Eric Owens wins the first Open event in the 2007 JOOLA North American Tour. He defeated Guo Xi at the 2007 Western Open 4-1 to become Champion. Pictures Coming Soon
2007 Western Open
Recreational Sports Facility
University of Berkeley, Berkeley, California
February 17th and 18th
New Year celebrations are tied to expectations, to new beginnings and new commitments. Fireworks, parades and special traditions abound! So it seems very appropriate that the first NATT tournament of 2007 fell on the same dates as the Chinese New Year. The tournament had spectacular results, a parade of great matches and honored the best of NATT traditions. It was the inaugural tournament of the brand new JOOLA North American Tour, celebrating our new sponsorship with that brand. Life University, a Chiropractic School, has signed on as a new season-long sponsor. These two commitments are vital to the continued growth of the Tour.
Continued growth was exactly what we saw in attendance, as 274 players came to the event. Our host, UC Berkeley’s Table Tennis club, once again gave an astounding effort in providing volunteers for setup and teardown, and Yau-Man Chan, the club advisor, now appearing weekly on CBS-TV’s ‘Survivor’ series, was a human dynamo of problem-solving good cheer. Dr. Azmy Ibrahim presided over a conflict-free event. Azmy’s Army of qualified umpires, Saul Weinstein, Tom Miller, Michael Green and Yelena Karshtedt worked the feature matches and adjudicated any disputes that did arise. Nan Li, manning the JOOLA equipment booth, saw reason for celebration. “California has given us a very warm reception and players seem pleased with our new products” the JOOLA North America VP said.
It may have been a new year, but time showed no meaning for Dave Sakai! In the Sol Feingold Memorial Senior events, Dave came second in the Over 40 to Dr. Tuan Le, second in the Over 50 to Kock Loe and first in the Over 60, placing ahead of Mao Toon Siong. New Year, but same old Sakai!
On the other end of the time scale there was Erica Wu. Erica had an outstanding tournament at the Western Open, winning three events in the Ying-Lo Junior Competitions. She had first place in the Girls Under 13, Girls U-16 and Girls U-18, including a nearly 400 rating point upset of Su Quanying in that last event. To go with these three, young Ms. Wu added first place honors in the U-1700 rating event, by virtue of a hard fought seven game win against Kenny Mock. Four Championship Trophies is certainly a good way to start the year!
Other notable successes belonged to Tomas Fuentes-Affleck, Champion of both the Boys U-16 and U-18, and the hardworking Trevor Runyan who defeated Tuan Le in six games for the U-2375 title, lost to Freddie Gabriel in seven games for the U-2500, and made the Quarterfinals of the Open Singles. Misha Kazantsev, likewise made the Open Singles Quarterfinal, by virtue of a nifty win over Eric Owens in his RR group, and also nailed down the U-22 Men’s win in six games with Sean C. Lee.
The new year brought a new turn too for Zheng Jiaqi, the Western Open Women’s Champion. Disappointed by her previous match with Sara Fu at October’s Tour Final, a 4 games to 1 loss, Zheng reversed that outcome here, by scores of 3,-8,11,-3,6,9. Both Jiaqi and Sara had had disappointing outcomes in their Open Singles Round Robin groups, so this match helped alleviate Zheng’s disappointment, but compounded Sara’s.
Open Singles Second Stage Round Robins
Group 1: Feth; Fu; Runyan; Ping
The tournament’s top seed, Stefan Feth, figured to have little difficulty in this group and he didn’t. Other than dropping one game 13-11 to Sara Fu, Stefan was a perfect 3-0 and advanced to the Quarterfinals as a #1 seed. Whitney Ping, who came into the group as a qualifier, lost to Sara four games to one, and lost a titanic struggle with Trevor Runyan, 7,-6,8,-8,7,-10,9 to finish fourth in the RR. That left Trevor and Sara to go head to head to find the second advancing player. Runyan overcome a 100 rating point disadvantage and a 3-1 game count against Sara to take his Quarterfinal slot, -9,8,-9,-5, 5 6 9 in a great display of determination and stamina.
Group 2: Owens; Kazantsev; Zheng; Au
It took a three way tie-break to find the winner in this group! Eric Owens first played Zheng Jiaqi and won, by scores of 5,5,-9,10 and 7. Misha Kazantsev had no serious trouble with the Qualifier, Kevin Au, 4,6,-7,10,8. But things got very interesting when Eric played Misha, and not only lost, but lost in five games, -3,-8,-11,9,-6. Not just an upset, but a serious smokin’ of the former US Men’s Singles Champ. Zheng has no trouble against Au, 4 games to 1, but Eric has his hands full against the same player, and barely survives the encounter, 13, 13, 8, -3,-8,-9, 5. Misha then thoroughly confuses the situation by losing to Jiaqi in 7 games, 6,-10,8,-7,-3,6,-8. So Eric, Misha and Jiaqi are all 2-1, and 1 and 1 against each other. Going to a count of games won and lost within the tie, Misha is first, Eric is second and Zheng Jiaqi is third. Only Misha and Eric advance. The second highest rated player in the draw escapes by the skin of his teeth.
Group 3: Nguyen; Gabriel; Guo, Le
Guo Xi to the USATT database, James Guo to his friends, comes right out of the box with guns blazing, and downs Khoa Nguyen in 6 games, despite trailing after three games, 7,9,9. Notice had been served. Freddie defeats Dr. Le, the qualifier, but loses the closest four game match you can imagine to Khoa, -10,-13,-10,-10! Tuan troubles James, but 4-2, Guo over Le. It’s Tuan’s last, best effort of the tournament and he defaults to Khoa Nguyen. Thus Guo and Gabriel have their fates in their hands as the meet in the groups last match. James has what it takes when it counts, and after being tied at two games apiece, dispatches Freddie, 7 and 7. At 3-0,Guo is first, Khoa is second at 2-1 and both move forward to the Quarters.
Group 4: Reed; Tran; Lee; Shim
Barney takes four good games from Jackie Lee to start the action. Qualifier Jason Shim gives a good account of himself against De Tran, but a couple deuce games aren’t enough to upset the former US Men’s Team member. De Tran is playing very well, a good sign for his chances at the upcoming US Teams Trials, and he hangs a shiner on Barney, 9,8,8,6. Jason may be giving up 100 rating points to Jackie Lee, but at the table he’s giving up nothing! A very tough 7 game win for the architect from Berkeley, 8,-8,7,-7,-7,10,9! Jason’s making the most of his Round Robin opportunity and stretches Barney Reed. But that’s not a mountain he’s going to climb today, 12,12,7,-9,7 the match goes to Reed who finishes 2-1. Jackie needs a win against De Tran to be considered, and she goes after it hard, capturing each of the first two games 11-9. De gets the third game 11-8, but Jackie is full of fire and goes ahead three games to one with an 11-8 win of her own. His back to the wall, De Tran manages a remarkable pressure-filled comeback 8,6,8 to come through the group undefeated. He is first, Barney is second. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” Jackie says the next day, but that’s a foolish question. Everyone knows the answer is ‘Nothing at all’.
Stephen Feth vs. Khoa Nguyen
This is the penalty Khoa pays for losing to James Guo and finishing second in his group, he has to start the bracket against the defending champ. No strangers to each other, good friends in fact, and of two different generations of great players. But Stefan is younger, has risen higher in the world rankings, and Khoa is unable to escape Stefan’s knowledge of how to find fault with Khoa’s play. Great effort from the US Olympian, but all patterns lead to the same end, here. Feth wins in straight games, 4,6,10,6.
Eric Owens vs. De Tran
Surprisingly, the New Year celebration returns as a factor here, and De Tran decides to forego his prize money and his match with Eric and takes his family sightseeing instead. Eric Owens advances by default.
Guo Xi vs. Trevor Runyan
No one works harder at his game than Trevor Runyan. He never gets beaten by being outworked! Against James Guo Trevor’s willingness to cover large areas and go for every ball serve him well, but James ‘close to the table’ penhold still give him all the angles and ultimate victory. Guo Xi advances to the Semi-finals -10,8,9,3,-11,8.
Barney Reed vs. Misha Kazantsev
Bouyed by his upset of Eric the day before, Misha starts strongly against Barney, but Barney has no desire to lose at this level! Both players have seen the draw, and with Stefan, Eric and Khoa all in the top half, figure that their own chances of success have been improved. 15-13 and 14-12, Misha takes the first two games. From there on, though, it’s Barney’s match, 10,6,11,6. Strong points and a good competitive Quarterfinal.
Stefan Feth vs. Eric Owens
What a match! The crowd around Table One is deep and intensely focused as these two powerful players come to grips with each other. It becomes clear early on that Eric is going to play an extremely aggressive tactic against the defending champion, and he is attacking serve without fear. Eric is clearly ‘hot’. 14-12 he takes Game One, and the tone of the match is set. Stefan dislikes losing, and ‘retired’ or not, he has great pride. He evens the match 13-11. Now buoyed with confidence he notches an impressive game three win as well, 11-5. While this is a best of seven match, Eric clearly has to do something now, and he certainly finds it! His backhand is cleverly played, aggressively going for wide angle shots into Feth’s backhand corner. Stefan seems surprised as well by Owens power on the FH wing, and is often driven deep off the table to make his counter, allowing Eric the opportunity to cross up and go into the opposite corner with his return. 11-7 Owens and the match is tied. Stefan’s service game is a strength, but Eric continues to open hard against the German’s serve, often stepping around his backhand to loopkill it, or flipping it skillfully wide when Feth shortens it up. 11-9 and Eric leads 3 games to 2. Smelling victory, Eric is surging forward. He has a 7-4 lead when Feth calls timeout to gather himself. The timeout works, and Stefan works his way back into the game. He is holding serve and trailing 8-10. Feth gears up and serves a real beauty, soft and short which Eric flips, ..long! as he misreads the topspin serve. 9-10 and Stefan serves the exact same serve..with the exact same result, a flip long! In deuce, Stefan prevails, 13-11 to tie the match. So everything comes down to a single game, the winner is guaranteed at least $700 as a finalist, the loser gets $300 and a lot to think about on the way home. Eric again takes an early lead, 5-3 as the two men switch ends. But Eric continues to play fearlessly, and everything is clicking. Stefan again manages to close the gap, but 11-9 in the seventh, it’s Owens who moves on. “I have been doing a lot of coaching” Stefan says after the match, clearly not happy with his result. “My serve was awful. If I had played like that in Bundesliga, my fans would have been disappointed.” I don’t often argue with players at this level about their assessments, they are too far above me in skill. But Eric played incredibly well, applied winning tactics and didn’t desert them even in adversity. Credit where credit is due! Eric Owens moves to the Final.
Barney Reed vs. James Guo
A deep breath from the crowd and the second semi-final hits the court. Here though there is no seven game drama and no sudden shifting of momentum. Penholder James Guo is in control of the action from the beginning. As with many penholders there is a real discrepancy in his forehand and backhand wings, but Barney cannot manage to find that awkward backhand pull-down block very often. As sometimes happens when things are going badly, everything seems to be against you! Barney protests the choice of ball color late in the match, but I don’t think it was determinative of the outcome. James dominates the match and advances to the Finals, 6,9,6,-5,6. A great ‘around the net post winner’ to end Game 2 was the highlight of the match.
Eric Owens vs. James Guo
It’s been two days of fun and thrills, and now only two men are left with any ‘competition jitters’. Everyone else has a seat to see who gets the title and the $1500 due to the Champion! In the first game, Guo tries serving fast and deep into Eric’s backhand corner, but that’s not a tactic that’s going to work today! Eric steps around and whistles clean winners. 11-5 and James looks apprehensive. In the second game, Guo does shorten his serve, but several ‘get away from him’ and Eric kills them over the table. Additionally, Eric is consistently able to place the ball into Guo’s backhand, where the penholder is handcuffed by the heavy topspin and unable to keep the ball in play. 11-6 and Eric leads two games to one. James didn’t make the final by accident however, and he plays much tighter in Game 3. It takes a great serve by Eric at 10-9 to put this one in his column as well. James gives us something to admire as he does not crumble, but fights like mad in Game 4. He realizes the difficulty in stifling Eric’s attack of serve and goes for more risky shots himself. The patterns of play are now more familiar. Deep into deuce, and its Guo’s game, 15-13! James fights to the very end, but ultimately its Eric’s day, 11-9 in the fifth and Owens is the 2007 Western Open Champion!
We had plenty of fireworks, a tradition of great sportsmanship, and an anticipation of more to come throughout the 2007 JOOLA North American Tour. Yes, it’s a whole new year and we can’t wait to see what it brings!
Event Winners and Finalists
Open Singles: Eric Owens d. Guo Xi, 5,6,9,-13,10
Women’s Singles: Zheng Jiaqi d. Sara Fu, 3,-8,11,-3,6,9
Ying-Lo Junior Competitions
Men’s U-22; Misha Kazentsev, 1st , Sean C. Lee, 2nd
Women’s U-22 Sara Fu 1st , Jackie Lee, 2nd
Boys U-18; Tomas Fuentes-Affleck d. Gabriel Reder, 7,-9,5,9, -7,-6,7
Girls U-18; Erica Wu, 1st , Su Quanying 2nd
Boys U-16; Tomas Fuentes-Affleck 1st, Ankur Patel 2nd
Girls U-16; Erica Wu 1st , Marielle Chua 2nd
Boys U-13; Luke Yamasaki d. Brian Chen 7,-3,5,9,5
Girls U-13; Erica Wu d. Erica Tran 7,5,8,5
Boys U-10; Ethan Chua d. Mike Liao, 2,8,-9,6,4
Girls U-10; Prachi Jha 1st , Isabel Chu 2nd
Sol Feingold Senior Events
Over 40; Tuan Le d. Dave Sakai 9,9,9,-9,9
Over 50; Kock Loe d. Dave Sakai 3,7,-7,8,1
Over 60; Dave Sakai, 1st , Mao Toon Siong, 2nd
U-2500; Freddie Gabriel d. Trevor Runyan, 8,10,-7,5,-7,-5,5
U-2375; Trevor Runyan d. Tuan Le, 7,8,-7,-7,6,9
U-2250; Sean C. Lee d. Ming Zhang, 8,8,8,-7,8
U-2125; Nelson Yu d. Roel Aguanta 4,4,4,6
U-2000; Thomas Tang d. Ankur Patel, 9,-9,6,9,6
U-1850; Lily Zhang d. Nash Darukhanawala, -8,8,1,3,11
U-1700; Erica Wu d. Kenny Mock, -6,-9,4,4,8,-7,6
U-1550; Brian Chen d. Wong Chun, -3,6,-3,9,-9,5,7
U-1400; Joseph Fisher d. Wong Chun, -9,7,8,-6,8,10
U-1250; Justin So d. Aarsh Vyas, 4, -7,2,11,6
U-1100; Harsha Lokavarapu d. Atsushi Horikoshi 6,8,11,-8,6
U-950; Eshaan Bhalla d. Bryan Gee, 6,5 2 -3, -5,8
U-800/Novice; Ryan Bachli d. Jonathan Shum, 7,6,6,4
U-4200 Doubles; Jason Shim/Valeri Kim d. Bo Ding/Liu Qingmin, 7,7,7
U-3200 Doubles: Kent Leung/Roderick Dorse d. BennyWu/Mario D’Ortenzio, -6,9,9,-8,9