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History of USA Table Tennis Volume 12

CHAPTER TWO

            1983: Jan.-Feb. Tournaments. 1983: Eric Boggan, Alice Green Win the $1,875 Lehigh Valley Open.

            Although Dr. Michael Scott for whatever reason didn’t send Topics the results of the Seattle Seafair Open (perhaps it wasn’t held?), he does say (TTT, Apr., 1983, 22) that this year’s annual tournament will be dedicated to Mr. George Horino who for the last ten years has participated in it. Scott goes on to give us a Profile of this unusual man:     

            “Mr. Horino’s entries were a pleasure to receive as he had the singular habit of not only enclosing a letter but used multi-colored pens when composing any correspondence. Not only would every sentence contain a variety of colors but even each word would rarely contain only one color—usually three or four bright and vivid colors per word and this included the addresses on his envelopes. There would be two or three letters of the alphabet in red, the next few in yellow, then purple and so on to an endless variety that eventually looked very artistic. They were so unique we still have them in our possession.

            Mr. Horino traveled round-trip by bus from his home in Los Angeles at 5:40 p.m. one day and arrived in Seattle at 10:15 the following night. Only last year did I learn Mr. Horino often slept at the local bus station on Friday and Saturday nights. Believe me, the cramped Seattle bus station with its noise and plastic seats is not renowned for its comfort.

            The first day of the weekend tournament at the Seattle University site was held, and Mr. Horino was always present from 8 a.m. Saturday to closing time for the day’s play at 10:00 p.m. or later. Then he’d arrive early Sunday morning and stay until we finished late Sunday evening. Thus the ever-cheerful Mr. Horino was always present when we opened the doors and, more admirably, when we closed them. Tournament directors can usually count on the fingers of one hand the rare persons who remain after play to pick up the garbage, put tables and barriers away, remove signs and draw-sheets, etc….and yet Mr. Horino was always insistent that he do so. Even if this meant missing the next bus to Los Angeles, Mr. Horino refused to leave until we finally flicked off the lights in the large gymnasium

            He has entered every event for which he was eligible and this included everything from very low ranking events to Esquire’s (55 years or older). Not once did Mr. Horino approach the official desk unless he thought some assistance might be needed. He was unobtrusive and also as fine a referee as we have ever encountered. He has refereed all our open final singles and doubles matches. Never has a complaint arisen regarding his expert handling of this chore.

            I do not recall Mr. Horino winning any first-place trophy in all these years; nevertheless he was seemingly routinely awarded a most important one: ‘Best Sportsman.’ Although he has not been an outstanding player, he has been very consistent and competitive. He enjoyed playing doubles, and with Bob Ashley once reached the final of a Golden State tournament. He not only could recall his wins and losses but often cited the exact scores of games he played as far back as 1959. Devoid of bravado, he could very privately give you the precise scores and dates of his best upset wins over well- known players. He was always quick to point out though that that particular player really wasn’t up to par on that occasion.

            Physically Mr. Horino has been rather frail, but in all other aspects, such as heart, cooperation, friendliness, and spiritualness, he has been a giant.

            In recent years Tyra Parkins has directed this Seattle tournament. Never has George attended without bringing a few inexpensive, practical, and well-appreciated mementos from his Los Angeles area for her. Mr. Horino would be pleased to know that in Tyra’s present nightly treks to open table tennis activities at Seattle University she totes her belongings in a canvas bag from him that has printed on the outside ‘Hollywood Park.’

            Recently Tyra wrote Mr. Horino requesting his permission to list him as an official member of the Seattle Tournament Committee. Realizing he rode a bus from Los Angeles to Seattle for over 28 and ½ hours, sat in the Seattle depot until the tournament opened early Saturday morning, played until late Saturday evening, spent another night in the depot, played, refereed, and assisted until late Sunday afternoon, was in the depot again untold hours until boarding a bus for another 28 and ½-hour ride to Los Angeles, we decided to make amends and surprise George with a little better accommodations once he arrived this year.

            This is the reply Tyra received from Mr. Tad Horino dated Feb. 16, 1983: 

‘Dear Tyra:

            I am very sad to inform you that my brother George has passed away during mid-October of last year.

            I’m sure he looked forward each year to participating in your tournament in whatever capacity, and I can tell those were the happiest days for him. I wish you much success in this year’s tournament and keep up the good work.

                                                                                                Sincerely,

                                                                                                Tad Horino’” 

            Tim Lee reports (TTT, Mar., 1983, 20) on “one of the biggest events in the history of table tennis for Northern California.” That was the exhibition play at the annual Sports and Boat Show, held at San Francisco’s very large indoor arena, the Cow Palace. “Tom Rooney and especially Tom Randall purchased all the equipment used—three very nice Harvard Invincible tables, Nittaku balls, Harvard rackets for spectators, and all the barriers necessary for the playing area near the main entrance. Besides that, they donated $2,000 to the Berkeley, Concord, and Sacramento clubs (a portion to be used as prize money for three mini tournaments), gave a table to the SFTTC, and provided a cordless microphone for the commentaries.

            Erwin Hom (Berkeley) and Mike Lardon (Stanford) in splitting their exhibition games, put on a fine display of attack vs. all-around play—with Erwin smashing and looping and Mike chopping, lobbing, and counter-attacking. The two also accepted challenges from the audience. Duc Luu likewise put on two great exhibitions with Hao Van Nguyen and Marcio Quintana.

            Special thanks go to Yasaka Distributor Ron Shirley, Panda Distributor Danny Robbins, and participating club members—especially Bill Poy, Hackie Honda, George Sanguinetti, Tim Lee, Chuck Smith, Ed Lui, Duc Luu, Hao Van Nguyen, Jeff Mason, Tom Miller, and Tony Kiesenhofer.”

            Results of the 75-entry Jan. 29-30 Sacramento Open refereed by Bob Partridge who prior to play measures—measures with his FEET—the exact official distances between the adjacent tables. Open Singles: Khoa Nguyen, 16, over Quang Do who downed Duc Luu in five. Open Doubles: Luu/David Chun over Nguyen/Nguyen. U-2000: James Therriault over Cindy Miller who’d escaped Sanguinetti, 19 in the 3rd. U-3850 Doubles: Workner Babu/Ephrem over Mason/Angel Soltero. U-1850: Miller over Minh Do. U-1700: Jeff Mason-coached Chris Holton over Al McDermott. U-3250 Doubles: Therriault/Kerry Bossom. U-1550: Holton over Lou Morel, 23, -18, 19, then over Sung Lee. U-1400: Morel over Danny Loudon, deuce in the 5th. U-1250: Bill Chung over Norman Ma, 19 in the 5th. U-2250 Doubles: Cadena/Dallas over Bossom/Randy Wray. U-1000: Wray over Bill Brin, then over J.D. Diefenbacher. U-800: Patrick Wong over David Garcia. Hard Rubber: Jeff Mason over Sanguinetti. Senior’s: Tom Miller over Partridge.

            Harold Kopper (TTT, May-June, 1983, 21) covers the Feb. 11-13, 100-entry You Gotta Have Heart Open, held by President Tony Tapia’s High Desert Club in Victorville, CA   Harold focuses on the tournament’s high point: 

            “There was an excellent $1,000 Challenge Match between a U.S. Team of Danny Seemiller, Attila Malek, and Perry Schwartzberg vs. a Korean TTA Team of  Jae-ho Song, Si-hung Yoo, and Kyung-ja Kim. The Korean Team led 2-0, but then the U.S. Team won five in a row to take the tie 5-2. The best match was Seemiller-Ms. Kim—which Danny, after being down 20-19 match point in the third, came back to win, 23-21. Danny, Kim, and Perry all played very well before an enthusiastic crowd of about 400.

            Controversy broke out on the last day of the tournament when there was an argument over the Open draw. [I presume this centered on the Koreans Song and Kim meeting in the quarter’s, for Song defaulted to her.] No sooner was this settled, however, when another controversy erupted over the foot-stamping rule. When Seemiller eventually came to play Ms. Kim in the semi’s [also perhaps a bone of contention in the draw—she should not have been in Danny’s half?], she began foot-stamping and Danny protested. After several ‘Lets’ were called on Kim, the Koreans walked out in protest. The Korean Team claimed that, since Danny did not protest her foot-stamping in the Team tie the previous night, he shouldn’t be protesting in the Singles now. Danny claimed that he had protested on Saturday night but that the umpire had done nothing about it.”

            Results: Open Singles: Seemiller over Schwartzberg, who’d defeated Malek in four. Women’s: 1. Kim. 2. Hanna Butler. 3. Jamie Medvene. Open Doubles: Seemiller/Schwartzberg over Mike Baltaxe/Mas Hashimoto. U-2200’s (20 players were over 2000): C.S. Wu over Mark Kennedy (from down 2-0). U-2000’s: Charles Childers over Danny Banach, 22, 19, -20, 13. U-1900’s: Leon Ruderman over Gabor Berezvai. 1800’s: Stevan Rodriguez over Ferdinand Trinidad. U-1700’s: Trinidad over Gary Nelson. U-1600’s: Karl Dreger over Vitaly Glozman who’d escaped Nelson, 20, -11, 21. U-1500’s: A. Abeyta over Tapia (from down 2-0). U-1400’s: Tapia over Mike Edgar (from down 2-0). U-1300’s: Abeyta over Gina Butler. U-1200’s: Edgar over Tony Dodge. Unrated: F. Leos over Ken Harris. Draw Doubles: Ted Pacyna/Frank Sherman over Nelson/Rudy Kovin, deuce in the 5th. Hard Rubber: Kennedy over Kopper. Senior’s: Marty Doss over Ron Von Schimmelman. Semi’s: Doss over Bobby Fields; Von Schimmelman over Bernie Bukiet. (When USTTA Membership Chair Sarah Haid had asked in Topics if any reader knew the whereabouts of “Burhan Bakhit or Glenn Cowan,” the juxtaposition aroused my suspicion regarding a garbled name.) U-17’s: Rodriguez over S. Cadwell. U-17 Consolation: M. Chavira over M. Medlock

            At the Feb. 19-20 Arizona Open at Tempe, Tony Martin tells us (TTT, Apr., 1983, 23), “Indiana’s Steve Betts, stationed at Lake AFB,” won three titles—the Open Singles over Mac Horn, who in the semi’s had been down 17-13 in the fifth to Martin, and who in the final had led 8-1 in the fifth; the Open Doubles with Mark Jaffe over Martin and Bill Koenig; and the U-2000’s over SPIN photographer Robert Compton. “The lefty Betts can play an attacking game, but often switches to defense, where his steadiness and all-around athletic ability stand out. Steve, a Phoenix Club member, divides his time among several sports. At last year’s World Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament, he played shortstop for an Arizona team.”

            Other results: B’s: Compton over Bobby Ryberg. U-3600 Doubles: Taufiq Azamy/Zahid Tufail over Vince McMenamy/Compton, -16, 12, 20, -20, 15. C’s: Abbott over Dan Bryan. D’s: Larry Millan over Warren Goesle. U-3200 Doubles: Ron Heisterkamp/Tom Williams over Bill Burke/Mike Landis in five. E’s: Ben Davis over E. Turchick in five. F’s: Davis over Higinio Zuniga. G’s: Lisa Sutter over Zuniga in five. Senior Esquire’s: Jack Rozales over Dick Badger, 14, 11, -22, 19. Esquire’s: Rozales over Badger, 24-22 in the 5th. Esquire Doubles: Badger/Williams over Horn/Ed Tracy. Senior’s: Horn (a quarter-century earlier he’d won the Open) over McMenamy. Senior’s U-1700: Bill Hodge over Badger. U-17’s: Danny Bryan. U-15’s: Bryan.

            Winners at the Oklahoma City Open, held Jan. 15 at South Oklahoma Junior College. Open Singles: Final: Roberto Byles in four over favorite Charles Butler who was visiting from West Germany where for the last three years he’d been playing in leagues. Semi’s: Byles, 19 in the 4th, over Russell Finley who’d advanced by Roger Persaud, 23-21 in the 3rd; Butler over Brian Thomas. In the upcoming Irving Round Robin, where Liz Gresham was given the Sportsmanship Award in memory of Irving Tournament Director Billie Watkins, Thomas would finish first, Finley second.

            Other Oklahoma City results: Women: Kristine Sawin over Virginia Cheng. A’s: Final: Duke Stogner over Lee Land (from down 2-0). Semi’s: Stogner over Roger Persaud, 23-21 in the 3rd; Land over Grady Gordon, 19, -19, 21. B’s: Jay Herod over Jamie Skidmore. C’s: Eric Barland over Bud Caughman, -21, 11, 20, 19. D’s: K.D. Bruton over Jack Haynes. E’s: George Batson over Jason Mullenix. F’s: Doug Shue over Cheng, 11, -20, 22, 18. G’s: Cheng over Duy Vo. Over 40’s: Land over Mort Finkelstein. U-17’s: Herod, 18 in the 5th, over Barland who’d just gotten by Trey Adams, 23-21 in the 3rd. U-15’s: Boyd Roby over Bobbie Jones. U-13’s: Jason Mullenix over Robert Johnson, -19, 11, 20, 14. Mullenix and Johnson, who won medals at last year’s AAU Junior Olympics in Memphis, are among the nearly 150 players in the mid-February-end of March Oklahoma Youth Leagues.

            Results of the KU-500 Closed, sponsored by the Kansas University TTC (their first USTTA tournament), and held Jan. 29th at KU’s Robinson Gym: Two-Man Team’s: Final R.R.: 1. Parvis Mojaverian-Tim Kent, 4-0. 2. Steve Kraly-Dan Bonderer, 2-2. 3. David Barnes-Scott Grafton, 2-2. Halim Rahardja-Jonathon Paretsky, 2-2. 5. Larry Conlon-Sudhir Gokhale, 0-4. Open Singles: Mojaverian over Barnes. Open Doubles: Mojaverian/Barnes vs. Russell Finley/Al Cornelius was not played. U-1300’s: George Lam over Mike Collier.

            Millie Shahian gives us the Results of the Land of Lincoln Open, held Jan. 15-16 at her Chicago Net and Paddle Club:  U-2100’s: Wayne Wasielewski over Lionel Lusardi who’d upset Derek Dylag. U-1900’s: “After two months in Europe on vacation and several months of hard work on his return,” Mike Menzer over Don Dyer. U-1800’s: Ramin Samari, who’d struggled with Joe Bujalski, Neena Patel, and Bruce Ackerman through his side of the draw, over Andrew Giblon. At the ACU-I Regional Championships, played Feb. 17-18 at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of Chicago All-University Champion Giblon would win both Singles and Doubles. In the double elimination singles he’d beat University of Wisconsin student Alan Michael (twice), and in the Doubles, paired with Roger Nord, the two U of C men would down Lubos Sadlon/Chen Ke of the University of Illinois.

Other Land of Lincoln Results: U-1750’s: Samari. U-1600’s: a three-way tie (but only two prizes): 1. Narinder Bhattal. 2. Phil Moy. 3. Dave Berenson. U-1600’s: Ray Gustafson. U-1400’s: Stephen Freeman over Linda Gates. U-1300’s: Freeman over Gary Grossman. Handicap: 1. Martha Gates, the youngest of the three sisters. Happiest Player: “Reggie Madrigal, the youngest player in the tournament, running the length of the Club with arms aloft shouting, ‘I won! I won!’”

            Dave Strang reports on the Y-Town Open, held Feb. 26 at the Youngstown, Ohio YMCA. “Most of the Detroiter tables, barriers, and other equipment were provided by the Akron TT Club. But both Robbins Sport and T.G. Enterprises gave us an equipment assist. Thanks to them, and to others who helped—particularly, Bill Topich, Joe Helfand, Don Story, Ken Fenstermakher, Gary Martin, and Rick Hardy. The Y allowed me to organize the tournament as part of my internship work in acquiring a degree in Community Recreation at Kent State. The Y’s facilities are extensive, including two very large gyms, one small one, plus an indoor track, eight racquetball and squash courts, two large pools, and a Nautilus-Cam II exercise room. The Y also has a cafeteria and rooms for $11 a night. With 55 entries we used eight tables for tournament play and one table for practice.”

            “Pittsburgh’s Ricky and Randy Seemiller were the #1 and #2 seeds respectively with Ohio Champion Simon Shtofmahker, the #3 seed. Local Champ Phil Panno played in spite of a lack of practice. Phil won the Ohio/Michigan region in the Intercollegiate’s last year but this year he’s concentrating on his last year of eligibility for the Youngstown State baseball team. And considering the regrettable absence of a National final for the collegiate t.t. players this year, Phil’s choice was certainly well-timed.”

            “After Shtofmahker had lost to both Ricky and Randy, Ricky would try to avoid an upset by his highly motivated younger brother. With Ricky winning the first, 21-11, and leading 20-14 in the second, he looked like a shoo-in to take the match. But then, with amazing power and concentration, Randy ran off a string of points to draw to 20-19. At that point the brothers played one of the best points of the tournament with counter-looping, smashing, and wild wide-angling. Finally, Rick took a ball out of his forehand corner and angled it to Randy’s extreme forehand sending him into the barriers and the showers as well.”

            Other results: Open Doubles: Seemillers over Bob Cordell/Jim Repasy. U-2000: Jeff Young over Gary Martin.U-1750: Mark Allen over Guenther Schroeder. U-1500’s: Mike Mohan over Al Risaliti. U-1300: Frank Decenso over Joe Helfand. Unrated: Scott Miller over Ron Lutz. Senior’s: John Shimko over Tom Shirley. Junior’s: Lutz over Barry Burns.

            Ron Schull does his usual Columbus, Ohio reporting—this time for the Jan.15th tournament. Advancing to the round robin semi’s in the Open were Randy Seemiller, Bobby Powell, Ben Nisbet, and Bob Cordell. Randy beat Powell three straight—“once, Bobby’s electronic watch went beep! beep! beep! just as Randy made contact,” and, of course regardless of where the ball went, umpire Rick Hardy called a Let. (Rick was praised by Ron for “an outstanding job as Ohio TTA Tournament and Ranking Chairman.”). Nisbet went four with Randy. But it was runner-up Cordell who thrilled the crowd. Bob missed a serve and dropped the first game at deuce, then lost the second though leading 16-11. But then he rallied, won the next two games by “hitting much more controlled volleys, and by giving up the table when Randy hit some hard forehand smashes…top-spinning them back with apparent ease and then attacking at just the right moment.’ Yes, he fell in the fifth, but in the forthcoming February Columbus tournament he’ll again come second to Randy in the Singles and with his Open Doubles win with Jim Repasy, he’ll have a great ’83 start as Ohio #1 in Singles and Doubles.

            Other results: Women’s: Barb Smith over Gail Yaspin, 24-22 in the 5th. A’s: Repasy over Brian Baldwin. B’s: Bill Walk over P.N. Lee in five. U-3700 Doubles: Don Story/Stu Caplin over Jeff Young/Steve Miller. C’s: Lee over Dave Alt. U-3400 Doubles: Caplin/Alt over Sanders/Dave Skyrzypek. D’s: Lee over Bob Allen. E’s: Harold Hoffman over Bob Gilbert, 19 in the 3rd. U-2700 Doubles: Al Dresser/Hoffman over Hardy/Bill Topich. Unrated/Novice: R. Bockel over C. Weaver. Beginning Novice: Eric McMullen over Christian Muller. Hard Rubber: Victor Lorand over Cordell. Esquire’s: Allen over Ron DeMent. Senior’s: B. Walk over Greg Brendon. U-21: Nisbet over Dan Walk. U-17: Alt over D. Walk.

            `We learn from Larry Thoman (TTT, Feb., 1983, 24) that on Jan. 15th Nashville’s Fortune Athletic Club hosted its New Year’s Open. “Out of town participants were provided with free local housing if they requested it; the two top seeds in the Open were given free entry to the tournament; and the important matches were showcased one at a time on a single table with a paid umpire/scorekeeper.” Larry thanks helpers “Denis Rountree, Jim Johnson, Randy McCracken, Rita Thomas, Charles Gary, Marsha and Bruce Prince, and Larry Bartley.”

            The Open Singles was won by a 23-year-old from Nigeria, Pandit Dean, no longer playing out of New York, but based in Atlanta. Larry says, “He’s a strong looper off both wings, and he’s quick, with good court coverage. He’s very deceptive with his placements, using last-second wrist changes to send the ball either down-the-line or cross-court.” Dean defeated Allen Barth, 20, 14, 19, in the quarter’s, Homer Brown in four in the semi’s, and Thoman in the final three straight—winning the first game 23-21 (after being down 19-11!).

            Best early-round match was between Nashville’s Mitch Stephens and Kingsport’s Jim Flannagan. Both players possess excellent push-block styles and use inverted/long pips combination bats—Mitch, however, has a “windshield-wiper” grip. Flannagan has better mobility, but that is only because he has legs, while Mitch sits in a wheelchair because he has no legs. Flannagan eked out a 15, -21, 16, -21, 20 decision.” Biggest upset occurred in the quarter’s “when 1596-rated Richard (Bad Ass) Badessa of Louisville knocked off 1911 Bill Coleman of Atlanta, 23, 21, 22. Richard uses a very low grip and strokes the ball with a loose wrist, which makes it hard to know where the ball is going.

            Other results: Open Doubles: Dean/Coleman over Thoman/Mitch Stephens in five, then over Brown/Henry Chan in four. A’s: Stephens over Coleman, Chan (in five), and Regional Tournament Director Allen Barth. Allen, the runner-up, “is a Semiller-grip pusher-blocker who uses his anti to return most shots. He had Mitch two games down, and then 20-18 down in the fifth before winning. B’s: Flannagan over Stephens. C’s: Pip Cohill over Stan Wallen. “Pip is a big black guy who uses Sriver and Phantom on a 6-X racket. He favors his backhand, and is constantly flipping his racket to change the speed and spin on his shots as he looks to put away the loose ball.” D’s: Cohill over Bill Delong in five, then over Badessa who went five with McCracken. Novice: Cohill over Daryl Willis. Beginner’s: W. Johnson over McKinney. Senior’s: Wallen over Ralph Kissel, 25-23 in the 5th.

            Thoman, a right-handed looper, also tells us (TTT, Apr., 1983, 23) of his quest to find a doubles replacement for Scott Leamon, preoccupied at the moment with school studies. Larry wanted a left-handed looper as a partner, someone good enough to give him a chance to win the Feb. 26th Nashville Two-Man Team’s. It turns out, after calling around, he found such a person—“Mike Carter, a 1900-rated player who’d started playing in the early 70’s in Grand Rapids with Dell Sweeris and Danny and Ricky Seemiller. He hadn’t played for three months.” But, says Larry, “on tournament day, I was 11-0 in singles and together we were 9-0 in doubles. I had first-game troubles with Dave Abbott, Homer Brown, and just-back-from-China Sai-Wing Kwok. But I managed to work my way out of trouble mainly with a new serve and loop pattern I’d been practicing meticulously for two weeks. Mike won significant decisions against Greg Waldbeiser (-19, 24, 23!), Ralph Kissel, and Dwight Mitchell.” Runner-up was Hrothgar & Co. (Brown and Abbott). 3rd: House of Canton (Kwok, Mitch Stephens, and Henry Chan).

            Other winners: Class A: Robert Chamoun and Mike Bortner over Festus Mead and Waldbeiser. Class B: Bethel College Professor Mark Garrison and unrated Venezualan émigré Jose Guerra over Charles Gary and Daryl Willis.

            Bard Brenner (TTT, Apr., 1983, 25) brings us the winners of the Florida Winter Open, played Jan. 29-30 at the Newgy Club in Miami. Championship Singles went to Jerry Thrasher just returned from league play in Germany. Jerry’s “switched from his all-out looping Sriver attack game to a black-rubber (flipping-chopping-looping) deceptive-type game.” Runner-up was lefty penholder Roberto Garcia, “five-time Cuban National Champion, who’d come to Miami on the Muriel boatlift a couple of years ago.” Horace White from Philadelphia finished third. Though he lost to Garcia, Horace “showed superb training and physical conditioning as he shadow-boxed his way through matches,” including a five-game loss to Thrasher. Fourth was Wayne Daunt who’d upset relentless attacker Bard Brenner, 19 in the fifth. Daunt lost to Garcia, 23-21 in the fifth, but paired with him to take the Championship Doubles from Brenner/Steve Federico, after Bard and Steve had gotten by Thrasher/Rene Tywang, 23-21 in the fourth.

            The Women’s Singles final—“the most exciting match of the tournament”—was won by Nadine Yuen of Miami over Jamaican Junior Champ Carla Belnavis, 26-24 in the fifth. “Up match point, Carla lost an incredible opportunity when she missed a forehand put-away that would have made her the Champion.” Jim Leggett, who’d be moving to Houston, took the Senior’s from Frank Hanley. Newgy regulars David Waite and Russ Wyatt were leaving Florida too—going into the Service.

            Other results: A’s: Federico over Brian Miezejewski who’d escaped Scott Beauregard, deuce in the 3rd. B’s: Leggett over Scott Rouskey. C’s: Roman Teller over Rouskey. D’s: Tywang over Earl Haley who’d advanced over Steve McLaren, 19, 21. E’s: Gary Stone over Eddie Hensley. Consolation Winner: George Ignace. Novice: Ursula Dow over Dave Merchant. Novice Women: Dow over Elizabeth Marks, -18, 19, 20. College Singles: Beauregard over Miezejewski. College Women: Yuen over Sylvia Rosenthal.

            Results of the Feb. 26-27 Orlando Florida Closed: Open Singles: Ron Rigo over Roberto Garcia. Championship Doubles: Pat Patterson/Kit Jeerapaet over Bard Brenner/John Elliott, 17 in the 5th. A’s: Jeerapaet over Elliott, deuce in the 3rd, then over Lance Rosemore in five. B’s: Tanberg over Scott Beauregard. B Doubles: Larry Gold/Tran over Harry McFarland/Steve Federico. C’s: Conrad Fisher over George Bluhm. D’s: Steve McLaren over Sohrab Zarrabian. E’s: Davis over Larry Beal. Senior’s: Frank Hanley over Randy Hess. U-17: Jeerapaet over Sean Hanley.

            Sheri Soderberg (TTT, Mar., 1983, 25) covers the three round robin/single elimination events that made up the Super Ball Invitational, held Jan. 29-30 at McLean, VA under the direction of Donna Sakai.

            “Rick Hardy of Solon, Ohio won the U-1600’s after playing 10 matches. Hardy, who received his undergraduate degree in physics, admitted that he can understand some of the intricacies of the sport by applying basic laws of physics. “I see that I’m not up against some magical force. I realize that all I have to do is counteract my opponent’s spin. Roy SeGuine, playing in his first tournament in two years, was the runner-up.”

            “Billy James of North Carolina defeated Washington, D.C.’s Morris Jackson, -12, 12, 19, to capture the U-2000 title. Jackson blitzed James in the first game by letting his new TSP Curl rubber initiate an offense. Then, when he got a decent set-up, Jackson would smash in a winner with his sponge side. But James caught on. At 19-all in the third, Jackson failed to return an edge ball, then put one into the net.”

            In the Over 2000’s, Sean O’Neill, 1982 Amateur of the Year, had such unsatisfactory results that one may have thought “he really wanted to stay home and watch the Super Bowl—he lost to Brian Eisner, Barry Dattel, and Bill Sharpe (another Curl user ) then defaulted to Brian Masters shortly before kickoff time.” At next month’s Monticello tournament at McLean, though, Sean would take the Open over runner-up Dave Sakai, 3rd-Place finisher Larry Hodges (the 2200 winner), and 4th-Place finisher Barney Reed (the 2000 winner).    

            “Other players to get quickly sacked were Tim Boggan and Bruce Plotnick. Perhaps Timmy was tired from his long commute or else simply found it too hard to advance with B.K. Arunkumar, Dave Sakai, Igor Fraiman, and Ron Lilly in his round robin. His 2-4 record was respectable, but not enough to get him into the final eight-man round robin. At 23, Bruce Plotnick has made a return to table tennis after a six and a half-year respite. Bruce recently received a degree in electrical engineering from Drexel University and is now married. He says that he’s got time for the sport again. ‘Give me two or three months,’ he exhorts, ‘I feel like I just left yesterday.’ His 1-5 record in Kumar’s pre-lim group may indicate otherwise, but Bruce says he was happy to be playing again.”

            “Not all of the players took that same attitude toward losing. Many, in fact, railed about the humidity within the club caused by the rainy weather. They complained that the ball seemed to glide too much, the tables seemed ‘greasy,’ and the floor too slippery. Indeed, the conditions seemed to favor the defensive players. Brian Eisner, who said that ‘this tournament shows who’s better at adjusting to these conditions,’ was prevented from advancing by Barry Dattel. And poor Brian Masters displayed his own version of a ‘kickoff’ for the spectators. The floor became so slippery that, at 10-all in the third against Fraiman, Masters twisted his ankle and was out for the rest of the tournament, his 3-1 record nullified.”

            “Eliminated from prize-money contention were Dattel, 1-5 (win over Lilly), and Bill Sharpe, 2-4 (wins over Sakai and Dattel). The Champion ($125) was Kumar, 5-1 (loss to Lilly). Runner-up ($75) was Fraiman, flipping his Panda Force and Anti. ‘Everybody complains about Junk rubber,’ says Igor, ‘but it’s really difficult to use.’ Sakai, Enoch Green, and Lilly all finished with 3-3 records. Sakai, 7-6 in games, won $50 for third; Green’s 7-7 was better than Lilly’s 8-10, so he won $25 for fourth-place. Had Lilly not lost to Dattel he would have come second. Nevertheless he was beaming. ‘I’ve got Kumar’s number now. I just have to hit when he’s close to the table and—hey, what am I saying? I don’t want him to catch on to my strategy!’”

            Results of the Feb. 26-27 Westfield Open: Open Singles: Rey Domingo who in January’s final here at Westfield lost a killer to Arunkumar, -16, 13, -21, 22, -20, over George Brathwaite. Best matches: George Cameron over Brian Eisner, -23, 20, 13, 18; Stan Smolanowicz over Bill Sharpe, 13, -20, 20, 15, and Brathwaite over Cameron, 21, 16, -19, 17. Women’s: 1. Alice Green. 2. Flora Ng. 3. Vicky Wong. 4. Jasmine Wang. 5. Joannie Fu. 6. Ai-ju Wu. Open Doubles: Smolanowicz/Sharpe over John Sisti/Pandit Dean who’d advanced over Cameron/Fulap Lee. Senior’s: Brathwaite over Doon Wong. U-17: Billy Lipton over Cheng.

            U-2200: Eisner over Sharpe. U-2050: Sisti over Paul Rubas, 19 in the 4th, after Paul had eked out a 26-24-in-the-3rd win over Hank McCoullum. A Doubles: Sisti/Dean over Eisner/Alan Fendrick. U-1950: Alan Feldman over Stu Kroll. U-1800: Charlie McCalla over Bill Huang who’d escaped Dennis Kaminsky, 19 in the 3rd. C Doubles: Michael Henry/Francisco Hall over John Shareshian/Feldman. U-1650: Kaminsky over Sullivan. U-1500: Grant over Harry Monroe, Jr. U-1350: Seales over K. Ng. U-1200: Gee over Kevin Davis, deuce in the 3rd, then over John Kauderer. Unrated: Yuen over Goel.

            Winners at the Feb. 5-6 Florence Winter Open: Open Singles: 1. Lim Ming Chui, 3-0—d. Daley, 24-22 in the 4th. 2. Wes Daley, 2-1. 3. Jay Rogers, 1-2. Stu Kroll, 0-3. Women’s: Tahnya Percy over Marta Zurowski. U-2000: Final: Rogers over Warren Rasmussen in five. Semi’s: Rogers over Don Najarian, 19, 20; Rasmussen over Daley, 18, -19, 18. U-1900: Kroll over Najarian. U-1800: Rogers over Najarian in five. U-1700: Chris Kalagher over Bob Oakes, 19 in the 5th. U-1600: Gene Oakes over Terry Mahoney. U-3200 Doubles: Johnson/Kalagher over Percy/Pat Nord. U-1500: G. Oakes over T. Mahoney. U-1400: Dorlon Picard over Gary Brown. U-2800 Doubles: Nord/Peter Pezaris over Eng/Suresh Srinivasan. U-1300: Kenny Eng over Mike Landry. U-1200: Dale Clement over Pezaris. U-1100: Srinivasan over Gary Dingman. U-1000: David Austin over Gary Ehrhardt, 19 in the 4th. U-900: Ken Adams over Scott Norton. U-17: 1. Nord. 2. Percy. U-15: Nord over Percy.

            Kenny Eng (TTT, Mar., 183, 25) says that, “Despite a major blizzard, over 100 people showed up at the Jan. 15-16 MIT Open. Conditions at the Dupont Gym boasted good lighting, a good floor, twelve good tables, and ample playing space.” Eng thanks his fellow Tournament Directors Suguru Araki, David Marcus, and Trieu Chieu, and gives a nod of appreciation to Brian Eisner, Chris Kalagher, Ira Summer, Jeff Courville, and Ben Hull for their help.

            Lim Ming Chui won the Open Singles, but was hard-pressed by both George Brathwaite in the semi’s and Rey Domingo in the final. Brathwaite steadily looped as expected and Chui, blocking too much, fell behind 2-1 in games after winning the first 24-22, then blowing a 15-8 lead in the second when George went on a 9-point run. In the fourth and fifth games, Chui began attacking and in the final game, after leading 18-14, held on to win at 19. Ming then took the final from Domingo, winning the fifth after losing the third and fourth to Rey’s strong, consistent hitting.

            Other results: Open Doubles: Domingo/Steven Mo over Brathwaite/Mark Cheong. U-2200: Mo over Kok-liang Liung who’d gotten by Ed Hamamjian, 20, -16, 19. U-2000: David Gold over Tak Wong, 22, 18, then over Hull. U-1800: Vicky Wong over Shazzi Felstein. U-3400 Doubles: Chui/Tam and Joe Billups/Tony Natale, who’d  survived Wong/Wang, 24-22 in the 3rd, didn’t play the final. U-1600: Pat Nord over Chi-sun Chui, 19 in the 4th. U-1400: Dick Batten over Young-soo Ha, 17 in the 5th. U-1200: Oscar Arroyo over William Fong.

            Results of the Eastern Canada Open, played Jan. 15th in Toronto: Men’s: Errol Caetano over Bao Nguyen who’d just slipped by Horatio Pintea, 25-23 in the 3rd. Men’s Doubles: Nguyen/Pintea over Mitch Rothfleisch/Steve Lyons. Women’s: Julia Johnson over Suzanna (nee Kavallierou) Ziegler, -15, 9, 13. Mixed Doubles: Pintea/Micheline Aucoin over Bela Nagy/Zeigler, then over Richard Chin/Rupa Banerjee. Ken Kerr reports (OTTA Update, Feb., 1983) that Suzanna, on getting married and leaving her secretarial position at the Ontario Sports Administration Centre, has, with her husband Karl, “purchased the White Swan Motel here in Toronto and will operate it as a family business.” 

            Other results: U-2000 Singles: Kam Bhatia over Maurice Moore.  U-1850: Micheline Aucoin over Ben Chow. U-1700: Fred Taylor, deuce in the 3rd, over Ohanessian who’d eliminated Danny Leung, 26-24 in the 3rd. U-1550: Ron Johnson over Benoit. U-1400: Hang over Lee. U-1200: Ferreira over Chow. Senior’s: Bob Jewell over Ron Bickerstaffe. Jr. Miss U-17: Jennifer Rothfleisch over Michelle Qurrey. Girls U-15: Qurrey over Renata Crhak. Girls U-13: Crystal Daniel over Patel. Jr. Men U-17: Nguyen over Vaibhav Kamble. Boys U-15: Kamble over Ubiali. Boys U-13: Hardy Diec over Ladouceur. Boys U-11: Johnny Ng over M. Do.                       

$1,875 Lehigh Valley Open

            Dan and Patti Simon’s 7th Annual Lehigh Valley Open—shining Star-of-Bethlehem-like year after year on the Eastern circuit—was again a very successful one. Played on Feb. 19-20, it drew 220 entries—7 players over 2400 (including Eric Boggan on a 10-day R & R break from his league and tournament play in Sweden, but not Danny Seemiller who had commitments in Japan), 16 over 2200, and 30 over 2000. Thanks go not only to the Simons, but to Dave and Donna Ferrey, to Dennis Masters (assisted at the tournament desk by some of Dan’s Northampton Community College TTC members), and to International Umpire Manny Moskowitz (supported in his chores by Harry Stern, Chris Bolmer, and Bill Walk, who with his son Dan won the U-3600 Doubles over Tom Wintrich/Dan Miller). This year’s tournament was the best run yet. 

Open Singles’ Early-Round Matches

            In the Open Singles (I might just as well have said Men’s Singles, for there wasn’t a woman in the Draw), the only first-round matches that went the distance were Barney Reed over Fred Kistler; Open Doubles semifinalist Suguru Araki (he and Ron Lilly scored a big upset against B.K. Arunkumar/Rey Domingo) over Carl Weinbaum; Lee Global Enterprises’ Andy Diaz over Dave Ferrey (Andy also had three-game trouble against John Shareshian, U-1700 winner over Dan Miller); Barry Dattel over Mark Vrabel, U-1850 21-in-the-third runner-up to Marty Theil; and muscular Marty himself over Dave Gold who’d downed Don Yabiku in the U-2000’s. Other Rating event winners were: U-1550: Andy Tompos over Erich Haring; U-1400: Pier Galie over Steve Kong; and U-3200 Doubles: Ed Lasinski/Jess Rosenthal over George Dendrinos/Kushary.

            Vrabel, who was runner-up to Sean O’Neill in the U-17’s, and who uses the Eric Boggan as opposed to what he says is the “totally different” Seemiller grip, was helped by a clinic Randy Seemiller and Ben Nisbet had held at the local Northhampton College Club a week before the tournament. But although Vrabel’s loss to Theil was a tough one, it was nothing compared to the loss he suffered against Brian Masters in the U-21’s. Why? Because, unbelievably, 1809 Mark had 2429 Brian match-point down—had, as Mark was later to say, “almost instant fame.”

            In the second round of the Open there were four good matches.

            Randy Seemiller (-14, 19, 11) survived a scare from Bruce Plotnick. Bruce was being watched for the first time in his t.t. tournament play by wife Sue (had she seen him play a little squash, some racquetball?), and also by father Carl, perhaps for the first almost relaxed time. I struggled to a 19, 22 victory over Stan Smolanowicz who was again momentarily coming out of retirement. Bill Sharpe got by George Cameron, 18 in the third—but he was surprised by NYC Chinatown’s Mark Cheong in the A’s (Mark also registered a stunning two-straight upset over Sean O’Neill in the U-21’s). And Russian emigrant Simon Shtofmahker, wearing a “To Russia With Love” playing shirt, scored—though not against Bondian odds—an 18-in-the-third win over Brian Eisner, all the while complaining that his back was hurting him again. Simon’s wife Irena, who was expecting in a month, did not drive to Bethlehem with him—she was afraid she’d have the baby in the car. Eisner, continuing to fancy a deceptive serve he’d picked up last fall in Sweden, went on to play well—almost winning the U-2200’s before losing in the final to Steven Mo, 19 in the fifth on, ohh, an edge ball. 

Women’s/Junior’s

            Alice Green (who almost lost to Stu Kroll in the A’s—she was down 19-16 in the third) had a relatively easy time winning the 16-entry Women’s—though for her paltry $50 prize money (the 53-entry Men’s winner would get $500) she was twice forced to 19 by 17-year-old runner-up Ai-ju Wu, and did drop a game to Vicky Wong. Two years ago, Alice, a high school teacher, was not given time off by her Department Head to go to the World’s; this year, she assured me, History will not repeat itself. Perhaps 15-year-old Vicky, who in the U-15’s was a deuce-in-the-third semifinalist to Billy Lipton, or Jasmine Wang, who beat Billy in that U-15 final, will one day be a U.S. Team member? And what of Chui’s boys battling it out in the U-13’s? This time it was Chi-sun, 9, the shakehands player, who got the better of Chi-ming, the penholder. Will they in years to come be part of our World Team? Though mother Marie might well be thinking not U.S. but Ph.D. and M.I.T. 

Players All Fired Up

            Before the Open round of 16 began on Sunday morning, Sheri Soderberg, who was too busy “visiting” to play in the tournament, was urging player after player to jot down a few lines in her notebook so she could send them off to her brother, longtime tournament player John Soderberg, who was in Switzerland. And the players didn’t disappoint—for they had a Saturday night to talk about.

            Turns out that after a few table tennis hustlers had tried to skip out on a $180 bill at the Holiday Inn last year, the players this year were not welcome there, and so were staying almost en masse at the Luxury Budget Inn several miles away. It further turns out that at some wee hour of the morning some pranksters grabbed a couple of fire extinguishers off the wall and when (as firefighter Marty Theil explained to me) the ansul powder from them began to expel, it looked like smoke, and so the hotel fire alarm system began ringing and people began hurrying down to the lobby.

            Some rush entries for John might have read like this:

            “I woke up from a dream, thought I was in my house, and the house was on fire.”…

            “I came running out of my room—and then stopped. I’d forgotten my racket! Of course I went back for it.”…

            “I wanted to go back for my racket. But my wife wouldn’t let me. ‘Forget your damn racket,’ she said. ‘Let’s get the hell outta here!’”…

            “It was like when the alarm goes off in your bedroom and for several seconds you forget where you are and can’t find it.”…

            “There were four floors to this motel, and I knew I was on the second. So I wasn’t worried, I knew I could jump. But if we were 15 floors up, it’d been a bummer.”…

            A few might even have taken the adversity as their daily bread—might, as usual, have prayed that night of the 19th

            “All God’s testings have a purpose—

            Someday you will see the light.

            All he asks is that your trust Him,

            Walk by faith and not by sight.” 

            Had it really been thick smoke, the victims sightless, many may never have made it out to the saving darkness. However, no real harm done—except that now table tennis players probably won’t be welcome at the Luxury Budget any more than they are at the Holiday Inn. As Tournament Director Dan Simon upfront pleadingly put it in an announcement to everyone: because of just a few acting rashly in the past, we all might have to suffer in the future.” Yep, everybody had better shape up, or there might not be any room in any inn in Bethlehem, even for the most innocent. 

Last 16 in Open

            The round of 16 in the Open was the money round (though since the 2200-2300-rated players couldn’t play in the U-2200 and couldn’t, or at least didn’t, beat one of the seven 2400 players, they were playing under a system that instead of rewarding them for their skill was punishing them for it. Five of the eight matches were straight-game no contests. Eric Boggan over Simon Shtofmahker; Chui over Randy Seemiller; Brian Masters over Tim Boggan; Ricky Seemiller over Sharpe, and Arunkumar over Fu-lap Lee, U-21 runner-up to Masters. Two more matches—Sean O’Neill (“21—ZIP” reads the license plate on the family car) vs. Steven Mo, and Scott Boggan vs. George “The Chief” Brathwaite—were only four-game lightly contested.

            “The Chief” did lose an agonizing 19, -16, 21, 21 Senior’s final to Bill Sharpe though. Bill said he P-2 curled his backhand at George, then followed with a hard counter off George’s slow topspin. “You don’t know how that felt,” exclaimed Bill, “when I won that last point. I hadn’t beaten George since ’78.” Don’t know how it felt? Bill’s absolutely right—I don’t. Sharpe I can occasionally beat—like in the Esquire final here—but I haven’t beaten George since ’68.

            The only crowd-pleasing match of the eighth’s was Sakai’s uphill fight against Domingo. Dave had been very steady against Sam Balamoun the round before (“Sakai’s hitting has improved tremendously from a couple of years ago,” said Sam) and now he was being just as careful and steady against Rey.

            What sort of racket does Dave have now? Answer: he both uses anti and doesn’t use it. The height of deception, huh? At those Northern Virginia Club tournaments he uses inverted against all those who’ve learned to play against his anti, and at outside tournaments he uses anti against all those strangers who’ve only learned to play against the inverted. What Dave used in and out against the experienced Domingo I forgot to ask and didn’t observe—but whatever it was, Dave’s heart pumped him up and by Rey, 30-28 in the second, and 22-20 in the third, and yet the more than 200 rating-point difference was still just too much for him to overcome. Match to Domingo in five. 

Quarter’s

            In the quarter’s, Eric was able to put so much pressure on Chui that, as Ming almost cheerfully said later, “Of course I could have gotten more points if I hadn’t hit wildly—but there was no other way I could win and so I thought I might as well go for the 1% chance.” See, even when Ming seems at his craziest, he’s really always so rational.

            A couple of weeks ago it would have appeared that Masters wouldn’t have had even a 1% chance against Domingo. He’d re-injured the ligament he’d torn last summer on the tennis court when (nothing unusual about this) his body had gone one way and his feet another. But he’d had his ankle carefully bandaged (and would soon start whirlpool treatments), and though the tape threatened to restrict his movement, he’d been practicing as much as four hours a day with his friend and doubles partner Sakai, getting mind and body in shape for this tournament.

            Actually, Brian liked playing Domingo on these Butterfly tables—he beat him here in ’82. But when Rey, staying up at the table, loop-attacking more than he did last year, won the big third game at 19 to take a 2-1 lead, it looked as if Brian might not recover. But in the fourth, Domingo made three faulty serves and got into a hole, a grave, from which he couldn’t extricate himself. He tried as the match went into the fifth to go back on defense where he felt more secure—but Masters looped the ball hard enough and angled it deceptively enough to get through Rey.

            Brian’s final moment of triumph I didn’t see. But at the post-tournament party at the Simons, people began mouthing what Brian had said on winning. Of course since players enjoying themselves with a drink or two are apt to say a lot of questionable things, I take no responsibility here for penning anything other than the truth of what at this happy hour they said Brian had said. Which was: “I’m so happy I could s--- myself!”

            Scott Boggan, taking a three-week break (and in Chapter Four telling us about it), had flown in from Europe, was on vacation from his weekly league play in Germany. As he was ready to play Sean O’Neill, umpire Manny Moskowitz warned him about his serve. Manny said Scott’s hand in some of his earlier matches wasn’t always above the table. But when Manny and I watched for two whole games, neither of us saw so much as one infraction. “You have to be closer to see it,” said someone else. Really? I thought rather than lay a warning on Scott in the beginning, Manny should have stopped play the first time, if there was a first time, that Scott offended (did he ever serve illegally in the match?). But, as everyone keeps assuring me, no one’s out to get any of the Boggans—they’re treated just like everyone else—and, Tim, you can’t see straight.

            See most of Scott’s match with Sean I didn’t—but one fellow said that Sean, particularly in the second game, came out making a lot of big shots. (Both Scott and Sean have similar games in that each often—too often perhaps—goes for spectacular, low-percentage shots.) Eric later told me that Scott, trying to hit in serves, thought he was Jonyer or somebody and should have been strategically content to let Sean make mistakes.

            Anyway, after losing the first two games, Scott won the third at 19 to stay alive, and then in the fourth Sean got a little soft, was down 20-16, and, though he rallied, lost that one too at 19. In the fifth, it seemed Sean had to be more aggressive—and was. Playing steadily, sometimes satisfied to push ball after ball until an opening presented itself, Sean built up an 8-1 lead—as Scott, who just hadn’t been moving out there, looked tired to me. (Like how many others he’d been awakened by that 2 a.m. fire alarm? Nope—he hadn’t been to bed yet.) With Sean up 17-8, the match appeared all but over—but Scott, playing with a sudden absolute abandonment that thrilled the crowd, closed to 18-15 before missing a kill. After which—the spell broken—Sean followed by smacking in a gorgeous winner to leave no doubt he was going to win this match.

            Arunkumar had beaten Ricky Seemiller all half-dozen or so times they’d played—but these Butterfly tables were faster than the ones Kumar was generally used to, so that would help Ricky’s chances a little? Apparently so. For with games tied, Ricky, leading 19-17 in the third, was taking his best shot ever at Arun. But then he looped one off the top of the net and too stiffly rolled another. At 19-all, Kumar saw an opening and taking a forehand that brought him out of position he didn’t begin to hit the ball hard enough (he needs to work more on a one-ball put-away?) and Ricky easily blocked it back for a clean winner. But up 20-19, Ricky looped off. Then at deuce he pushed one into the net, and, ad down, countered a ball so strangely that there was a puzzling moment before everybody agreed that it had richocheted not off Kumar’s but Ricky’s half of the table. Match eventually to Kumar in four. 

Semi’s/Final

            The Eric Boggan-Masters semi was not expected to be a close match. (These two who got along well, will be going to Australia together after the World’s? Or is Brian going to Cuba with Sean?) But, after winning the first, when Eric lost the second game at 19, he got a little irritated at the crowd applauding the underdog Brian. “How come when I win a game,” he said, “nobody applauds?” (This line got a big laugh when mocked by me after I beat Sharpe at an adjacent table.) It appeared that Eric’s concentration might be slipping. Indeed, Boggan, playing non-aggressively, very disinterestedly—as if disgusted now at having to go four games with this lame upstart whom he kept catching on drop shots—just pulled out the third at 19.

            In the fourth, Eric, down 12-8, got in a winner—and Brian, who also mouths nice things, said, “Good shot.” To which Eric, ever the perfectionist, replied, “No it wasn’t”—and then, coming back to the reality of Brian’s less than world-class point of view, began to laugh at his own so serious retort. And, oh, that did it—turned the match. For now, Eric, no longer disgusted or unconsciously interested in trying to punish himself for his less than perfect play, ran the score to 15-12, 17-13 his favor—and that was that.

            In the other semi’s, though Kumar was the favorite, Sean, who’d beaten him the week before in Maryland to increase his Howard County Circuit lead in the race for the $1,000 first prize, was given a real chance to win.

            In the first game, Sean, down 18-11, inched up to 19-16—then snapped in a no-look, down-the-line forehand that didn’t fool Kumar for a moment, since he countered his return cleanly back past him. Then Sean again watched helplessly as Kumar finished off the game with an irretrievable net. In the second, O’Neill was down 8-1—back all even at 14-all. Often Sean would roll a high topspin to Kumar’s backhand and threaten to twist-wrist loop the ball to his open forehand. If he did this, the ball would then spin away, Kumar would have to stretch for it, and a good chop return would be difficult. So repeatedly at such times Kumar would fall back on his forehand topspin counter-defense and this was often very effective. Down 19-17, Sean flashed in a marvelous backhand counter off Kumar’s topspin—but couldn’t win this game, the one he needed to get back into the match. Kumar over Sean, three straight.

            Though Eric was supposed to win the final, he had lost to Kumar once before, and was determined to play him not tentatively but aggressively. Which, since Kumar was a bat flipper, meant Eric would have to read the former Indian National’s changing Feint/Black Power spin and loop the ball through him.

            In the first game, Eric began his easy pattern of play, which he held to the entire match. Since he didn’t want to get into any pushing duel, his aim was to begin looping until he could set up a ball for a winner or score a point outright. To this end he over and over again undeceptively looped to Kumar’s forehand where there was plenty of table room. Throughout the match, Eric had no difficulty reading Kumar’s changing spin—and though Arun’s chop was consistent, Eric felt that if he played patiently he would sooner or later draw the high ball he needed.

            Only in the third game was Eric challenged. He got off to a very bad start—was down 10-3—and though he rallied almost immediately to 12-all, Kumar again pulled away, amidst lots of loud foot-stamping that was in itself so mutually competitive that the audience snickered. Shored up by a 19-14 lead, Kumar eventually won that game. But it was to be his only hurrah—he had to settle for second best..

            You’ve got to be fit to play Arun,” Eric said later, $500 check in hand. “He’s good now—but if he had a better practice situation, he’d be better. When his chop comes to the back edge it’s difficult to handle. But too often he returns the ball short and then it’s easy to put away. Also, he doesn’t mix it up enough—the Europeans are much better at twirling their rackets disguising the spin.”