2007 Life Open

Congratulations to Thomas Keinath for becoming the open singles champion at the 2007 Life Open on the 2007 JOOLA North American Tour!  Thomas defeated Han Xiao 4-1 in the final. 

Life Open

June 23rd and 24th, 2007
Woodruff Arena, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

Life University, the tournament sponsor, was pleased with the event, and the outstanding spacious venue.  Attendees got educational materials, free adjustments, and in return gave us their best performances.  Ref. Terri Lee Bell had few controversies to deal with, and an able volunteer crew of umpires worked the feature matches. With all the ‘upsides’ to the tournament, I hesitate to make the following extended editorial comment, but I feel it needs to be shared.

NATT has been running Four Star tournaments across the nation since 1999, but this was the first time we had held one in Atlanta, GA, in fact, the first time since 1999 that NATT had held a tournament in the Southeast Region.  Being fortunate enough to travel and meet USATT members nationwide, I am aware that there are ‘cultural differences’ between the Regions, in court manners, playing styles, standard practices and expectations.  

But one of the most surprising aspects of this tournament, and the reason I lead with this observation, is that so many people were surprised by the tournament.  Those of you who have consistently attended NATT events on both coasts for the past decade have , we hope, learned to take certain aspects of tournament operations for granted.  On time operations, accurate player schedules handed out at registration, good venues, correct draws and guaranteed prize monies are such a given now, that I was truly swept off my feet by comments made at this tournament.

Apparently, in this region, players have become accustomed to sub-standard tournaments.  “Is the prize money guaranteed? Some tournaments change it on site.”  Really? I have never heard of that, and NATT has never failed to award exactly what was promised on the entry blank.  “Wow!  This playing hall is magnificent!  I didn’t expect it to be so nice.  I’d have brought more players with me if I knew it would be so good.”  When questioned on this (since the gym was accurately described in the entry blank) players told me that ‘Everyone lies about that stuff’.  Do they?  “I am sorry I am late, but I didn’t expect my event to start on time, they never do!”  How could anyone make travel plans, schedule their warm-up, racket prep, or their transportation if they didn’t know when their first match would be?  

Bottom line, the attendees told me that tournament attendance in the Region is down because tournaments in general are not ‘good experiences’.  They also were very concerned that NATT return to Atlanta next year, the general statement being “Please!  You guys have to do this again!  I will make sure more people from my club enter now that we see how good your tournaments are!”

NATT staff really dug Atlanta, and the players who attended showed not only great game, but outstanding civility, manners and compliance with tournament policies.  There was some nice ‘cross-pollination’ going on as well, as we had Dr. Tuan Le, in from California, emerging stars from Maryland like Barbara Wei, Raghu Namichettu , Qassim Aziz and Reza Ghiasi, local stalwarts Lee McCool, John Mar, Eugene Utsalo, TJ Beebe, Rocky Wang, regional powerhouses Didi DeSouza, Arjun Shankaren, National stars Han Xiao and Eric Owens, and the world’s 86th ranked player, Thomas Keinath.  A pretty nice population of skilled players in a combination that doesn’t form a pool very often.  At least I was happy, being a fan of such things.  

Also pleased were brothers John and Lewis Whitney who ruled the three lowest ratings events, the U-800, U-950 and U-1100, finishing first and second in each!  John also added the U-1250 Championship, giving him an outstanding 4 first place finishes.  Patrick Timoh went deep in several events, and grabbed the U-2125 crown.  Stephen Clyde and Charlie Sun gave us outstanding play in the Ying-Lo Junior events, David Gong taking two of them as well.  Tuan Le ruled the Over 40, turning back a spirited Kit Jeerapaet in that Sol Feingold Memorial event.  

Our talented field became spectators for the Final Rounds of Open Singles.  Saturday’s Open Singles Round Robins had given us several spectacular matches, Arjun Shankaran’s 7 game vanquishing of Rocky Wang, Tuan Le’s upset of DeSouza (despite which Le finished 2nd in a 3 way tie that included Reza Ghiasi) John Mar’s epic war with T.J. Beebe, coming back from 3-2, and Barbara Wei’s upset of Lee McCool, which prevented Lee from advancing and elevated Raghu Nadmichettu to the Quarters.  The assemble group was hopeful of ‘more of the same’ as they settled in to watch the 8 best players decide the title.  

Quarterfinals: Raghu Nadmichettu welcomed the chance to compete against World Traveler Thomas Keinath, but he simply couldn’t handle Thomas’s serve.  Keinath’s well-controlled backhand loop carried enough variation to keep Raghu off-balance throughout the match, 5,6,9,10, a straight game victory for Thomas.
Arjun Shankaran was anxious to start the drive back to Kentucky, but accepted that his road home would lead through Didi DeSouza.  It was strictly power vs. power on the table one matchup and spectators got an eyeful!  De Souza built a three game lead, but Arjun won the fourth and fifth games before succumbing 11-9 in the sixth.  Han Xiao vs. Tuan Le was a ‘don’t blink you’ll miss it’ affair as neither player dawdles at the table.  With a 200 point rating difference, the outcome is as expected, Han advances to the semi-final, 3,6,9,5.  Qassim Aziz has returned to the game after a period of years, but still has the skills to land himself in this match against Eric Owens, former US Men’s Singles Champ and member of the current US team.  Eric’s tactically advanced, Qassim has the heart of a lion and a willingness to work hard on each point.  And man, does Eric make him work!  Side to side, in and out, Qassim covers acres and acres until Eric works him loose enough to punch through the backhand wing. Qassim nicks Owens for a game with his big forehand, but that’s all and Owens reaches the semi, 8,-5,5,4,7.

Semifinals: Thomas Keinath vs. DiDi De Souza.  Didi is loose and laughing. After all what’s to be lost here?  But the fans want to see his best play and he gives it, repeatedly challenging Thomas and winning his share of the exchanges.  Thomas is very professional, and never eases up, seeks to end each point in the fewest possible shots, each game in the fewest possible points, each match in the fewest possible games.  DiDi gives a good account of himself, but Keinath games the Final, 7,6,5,10.  Eric Owens vs. Han Xiao Interesting match, in that these two are teammates, but now opponents.  Interesting match in that Eric feels comfortable after an 11-6 game one victory, but not so confident after dropping Game 2 11-7.  Interesting match in that these two men alternate games, all the way to 3-all and now neither of them are very comfortable.  With a single game to decide it all, Eric opens strongly, leads 4-1, but its 5-4 at the change of ends.  A nailbiter to the end between two powerful and dangerous offensive-minded players, decided by a 13-11 margin in the 7th game.  Interesting match.  But most satisfying if you are Han Xiao.  

Championship Match The court is reset and ‘supersized’ for our Final, where Thomas Keinath, world-ranked #86 puts on a clinic in turning away the American youngster, Han Xiao.  Han’s very determined, but he can’t cope with the backhand loop Thomas throws into the mix, even from the center stripe.  It’s got to be loaded with more spin than speed, and repeatedly hamstrings the younger player.  Ham gets off some dandy winners, but between the two non-demonstrative players there’s no emotional outbursts, taunting or cheering.  They shake hands like the pros they are at the end, Keinath holding a win by scores of 8,5,-5,8 and 5.  He’s got the complete tool box and the modern game, a dynamite service set, peak conditioning, and unflappable nerves, and he’s also the 2007 Life Open Champion with $1500 to show for it.  Because oh yes, Atlanta, when NATT comes to town, the prize money is guaranteed.  

Open Singles Final Round
Keinath, Thomas
Xiao, Han
11-8, 11-5, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5

Women’s RR
Wei, Barbara
Delzo Infante, Marisol F.

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 22 Men’s
Nadmichettu, Raghu R.
Sun, Charlie
7-11, 11-3, 11-6, 7-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 18 Boys
Sun, Charlie
Clyde, Stephen

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 16 Boys
Clyde, Stephen
Xiao, Willy

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 13 Boys
Gong, David
Du, James

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 10 Boys
Gong, David
Whitley, John E.

Feingold Memorial Over40 RR
Le MD, Tuan Dai
Jeerapaet, Kit
11-9, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9,

Feingold Memorial Over50 RR
Johnston, L. A.
Kapsalakis, Dean
8-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7, 11-8,

Feingold Memorial Over60 RR
Filipowicz, Leszek
Weisbecker, Jim

Under2500 SE
De Souza, Kwaovi Didi
Nadmichettu, Raghu R.
11-8, 11-5, 7-11, 11-9, 11-4,

Under2375 RR
Wang, Rocky
Le MD, Tuan Dai
6-11, 11-5, 13-11, 11-6, 11-13, 11-7,

Under2250 RR
Shankaren, Chandramouli (Arjun)
Perez, Pedro P.
11-6, 11-4, 11-9, 11-7,

Under2125 RR
Timoh, Patrick
Perez, Pedro P.
11-8, 10-12, 10-12, 12-10, 11-7, 11-9,

Under2000 RR
Slocombe, Andrew
Abril, Ricardo
11-5, 11-4, 4-11, 11-8, 12-10,

Under1850 RR
Khalek, Aneece
Gomez, Elias
16-14, 7-11, 11-9, 5-11, 14-12, 11-8,

Under1700 RR
Huey, Terry
Yutao, Yan
11-7, 3-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-3

Under1550 RR
Mascialino, Gregory
Caplin, Glenn W.
11-5, 12-10, 11-8, 8-11, 7-11, 9-11, 11-5

Under1400 RR
Tascan, Mevlut
Goldstein, Laurent
12-10, 10-12, 11-2, 11-8, 13-11,

Under1250 RR
Whitley, John E.
Dong, Liangbo
11-8, 11-9, 11-5, 11-8,

Under1100 RR
Whitley, John E.
Whitley, Lewis David

Under950 RR
Whitley, John E.
Whitley, Lewis David

Under800/Unrated RR
Whitley, John E.
Whitley, Lewis David
12-10, 11-6, 11-8, 12-10,

Under4200 Doubles SE
De Souza, Kwaovi Didi & Brown,Ross
Newton, Dwight L. & Newton,Wendell L.
11-2, 11-8, 11-3,

Under3200 Doubles SE
Weaver, John S. & Bily,
Charles Gomez Jr., Elias & Gomez, Elias
4-11, 6-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-9,