2005 Western Open

Stefan Feth was unstoppable at the 2005 Western Open! Read more to check out the rest of the results and Alan William’s tournament write up! Coming Soon:Tournament photos from Gerry Chua, Kingston Gee, and NATT!

2005 Western Open on the STIGA North American Tour
October 15th and 16th, 2005
Ford Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

I am delighted to tell you that I am at a loss for words, or, more accurately, at a loss for the right word. Brotherhood, comradeship, camaraderie, these all begin to give a sense, but not the complete sense, of the atmosphere at this exciting and satisfying tournament. Part of the warm feeling, of course, comes from the quality of the people you work with and with the work of Richard Lee and Wendy Troy, Tom Nguyen and Richard Mercado, Azmy Ibrahim and Michael Boot, Kenny Tien and Tom Miller, the tournament ran well.

It took a great deal of effort to pull off this particular love fest, in part due to the outstanding turnout. Three Hundred and Five USATT members opted to take the plunge for the Western, the largest turnout on this year’s STIGA tour. Keeping the tournament organized and on-time in Ford Center’s cozy confines of sometimes 24 sometimes 32 tables took a bit of doing! What I want to convey, however, is not the successful operation by the staff, but the incredible sense of community that existed.

Kyna Fong and her Stanford clubmates were instrumental in siting the tournament in the first place. They also came prepared to serve the participants with hot lunch delivery, which not only made the players happy but also gave the Stanford club a successful fundraiser. Northern California players showed an exceptional spirit, disputes were at an absolute minimum and everyone was seriously interested in everyone else’s results and well-being. Many people pitched in with assistance, Triscuit (aka Sean C. Lee) being the most joyful and light-hearted. Coaches, players, family members, visitors and dignitaries, they all exuded a sense of joy in the sport that was tonic to me and made the work of tournament operations much more bearable.

They also displayed a fine appreciation for the top-level play which permeated the upper levels of play here. Crowding the courts, they were respectful and knowledgeable about the games they were watching, simultaneously cheering local favorites while admiring the imports. Here, it seems, people have mastered the art of competing without becoming adversaries, of striving for personal bests without denigrating the opposition. We were treated to a pleasant stream of useful comments and suggestions, observations and compliments, as well as some great play by players new to us, most especially in the form of the Western Open’s Women’s Champ, Maki Tamaru. This lady showed she has the skills that more than justified her estimated 2300 rating. In Open Singles, she narrowly missed qualifying for the Second Stage RR, losing to the crafty veteran Loc Bao Ngo, 12, 6,-6,-9, 9. To earn the Women’s title, she defeated Jackie Lee, coming back from a 2-1 deficit, 7, -10,-7, 6, 5. Excellent play, Maki!

The Alto Brothers were also much in evidence, as Don James Alto won the Ying-Lo Junior competition for Boys U-16, and brother John James Alto double-dipped the U-1400 and Boys U-13 titles. John Leach found his way blocked not once, but twice, runner-up to Misha Kazantsev in both the U-18 and U-22 juniors. Misha had an excellent tournament, winning those two events, plus the U-2500 where he bested Yosmely Vadillo in the final. Vadillo, in his first STIGA Tour appearance, captured the U-2375 over Samson Dubina. Tomas Fuentes Afflick nailed down the U-1700 and came second to John James Alto in Boys U-13. Brana Vlasic was unflappable and modest in her winning streak, as she captured three of the Ying-Lo Junior titles. Brana defeated Colleen Lee in both Girls U-16 and U-18, and then bested Atha Fong to add the U-22 title as well.

The Sol Feingold Memorial Senior Events saw the venerable Peter Chen take the Over 50 title, defeating Kock Loe, Michael Greene besting Guang Kui-Dong in the Over 60, while Yong Ren, the exuberant Yong Ren, was the Over 40 champ, with a fine win over Tuan Le.

Saturday evening 16 players reached the Second Stage Round Robin of Open Singles where Sunday’s Quarterfinalists would be selected. These four round robin groups consisted of our Top 12 seeds and four qualifiers from the morning’s play. Loc Bao Ngo, Tuan Le, Nan Li and Kevin Au were the four who made it ‘the hard way’ to this point.

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Group 1: Feth, Nguyen, Huang, Ngo

Stefan Feth was obviously the odds on favorite to win the group, which he did, although young Jeff Huang scored a moral victory in scraping Feth for a game, 15-13. The youngster had his decisive match when he played second seed Anh Nguyen. What a tough competitor Anh is! Despite dropping the first game to Huang, Anh took second place with a 4-1 win. Huang and Loc Bao Ngo obviously didn’t feel there was anything meaningless in their match to settle third and fourth place, with Jeff coming back to avoid the upset, 8,-9,-10,6,7,9. When Nguyen and Feth played to settle first and second place, Nguyen made a fine kill into Stefan’s wide forehand. The crowd roared their admiration when Feth, at nearly full extension, reached that ball in his backcourt and slapped it around the net post for a clean winner! Even more miraculous, it seemed to me, was that Feth had also regained his position and was ready for any return by the time the ball hit the table. This is one amazing player!

Group 2: Gabriel, Zajac, Aponte, Le

While the muscular Alex Aponte and Peter Zajac both defeated Tuan Le, Le had one of the major upsets of the tournament when he beat Freddie Gabriel 11-9 in the seventh game. That left Aponte and Le tied with records of 1-2, and since the head-to-head result went to Aponte, he would place ahead of Le. So that meant that in the last match of the group, if Zajac beat Gabriel, a three way tie would be created between Gabriel, Le and Aponte. Instead, Gabriel, in another seven-gamer, defeated Zajac creating a two way tie between himself and Peter. Since Freddie won the head-to-head battle, he finished first in the group despite his upset loss and Zajac was second. Freddie never said a word to the control desk about an injury, but we later heard that he was playing with a thumb split wide open and glued back together. Now that’s a competitor!

Group 3: Reed, Lee, Schmidt, Li

Barney Reed, extremely focused, defeated all three of his cohorts to finish first, very efficiently. Second place is a lot more confusing. First, Jackie Lee defeated Nan Li in seven games. Then Nan Li defeated Avishy Schmidt 8, 8,3,10. Meanwhile, Jackie was called away to play her best of five games Women’s Singles final, which she lost to Maki Tamaru after leading 2-1. Unhappy with that result, physically exhausted, the tournament crowded and hot, and facing a ton of homework anyway, Jackie defaulted to Avishy in her last match. That left all three players with records of 1-2, but there was no three way tie. Here, the point system applies. In this method, each player is assigned 2 points for a win, 1 point for a loss and 0 points for a default. So Nan Li has 4 points (losing to Jackie and Barney, beating Avishy) Avishy has 4 points (default win over Jackie, losses to Barney and Nan) and Jackie has only 3 points (beating Nan Li, losing to Barney and defaulting to Avishy) so its not a three way tie between players with 1-2 records, it’s a two way tie between Schmidt and Li with Nan winning the head-to-head match and she is second. See that wasn’t so difficult, was it?

Group 4: Ren, Kazantsev, Vadillo, Au

The whole group begins with an upset as the left-handed Vadillo comes back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the top-seeded Yong Ren, 3, -8,-9,-8, 4, 4, and 5! This is a dangerous group, as it takes Misha Kazantsev six games to defeat the Qualifier, Kevin Au, -4, 7, 6,-3, 7, and 7! Count the points played, and its Misha 51, Kevin Au 49. Kevin shows that he’s a battler when he plays the top-seeded Yong Ren as well. It’s straight games, but by scores of 10,7,10 and 6. Vadillo’s sitting pretty with his upset of Ren, but can’t duplicate the result with Kazantsev. Misha handles the lightning quick Vadillo in six, 8,-7, 9, 12,-3, 5. With two matches to play, only Kazantsev is assured of making the Quarterfinals, so the competition stays intense! Vadillo does what he needs to do against the stubborn Kevin Au, 7,-9,-9, 11,-13, 15, and 7! You have to hand it to Mr. Au; he fought his best in going 0-3 in the group. That leaves Vadillo at 2-1, so the best Yong Ren can do is create a three way tie if he defeats Misha. This match is tied at 2 games, again at 3 games, and the pivotal game goes in Misha’s pocket, making him a perfect 3-0 in the group, 9,9,-3,-10,8,-8,9. Wow! Yong Ren actually outscores Misha 69 to 63 but cannot have the match or a trip to the Quarters. Kazantsev and Vadillo advance. One tough group!

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Quarterfinals
Stefan Feth vs. Peter Zajac

Peter’s a heckuva player, but honestly he can’t love this draw. He scores six points in the first two games against the NEWGY Robo-Pong Champ, before he gets a better feel for Stefan’s serve. Still, it’s a tall order to go after a World-Ranked player in the Quarters. Feth advances in straight games, 4, 2, 9, 7.

Nan Li vs. Misha Kazantsev

Nan Li comes out smoking! Nicking Misha for the first game 11-6. But it seems to me that Misha has developed some patience, and in many of his matches at the Western Open was willing to explore his opponent before applying his new-found knowledge. From Game two forward, there is little doubt. Misha applies the crusher in game three when he trailed 10-8, but rattled off four straight points for the win! Misha advances to the Quarterfinals, -6, 7,10,6,-6,6.

Barney Reed vs. Anh Nguyen

Okay, I have to make a confession in fairness to you, the reader. I have become a Barney Reed fan. I root for Barney. I find theories and want to offer helpful advice to Barney. See, Barney comes to most of the NATT STIGA Tour events, and is invariably cheerful and helpful. But what a year he’s had, losing in the Quarters of most Open Singles, being upset by Ben Johnson in Nashville and Tawny Banh in San Diego…so please pardon the prejudice and simple-minded opinions I write now. I have developed the theory that Barney is too eager to adopt the playing style of his opponent, whether it is a conscious decision or not, I cannot tell. Against Tawny, he was willing to stand at the table and bang away with her, her game. Against Don Hamilton, he became a backcourt lobber and fisher. Against Ben Johnson, he was trading powerloops. Will the real Barney Reed please step forward? Here he faces the persistent and pesky Anh Nguyen, who never quits and likes to angle you around from close at the table. Barney wins the first game handily, 11-3, but I wonder if he can deal with the crowd, sometimes his focus wavers. The spectators are all tight to the barriers, even staring through the inside glass wall of the gym, four deep. It seems an issue because Barney falls behind 7-3 in game two before pulling it out, 11-8. Come on, stop fooling around. Anh takes game three, 11-3. Man. Now I see something I like, Barney has found a tactic that Nguyen has difficulty dealing with, slow, spinny backhand loops that strike the center line, just at the end line, forcing Nguyen to back up. These produce some feeble blocks and clean misses. Barney sweeps past Nguyen 3, 8,-3, 9, and 7.

Yosmely Vadillo vs. Freddie Gabriel

Vadillo’s a fighter, but Freddie’s one talented player! He seems to have no problem with Vadillo being a lefty. Vadillo tries to crowd Freddie in tight to the backhand wing, but Freddie is stepping around…and looping down the line into Vadillo’s forehand! What’s he spotted? Whatever it is, it’s a winning tactic, and Freddie takes the fist two games at 4 and 7. But I keep saying, Vadillo’s fighter. He certainly is! It’s Freddie’s court coverage that keeps him close in Game three…11 all…12 all…14 all! Freddie wins on his serve and calls Time Out. Trailing by one, but holding serve, Vadillo has two minutes to think about. Four shots later, it’s Freddie’s game 16-14! 11-8, Gabriel wins the fourth game, too. It’s the closest four game victory I’ve seen in a while! Yosmely and the other Quarterfinalists each get $145, and four players remain.

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Semifinals
Misha Kazantsev vs. Stefan Feth

Misha’s an excellent player, and stylistically not so different from Stefan. Misha wants to bring that powerful forehand to bear, the big pinwheeling one. Feth may favor the backhand more frequently. The points played here figure to be spectacular, and they are! But Stefan holds too many advantages. His service game is too much for Kazantsev, especially early in the match, for one. He has that little extra in every aspect of the game. On one point, I see Stefan launch a loop return that breaks a serious three and half feet after the bounce, leaving Misha with a paddle full of air. Wow! There’s no shame in losing to Stefan, and Misha, well, Misha’s been a different player at this tournament than I have seen him be before. Dare I say…mature? I think with the poise and calmness he exuded this weekend, the skills I saw him display in his matches, and his one loss coming at the hands of an International player, that Misha Kazantsev is going to be a force at the 2005 US Nationals. Feth advances 3,8,7,9 and Misha gets $320 as a semi-finalist.

Barney Reed vs. Freddie Gabriel

Gabriel comes charging out, 5-1 in the first game and the rout is on. Or is it? Barney isn’t slapping his thigh with his racket, screaming at the fates, he’s…hey! He’s focused! and what a great comeback he mounts to win 11-9 in game one. There’s no posse here, no girlfriend, no parent…and Barney isn’t interacting with the spectators, he’s playing the match, focused like grim death! In Game two it’s a death dance, tied at 4, tied at 5, Barney leading 9-8, deuce. No one is giving any ground here. Freddie wins, 15-13. It’s no different in game three, as they are tied at 4 apiece…this has got to be draining for both of them! Barney leads 10-9 and holds serve and makes an absolute beauty. It takes a high first bounce, Freddie reaches in and forms for a flip, but, its’ Oh-so-short’ oh so much shorter than it looked like it would be! Freddie misses the flip completely and it’s 2-1 for Reed. In game four, Freddie is plagued with service errors and poor service return. That throbbing thumb injury that we only learned about after the tournament, and not from Freddie, has to be a factor here. 11-6 and Barney leads 3-1. Barney really pours it on in Game five, and Gabriel is eliminated, 11-4. This is the first time I’ve seen Mr. Gabriel in action, and I can tell you, I now understand the high praise you hear about him. No less an authority than YiYong Fan has stated that Freddie has the potential of being a World Class player. Here, he was Western Open semi-finalist. Not bad!

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Championship Match
Stefan Feth vs. Barney Reed

Well let’s see. Feth wants to start early because he has a plane, and Barney’s match finished well after Feth’s semi, and the schedule says 4PM and we aren’t budging. So Stefan takes to the table and begins his warm-up with Girl’s U-13 Champion Ariel Hsing. Stefan is not only a great player, he has great PR skills as he hits with the future US Women’s Champion. When our two players hit the table, it’s more than PR skills from Feth and he surges out in front 7-0. That’s an awfully large hole, but Barney’s not folding. Game one to Stefan, 11-6. Pride, and focused pride. Barney does a little schooling of his own to the German National Semi-finalist and builds a lead of 8-2! No self-destruct today, thank you. Stefan completely switches tactics here, and it’s all the short game now. It’s a rhythm disrupter, it’s an area of superiority for Feth, and Barney seems caught off-guard by it, leaping in and out for attacks that don’t come. Barney’s leading 9-8 when he gets a bad break, and Stefan’s dunk of a push hits the cord and springs straight up all of an inch, and straight down for a winner. Two missed backhand blocks later, it’s 2-0 in Stefan’s favor. Now they are back to ripping the ball in Game three, and it’s nip and tuck until Feth leads 6-5. Here, Feth takes a two point advantage with a nifty short sidespin serve. When Barney misses a backhand flip off a short push, its Game three to Stefan, 11-6. In Game Four, Stefan takes a 2-0 lead on his serve, but Barney plays smart in gaining ground to 3-3. Barney rips a couple of winners, Feth answers with one of his own. Then Stefan misses a duck, just mishits long on a popped ball and Barney leads 7-5! But Feth, unhappy with that shot, is now gunning like mad for the wide corners. Barney’s backhand loop doesn’t tie him up like it tied up Anh Nguyen and it’s 10-8 for Feth. Make that five straight points for Stefan, the title, and $2000 as he beats Reed 6,9,6,8!
Well, I have been impressed. Barney was beaten by a better player, but he certainly didn’t beat himself, and he gets $800 for that, his best finish this year on the STIGA North American Tour. Stefan Feth? Well, he’s just flat out amazing! The tournament was a blast! The turnout was high, the operations were grueling, the play was first-rate, and I think we saw some breakthrough performances. All of it in the Northern California culture of cooperation, brotherhood and community. I think we gotta get a bigger hall. Because to top this one, we need a bigger tent!

2005 Western Open On The 2005 Stiga North American Tour

Event Name

Champion

Finalist

Open Singles

Stefan Feth

Barney Reed Jr.

Women’s RR

Maki Tamura

Jacqueline Lee

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 22 Men’s RR

Misha Kazantsev

John Leach

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 22 Women’s RR

Brana Vlasic

Atha Fong

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 18 Boys RR

Misha Kazantsev

John Leach

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 18 Girls RR

Brana Vlasic

Colleen Lee

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 16 Boys RR

Don James Alto

Xinyu Liao

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 16 Girls RR

Brana Vlasic

Colleen Lee

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U13 Boys RR

John James Alto

Tomas Fuentes-Afflick

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U13 Girls RR

Ariel Hsing

Serena Banh

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U10 Boys RR Erick Shahnazari Ethan Chua
Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U10 Girls RR Lily Zhang Natalie Sun
Feingold Memorial Over 40 RR

Yong Ren

Tuan Le

Feingold Memorial Over 50 RR

Peter Chen

Kock Loe

Feingold Memorial Over 60 RR

Michael Greene

Guang-Kui Dong

Under 2500 SE

Misha Kazantsev

Yosmely Vadillo

Under 2375 RR

Yosmely Vadillo

Samson Dubina

Under 2250 RR

Sean C. Lee

Atha Fong

Under 2125 RR

W Hao Chen

Paul Sydell

Under 2000 RR

Adam Bobrow

Thomas Tang

Under 1850 RR

David S. Chu

Barry Or

Under 1700 RR

Tomas Fuentes-Afflick

David Chow

Under 1550 RR

Kenneth Zhao

Do Tran

Under 1400 RR

John James Alto

Jagannath Bodapatla

Under 1250 RR

David Hanson

Jordan Fisher

Under 1100 RR

Brian Chen

Victor Kretov

Under 950 RR

Steven Li

Gabriel Reder

Under 800/Unrated RR

George Zhao

Rohit Kapur

Under 4200 Doubles SE

Bruce Liu & Ming Zhang Joey Juin-Yuan Hu & Nelson Yu
Under 3200 Doubles SE

Atha Fong & David Hanson Chew Wong & Homa Wong