50 Titles to his resume. It’s hard to believe that Danny Seemiller is actually eligible for the older event, but there it is in black and white! It’s always a pleasure to see Danny play, and to have him and his rapidly improving offspring, Danny, Jr in the mix. The younger Seemiller was second in both the U-18 and U-16 Boys, and won the U-2000 outright. By entering Open Singles Danny created an unusual situation, a single round robin group that contained 10 US Men’s Singles Titles! That’s what happens when Seemiller and O’Neill are drawn together. Add Stefan Feth as Top seed, and that’s a powerful group. So imagine Nick Snider’s position, as fourth in that group! But Nick also managed the win of his life when he nicked Danny Seemiller, 9,7,12,-9,9. Four games to one against a living legend! Drop-shotting, angling, driving, there was no way Danny could move the pesky Snider away. Danny gained some satisfaction however, in beating Sean O’Neill in the group. “Sean’s beaten me the last five or six times we played”, Danny explained. “Now, maybe, I’ve given him something to think about for next time.”

The Women’s Final was an impressive win for Heather Wang, besting Laura Xiao 9,2,-8,5,11. Heather was in play virtually non-stop on Saturday, and showed that stamina is a strength of hers. Tahl Leibovitz showed that the ability to withstand pain, to play with courage is a strength of his, when he dramatically bet Ben Johnson in the U-2500 Final, -12, 8,8,9,11! Ben displayed only admiration for Tahl’s achievement, overcoming painful cramps that nearly led to his withdrawal in an earlier round.

Aldis Presley was a double-dipper, taking the U-2125 and Men’s U-22 victories. Rick Ferguson turned in the improbable result of winning the U-1100, but finishing second in the U-950. Credit for that anomaly should go to Stephen Clyde, undefeated in both the U-800/Novice and the U-950.

Without a doubt, however, the most impressive multiple winner was a quiet, well-mannered young man from Indiana, A.J. Brewer. Without crowing, bragging or much fanfare, Mr. Brewer finished second in the U-2250 to Michael Levene, (5,-7,9,-5,-8,-4). He dominated the junior competitions, finishing ahead of Danny Seemiller, Jr in the U-18 and U-16 and besting Alexander Yao in the U-13 Boys. To see him at it, you’d have thought it was ‘just another night at the club’.

The participants were well-behaved and cooperative, and ‘our baby’ was doing just fine. But it was Open Singles that had everyone riveted, even before the Quarterfinals were reached. Ludovic Gombos was eliminated in his Round Robin Group when he dropped two matches, 4-2 to David Zhuang, a match in which Ludovic was adamant that a missed edge call had damaged his chances, and 4-0 , 6,6,9,4 to Ben Johnson. Ben was a happy camper, and by virtue of this upset, would continue to the Quarterfinals.

Tahl Leibovitz fell victim to a three-way tie in his Open Singles Group, when he, Eric Owens and Tai Long Tey were each 2-1. At 7 games to 5, Tey came a surprising first from his ‘C’ seed, leaving Eric second and Tahl third. Even though Tahl beat Tey head to head, he took too long to do it, -8,9,-7,7,-9,3,6. Tai Long Tey’s five game win over Eric Owens was sensational. Despite his penhold grip, Tey’s opponents found it very difficult to penetrate his backhand side, and his matches produced some of the most spectacular rallies of the tournament.

As expected, Barney Reed and Shao Yu both graduated from their round robin, with Barney posting a nifty come-from-behind against Shao in their head to head meeting. After trailing three games to one, Barney notched the next two matches 11-9, and then won the seventh and pivotal game in deuce, 14-12! It was a good win over the SoCal Open Champion for Barney.

Quarterfinals

Eric Owens v. Stefan Feth

Two excellent players who are also great gentlemen met here, which also produces a small pang that someone has to lose and be eliminated. As good as Eric is, Stefan Feth is a man on a mission and will not be derailed. After Owens takes the first game, 11-9, Stefan manages each of the next four against the gamely fighting Owens 9,8,9 and 2. Eric gets $290 and Stefan advances to the Semi-Final.

David Zhuang v. Sean O’Neill

Two of the most illustrious names in the American table tennis firmament meeting in a Quarterfinals? That’s an excellent indicator of the depth of the talent in the event category! There’s no disputing the size of Sean O’Neill’s heart, but it takes more than the will to win to overcome David’s game. Straight games, 5,9,6 and 9 give David a seat in the Semi’s and Sean makes back his travel money.

Shao Yu v. Tai Long Tey

To understand this match, you should start at the end, when these two men, soaked in sweat and looking like they had each wrestled a bear, shook hands. These two had met before, in 2001 at the 36th St. Joseph Valley Open. Tey, a former member of the Malaysian World Team lost that match under the old scoring system, 14, 21. With five years to consider what actions he needed to take to reverse that result, Tey was dismayed to drop the first match 11-6. He came back firing and pulled out first one, then a second nail-biter by identical scores of 13-11! It’s an uphill fight facing Shao Yu, trailing two games to one, and does not convey the depth of the battle to say he gets it done, 9,8,8. Tai Long Tey is like a wall, and he’s right there, 8-8 in each game, but Shao always manages to get the crucial points and earns his way to the Semis and bigger money.

Barney Reed v. Ben Johnson

English expatriate Ben Johnson has had a great tournament, reaching the Finals of the U-2500, winning the U-4200 Doubles with Barbara Ruggio, but this figures to be the end of the line. It will be a nice, attractive match, though, between two attacking shakehanders…until it becomes something very different. Johnson comes out of the blocks like a man fleeing a burning house and, 11-2, shocks Barney. The audience is charged, and Barney wants to turn the tables immediately, but it’s no easy task. He takes Game two, 15-13, in a titanic struggle. Having made things ‘right’, however, there is no room to relax and Ben takes a deuce victory, 12-10 in the third. Barney is not pleased, but the worst is yet to come, as Johnson again takes control and a three games to one lead, 11-5 in the fourth game. It’s time to fold the tent for Reed…except that he won’t. With all eyes on this match, Barney reasserts himself, Ben is showing signs of fatigue, and Reed wins Game 5, 11-9. It’s more of the same in Game Six, and Reed wins 11-5 to tie this Quarter at three games apiece. “What a shame for Ben,” someone utters, “up three games to one and he let it get away.” Good thing Johnson never heard it, as with a war whoop of celebration, 11-8 in the seventh, he beats Barney to become one of four remaining players in Open Singles. You can only imagine the uneraseable smile he wore as he walked off the court, so take my word for it, he was radiant.

Semi-Finals

Stefan Feth v. Ben Johnson

This is Ben’s reward for winning his Quarterfinal with Barney, a match with German National Semi-Finalist Stefan Feth, a star player with the Bundesliga and key member of TSV Schwalbe Tuendern, Germany. So does Ben have a prayer, here? How about an 11-4 victory in Game One? Playing quick off the bounce, and again charging fast out of the blocks, Johnson is impressive, serves notice that he is here to play. But Stefan is an International resume-toting star for good reason. He never gives Ben another chance, 7,6,6 and 5. Feth is playing with a grim determination that is a little darker than his normal attitude. He is a man on a mission. There is a $640 payday for Ben, and the tournament’s second seed heads for the Final.

David Zhuang v. Shao Yu

Two friends, two practice partners, and is there a suspicion that they will play a ‘friendly match’? Fugeddaboutit! Shao sees that $4,000 Championship payday and does his best to go get it. David, however, is determined as well, and brings all his weapons to bear. It’s straight games for Zhuang, but check out these scores! 13-11, 11-9, 13-11, 15-13! Shao Yu plays great, but David is better, and the Final stage is set.

Championship Match

Stefan Feth v. David Zhuang

Tall and rangy, able to cover the entire court with great speed, Feth has to play against David’s right-at-the-table pips out blocking and smashing game. David pulls out all the stops, moving Feth from side to side and in and out, looking to create the openings through which he can power that forehand penhold kill. Feth, however, has that amazing topspin game from both wings, tons of recent international competition and the latest service tactics. It’s Game One to the German, 11-9, Game Two to David, 11-7 and we are off to the races! Game three continues the struggle, but Feth notches the game in deuce, 12-10. There’s a $2400 difference between winning and losing this match, so the stakes are certainly in place! But 11-4, 11-5, Feth is unstoppable in sweeping David aside. It’s no rollover, but again we see that grim determination from Stefan, and his play lifts to a level even greater than we have seen in the past. Four games to one, the first Robo-Pong Open Champion Stefan Feth claims the title and the Giant Oversized Check from Joe Newgarden, the tournament sponsor.

After the match, Stefan is very clear with me as to what he wants to say. It also goes a long way in explaining the ferocity and intensity with which he competed this weekend. “My mother,” the well-mannered Champion explains, “is very ill. She has been battling cancer and I was not certain that I should come to play when she is so sick. Her name is Brigette Feth, and I’d be grateful if you’d include her name in your article, because this win is not my win, this win is for her. She was always very supportive of my table tennis career, the training and the travel, even though she only has seen me play competitively perhaps five times. What I did today, I did for her. I dedicate this win to her, to my mother. You will be sure to write that, won’t you? “

Yes. Yes, Stefan, I will.

So it is with a fine sense of the balance of the universe that I say ‘our baby’, the NEWGY Robo-Pong Open took its successful first steps under the watchful eye of its parents. But the Champion, Stefan Feth, reminds me that we are all someone’s treasured child, and it is our parents, in the end, whom we honor with our achievements.
2005 Newgy Robo-Pong Open
Event Name
Champion
Finalist
Open Singles Stefan Feth David Zhuang
Women’s RR
Heather Hua Wang
Laura Xiao
Under 22 Men’s RR
Aldis R. Presley
Andrew Davis
Under 22 Women’s RR
Laura Xiao
Alicia Burnett
18 Boys RR
A.J. Brewer
Daniel R. Seemiller Jr.
Under 16 Boys RR
A.J. Brewer
Daniel R. Seemiller Jr.
Under 16 Girls RR
Alicia Burnett
U13 Boys RR A.J. Brewer Alexander Yao
U10 Boys RR
Erick Shahnazari
Alex Ebert
Over 40 RR
Daniel Robert Seemiller
John B. Allen
Over 50 RR
Daniel Robert Seemiller
William H. Mobley III
Over 60 RR
Bill Neely
Alexander Lim
Under 2500 SE
Tahl Leibovitz
Ben Johnson
Under 2375 RR
Sean Patrick O’Neill
Tai Long Tey
Under 2250 RR
Michael Levene
A.J. Brewer
Under 2125 RR
Aldis Presley
Larry Thoman
Under 2000 RR
Daniel R. Seemiller Jr.
Patrick Timoh
Under 1850 RR
Xin Bu
Sue May Goh
Under 1700 RR
Scott Rief
Stanley Wallen
Under 1550 RR
Cameron Luo
George G. Moses II
Under 1400 RR
William A.A. Foster
Joe Hollingsworth
Under 1250 RR
Ted Melton
Richard Roman
Under 1100 RR
Rick Ferguson
Christopher Holly
Under 950 RR
Stephen Clyde
Rick Ferguson
Under 800/Unrated RR
Stephen Clyde
Parker Johnson
Open Doubles Ludovic Gombos & Eric Owens Tahl Leibovitz & Sean O’Neill
Under 4200 Doubles SE Ben Johnson & Barbara Ruggio John Allen & Amer Shaw
Under 3200 Doubles SE
Bill Neely & Ruth Gove
Randy Burnett & Robert Clyde

Tennessee State Championships
Event Name Champion Finalist
Men’s Championships Larry Thoman Richard Sanders
Women’s Championships Vivian Lee Yixi Tu
Junior Championships Yixi Tu Lance Adams
Senior Championships Larry Thoman Richard Sanders