2007 SoCal Open

 Congratulatioins to Eric Owens for becoming the 2007 SoCal Open Champion!  Eric defeated Stefan Feth 4-3 in the Open Singles. Thank You to all the participants and specators for attending the tournament!



2007 SoCal Open
June 9th and 10th, 2007
Balboa Park Activity Center
San Diego, California

NATT has come back to San Diego’s Balboa Park Activity Center several times in the last 8 years, and with good reason!  Balboa Park is one of the premier facilities for our sport in America, designed and built with our sport in mind.  SDTTA, the tournament co-hosts, are one of the most energetic and active clubs in America, and with the arrival of Stellan Bengtsson, the only US club that can lay claim to a former World’s Men’s Singles Champion as a resident coach.  

Certainly I hope that being a frequent tournament site for NATT operations has also lifted the club’s profile and given its members additional benefit.  Coming back to San Diego is always an event the NATT staff enjoys, because the facility staff and the SDTTA members are so helpful and welcoming.  The city is fabulous, the beaches are beautiful and the play is always good.  This years SoCal Open was no exception, and we anticipated another excellent competition.

Referee Linda Hsing was on hand, assisted by Bella Livshin and Saul Weinstein to provide umpiring support and dispute resolution, and that trio did the professional and competent job we have come to take for granted.  JOOLA’s Nan Li was the tournament vendor.  A large contingent of players from Mexico, including several Paralympians under the eye of the estimable Guillermo Munoz, swelled the ranks of entries.

One of the highlights of the tournament was turned in by Tri Dinh, even though he won ‘nothing’!  Talk about comebacks!  On Saturday Tri found himself in play in three events simultaneously, being in the Single Elimination portion of the U-2250, the Open Singles Second Stage RR and the Round Robin portion of the U-2375.  After competing with the likes of Stefan Feth in his Open Group, he played the final of the U-2250, dropping a tough match to the skilled Robert Shahnazari, despite building a three game to one lead, -8, -10, 10,-2, 5,9,10!  Deuce in the seventh!  By the time Tri reached his U-2375 RR, he was near collapse, but stayed intact long enough to beat Ronald Spencer and Andre Scott, before going flat prone on the floor in a heaving mass.  In Sunday Morning’s U-2375, he lost in four close games to event Champion Earl James Alto.  Tri won nothing but our respect with his iron-man performance, nearly 5 continuous hours of high-level play  

Don James Alto had never before beaten Guillermo Munoz, but made his first victory over the talented veteran a memorable one!  DJ captured the U-2500 prize by scores of -8,6,8,14,-6,8 against Munoz.  Guillermo showed that choppers don’t bother him with a solid victory over Kazuhiro Kamada in Over 40 event, one of the Sol Feingold Memorial Senior Events.  Kamada never really got a chance to show his skills against Munoz, 2,5,5,1.  Bill Ukapatayaskul walked away with two Championships under his belt, winning the Over 50 against Rodel Valdoria, 12, -5,5,2,8, and coming first in the six player round robin of the Over 60 category.  It took some extensive calculation for Linda Hsing to break the four player tie for second place, with Boris Livshin, newly returned to tournament play getting the nod.  Welcome back, Boris!

Coming back for seconds at the NATT trophy desk were Albert Huang, champion in both the U-1400 and U-1500 events and young Jonathon Ou, second to Ethan Chua in Boys U-10 and first in the U-1100 singles.  The SoCal Open was also blessed by a talented field of female players, Natalie Sun, Brana Vlasic, Crystal Huang, Tammy Guo, Jiaqi Zheng, Jackie Lee and Sara Fu among them.  Our Women’s Singles Final was a particularly wonderful match, with Jiaqi Zheng prevailing against US Women’s team member Crystal Huang, 8,8,-10,2,10.  

The top two seeds in Open Singles, Stefan Feth and Eric Owens, had both been crowned Champion in this hall by NATT in the past, in amazing matches.  Those two figured to be the last two standing on Sunday.  

Open Singles
Stefan Feth vs. John Tran
Being matched with a World-ranked player can be a humbling and an exhilarating experience.  John Tran got to experience both of those feelings as he competed against Stefan, posting scores of 2,7,4 and 10.  Stefan moved to the semi-finals.

Sara Fu vs. Jiaqi Zheng
These two women have now had a number of encounters, a see-saw series of matches between very well-matched players.  They are so evenly matched that they are a spectator’s delight and the shake-hand vs. penholder duels they wage are subject to endless conversation.  In their most recent encounter, at the Golden State Open, Ms. Zheng and hung a rather convincing 4-1 loss on Ms. Fu’s shoulders.  But Sara had obviously done some thinking since then, and -5,7,-4,5,-5,7,6, overcame 2-1 and 3-2 game deficits to advance to the Semifinal.  All their history indicates that this win cannot be used to predict future outcomes.  

Ben Johnson vs. Khoa Nguyen
Two of the more personable and likeable guys you’ll ever meet, competing at a high skill level with aggressive game plans.  What’s not to like about that?  Plowing at each other aggressively and both men in full exertion gave a spectacular match and great shot-making.  Khoa showed great heart in winning game 6, training two games to three, but Ben’s backhand play prevailed in the 7th, and -6,4,-9,6,8,-9,8 only one of the two deserving players advanced.  

Eric Owens vs. Jackie Lee
Jackie was definitely playing a hot hand in San Diego.  She won the U-22 Women’s with the aid of a nifty 7,12,6 upset of Sara Fu, and advanced to the Quarterfinals in the Open by virtue of her upset victory against US Women’s Team member Crystal Huang.  But to advance here she’d need to defeat a US Men’s Singles Champion, Eric Owens.  Hot hand or not, it wasn’t meant to be, and Eric was smart to never clown around against Jackie’s talented shotmaking, especially backhand to backhand!  A victory for Owens, 7,8,4,7.  

Stefan Feth vs. Sara Fu
Although it’s uphill all the way for Sara against the 2650 rated Feth, she never stops trying and is rewarded with a game 4 victory against a coasting Feth.  But 4 games to 1, the expected happens and Sara bows out to the German star, 7,6,3,-4,6.

Eric Owens vs. Ben Johnson
Fresh from having defeated Khoa, Ben was searching for some Excedrin, some Aleve, anything for his aching back!  The crowd was in anticipation of this rematch, for in March, at the John Schneider Memorial, Ben had beaten Eric in four straight games for the title.  But Eric’s great strength is in his tactics, his willingness to apply his entire skill kit in the most appropriate manner.  Post-match, he shared the plan he used in this contest, but had the world’s greatest reason for asking it not be published.  “I am going to have to play him again sometime.”  Trust me that it was detailed and well-conceived.  For his part, Ben left the court muttering that he had never had a ball to hit in the entire match and that his service return game had deserted him.  Scores of 1,3,2,10 and match to Owens.   Both players had told me the absolute truth.  

Championship Match
Eric Owens vs. Stefan Feth
So here were the tournament’s top two seeds, just as anticipated and expected.  At the Western Open, Eric had won with a spectacular 7 game victory, 11-9 in the final frame.  Stefan, now devoted to fulltime coaching, still has plenty of pride and was ready to prevent a repeat for Eric.  The group was uncharacteristically quiet as the games rolled by, Stefan’s 11=3 win in the first game setting an early tone.  Play was not particularly crisp and Eric mishit a lot of backhand openers.  Whether that was simply poor timing or Stefan’s placement and variation of spin, it didn’t exactly make for dramatic points.  Eric’s 11-9 game 2 win injected some life, but Stefan quickly deflated any tension 11-2.  An 11-7 margin in game four produced a three games to one advantage for Feth and people were fingering their car keys in their pockets.  Eric has heart though, lots of it and escaped extinction with a 12-10 win in the fifth.  Feth began to look flat, and Eric stormed out to an incredible lead in Game 6.  It certainly looked like time to ‘mail it in’ for Stefan, trailing 9-2.  But hold on! 9,4, 9-6, 9-8!  10-8, 10-9!  Eric lands the winning shot and the match is tied!  Naturally we were deuce in the seventh for this two superlative players.  12-10, Owens has the last word, a big comeback win from 3-1 and survived that incredible run of Stefan’s in the sixth game as well!  Dignified in defeat, Coach Feth shakes hands and makes himself scarce.  This proud player shows the fire still burns.  For his part, Eric denied ever having a doubt about blowing a 9-2 lead in game 6.  “I never stopped believing it was my game.”  Obviously, Stefan never did either, which is why our final was so dramatic.  Something worth coming back for?  No doubt!  Table Tennis in SoCal…call it “many happy returns”!   


Open Singles Final Round
Owens, Eric
Feth, Stefan
3-11, 11-9, 2-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-1

Women’s RR
Zheng, Jiaqi
Huang, Yao Xi
11-8, 11-8, 10-12, 11-2, 12-10

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 22 Womens
Lee, Jacqueline
Fu, Shu (Sara)

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 18 Boys
Alto, Don James
Sanchez Jr., Marco
11-7, 11-6, 11-6, 11-9,

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 18 Girls
Vlasic, Brana
Gu, Willa Tammy

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 16 Boys
Flores, David
Matharasi, Anurag
11-5, 11-9, 4-11, 11-6, 13-11,

Ying/Lo Junior Competitins Under 16 Girls
Gu, Willa Tammy
Hsieh, Charleen

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 13 Boys
Alto, John James
Dominguez, Rene
11-6, 11-8, 11-1, 11-7

Ying/Lo Junior Competitions Under 10 Boys
Chua, Ethan
Ou, Jonathan

Feingold Memorial Over40 RR
Munoz, Guillermo
Kamada, Kazuhiro
11-2, 11-5, 11-5, 11-1

Feingold Memorial Over50 RR
Ukapatayasakul, Bill
Valdoria, Rodel D.
14-12, 5-11, 11-5, 11-2, 11-8

Feingold Memorial Over60 RR
Ukapatayasakul, Bill
Livshin, Boris

Under2500 SE
Alto, Don James
Munoz, Guillermo
8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 16-14, 6-11, 11-6

Under2375 RR
Alto, Earl James
Dinh, Tri H. 13-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-8,

Under2250 RR
Shahnazari, Robert
Dinh, Tri H.
8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 2-11, 11-5, 11-9, 12-10

Under2125 RR
Liu, Xuan
Umel, Priscilla
4-11, 11-4, 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6

Under2000 RR
Framo, Ira B.
Flores, David
3-11, 11-6, 11-8, 15-13, 11-9

Under1850 RR
Van De Wiele, Philip
Kazemi, Behnam
11-8, 8-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-8

Under1700 RR
Sun, Natalie
Yang, Xiankun
12-10, 12-10, 11-5, 6-11, 11-9

Under1550 RR
Huang Albert
Bae, James
11-9, 11-2, 11-8, 12-10

Under1400 RR
Huang, Albert
Reioux, Paul
11-9, 11-9, 11-0, 11-9,

Under1250 RR
Tanti, Alan
Sanchez, Kevin
9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-6

Under1100 RR
Ou, Jonathan
May, Hoyt
13-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-9,

Under950 RR
Huynh, Tri
Aliotta, Esther
11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 5-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9

Under800/Unrated RR
Yang, Jed
Sigala, Edith
13-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-2,

Under4200 Doubles SE
Ngo, Loc Bao & Nguyen, Justin
Liu, Xuan & Kuok, Joey
8-11, 11-3, 11-9, 11-7

Under3200 Doubles SE
Harris, Jerry & Miller, Jay
Chua, Gerry & Nguyen, Jasmine
11-13, 14-12, 11-6, 11-8