2006 SoCal Open

Stefan Feth is on a roll continuing his winning ways at NATT events held in California.  Stefan defeated Canadian, Xavier Therien, 4-2 in the Open Finals.  Will anyone be able to topple this giant at the Tour Finals in Stanford?  Will there be Feth dynasty in California? Stay tuned to find out! Find out how the Open SE Bracket played out.

 Read more to read the Tournament article and see results! And login to view the tournament photos in the gallery!

 

2006 SoCal Open
Balboa Park Activity Center, San Diego, CA
October 7th and 8th, 2006

The cliché says that the only constant is change.  At the 2006 SoCal Open there was change, as shown in the increasing skill displayed by Canadian elite player, Xavier Therien, and constants, like the welcome aid of the San Diego Table Tennis Association.   NATT, which organized and ran the competition, was grateful for their assistance, which has been constantly outstanding.  The Balboa Park Activity Center is one the premier table tennis venues in America and our 200 participants were able to take good conditions for granted.  Likewise, Linda Hsing and her umpiring and score-keeping crew, Saul Weinstein, Ruben Kairy, William Chan and Chloe Nguyen were stable, constant, and more than capable of handling any situation, although, glad to say, very few arose. 

Former World Champion Stellan Bengtsson has made a change of address, and he and his wife, the former Angie Rosal, are now living in the San Diego area.  It was a pleasure to see both these famous players in attendance at Sunday’s final!  There were plenty of great performances and indicators of changing ability, especially among the younger players.   

In San Diego we have the privilege of seeing the Alto family, and this group, Earl, John, and Don, are three of the more talented and better balanced young players in America.  It’s always a pleasure to have them, and their results show that they’ve been working on their games.  Don came second to Jeff Huang in the Ying-Lo Junior Competitions U-22 category, dropping a tough 7 gamer.  John took both the U-16 honors, besting Sang Lien and the U-13, over Anand Engineer. John also came second in both the U-2000 and U-1850 rating events, with only Marco Sanchez Jr. and Travis Greene, respectively, keeping him off the top rung. 

Arjun Desai came second in the U-10 competition to Ethan Chua, dropping a 7 game final, but had the big trophy in the U-950 category to keep him company.  Erica Wu was first in both the U-13 and U-16 girls, finishing ahead of Ellen Hwang and Ana Laura Ascension.   It was Ellen Hwang, however, who caused exasperated queries to the control desk, from her U-1850 RR Group.  “Are you positive that girl is 1200?” we were asked.  “She plays like 1900! Can you please check her rating?”  Her rating’s accurate, but based on her opponent’s reactions, will soon be changing.  Xiankun Yang mastered two events, the U-1550 and the U-1400, leaving Neal Bergman and Albert Huang in his wake.  Crystal Huang wrestled the Women’s title away from her practice partner, Tawny Banh, and then they both went on to have separate adventures in the Open Singles.   

In the Sol Feingold Memorial Senior categories, Takashi Miyamoto took the Over 60 singles from Ni Zhang Yuan in six close games. Takashi was also second place in the Over 50 play, where he couldn’t solve Dave Sakai.  The Over 40 singles had a great finish when Guillermo Munoz bested Dr. Tuan Le, four games to two.  It wasn’t to be Guillermo’s last good win of the weekend, either!

Open Singles Second Stage Round Robins
At NATT events, we’ve become fond of the process to find the Open Singles Champion.  We remove the Top 12 players by rating and ‘seed them out’ to four round robin groups that play on Saturday afternoon and evening.  There they are joined by four qualifiers from the Main Draw, one per group.  At this level, all matches are the best of seven games, and two players advance from each group to the Sunday Quarterfinals.  Because two players advance, the order of play is slightly different within the groups.  In accordance with ITTF procedures, the B vs. C match is played last, as it is most pivotal in selecting the advancers.

Group One
Feth, Therien, Gabriel, Chan

The strength of the Open Singles field was clearly evident as Freddie Gabriel, rated 2492, wound up as the ‘C’ player in the group.  Freddie thus met Stefan Feth in the first match, and despite playing beautifully, the U-2500 champ couldn’t grab a game, 9, and 6,9,10.  Steven Chan threw an early monkey wrench at the Canadian, Xavier Therien, taking the first two games 7 and 3!  But Xavier often weathers such early reversals and finished the match off, 6,6,4,9.  Feth and Therien had a real barnburner in their encounter, and Therien was sitting atop a 3-2 game lead, 8,-4, 8,-8, 8 before Feth took the last two frames at 6 and 6.  Freddie had no problems with Chan, 8,6,7,2 and Steven was 0-3 after meeting Stefan, 2,4,3,8.  So Freddie’s match with Xavier was pivotal, and he led two games to one before Xavier ended the affair, -8, 9,-9, 2,8,10.  Feth and Therien advanced to the Quarters.

 

Group Two
Peter-Paul, Johnson, Kazantsev, Alto

The players made the rating system look extremely accurate as there were no upsets in this talent-laden group. Praddy was 4-0 against Misha, 2,8,6,7. Ben Johnson turned back the determined and increasingly dangerous Don James Alto, 9, 9,9,12.  Pradeeban Peter-Paul beat Ben in his toughest match, 8, 11, 7, and 6.  Misha preserved the status quo against the qualifier, besting Don 6,-6, 8, 5, 3.  Peter-Paul finished 3-0 by dropping Alto to 0-3.  In the B-C match up, both players entered with records of 1 and 1, but Ben overcame an early deficit to earn his spot in the Quarters, by scores of -6,-9, and 5,1,8,6.

Group Three
Reed, Shao, Munoz, Huang

If Group 2 offered no surprises, Group 3 was nothing but surprises!  See, change is the only constant.  Right off the bat, in the first match, Barney Reed meets Guillermo Munoz and wins the first three games as though it was just another day at the office, 3, 1, and 1.  Barney had won their last meeting, in a much more competitive match, at the 2004 STIGA North American Teams, 12,8,-8,-7,8.  After the third game, in fact, Barney complains that he’s not getting much warm-up from this encounter.  If more heat is what he wanted, Guillermo obliged, taking first game four and then game five by identical 11-8 scores.  Barney has ‘gone soft’ playing a more conservative, less energetic backcourt game, fishing and lobbing.  As his corner man Ben Johnson later points out, “It’s dangerous to back off your ‘A’ game.  You may find it difficult to turn it back on, mid-match.”  Ben’s looking like Nostradamus as Munoz wins game six, also 11-8. Now Barney’s back’s to the wall, and after limiting Munoz to 5 points in three games is tied at 3 all.  Guillermo is not about to give back the advantage he’s seized, and upsets Barney with a 15-13 win in the seventh.  That seemed to be a signal to everyone else in the RR that Upset Day has arrived.  D beats B, as Qualifier Crystal Huang puts it to Shao Yu 10, 4, 9,-7,-7, 9.  Barney plays Shao, A vs. B, determined not to repeat his Munoz situation.  Of course he immediately does.  Dropping the first game at 9, Barney wins three in a row from the New Yorker, 8, 2, 7 to go up three games to one.  But 11-7, 11-6 to Shao and it’s all tied up.  Finally, 13-11 in the seventh, Reed turns Shao Yu away.  Now Crystal plays Munoz, D vs. C, and naturally, after building a 2-1 lead, Guillermo loses to Crystal in 7 games, 8,-5,-3,4,10,-5,9 for Huang. Barney takes Crystal on, and notches a 4-2 win that is going to be huge in the outcome, -6,6,5,9,-6,6. Lastly, Guillermo uses six games to defeat Shao Yu, 9, 9,-9, 6,-9, 9.  Wow! When the smoke clears, Shao Yu, the B seed is 0-3, and Reed, Munoz and Huang are tied with 2-1 match records.  Game record between the tied players breaks the tie, and it’s Reed, 7-6; Munoz, 7-7; Huang, 6-7.  Barney and Guillermo are advanced, Crystal is disappointed and Shao asks “What the heck was THAT?”

Group Four
Nguyen, Li, Banh, Huang

Tawny Banh does her best to catch upset fever from Group Three, and she and Khoa go all the way to deuce in the 7th game.  Spectators jaws are dropping as the match progresses and Tawny hangs with the redoubtable Khoa, but in the end, status quo survives and Khoa is 1-0 by scores of -8, 7, 1,-8, 8-8, 11.  Yuanyuan Li, now residing in California, puts a 4-1 loss on the Qualifier, Jeff Huang.  She’s determined against Khoa, perhaps inspired by Tawny’s effort, but 8, 7,-9, 8,-8, 9, Khoa overcomes Li’s chop.  It may not be an upset win, but it’s still a huge CHO! from Tawny Bahn as she conquers Jeff Huang in seven games, -9,-9, 8, 9, 7,-5, 9.  Khoa is 3-0 when he beats Jeff, and Li’s default due to injury to Tawny in their match gives her the second advancer’s position. 

Quarterfinals
Ben Johnson vs. Stefan Feth

Ben’s got an admirable game, not just to due to his skill, but also his indomitable fighting spirit.  He lets it all hang out against the top seed, but 14, 10, 7, 8; it’s just not to be today.  Ben is always quick to recover his good humor post-match and reflects on a game point hanger that he missed.  “I need to believe that I can win before I will win” he observes.  Stefan has such a skill set that it’s difficult to imagine going in to face him believing that you’re the favorite, though.  $125 for Mr. Johnson and Stefan advances to the Semis.

Guillermo Munoz vs. Khoa Nguyen
Munoz, the Over 40 Champion here, has brought a group of his students to the tournament.  Support group or not, he’s not able to overcome the graceful Nguyen, and is denied a comeback victory, 9, 5,-10,-10, 5, 6 for Khoa.  The gathering crowd applauds the fine effort and Khoa advances.

Barney Reed vs. Xavier Therien
I’ve seen in the past that Xavier is willing to let whole games pass as he finds his rhythm and explores his opponent’s game.  A fast starter, he’s usually not.  That’s my explanation for the game scores here as Xavier vanquishes Barney, -7,-8, 8,7,9,8.  Surprisingly, for these two very active players, it’s their first meeting since August of 2004, when Xavier also racked a 4-1 victory.

Tawny Banh vs. Pradeeban Peter-Paul
Tawny ‘Mama Tiger’ Banh is looking sharp in her new Yasaka colors, which do bear an uncanny resemblance to tiger stripes.  Pradeeban, the great Canadian Champion, is, as always, looking ready for business.  Highly energized and equipped with what Marco Borillo describes as “one funky service game”, Pradeeban is able to deal with Tawny’s quick off-the-bounce block and hit approach.  The final scores are 6,9,8,7 as Peter-Paul advances to the Semifinals.

 

Semifinals
Stefan Feth vs. Khoa Nguyen

There’s a certain dash and élan in a player’s body language when they are feeling ready to conquer the world, but you don’t see it here on Khoa.  This pair last met in the Final of the Berkeley Open, where Stefan handed Khoa a 4-0 loss.  It’s not a different result here in San Diego, either.  When I ask Stefan to explain his dominance against this skilled opponent he responded this way; “Khoa plays a modern game, a topspin game. I feel like the ball is very comfortable and the pattern familiar.  I very much like to play with him and I feel if I focus and do not let down I can be the winner.”  By scores of 5,6,3,8 Feth is the winner.  Khoa’s going to have to find either more fire or less predictable patterns before he can have his first victory over Feth.  Here he gets a $300 check and a fine, warm appreciation from the fans.

Pradeeban Peter-Paul vs. Xavier Therien
Canadian teammates, practice partners, traveling companions, Praddy and Xavier meet in the Semis.  Pradeeban is a fast worker, using his superior conditioning to pressure opponents into mistakes and keeping the pace hot.  He has a wickedly powerful forehand and the ability to go backcourt and lob his opponents into exhaustion.  Many the player who has ‘whacked themselves silly’ in trying to find an unreturnable kill shot against him!  But, in the words of Freddie Gabriel, “Xavier is playing out of his mind”.  In an upset that has the hundreds of spectators buzzing in awe of the tense points and spectacular play; Xavier defeats Praddy in straight games, 7,6,9,6.  There is no hint of any dump here, as Praddy manages a quick handshake and makes a quick exit to cool down, visibly disappointed.  This is, to date, the finest match I have ever seen Xavier play.

Open Singles Final
Stefan Feth vs. Xavier Therien

The bleachers and chairs are filled to overflowing and it’s Standing Room Only on our feature court.  One player gets $700, one player gets $1500 and the title and they have seven games to decide the issue.  Stefan takes nothing for granted and begins to bang home winner after winner from the outset.  Xavier is a smart player, and never gives up, either.  He’s not afraid to dive for a ball!  But Stefan builds a 3-0 lead, 7, 7, 5 and it seems clear that Therien is not ready yet for this.  Or is he?  Stefan seems to flag a little in game four, begins to mishit his loop, sending shots climbing into the rafters, and drops game four, 11-7.  This revives the crowd’s interest, and despite their admiration for Stefan, they begin to cheer every point for the underdog.  In my experience, this is nothing personal.  Fans would love to see every match go deuce in the seventh game!  Xavier moves a step closer when he notches game five also, 11-9 in dramatic fashion.  But Feth’s bag of tricks is deep and well-thought out.  I see him moving Xavier in and out, back and forth, and he’s able to generate some weak returns from Xavier by placing the ball unexpectedly short to Xavier’s wide FH and then jumping all over the reply to an open table.   The crowd gives a huge Huzzah as the last point is played and 300 onlookers cheer the new SoCal Open Champion, Stefan Feth, a 4-2 winner against the vastly improved Therien. 

 

 

Post match, Stefan wonders aloud whether people give him enough credit, his wins come so often and his losses so infrequently.  Xavier gives credit for the improvement to his new coach, saying that Canada has placed, since September, elite player development in the hands of a Brazilian who has more emphasis on physical training, and his tutelage has been good for Xavier, personally. 

San Diego has always been good to us, personally, and as Tom, Chris, Mary, Richard and myself pack up the control desk we are grateful that that has never changed.  Now, for us, it’s on to the STIGA Tour Finals in Palo Alto, CA and the last NATT four star of the 2006 season!   Because at NATT, we are always in the center of exciting events, change is constant.  But the pleasure we get from our sport, that is constant, too!

 RESULTS!!! Updated 10/12/06 

 

 

2006 SoCal Open, San Diego CA

Event Name

Champion

Finalist

Open Singles

Feth, Stefan

Therien, Xavier

Women’s RR Huang, Yao Xi Banh, Tawny Ai

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 22 Men’s RR

Huang, Lin Jeff

Alto, Don James

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 18 Boys RR Poon, Derrick Sanchez Jr., Marco
Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 18 Girls RR Divita, Christiana Gu, Willa Tammy
Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 16 Boys RR Alto, John James Lien, Sang  

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 16 Girls RR

Wu, Erica S.

Ascencio, Ana Laura

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U13 Boys RR

Alto, John James

Engineer, Anand        

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U13 Girls RR Wu, Erica S. Hwang, Ellen C.
Ying/Lo Junior Competitions U10 Boys RR Chua, Ethan Desai, Arjun

Feingold Memorial Over 40 RR

Munoz, Guillermo

Le MD, Tuan Dai

Feingold Memorial Over 50 RR Sakai, David Miyamoto, Takashi
Feingold Memorial Over 60 RR Miyamoto, Takashi Ni, Zhang Yuan

Under 2500 SE

Gabriel, Freddie

Kazantsev, Mikhail Misha

Under 2375 RR

Leach, John

Nguyen, Nghia

Under 2250 RR

Sun, Wade

Kido, Koji

Under 2125 RR

Yang, Chip

Nguyen, Ky

Under 2000 RR

Sanchez Jr., Marco

Alto, John James

Under 1850 RR

Greene, Travis

Alto, John James

Under 1700 RR

Fisher, Jordan Joelson

Pham, Khang

Under 1550 RR

Xiankun, Yang

Bergman, Neal

Under 1400 RR

Xiankun, Yang

Huang, Albert

Under 1250 RR

Bialik, Burton

Huang, Albert

Under 1100 RR

Ascencio, Ana Laura

Alt, Cody

Under 950 RR

Desai, Arjun

Khatounabadi, Kambiz

Under 800/Unrated RR

Tan, Scott

Wang, Chia-Kai

Under 4200 Doubles SE

Chen, Diane Dongye & Liang,
Samuel S.

Nguyen, Ky & Pham, Khang

Under 3200 Doubles SE

Sanchez, Alicia & Sanchez Baldazo, Marco

Lien, Sang & Wu, Erica S.

 

 

Thanks to all who came to play and watch!  See you next year, SoCal!