New York City Open presented by AYTTO
April 11th and 12th, 2009
Levien Gymnasium, Columbia University, New York City, NY
Four hundred years ago, September of 1609, the European explorer Henry Hudson brought his ship, the Half Moon, to an island at the mouth of a river. The people he met there told him the place was called ‘Manna-Hatta’. While there are various interpretations of what the proper translation of that word should be, Manhattan has been a popular destination ever since. New York is a vibrant city with a rich history in our sport, a great metropolis of communities, arguably the greatest city on earth.
Here at NATT we have long wanted to run an event in this city, but we knew, given that it is New York, it would have to be something special, as special in its own way as the city itself. I am happy to report that with the 2009 New York City Open presented by AYTTO, that desire became a reality.
The tournament was a great success, but it would never have come to pass without the motivating force and guidance of Paul Herzan and John McFadden, two ‘true believers’ who yearned for a flagship event in their hometown. To be a great tournament, the NYC Open had to meet some elevated standards. The tournament had to serve a higher purpose than just provide another competitive opportunity. It had to attract the attention of mainstream media. It had to provide a superior playing hall in Manhattan, accommodate VIP invitations, showcase internationally talented players and provide an exceptional spectator experience. While it would not be true to say the tournament was ‘perfect’, it is fair to say that it did accomplish all those goals, with varying degrees of success, and that the players who participated and the spectators who attended all had a great time, a memorable experience, and that all left expressing the hope that this will become an annual, recurring event.
American Youth Table Tennis Organization is an after-school program in New York and the surrounding areas administered by Ben Nesbit. They were the highlighted organization in the press releases and community outreach, put their members into play in a sanctioned tournament, hob-nobbed with the VIP’s and had first crack at the reporters who came from newspapers and radio stations to cover the tournament. The desire to leave a lasting footprint on the local table tennis scene was strong with us! Through his fund-raising efforts and media interaction, with the help of his program’s coaches, Ben set his sights on maximizing the good the competition could provide to his program and to the sport.
Referee Pat Collins presided over both days of play; JOOLA supported the tournament with tables, barriers, balls and a sales booth. NATT’s John Miller, Mary Palmar and myself managed the control desk and wrangled the matches. Columbia University did a great job throughout the weekend, keeping the room clean and attending to our needs. Special thanks for that must go to Erich Ely, as well as Vanck Zhu and Karun Singh of the Columbia University Table Tennis Club.
The playing space was close to ideal, although the turnout of 305 players definitely had the room at capacity. The Levien Gymnasium is a beautiful facility, Columbia’s varsity basketball arena. The multi-million dollar wood floor is exceptional, with boards of less than an inch in thickness over a shock-absorbing sub-surface. There is no direct outside light and the room has two sets of retractable bleachers that cover two additional courts to either side of the varsity court. This allowed us, on Sunday afternoon, to remove eight tables from play and extend a set of the bleachers to give a complete grandstand to spectators of the semi-finals and Championship matches.
The New York table tennis community turned out with flying colors to support the event. Aside from the participants, a quick scan of the room showed George Braithwaite, Alex Perez, Wang Chen, members of the SPINYC contingent, basically, if you weren’t playing you were still in attendance. Naturally, most of them were hoping to see a New Yorker win the title. We had a talented field, top to bottom, but several deserve special mention for their accomplishments.
Jack Sayers was a man who would not be denied, playing deep into both the U-1250 and U-1100 events. As Saturday play ended and players left the hall, Jack continued to win in both events, and even though he was in constant play, pushed the tournament all the way to a 10PM close. When Jack played his last match, he was Champion of both the U-1250, over Emad Ibrahim and the U-1100, besting Dennis Sobel. Hamid Hayat also turned in a fine performance, O-60 Champion against the cagey defender, Gary Gudzenko, and second to his clubmate Marius Wechsler in U-2125 competition. Sydney Christophe, an AYTTO coach, posted a very impressive win in the U-2375, beating the smooth and unflappable Canadian Bryan Michaud in straight games. Sydney then added a second place finish in the Over 40 to his credit, being stopped only by the redoubtable Atanda Musa in the final.
Amaresh Sahu had a great tournament, winning the U-2500 event in a hard-fought final with Shawn Embleton. Amaresh also played his way into the Second Stage Round Robin for Open Singles, which leads, naturally enough, to a discussion of who won the title of New York City Open Champion.
Qualifying Singles identified four players who joined our top 12 rated players in four Round Robin groups on Saturday evening. Advancing two players from each group produced the 8 Quarterfinalists who began play Sunday at 1PM.
Pradeeban Peter-Paul had ‘no problem’ justifying his top seeding in the tournament by going 3-0 in his group. The other three players, however, managed to create a three-way tie, XingYue Wang defeating Sahu, Shao Yu defeating her, and Amaresh defeating Shao. But because XingYue stretched Shao Yu to 7 games in her loss, the tiebreak favored Sahu.
Homayoun Kamkar-Parsi joined his countryman, Peter-Paul in the Quarterfinals, also going 3 wins and no losses. Atanda Musa set down De Tran and Gao Yan Jun thus securing his spot in the Single Elimination bracket.
Xavier Therien became the third Canadian to go 3-0 in his group and readied himself for Sunday. Notching wins over Paul David and Yong Ji Im, Jennifer Wu joined him as a Quarterfinalist.
Han Xiao was also untouched, 3-0 to advance. Sang Mook Lee showed he belonged in the final group of 8 defeating both Li Yu Xiang and Ernesto Ebuen to earn his spot.
In Quarterfinals the pressure mounts, each player only two matches away from the title and a $1500 payday. The playing hall was packed with spectators and VIP’s and attention squarely focused on the matches. There had to be sympathy for Jennifer Wu, who entered the draw as the #3 seed in the tournament, but falling to Xavier Therien in her group meant she’d be matched with a 1st place finisher in the Quarters and it fell to her to meet Pradeeban Peter-Paul, the top-rated player at the tournament and Canadian National Champion. Praddy always like to start strong and will set a torrid pace if he’s allowed and in four games , 8,9,8,10, Jennifer’s tournament was over. She’d played brilliantly, but Praddy turned her away in each contest.
New Yorkers got a chance to cheer when Atanda Musa nicked game one convincingly from US Team member Han Xiao, 11-4. But the next four were all a different story as Han staved off the Commonwealth Games Champion by scores of 12, 5, 9, and 4.
Xavier Therien often starts his matches well within himself, feeling his way and willing to let a game drop away to size up the opposition. So when Amaresh Sahu won the first game 14-12, it spoke well for him, but wasn’t a total surprise. Sahu added the second frame 11-7, but Xavier came to life in the third and put a game in his category 11-7. Sahu was not about to let the opportunity slip away, however, and 14-12! now led the match three games to one. His back to the wall, Xavier kicked his game into a higher gear, and 9,3,4 overcame the 3-1 deficit to win, 4 games to 3.
Likewise, Sang Mook Lee gave Homayoun Kamkar-Parsi all he could handle in a see-saw contest. Lee won the first game 11-9, but Homayoun took three in a row, 8,7,7 and seemed to be cruising. Mook has a powerful service game and a wicked huge forehand. He put them to good effect and tied the match at three all, 12 and 8. When the dust settled though, it was Homayoun who had come out on top, 11-8 in the seventh game.
With all three Canadians reaching the Semi-Finals, Canadian Executive Director Tony Kiesenhofer was looking on with quiet pride. Training together, practicing together, traveling together, but competing with each other, these players never display less than great sportsmanship, dedication and skill. It’s that kind of elevated approach that makes them admirable, a pleasure to watch and emulate and to have at the tournament. But throwing all that down on the table wasn’t going to count for much. The games had to be won on the court.
Pradeeban Peter-Paul took the first game from Han Xiao, 11-5, but dropped the second 12-10. Pradeeban plays with a controlled power and can be very creative when he has to be. His shots are flatter and less spun than other players at this level, and Han was obviously bothered by that, as he went down 4 games to 1, scoring 7,9 and 9 in the final three games.
Xavier Therien and Homayoun Kamkar-Parsi met in the other semi, two men who know each other’s game intimately. Xavier, the larger, rangier player, did his best to upset Homayoun’s compact close-to-the-table style. This was anything but a voyage of discovery, and at each critical juncture it was Kamkar-Parsi who came through. He advanced to the Championship match with a straight game win, 9,9,7,5.
The all-Canadian Final was a clinic in high-level play. Trading the first two games, Praddy captured the advantage 11-6 in the third, but Kamkar-Parsi returned the favor with a tough-as-nails fourth game win, 11-9. Now tied at 2 apiece, Peter-Paul came out like a house afire in the crucial fifth contest, driving rapidly to a lead of 8-1! While Homayoun clawed and fought each point, the game inevitably went to Pradeeban, 11-7. With only one game standing between himself and the title, there was no denying Pradeeban. In total concentration he defeated his talented countryman, 11-8 in the sixth game and became the 2009 New York City Open Champion.
The enthusiastic crowd cheered the victory, but I had the sense that the outpouring was also a celebration of an outstanding tournament, one that had reached for higher ground and found it. When Henry Hudson sailed into sight of this island four centuries ago, it was just another wooded dot of land in a vast wilderness. But potential became fact, and a great community grew on that site. I believe that this tournament is a similar landfall, destined for greatness in years to come.
Events Concluding in Single Elimination
|Event #||Event Name||First||State||Second||State||Final Score|
|1||Open||Pradeeban Peter-Paul||AB||Homayoun Kamkar-Parsi||ON||4, -6, 6, -9, 7, 8|
|3||College Men’s RR||Michael Montalbano||PA||Angel Alicea||NJ||12, 9, -9, 3|
|5||High School Boy’s RR||Preston Chin||GA||Scott Lurty||PA||-8, -10, 5, 9, 7|
|6||High School Girl’s RR||Minsun(Jodie) Kim||NJ||Jessica Truong||NY||5, 4, 8|
|7||Middle School Boy’s RR||Tong Tong Gong||MD||Boson Wu||NY||11, 8, -9, 7|
|9||Elem School Boy’s RR||Allen W. Wang||NJ||Joshua Lee||NY||3, 5, 10|
|11||Over40||Atanda Musa||NY||Sydney Christophe||NY||3, -8, 3, 8|
|13||Over60||Hamid Hayat||PA||Gary Gudzenko||NY||4, 10, 7|
|14||Under2500||Amaresh Sahu||MD||Shawn Embleton||NY||7, 7, -10, 11|
|15||Under2375||Sydney Christophe||NY||Bryan Michaud||AB||6, 7, 5|
|16||Under2250||Philippe Dassonval||NY||Ben Bispham||AB||-8, 4, -8, 6, 4|
|17||Under2125||Marius A. Wechsler||NJ||Hamid Hayat||PA||9, -7, 3, 5|
|18||Under2000||Jean Philippe Kadzinski||NY||Samuel C. C. Huang||NY||9, -8, 5, 9|
|19||Under1850||Joseph Kim||NY||Albert Senter||DC||-4, 8, 9, -7, 9|
|20||Under1700||Joshua Lee||NY||Takeshi Tanaka||OH||8, -8, 4, -7, 9|
|21||Under1550||Peter Park||NY||Lydia Hwang||NJ||6, 11, 10|
|22||Under1400||Stephen D. Hunsberger||NJ||Stephanie Santiago||NJ||9, 7, 7|
|23||Under1250||Jack Sayers||CA||Emad Ibrahim||NY||9, 6, 8|
|24||Under1100||Jack Sayers||CA||Dennis Sobol||NJ||5, 7, 6|
|25||Under950||Andrew Yuen||NY||Mitchell Troyanovsky||NY||6, 7, 9|
|26||Under800/Unrated||Matthew Kim||NY||Nicolas Crosby||NY||5, -8, 6, 3|
|27||U4200 Doubles SE||Emile Goldstein & Mark Croitoroo||NY||Tahl Leibovitz & Karun K. Singh PhD||NY||11, 9, -9, 9|
|28||U3200 Doubles SE||Jaime Santos & Gozali Widjaja||PA||Sue Squassoni & Trevor A. Smith||FL||11, 4, 10|
Events Concluding in Round Robin
|Event #||Event Name||First||State||Record||Second||State||Record|
|2||Women’s||XingYue Wang||NY||2-0||Yue Jennifer Wu||NY||1-1|
|8||Middle School Girl’s RR||Annie Guo||NY||1-1||Grace Kim||NY||1-1|
|10||Elem School Girl’s RR||Amy W. Wang||NJ||2-0||Carol Wang||NY||1-1|
|12||Over50||Santos Shih||NJ||1-1||Simon Shtofmakher||NJ||1-1|