2006 New Jersey Open

Newcomer Wang Bo defeats Thomas Keinath at the 2006 New Jersey Open on the 2006 Stiga North American Tour!

2006 New Jersey Open on the 2006 STIGA NA Tour
June 17th and 18th, 2006
Werblin Center of Rutgers University
Piscataway, NJ

One of the most satisfying feelings following a STIGA Tour event is to realize how many questions have been answered.  The New Jersey Open provided us with definitive responses and a great competition!  Coming into the tournament, NATT was concerned about the slowness of the entries arriving and we worried that so close to the US Open, attendance might be sparse.  A field of 200 eventually appeared.  The Open Singles draw included a sizable contingent of players new to us, many with estimated ratings, and we wondered about their accuracy.  We needn’t have, as the results below clearly show.  The Open Singles field was remarkably strong, so strong, in fact, that Adam Hugh, the 9th rated player in the United States was only seeded 7th!  Wang Chen, a 2650 player and US Top 5 was not even the ‘A’ player in her Round Robin group.  

This strength was due to the presence of our friends from Canada, the return of the German star Thomas Keinath and three newcomers from China, guests of Lily Yip and Barry Dattel.  These three players, Song Fan Wei, Wang Bo and Li Zi proved to be richly deserving of the high estimates Lily furnished us for our draw.  These youngsters were spearheaded by the 19 year old Wang Bo, the top player in Zhengding province.  

Referee Pat Collins was assisted by Chris Lehman, Ross Brown, Jinhai Wang and Larry Bavly, stalwarts all, in officiating the matches.  Play was clean and timely, the Werblin Center was, as always, accommodating to our demands as a sport, and the weather in New Jersey was impeccable.  Tom Nguyen, Chris Troy, Matt Bailey (Rock on!) and I handled the control desk and logistics.  Lily Yip operated the vendor booth and provided hot lunch service.  STIGA, Table Tennis Pioneers, Senoda and Gerflor continued their season-long sponsorship, while junior events were held as part of the Ying-Lo competitions and senior events memorialized Saul Feingold.  

But as always, it’s the players and participants who are the stars, from the smallest junior to the most determined senior!  Four star tournaments like this put all the varied aspects of our sport on display.  Martin Theil and his hardbat play, Gary Gudzenko and his defensive tactics, International players searching for competitive matches and big purses, the Friend family from New Hampshire, celebrating their individual progress and forging a tighter bond, the sarcastic Andre Scott and the affable Lim Ming Chui, in short, us, ourselves, in all our glorious diversity!  

But competition is still what it’s all about, family reunion atmosphere notwithstanding.  So here are some noteworthy performances to mention before we get down to the professional results.  Martin Ackermann’s deliberate pace and risk-avoidant style delivered him two titles, the Under 1700, in a seven game win over Mark Croitoroo, and the U-1850 over Martin Theil, again, a seven game decision.  Ramon Barrera, the man with the radiant smile, came second in the U-1400 to Amol Naiksatam who solved Barrera’s long pips, -8,8,-9,9,9,8.  Eugene Golant had more difficulty with Barrera, and lost the U1550 final to him in straight games.  Samuel Godoy Jr was, seemingly, everywhere, advancing deep into several events and trophied as the runner-up in both the U-800 and the U-950 to Kevin Cheung and Fritz Guenther, respectively.  Kevin added a second place finish to Vikash Sahu in the Boys Under 13 to go with his U-800 win.

Raghu Nadmichettu had a pair of category bests, taking U-4200 doubles with his partner Rohan Gilkes over Marius Wechsler and Sam Mookerjee and then defeating John Wetzler in the U-2375 in a great match, -7,6,-8,7,8,-11,8.  “John’s a great guy”, Raghu enthused.  “After the last time we played, he told me how I should have played against him, he’s always eager to help junior players….not that he rolled over or anything, he still played really hard you understand?”  Yes, Raghu, we understand.  John’s a ‘great guy’ one of the many people whose sportsmanship makes running these events a pleasure.  

Larry Bavly nearly double-dipped, passing Vladimir Poradich in seven hard-fought games for the U-2250 honors, and came second to Barry Dattel in the Over 40.  Larry’s enthused about his continued weight loss and improved performances.  Looks to me like a 2450 player in the making.  

Joseph Wang did double-dip, claiming first place in the Boys U-18 by beating his club mate Amaresh Sahu, and the U-2125 rating event, in a thrilling seven game match with Da Tang, -10,9,-2,9,-10,9,10!  Tang, visibly disappointed with his loss, after leading 3-2 had nothing to hang his head about, really.  He simply didn’t have the gas left in the tank to close out the match against his older, bigger opponent.  We suspect this pair has a rich future, and more chapters to write.  

Dave Sakai and Lim Ming Chui wrote another chapter in their decades long rivalry, this time Chui captured the Over 50 crown against Dave; -5, 6, 10, 6,-10, 9.  Donna Sakai was here too, but due to a bad case of tennis elbow, unable to compete.  Her event, Women’s Singles came down to a wonderful Table One match between Lily Yip and Wang Chen, which Wang Chen won.  Smiles and handshakes all around on that one.  

A pleasure as well to see ‘Didi’ De Souza, easily the most overlooked and least frequently mentioned of the US ‘bubbling under’ contenders.  I have in mind those players, over 2300 and easily deserving of respect, who are just out of sight of the National roster but still easily outrank the standard tournament player.  ‘Didi’ has a powerful and aggressive game and we were happy to see him at an NATT event again.  De Souza rose to the final of the U-2500 where he met Canadian newcomer Joji (say ‘Josie’) Yamazaki.  Joji is new not only to NATT and the US, but Canada as well, being only there for the past two months.  A quick aside here.  The Canadians are doing something very right with their player training.  Canadians often show at our events as a contingent, here including Kamkar-Parsi, Yamazaki and fellow traveler Samson Dubina.  These guys are always courteous and well-mannered, happy and cheerful.  They are building an esprit de corps with these group field trips, and their support of each other in training and in competition is lifting everyone’s level.  It’s something everyone, from club players straight up the US National Team should do.  If you think that’s a shameless plug to register for the new USATT Teams League, you’d be right.  

In any case, De Souza won the U-2500 final, 4 games to 1 against Yamazaki, who added a qualifying position in Open Singles and the U-22 Men’s title to his carry-on luggage.  

Open Singles RR Groups
Group One: Keinath;Kamkar-Parsi, De Tran, De Souza
Thomas Keinath is a world traveler and a frequent, welcome addition at any NATT event.  World #72 coming into the tournament, his plan was to play here, go on to Chile for an ITTF Pro Tour event, and then compete at the US Open.  Right off the bat De Tran attempted to throw a monkey wrench into this well-laid plan, stretching Thomas to a sixth game.  De played brilliantly throughout the group.  Canada’s Homayoun Kamkar-Parsi then had his hands full with Didi De Souza, only narrowly gaining the victory 13,-8,9,7,-7,6, staving off a 200 point upset.  Keinath posted a 4-1 victory over Didi and De Tran did the same, relegating the Georgian to fourth in the group.  Thomas assured himself of the #1 position, four games to one over Homayoun, so De held his fate in his own hands when he faced Kamkar-Parsi.  He was unable to surmount the Canadian, and 4-1, Kamkar-Parsi joined Keinath in the Quarters.  

Group Two: Wang; Hugh; Mueller; Yamazaki
Wang Bo was the highest rated of the Chinese guests, and with Lily Yip’s input, was given an estimated 2750 for seeding.  He certainly proved deserving of it!  Here he defeated each of his Round Robin opponents 4-1 and emerged as the #1.  The three remaining players staged a real back-alley brawl for the remaining QF slot.  Yamazaki has a classic stylish game, but lost to Adam, 4-1.  Florian Mueller, the German entrant, lost to Joji Yamazaki 4-2 after opening a 2-0 lead, but then defeated Adam on his home turf, 4-3!  That left everyone with a record of 1 win and 2 losses, so off to the tiebreaker went the match slip.  Hugh’s game record within the three tied players was 7-5, besting Mueller’s 6-7 and Yamazaki’s 5-7 and Adam had earned the second advancing position.  As he exited the tournament, Mueller commented thusly; “I have been a little rusty and didn’t play perhaps as well as I hoped to.  But I do love coming to NATT tournaments!  I can always count on good competition, strong players, and a well-run tournament, too!”  You’re welcome, Florian, come back anytime.  

Group Three: Zhuang; Song; Dubina; Nadmichettu
David Zhuang is never boring!  Always animated and fiercely competitive, yet possessed of a great sense of humor, it’s always a pleasure to see him play.  At this point in his career, with his Pan-Am Gold Medal, Olympic Team experience and multiple US Men’s Singles titles, he really has nothing left to prove, yet he continues to come out and ‘lay it on the line’ and for that, we salute him!  David was playing crisply here at Rutgers, so that increases the value of Samson’s Dubina 4-1 result, as he hung with the champ for the first three games before bowing out, 8,10-6,5,5 for DZ.  Right-handed shakehander Song Fan Wei survived opening jitters to top Raghu 4-0, 11, 6, 8, and 6.  David then showed just how fearsome his skills still are by decimating Song, 8,8,4,4.  Nadmichettu then dropped his next two matches 4-0 to David and to Samson, so the ‘B/C’ match of Samson and Song was determinative.  While he was determined, Dubina ultimately was overmatched against the Chinese guest, and -8, 9, 8,-10, 8, 8, Song Fan Wei becomes the #2 of Group 3.  

Group Four: Li; Chen; Johnson; Poradich
Li Zi is a lefty, yet another wrinkle to deal with for his opponents.  Somewhat slight and extremely quick, Li has fearsome spin and is well-drilled with sound basics.  He really showed his stuff in this group and didn’t drop a single game!  In fact, all the results of Group 4 used the minimum number of games.  Wang Chen defeated Poradich 9,9,6,4 which is a pretty good result for Vladimir, who has been playing, we’re told, only 3 years or so!  The answer to question, ‘How good is Li Zi?’ was a resounding ‘very good’ when he defeated the talented Wang Chen 8,6,7,8.  Johnson over Poradich, Li Zi over Poradich and the winner of the B/C match would be advanced.  Wang Chen got the best of Ben in game one, a resounding 11-1 win the first meeting ever between these two.  Ben was playing both for a place in the Quarters and for pride, but Wang Chen had the toughness when it counted and 8, 11, 11, put herself into the Single Elimination.  Although clearly disappointed, Ben always handles himself with class and thanked us for the opportunity and vowed to play better at the Florida warm-up tournament the following week.  

Quarterfinals: Thomas Keinath vs. Song Fan Wei
Doing the draw for the Open Singles was no walk in the park, as there was a clear desire to not place all three Chinese players in one half of the draw.  But with three, there was no doubt that one half of the bracket had to contain at least two of them!  As it turned out, both Li Zi and Song Fan Wei landed in the top half, and Song, by virtue of his second place finish in the RR was paired with the tournament’s top seed, Thomas Keinath.  Well, this was what they had come for, wasn’t it?  Keinath is richly deserving of his World Ranking, and showed it with a fine 7, 2,-5, 9, 5 outcome, turning back a strong effort from the youngster.  

Adam Hugh vs. Li Zi
Adam is US ranked #9, so what does it say for the lefty, Li Zi that he advanced in straight games?  By scores of 4, 6, 3, and 9, he never really let Adam get close.  Adam was not despondent about the result.  “Hey!  These guys are good!  I’m not surprised.”  

David Zhuang vs. Homayoun Kamkar-Parsi
Over the months I’ve come to have a real appreciation of Kamkar-Parsi’s effective playing style, his close to the table, angle-exploiting explosiveness.  Here he opens quickly and is (9, 9) up two games to zero on the American.  But with Joanie yelling encouragement from the sidelines, David finds himself and controls play from that point forward.  He advances to the Semi-Finals, 6,4,5,8.  

Wang Chen vs. Wang Bo
The draw may have solved the geographical problems, but it can’t be one that Wang Chen loves!  Wang Bo is willing to go toe-to-toe with the lanky lady and he is too quick for her.  He’s constantly able to misdirect Wang Chen and then explode through the opening, 7,6,7,5.  

Semi-Finals
David Zhuang vs. Wang Bo
Better than the spectators could know, David knew what he was facing here.  Wang Bo has thick, muscular legs and a stocky torso, an implacable attitude and tons of modern, recent training in China.  For all his subsequent International success, David was once in this same situation, a Chinese provincial champion able to venture away from home and dominate in America.  David plays his best match to this point in the tournament, but he’s always fighting, fighting from behind.  He loses the first game at 10, and the second game at 3.  Soon he’s trailing 10-6 in the third game, but wins five in a row to lead 11-10, only to lose 14-12.  David’s got great pride and comes out in game 4 like a man on fire, 11-5 he takes the game, and while he manages deuce in game 5 also, its 14-12 again for Wang Bo.   Nothing in David’s experienced arsenal, not the flat hit, the high toss or the drop shot was enough to derail Wang Bo, who is, it’s now very evident, a complete player.  

Thomas Keinath vs. Li Zi
Thomas is in fine form, and to be honest, the lefty from Zhengding looks a little scared.  He’s a long way from home and playing World #72.  Thomas is familiar with the hall from previous tournaments, and he’s never been a slow starter.  It’s a learning experience for Li.  Before he realizes that Thomas has a great flip return of serve, that he’s as deadly on the backhand side as the forehand, and that he never, never, never quits on a game, a point or a single ball, he’s trailing 3-0, 6, 9 and 4.  Li does realize where the traps are and determined to make a better showing, wins the fourth and fifth games rather handily, 11-6 and 11-7.  But Keinath nips this comeback in the bud and ends the match 11-9 in the sixth.  

Final
Thomas Keinath vs. Wang Bo
The tournaments top 2 seeds meet in the Final, so we feel that answers the questions about the legitimacy of the draw!  Everyone is anticipating a great match, and these are two great players, but you can’t really call it a dramatic success.  Wang’s strategy here is to keep his serve short and heavily spun, and he is very successful.  Thomas has real trouble flipping this rock, short and on the center line, but the push return is exactly what Wang wants to open with.  On service return, Wang is amazing, disarming one of Thomas biggest weapons.  While both men could put on a looping exhibition, should they choose to, it’s obvious early that the ‘interior game’ and the first successful attack are going to decide this one.  Thomas loses the initial game 11-6, and despite his best efforts, and growing success, he trails 3-0 (8, 11) before people have really settled into their role as spectators.  “Come on, Thomas, Fight!” exhorts Herb Hodges from the sidelines.  But he is fighting!  11-6, the fourth game does go to Thomas who is landing more backhand loops now than he did at the match start.  But Wang Bo, slams the door, claims the title and takes the $1500 first place check with an 11-4 drubbing in the fifth.  Thomas isn’t making excuses, just stating facts when he says he’s tired, jet-lagged, and headed on to Chile.  I have great respect for his accomplishment of playing all three of the Zhengding players as he moved through Single Elimination.  But the real admiration must go to Wang Bo, who was absolutely unstoppable in his march to the title, beating Wang Chen, David Zhuang and Thomas Keinath.

Wow!  The New Jersey Open certainly answered our questions, and ended with a stunning defeat of World #72 by a player without an ITTF ranking.  But it opened up the obvious follow-up questions, ‘Are there any more like you at home?’ and ‘When are you coming back?’  It’s back in the truck with the tournament gear and on to prepare for the next tournament for your NATT staff, the US Open and the Junior Olympics upcoming in July and the Eastern Open at this very same site in August.  But it’s doubtful that we are going to forget the New Jersey Open and the impressive game of Wang Bo!

 

2006 New Jersey Open on the 2006 Stiga North American Tour

Event Name

Champion

Finalist

Open Singles

Wang Bo

Thomas Keinath

Women’s RR Wang Chen Lily Yip

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 22 Men’s RR

Joji Yamazaki

Amaresh Sahu

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 22 Women’s RR Alison Wu Shuwei Wang

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 18 Boys RR

Joseph Wang

Amaresh Sahu

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 18 Girls RR Tammy Gu Christina Divita

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 16 Boys RR

Tanyo Sakuraba

Kevin Lee

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 16 Girls RR

Isabella Chen

Annie Guo

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U13 Boys RR

Vikash Sahu

Kevin Cheung

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U13 Girls RR

Emily Yang

Olivia Cheng

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U10 Boys RR

Andrew Chen

Brian Qiu

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U10 Girls RR Tina Lin Mackenzie Friend

Feingold Memorial Over 40 RR

Barry Dattel

Larry Bavly

Feingold Memorial Over 50 RR Lim Ming Chui David Sakai
Feingold Memorial Over 60 RR Daniel Green Gary Gudzenko

Under 2500 SE

Didi De Souza

Joji Yamazaki

Under 2375 RR

Raghu Nadmichettu

John Mark Wetzler

Under 2250 RR

Larry Bavly

Vladimir Poradich

Under 2125 RR

Joseph Wang

Da Tang

Under 2000 RR

Alan Lin

Marco Monzon

Under 1850 RR

Martin Ackerman

Marty Theil

Under 1700 RR

Martin Ackerman

Mark Croitoroo

Under 1550 RR

Ramon Barrera

Eugene Golant

Under 1400 RR

Amol Naiksatam

Ramon Barrera

Under 1250 RR

Asif Hussain

Amar Desai

Under 1100 RR

Angel Alicea

Ramita Dewan

Under 950 RR

Fritz Gunther

Samuel Godoy Jr.

Under 800/Unrated RR

Kevin Cheung

Samuel Godoy Jr.

Under 4200 Doubles SE

Raghu Nadmichettu & Rohan Gilkes

Marius Wechsler & Sam Mookherjee

Under 3200 Doubles SE

Emile Goldstein & Mark Croitoroo

Daniel Stadden & Mark Fryberger