It was satisfying to reunite with players like Mark Radom, who won a junior competition at the Eastern Open in 1964, and now was seeking to bookend that accomplishment with a win in the Over 60. Many familiar names and faces joined a bevy of excited newcomers in the tournament. The tournament’s climax on Sunday saw a mixture of defending champions and new hopefuls and gave the JOOLA NA Tour a new name to add to its list of Open Singles Champions.
The enthusiastic turnout required additional space; so 3 tables were placed in racquetball courts adjacent to the main gym, giving tournament directors the opportunity to use 30 tables in total and to minimize delays in play. Hectic though it was at times, the tournament did not fall off schedule, and players were excellent in following instructions from the desk.
Presiding over play once again was Referee Pat Collins, who made himself available to resolve the few disputes that arose, review all draws, give rulings and perform the racket testing. Thanks are owed to those who served the tournament as umpires, Larry Bavly, Neil Kaufman, John DiMaggio and Chris Zhang. JOOLA operated a well-manned sales booth that was a hot spot of friendly conversation, reunions and equipment junkie lust for new goods.
Players who handed in outstanding performances included Barry Dattel, victor in two categories of the Sol Feingold Senior Memorial. Barry also took a slot in the Open Singles second stage RR, and reached the semi-finals of the U-2375, where Sydney Christophe derailed him. Barry returned the favor by besting Sydney for the Over 40 crown. Mark Radom’s effort to win the Over 60 and commemorate that long-ago Junior title was denied by the venerable and efficient defender Gary Gudzenko. A contingent of players from Quebec gave excellent accounts of themselves, with Arnaud Nadon notable for three second place finishes! Arnaud made the finals of U-22 Men and under 18-Men, but was denied by his traveling companions, Pierre-Luc Theriault and Maxime Suprenant. In the U-2375 it was Sydney Christophe of New York who was his undoing. Marie-Andree Levesque however yielded to no one, beating the inexhaustible Justin Do in the U-2125, five strong games that tested mental strength. Justin was in play constantly through the weekend, 2nd in both the U-2125 and the U-1850, and then teaming with his father for the U-4200 Doubles Championship.
Open Singles followed the format which has become the Tour staple, seeding out the top 12 rated players who are joined with 4 qualifiers to form four round robin groups of four players each, with the top two finishers per group advancing to Sunday Quarterfinals. Rarely, however, have the groups proved to be as interesting as this, with upsets, special circumstances, and eventually a rematch proving crucial to the path to the title.
Group 1: Grant Li, Amaresh Sahu, Paul David, Barry Dattel
The tournament’s top seed, Eugene Wang of Canada, was a no-show, which opened up a slot for an additional qualifier, a fifth flyup. That ‘lucky’ player was Grant Li, who made the most of his opportunity by besting Barry in 6 games. Paul David lost only to Sahu and Sahu lost to no one, so both he and Paul advanced.
Group 2: Gao YanJun, Yong Ji Im, XingYue Wang, Chance Friend
Gao was last year’s Champion, and was sorely and immediately tested by this group, but eventually emerged undefeated. He moved past Chance Friend 4-1, Yong Ji Im, 4-2 including two deuce game losses, and XingYue Wang in 7 games, 7,8, -10, -10,6, -10,10! Chance gave a good account of himself, but also fell to XingYue, 4-1, and to Yong 4-2. Thus Wang vs. Im would decide the 2nd advancer, a match that went to Im 8, -10,11,7,7. Highly competitive!
Group 3: Han Xiao, Sang Mook Lee, Kazayuki Yokoyama, Bryan Michaud
Michaud, as the qualifier, showed fighting spirit, going 5 games with Lee, 6 games with the chopper, Yokoyama, and an amazing 7 games with Han Xiao. Despite dropping the first three games to Xiao, Bryan won three in a row and led 9-7 in the seventh before Han said “No way” and closed him down. Xiao also made his way through Yokoyama in 5 games, but Lee, who lost to Han at April’s NYC Open, had obviously given the matter some thought since then and beat Xiao in four straight, 10,8,9,9. So when Yokoyama beat Lee in five games, a three-way tie was created. Counting games won and lost within the tie placed Lee first, Yokoyama second and the disappointed Xiao third.
Group 4: Jennifer Wu, Ernesto Ebuen, Raghu Nadmichettu, Pierre-Luc Theriault
Raghu found himself without a single game to his credit when the group ended, and his loss to Pierre-Luc was Theriault’s only win. It wasn’t for lack of trying! It was all Ernesto could do to survive the Canadian, -7,7,9, -10,10, -10,7 in a great match! Jennifer Wu allowed Pierre-Luc only the first game of their set, but was handled herself by Ebuen, 4-2. So both Ebuen and Wu advanced to the Quarters, placed, as is proper, in opposite halves of the draw.
Amaresh Sahu vs. Kazayuki Yokoyama
Now this was an amazing encounter! The young Sahu was out to not only advance himself but to avenge his Coach, Han Xiao, over that three-way tie the night before. Yokoyama is definitely a puzzle to be solved, with a brilliant chopping defense and the ability to attack. It’s a physically demanding match, and Sahu shows outstanding concentration and patience against ever-varying spin. The two of them draw gasps and cheers as they move each other around, looping, chopping, drop-shotting, every point a battle and each game a war. In the end, it’s Sahu who holds the higher ground, Amaresh advancing to the semi-final -10,7,10, -10,9,8 four games to two.
Ernesto Ebuen vs. Yong Ji Im
Ernesto is extremely relaxed and confident, and it shows in his ease of play. Im can never really gain any traction and playing quickly, Ebuen moves forward with a straight game victory, 4,4,5 and 6.
Sang Mook Lee vs. Paul David
Onlookers agree that Paul David is playing better than he has in many months, seems to have found a new level for his game. There is a smoothness there that had been missing before, in his transitions between Forehand and Backhand strokes. His recent experience in International play is showing! But Sang Mook Lee is too strong and is trying to double up his victory the preceding week at the Spinathon in Connecticut. Sang overcomes early fire from Paul David and advances, 5, -2, -8, 10.9.4.
Gao Yan Jun vs. Jennifer Wu
Gao had struggled in his Round Robin group, yet came through undefeated. Here the defending champion is again sorely tested by Yue ‘Jennifer’ Wu. How best to describe her approach to this match? Grimly determined applies. She wants a bit of revenge herself for her friend Wang being turned away in 7 by Gao in the Round Robin. Then there is the fact that they are both from New York City, so some local ‘bragging rights’ are on the line, too! But game after game, Gao denies her, 12-10, 12-10, 11-8, and has her on the verge of elimination in the fourth. So it’s a HUGE turning point that Wu takes the fourth game 14-12, and then continues to demand a victory of herself, and 10, 8, 9 takes four straight from the 2008 Champion after trailing 3 games to none! The crowd is loud and appreciative of the high level play and the dramatic outcome in a match both players greatly desired.
Ernesto Ebuen vs. Amaresh Sahu
Sahu’s feet are on the threshold, but so are Ernesto’s, one step shy of the title match. Amaresh is intense, focused, maybe just a bit tight and filled with desire. Ernesto is no less desirous, but perhaps a touch more relaxed in pursuit of a major title. They split the first two games, Ernesto in the first 11-5 and Amaresh in the second by an equally impressive 11-7. But from there, its Ebuen who controls the match, withstanding a good effort by Sahu in the 4th and 5th games to run out the string, 5,8,10. It’s Ameresh’s only loss in the event and leaves him with Semi-Finalist cash and a desire to go all the way next time. For Ernesto, it’s a step closer to the prize he really wants.
Sang Mook Lee vs. Jennifer Wu
Lee is not 100% physically, but completely determined not to let Jennifer beat him. Wu is as intensely focused as I have seen a player on the Tour ever get. No distractions! I doubt she can even hear the crowd as she wins the first two games, 11-7, 11-9. But Lee isn’t here to be nice, 11-9 he takes the 3rd. When he loses the fourth game, 11-9, he is noticeably limping. His knee is definitely aching, and he winces back to the table after every point, but manages a game 5 win 11-9 before being dropped 11-9 himself and Jennifer is in the title match, perhaps some salve for an unexpected early departure at the April NYC event.
We reposition the single table and open up seating on all four sides as Wu and Ebuen square off for the title and the purse, 1500 for first and 700 for second. It’s a whale of a match and these two are evenly matched as well! The crowd enjoys an 11-9 victory for Ebuen in the first game, but that prepared no one for the game that followed. The tension mounts from 10 all, 11 all, 12 all…and the advantage shifts back and forth. How far can they take it? 15 all, 16 all until finally, 21-19! Ebuen prevails in the second game. It has obviously taken more from Wu than from Ernesto, this nail biter, and 11-6 in the third is sitting pretty on a 3 game lead. It’s sheer guts from Wu to take Game 4, 11-9, and also her last gasp as Ernesto Ebuen, 11-5 in the fifth defeats the talented Women’s Champ to take the Eastern Open title!
Ernesto Ebuen notches his first-ever JOOLA NA Tour title and is all smiles, even though he’ll now have to wait to play the U-4200 Doubles Final as the tournaments’ last match a couple hours later. The crowd leaves almost grudgingly, lingering and filtering through our playing hall. They’ve seen and provided great matches and a wonderful weekend, added another page to a story that goes back many decades, but they obviously would have more, now, if they could get it.
Providing more is what we are all about as we pack the control desk and begin the job of warehousing the tables and equipment until the next stop on the JOOLA North American Tour. Ten seasons of ‘portable’ four-star tournaments, and the level of participation and the quality of competition continue to climb! It hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worthwhile. Isn’t that what the pursuit of excellence is about? As any tournament player can surely tell you, it is.
Events Concluding in Single Elimination
|Event #||Event Name||First||State||Second||State||Final Score|
|1||Open||Ernesto L. Ebuen Jr.||NY||Yue Jennifer Wu||9,19,6,-9,5|
|4||Under22 Women’s||Yue Jennifer Wu||XingYue Wang||DEF|
|5||Under18 Boy’s||Maxime Suprenant||AB||Arnaud R-Nadon||AB||11,7,10|
|7||Under16 Boy’s||Mathieu Terriault||AB||Guillaume Hardy||AB||-10,9,-4,8,7|
|9||Under13 Boy’s||Tong Tong Gong||MD||Andrew Chen||NJ||8,7,5|
|11||Under10 Boy’s||Josiah Chow||PA||Edward W Wang||NJ||-7,11,-10,9,7|
|13||Over40||Barry Dattel||NJ||Sydney Christophe||NY||9,-8,5,-8,7|
|16||Under2500||Paul David||NY||Thomas Pok-Yin Yu||PA||4,8,9|
|17||Under2375||Sydney Christophe||NY||Arnaud R-Nadon||AB||7,3,-7,5|
|18||Under2250||Philippe Dassonval||NY||Robert Page||MA||4,5,5|
|19||Under2125||Marie-Andree Levesque||AB||Justin Do||NJ||-3,5,-4,5,5|
|20||Under2000||Jeffrey Hsin||MD||Usher Chih-Sheng Huang||NC||6,8,5|
|21||Under1850||Tony Kim||NY||Justin Do||NJ||-4,11,-5,8,9|
|22||Under1700||Jameson Bernard||PA||Kevin Cheung||MA||9,5,10|
|23||Under1550||Rajan Kumar||NJ||Jameson Bernard||PA||-4,7,15,5|
|24||Under1400||Johnson Wong||NJ||Stephen D. Hunsberger||NJ||-7,3,-5,6,7|
|25||Under1250||Darren Chu||NJ||William Gordon||NJ||-6,8,9,8|
|26||Under1100||Mitchell Troyanovsky||NY||Elliot Graham||NY||6,7,-7,3|
|27||Under950||James Yedloutschnig||NJ||Jacob Erichson||NJ||-9,8,4,6|
|28||Under800/Unrated||Cliff Chao||NJ||Yefei Yao||NY||-13,7,-10,4,8|
|29||U4200 Doubles SE||Hoang Do & Justin Do||NJ||Paul Herzan & Ernesto L. Ebuen Jr.||NY||6,7,-7,-9,5|
|30||U3200 Doubles SE||Witold Kisiel & Jameson Bernard||PA||Constantin Papayanopoulos & Aileen Lee||NY||5,10,9|
Events Concluding in Round Robin
|Event #||Event Name||First||State||Record||Second||State||Record|
|2||Women’s||Yue Jennifer Wu||2-0||XingYue Wang||1-1|
|3||Under22 Men’s||Pierre-Luc Theriault||AB||1-1||Arnaud R-Nadon||AB||1-1|
|8||Under16 Girl’s||Grace Kim||NY||3-1||Annie Shi||NJ||3-1|
|10||Under13 Girl’s||Annie Shi||NJ||3-0||Eliana Chow||PA||2-1|
|12||Under10 Girl’s||Amy W. Wang||NJ||3-0||Claire Qiu||NJ||2-1|
|14||Over50||Barry Dattel||NJ||2-0||Santos Shih||NJ||1-1|
|15||Over60||Gary Gudzenko||NY||2-0||Mark Radom||MD||1-1|