1983: December Tournaments. 1983: Nigerian Men, Canadian Women/Juniors are USOTC Champions.
Winners at the Yasaka Open, played Dec. 3-4 in Sacramento: Open Singles: 1. Khoa Nguyen. 2. Dean Doyle. 3. David Chun. 4. Tony Kiesenhofer. Women’s: 1. Diana Gee. 2. Lisa Gee. 3. Nadine Prather. 4. Julie Van Kleeck. Open Doubles: Doyle/Carl Danner over Nguyen/Nguyen. Mixed Doubles: Khoa Nguyen/D. Gee over Chun/L. Gee. U-2100: Danner over Masaaki Tajima. U-3850 Doubles: 1. Rolf Goos/James Therriault. 2. Tom Miller/Slot [?]. U-1900: 1. Russ Wyatt. 2. Miller. U-1700: 1. Allen McDermott. 2. Al Sanada. 3. Don McDermott. 4. John Schneider. U-3250 Doubles: 1. Bob Shanilec/Miller. 2. Chougari/Minh Do. U-1500: 1. Schanilec. 2. Geoff Harvey. U-1300: 1. Tom Li. 2. Warner Baxter. U-2250 Doubles: 1. Li/Burke O’Neill. 2. Chan/Scott. U-1100: 1. Kim Chan. 2. Jack Mason. U-900: 1. Anthony Streutker. 2. Burt Toler. Hard Bat: 1. Doyle. 2. Goos. Senior’s: 1. Miller. 2. Mohammad Aghili. Senior’s U-1700: 1. D. McDermott. 2. A. McDermott.
The Southern California TTA (SCTTA) was formed Dec. 31, 1983. Here (Timmy’s, Jan., 1984, 20) are the Minutes from that first Meeting:
“After Jim West told the history of the now defunct California TTA, a motion was passed unanimously to organize the SCTTA. Purpose: to promote and coordinate table tennis activities from San Diego to Santa Barbara.
The following people were elected to office and will immediately form a by-laws committee: President: Peter Antkowiak; Vice President: Ichiro Hashimoto; Secretary: Harold Kopper; Treasurer: Lyn Smith. Masaru Hashimoto was elected Tournament Chairman. Wu Ching-Shyue volunteered to be Coaching Chair, and Dr. Jiing Wang volunteered to be International Chairman.
The following Motions were passed:
To ask Charles Childers, Paul Vidor, and Mike Baltaxe to join the by-laws committee, then to ask all affiliated clubs to offer suggestions on the by-laws.
To have the Treasurer open two checking accounts, one for petty cash. Two signatures will be required on all checks over $100.
To have the organization assume the responsibilities for the 1984 California State Championships.
To affiliate the SCTTA with the USTTA as a District Affiliate.
To ask the USTTA about the possibility of returning $2 a year per Southern California USTTA member to the SCTTA.
Clubs represented by one or more members at this Meeting were: Corona, San Gabriel Valley, Hawthorne Northrop, Hollywood, Mar Vista, Alhambra, Montclair, Rich’s Workshop, Long Beach.
The next Meeting was scheduled for the Mar Vista Recreational Center at 3:00 p.m. on Jan. 14, 1984.”
Results of the Ontario Closed, sponsored by Ajax Travel and played Dec. 4th at the Etobicoke Olympium just outside Toronto: Men’s Singles: Joe Ng over Steve Lyons, 16, -21, 10. Women’s Singles: Julia Johnson over Gloria Hsu, 17, 21. Men’s Doubles: Ng/Lyons over Fred Taylor/Richard Chin, 14, 22. Women’s Doubles: Johnson/Hsu over Rupa Banerjee/Suzannah Ziegler, 11, -17, 16. Mixed Doubles: Ng/Hsu over Lyons/Johnson. U-2000: Vaibhav Kamble over Wayne Chan, 8, 2. U-1850: Taylor over Jose Oliveira, deuce in the 3rd. U-1700: Taylor over Ned McLennan. U-1550: Mike Keyes over Winston Lai, 21, -14, 15. U-1400: Jeff Jack over Paulo Antunes, -22, 19, 17. U-1200: Jack over Barry Lam. Over 40: Ron Bickerstaffe over Maurice Moore. Jr. Men U-17: Kamble over Deepak Bhatia. Boys U-15: Hardy Diec over Bhatia. Boys U-13: Trung Le over Tom DaSilva. Boys U-11: Le over Denny Oliveira. Jr. Women U-17: Michelle Qurrey over Crystal Daniel, def. Girls U-15: Qurrey over Daniel, def. Girls U-13: Dina DaSilva over Ana Melo, 11, -21, 18.
Winners at the Dec. 17th Max Marinko Memorial Open: Men’s: Joe Ng over Errol Caetano, 21, -21, 21, 8, 21. Women’s: Gloria Hsu over Julia Johnson. Men’s Doubles: Ng/Horatio Pintea over Caetano/Yuan, 18 in the 3rd. U-2000: Vaibhav Kamble over Hsu. U-1850: Bogdan Kalinowski over Ron Bickerstaffe. U-1700: Allen Romanowski over Peter Ng. U-1700 Doubles: Paul Hang/P. Ng over Gilbert Benoit/ Michel Goyette. U-1550: Hang over Dominic Lau. U-1400: Sajid Alam over Lap Khac Lam, 18 in the 3rd. U-1200: Barry Lam over Noel Strachen, 18 in the 3rd. Senior’s: George Bonigut over Bill Soros. Jr. Men U-17: Kamble over Deepak Bhatia. Boys U-15: P. Ng over Bhatia. Jr. Women U-17: Crystal Daniel over Michelle Qurrey. Girls U-15: Daniel over Qurrey.
Winners at the Dec. 3-4 Howard County #3 Open at the usual Columbia, MD site: Open: Sean O’Neill over Bill Sharpe. U-2000: Pat Lui over John Wetzler. U-3800 Doubles: O’Neill/Craig Bailey over Lui/Wetzler, 9, -19, 19. U-1800: Chauncey Ford over Mort Greenberg. U-1600: Bob Hawck over Irv Goldstein. U-1400: Horst Zodrow over Kevin Walton. U-2800 Doubles: Carl Kronlage/Walton over Yvonne Kronlage/Prakash Chougule. U-1200: Liu Yin Der over Chougule. U-1000: B. Powley over C. Cwalina. Sat. Handicap: Walton over Zodrow. Sun. Handicap: Erich Haring over Ben Ebert. Junior’s: J. Harris over E. Kelley.
Following this tournament, the Circuit leaders are: 1. Prakash Chougule, 49. 2. Erich Haring, 42. 3. Ha Chi Dao, 40. 4. Pat Lui, 36. 5. Sean O’Neill (last year’s easy winner), 28. 6. John Wetzler, 23. 7. Craig Bailey, 22. 8. Peter Helgerson, 21. 9.-10.-11. Kevin Walton, 20; Horst Zodrow, 20; Ben Ebert, 20. Prizes for the top 10 finishers: 1. $1,000. 2. $500. 3.-4. Televisions. 5.-6. Radios. 7.-8. $25 gift certificates. 9.10. Free entry in the opening Sept., ’84 Circuit tournament….FLASH FORWARD. In 2012, the Circuit will celebrate its 30th year, and will have expanded to 12 tournaments, one per month. The six players who’ve accumulated the most Circuit points for the year will receive the following awards: 1. $2,000. 2. $1,000. 3. $800. 4. $600. 5. $400. 6. $200.
Westfield’s Dec. 9-10 Warm-Up for the U.S. Closed: Open Singles: Final apparently not reported. Semi’s: Eric Boggan over P. Young; B.K. Arunkumar over Rey Domingo in five. Women’s Singles: Alice Green over Jasmine Wang who barely survived Ai-ju Wu, deuce in the 3rd. U-2225: Steven Mo over Fu-lap Lee who just got by Eyal Adini, 19 in the 3rd. U-2100: Horace Roberts over Suguru Araki. U-2000: K. Liung over D. Valoy. U-1900: George Holtz over Ron Luth. B Doubles: Llewellyn/Roberts over Andy Diaz/Valoy. U-1800: C. Jones over Brian McKnight. U-1650: Joan Fu over H. Johnson who’d escaped Dennis Kaminsky, -13, 20, 13. U-1500: S. Lerner over Lyle Seales. D Doubles: Mike Sinder/John Shareshian over Luth/Holz. U-1350: Nova Zakaev over R. Johnson. U-1175: M. Schmookler over Koeppe, 19 in the 3rd, then over D. Holtzman. U-1000: Schmookler over E. Palmore. F Doubles: Zakaev/Ahmed Guketlov over Hung Ly/Mark Rose. Unrated: Ly over D. Thomas. Esquire’s: Ralph Vescera over Dan Dickel. Senior’s: George Brathwaite over Tim Boggan who’d advanced over Russian visitor Igor Klaf whom we’ll hear more about in my next volume.
The U.S. Open Team Championships, sponsored by the Detroit TTC and played (on 90 tables, including 24 new Donic ones) at Cobo Hall Thanksgiving weekend, drew 101 Open, 10 Women’s, and 12 Junior teams—481 players in all, 107 of whom were Canadian.
Credit for much of the organizational work—especially the time-consuming tournament draws and the print-out time-and-table schedules for all 123 teams (“thousands of dollars worth of service,” said one involved observer)—must go to Bob Allshouse. Others (and I hope I’ve not left out anyone) who helped Tournament Director Bob Beatty (Thanks, Bob) make it all work were Chris Webbleman, Bob Bowlander, Rosie Ryell, Fred Alt, Lyle Thiem, and Tournament Referee Andy Gad.
While there was a small 5% increase in the number playing in the Open this year, there was a big 1/3 drop in entries in both the Women’s and Junior events. Although 80% of the Women’s entry fees were returned in prize money, they were not at all happy, at least up until finals time, with their out-of-the-way table locations. “We objected,” said one, “but we really didn’t have enough guts to get together and organize a protest that might have changed things.”
As for the Juniors from Ontario, they were downright disgusted. Why? Hadn’t they won? But of course—for even their lowest-rated player was several hundred points better than the highest-rated player on any U.S. team. The tournament organizers had been considerate, had called Canada and, explaining the problem, had asked, “Wouldn’t you like to play your juniors in the Open?” But the Ontario Association wanted the title, and as one bored, disappointed young player put it, “We shoulda stayed home and had them mail the medals to us.”
I’ll begin with Sheri Rose Soderberg’s coverage of the Women’s Championship at this year’s USOTC’s, then go on to report on the Men’s (Timmy’s, Jan., 1984, 15).
“Women, women. Where were all the women this year? With only 10 teams entered, the tournament committee placed all the teams in one round robin. We were scheduled to play five matches on Saturday and four on Sunday.
Almost as ludicrous as the meager number of teams participating this year was the fact that the tie that ultimately—as expected!—decided the third and fourth-place finishers was played early Saturday at 1:00 p.m., in the third of the nine rounds. Midwest (Kasia Dawidowicz, Takako Trenholme, and Ardith Lonnon) took on the fourth-seeded Northeastern team (Connie Sweeris, Cheryl Dadian, Ai-ju Wu, and Kalavathi Panda). With the tie tied at 4-4 (Ardith had gone 0-3, Kasia 2-1, and Takako, 2-0), it at first looked like Ai-ju, who easily took the first, would be the winner over Takako. But then, up match-point in the second, Ai-ju suddenly found Takako tougher than she’d expected—and lost that game. On they went into the third—and there Takako totally dominated play. Midwest 5, Northeastern 4.
Midwest won all its ties Saturday, but on Sunday neither it nor Northeastern could touch the two top-seeded teams. And which two teams were they? Certainly not last year’s powerhouse Korean TTC in the USA, with its California-based stars, Kim Kyung-ja and Lee Soo-ja—they were conspicuously absent. No one knew why they hadn’t entered. (D-J Lee had hoped to team with the Korean TTC men players, but they didn’t come to Detroit either. However, D-J wasn’t too miserable. He beamed when asked about his wife. “He-ja’s at home,” he said. “She’s seven months pregnant now.”) Besides the Koreans, other Californians were missing as well—Angie Rosal was training in Sweden, and Carol Davidson, Jamie Medvene, and Cindy Miller had their own reasons for not entering.
The absence of these players made Butterfly (Insook Bhushan, Alice Green, and Sheila O’Dougherty) the No. 1 favorite, for all three players were rated over 2000, and their advance to the final was assured. As expected, the second-seeded Carleton team, made up of Canada’s best players (Mariann Domonkos, Gloria Hsu, Thanh Mach, and Becky McKnight) also reached the final.
The first four matches in this Women’s climactic tie were of small significance to the spectators. The tense and volatile cross-over men’s matches between Butterfly II and Yasaka that were still underway at an adjacent table rendered the early Butterfly-Carleton women’s matches rather unexciting in comparison. However, both teams were battling—Insook had straight-game wins over Gloria and Mariann; but Canada balanced with equally easy victories: Thanh over Alice [a very important match—yet Alice lost it, uncharacteristically at 9, 12], and Mariann over Sheila. Tie: 2-2.
The match between Sheila and Thanh was a crowd-pleaser. Sheila was up 20-18 double- match-point in the third. But then Thanh quickly deuced it and went ad–up. However, Sheila, fighting harder with each volley, finally was able to hit enough balls through Thanh to take the match 24-22. [That was a must win for Butterfly.]
In the sixth match, Gloria’s drive was too strong for Alice who again couldn’t contest (lost 10, 16). Tie: 3-3. Insook of course had an easy time with Thanh. And Mariann, as anticipated, downed Alice [finally playing up to her potential, losing 19, 17—if one were to know Alice would lose so easily to Thanh and Gloria, Butterfly wouldn’t have originally been the favorites]. Tie: 4-4.
Sheila opened the ninth match against Gloria by staying loose and playing with an aggressive thirst as witness her fierce forehand counters. Still, from 16-14 up, she was 20-18 down. Now Sheila took a courageous shot, got the ball through Gloria’s backhand to move to 19. But then her concentration faltered, and she served off! Down 10-5 in the second, she staged a mini-rally that got her to 15-17. But her forehand, derived in cold Minnesota, was lost somewhere amidst the blizzard of Gloria’s unrelenting attack. Game, match, and tie, 21-16 to Hsu.
Not only was Sheila upset—literally and figuratively—but her teammates were as well, including undefeated Insook. All was not lost for her, however, as she was presented with the Most Valuable Player award.
The Men’s Championship—which presumably you can read about in the first issue of the upcoming Nigerian TTA’s “Table Tennis News”—turned out to be more predictable than not. There were two final round robin groups, and in each case the fight for the semifinal crisscross positions was between three contending teams.
Those in Group A were Ontario Senior Men (what a name, huh?—as if they were all over 40): Zoran “Zoki” Kosanovic, Errol Caetano, Joe Ng, and Ming Yuan; Defending Champion Nigeria (for some mysterious reason seeded fourth)—Atanda “Mansa” Musa, Titus Omotara, Francis Sule, and Saula Adio; and Butterfly II (to be distinguished from Butterfly I, except there wasn’t any Butterfly I)—Brian Masters, Brandon Olson, and Quang Bui.
Those in Group B were: Butterfly East—Danny, Ricky, and Randy Seemiller; Yasaka—B.K. Arunkumar, Sean O’Neill, Lekan Fenuyi, and Scott Butler; and Quebec I—Horatio Pintea, who did not (and surely never intended to?) commute from Sweden; Alain Bourbonnais, Bao Nguyen, and Mitch Rothfleisch.
In Group A, as it turned out, the Ontario Senior’s lost 5-2 to Butterfly II—which means, does it, that if Kosanovic had played, Ontario would have won? So why didn’t he play? He wasn’t feeling well? Correct. He had tendonitis in his wrist; and for 10 days now it had been all bandaged up, and for maybe another 10 to go his thumb would still be numb. Too much practicing—that was one confidante’s answer as to how it had happened. Now, presumably because of the injury, Zoki was taking some strong pills (“like I was in the skies sometimes…ha, ha…a nice feeling…ha, ha”).
But against Nigeria particularly, Zoki was very much at the ready—for replacing his racket was a very large notebook. Yes, he was coaching and (oh, oh) being more than a little disagreeably abrupt in his arguments with an official or two—all in his usual intense manner. And I must say, so coldly passionate, so single-minded in pursuing his job, was he—which of course was to get his team to win—that it was as if he himself were playing the tie and his team had gained the confidence that would have come from his participation.
In the first match, Ng was down 1-0 and 9-1 to Omotara—but (“Feet! Feet! Feet!” shouted Zoki from the bench—“C’mon, Joseph, let’s go! First one must be on the table!”) Joe came back to win the game. “When this guy serves with his backhand down the line,” said Zoki to Joe just before the start of the third, “you’ve got to return the ball with forehand sidespin then step forward into his return with forehand topspin. Got that?”
Other bench directives followed. “Be ready for his forehand, Joe!” (Omotara had a good serve and a beautiful covering follow.) “Be there with your feet, Joe! Your feet aren’t moving!” Final score: 22-20 in the third for Ng-Kosanovic.
But in the next match, 1981 Commonwealth Champ Musa, world-ranked conqueror of French Champ Secretin at the Novi Sad World’s, was too straight-game good for the phlegmatic Yuan. Tie: 1-1.
In a match where both players often showed a remarkable touch (“What an amazing serve return Errol has,” said one admirer), Caetano just could not win the big third game from Francis Sule, the Skypower replacement for last year’s Seemiller-destroying Yomi Bankole who’s now with another club. Somehow the Nigerian’s slow, smooth snap of a backhand was kicking off the table crazily (“That’s the beauty of sponge,” said one onlooker).
But then Ng, who in the last couple of years has been getting lots of international experience, 16, 7 annihilated Musa. Canada 2—Nigeria 2.
Now (“Be ready for the wrist shot, Errol!”) Caetano finished Omotara in straight games. But this win was balanced by Yuan’s loss to Sule. (After the first change of serve, the Nigerian wanted to get a new ball into play, but Zoki wouldn’t let him.)
Caetano’s match with Musa was a must win for Ontario. Only Errol didn’t win it, lost in three. But, up 19-14 in the second, he electrified the crowd with one of the damndest shots they’d ever seen. Here was the way one lower division enthusiast writing to a friend described it:
“Caetano made the most unbelievable shot I’ve ever seen. He was playing Musa, one of the Nigerians, and they were counter-looping but fairly close to the table. Caetano looped a ball and thought it would come back to his forehand, so he turned that way and dropped his racket down to get ready. (Remember, Caetano’s left-handed.)
But the Nigerian put it down the line to Caetano’s backhand. And what did I see with my wonder-struck eyes? Caetano kept dropping his racket down, down, down, around behind his back and (I still can’t believe it) BACKHAND KILLED THE BALL BACK DOWN THE LINE BEHIND HIS BACK! Pandemonium. Hysteria. Everyone went wild.
Caetano just stood there as calm as ever like he made that shot all the time. The poor Nigerian was immobilized for a moment. Then he went over to pick up the ball—it had landed by his own bench—and his teammates were laughing. But what else could they do? When someone makes a shot like that there’s nothing you can do. And Caetano’s the kind of player who has the touch, reflexes, and presence of mind to make that kind of shot.”
That bravura winner, though (“I drove 18 and ½ hours to this tournament,” said another player, “and Caetano’s shot alone made it worth the trip”) was foxy Zoki and Co.’s last life-jump of the mortally wounded. When MVP winner Sule easily defeated Ng, Ontario could no longer make the crisscross.
Coming out in Group A to the semi’s were: (1) Nigeria and (2) Butterfly II who (with only Masters putting up a 19-in-the-third struggle against Sule) had lost 5-0 to the Africans.
In Group B, the Seemiller Butterfly East team was soon faced with a portent of things to come. Against Quebec I they were in deep, deep trouble. True, Danny had won his first two matches as anticipated. And Randy had beaten Rothfleisch. But Randy had also lost to Alain Bourbonnais. And Ricky, not dead to his team but playing as if rigor mortis had set in—later he’d be calling himself “Old Stone Hands—had lost to Bao Nguyen. Now, against Bourbonnais, he was down 10-8 in the third at the turn, and getting the same advice from both Danny and Randy—“Don’t look at us. Just think what you’re doing out there!” But as the clock ticked, Ricky, down 19-12, had left the classroom of his mind and disappeared into the cold, dark blackboard of space.
So the tie was 3-3.
And now, how was Randy doing with Bao? One game each.
And Danny with Bourbonnais?...Down 1-0 and 6-1 in the second.
“I don’t think people give Alain the credit he deserves,” said one Quebecer.
Perhaps not. But Alain—unquestionably his timing’s much better, he’s not all in a rush—did not win this match against Danny. “I started thinking ridiculous thoughts,” he later said. “I was going to crush him under 10.” But even while Danny was on the defensive, Alain, whatever the hell he was telling himself, actually stopped finishing and began losing confidence.
Bao, however, hung in there, stayed fired up for a win.
Which forced Ricky to play Rothfleisch in the ninth and deciding match.
The huge rating-point difference seemed quickly to tell the story—Ricky was up 1-0 and 12-8. Still, ex-Olympic Champ Bill Sharpe was saying, “Boy, that big fellow from Quebec is so light on his feet for a guy that size. I’d like to take him under my wing. Never mind the coaching—let someone else do that—I’d just concentrate on working out a conditioning program for him.”
How about it, Mitch? After you lose this match, why don’t you go talk to—
Ricky and Rothfleisch are 13-all in the third! And Mitch is so lean and hungry he’d dieting his yells as it were. “Ohh!” he’d fist-up say instead of “Chow!”…“Ohh!...Ohh!’—as if, point after point, he was surprised he’d scored.
But then Mitch was no longer surprised. Ricky kept winning points on his serve (“I never choke,” he said later) and ran the game to 20-13. There, as Danny was playfully saying to Randy, “Ricky’s still no favorite,” Old Stone Hands stopped—went into a 14-15-16-17 deep-space freeze—before beaming back to his brothers.
In their next vigorously contested tie against Yasaka, Danny could afford to lose games—to Kumar, Sean, and Lekan—but Ricky and Randy could not afford, against this tougher team, to play the way they’d played against Quebec.
Arun got off to a good start opposite Danny. Not only can this Indian ex-National chop hard but he can retrieve well too; unlike many defensive players he can get kills back. No wonder then, at 10-all in the first, Danny was actually chiseling out points with Kumie as if preparing for an Expedite match. Said one observer, “Kumar’s making it more difficult for Danny to open the point—he’s reducing him to the kind of losing player others are against Kumar.”
But Danny’s chops, lifts, loops, and drops eventually broke up Arun’s game—something Ricky and Randy can’t do—and allowed him to win in three. So, two wins, one loss, for Kumie in the tie.
O’Neill, coached by Fenuyi, was urged to dead-ball Danny, mix him up, lift his chops instead of, too upright, trying to drive them in for quick winners. He was successful up to a point. Against Ricky and Randy, Sean would hear Fenuyi yell, “Move that serve around!...If you can spin the anti, do it; if not, roll down the line. Be patient” and he was—two wins, one loss for Sean in the tie.
Which left the stage to Fenuyi. “I can’t believe Danny’s chopping against HIM,” said the dismissive fellow next to me. And Lekan did score a triumph—but not against Danny. He downed Ricky in straight games. It was only a few years ago that Fenuyi was the unheralded Nigerian who, after having absented himself from the game for a while, just casually took up a racket in a Texas tournament and (“Fen who?” said Perry….”Oh, a Nigerian….No, nobody’s any good from that part of the world”) beat a very surprised Schwartzberg.
Coming out in Group B to the semi’s were: (1) Yasaka (who’d had relatively little trouble with Quebec I) and (2) Butterfly East.
In the first crisscross tie it was Nigeria vs. Butterfly East. Supposedly the Africans were worried about their lack of practice against anti play. But, though Danny won his first two matches against Omitara and Sule, he was again, as in the Quebec tie, not getting the support he wanted from Ricky and Randy. (“The anti’s useless here,” they said—but didn’t elaborate.)
Moreover, though the players on both teams continued to look TV presentable out there, were dressed in matching outfits—dark blue for the Nigerians, steel gray for the Seemillers—there just wasn’t much arena-theater-like FOCUS on this tie, or maybe in fact on ANY of the Men’s, Women’s and Junior ties. Blame, if you want, the now not two but three-table arena, the distracting 90-table background, the surrounding half-circle of advertising booths, the only mildly- interested spectator-players wandering the aisles, perhaps on their way to a concession stand, and the lack of a concerted large and vocal team following. There just wasn’t the drama we’d seen here at Cobo many times in the past.
When, finally, Danny lost to Musa, it was as if he could see it didn’t really matter much. Nigeria 5—Butterfly East 2.
In the other crisscross tie, Olson was first off against O’Neill—and perhaps, since he’d been a recent house guest of Sean’s and practicing daily with him, he’d gotten to know his game better. Anyway, he was able to start Butterfly off, if not on a fast run, at least on the right foot—two straight for Brandon.
Fenuyi, however, after losing a 24-22 opening game to Bui, bounced back to win the next two—and the tie was tied 1-1.
Brian had never beaten Kumar in a tournament—but this was certainly a good time to do it. Down 18-17 in the first, Brian thought his drop bounced twice before Kumar could get to it, but the umpire thought differently, said Arun’s racket had caught the table underneath the ball, which bounced only once. When Brian persisted in pleading that he was right, Kumar gave him the point, then ran out the game.
Up 18-17 in the second, Brian whiffed one, then, up 19-18, rolled one into the net. Up match point, Kumar failed to return serve. But, up 23-22 and looping persistently, Brian again made an error. Then whiffed one. Then, badly out of position, took a desperate, losing whack at a high ball—and that was the match.
Bui and O’Neill played two almost identical end-games—with Quang getting final topspin control each time. In the second, Sean, down 19-18, served and followed for the point. But then Quang got in a diamond-point topspin and, leading 20-19 match point, wrestled the offense from Sean, and got home a winner.
In the fifth match, Olson casually slapped Kumar around for a while, but from up 1-0 and at 14-all in the second he couldn’t win.
In another pivotal match, Fenuyi lost 21, 22 games to Masters—which evened the tie at 3-3.
Bui was good against chop, was he? He streaked to a 9-3 lead in the first against Kumar, but Arun, down 19-16, continued mixing up his spin and picking the right ball, and Quang lost five in a row…and all his confidence.
But Yasaka, leading 4-3, could not get the one last winner it needed. Sean lost his third match of the tie to Brian, and Lekan just couldn’t contest it with Brandon.
Unhappily, the player-spectators would not get to see Kumar play the looping Africans. With only one loss to Danny, he might, had he played the Skypower team in the final, have won the MVP award.
Since Nigeria had blitzed the Butterfly II team earlier, the final would be anticlimactic?
Sule, strong on both sides, was too straight-game much for the only sometimes spectacular Olson.
But Masters, after losing the first at 9 to Titus Omotara (the African just counter-looped Brian’s spinny loop) rallied to even the tie, 1-1.
Musa’s nickname is “Mansa”—know why? After the great Mansa Musa of the old Mali Empire, remembered for his well-trained and disciplined armies and his historical pilgrimage to Mecca. Against Quang, this Mansa disciplined himself and angled one ball after another in for a win.
Brian, jumping down, falling up, returning what would seem an impossible shot, avenged his earlier loss to Sule to again even the tie, 2-2.
And what’s this—the Skypower Africans had beaten this team 5-0? It wouldn’t seem so. Olson, unimpressed as it were by the whole Mali Empire, or the fact that Musa had recently beaten two Nigeria-touring Chinese, was at 19-all in the third with him. But…maybe next time, Brandon.
Nor was Quang, a first-time loser to Titus, intimidated by his opponent the second time around, not even when he, Quang, was down 19-16. For, at 21-all, who was the tightest? Not loose Bui. Tie tied at 3-all.
But that was the end of Butterfly II. Down went Masters to Musa and Bui to Sule. And as the last ball tumbled over the net, the Nigerians, successful Title Defenders from halfway round the world, were again flying high.
I close with what, depending on the upcoming 1984 USTTA presidential election, may or may not be a farewell-to-table-tennis from Larry Thoman (Timmy’s, Jan., 1984, 16):
“I am very proud of my play in the U.S. Open Team Championships and very proud of my teammates Richard Hicks, Jr. and John Allen whose dedicated play brought our Southern Stars team to a 6th-Place final standing.
I felt particularly good about my play. I played the best I ever have, and I attribute this to the fact that I knew these Detroit USOTC’s could well be the last tournament I ever played in, and I had to make every point count.
High-rated players I beat were: C.S. Lo (2108), Zedpelin Law (2093), Bill Sharpe (2121), Enoch Green (2267), Jim Lazarus (2262), Simon Shtofmahker (2229), Gene Lonnin (2091), and Ben Nisbet (2256). Also, I was up 20-17 in the first and 20-19 in the second before losing to ex-Commonwealth Champ Atanda Musa; up 10-2 in the first and, though I lost it, won the second from Joe Ng; and lost deuce games to both Quang Bui and Brian Masters.
One reason why our team did so well is that we all supported and encouraged each other and played and thought together as a team. When a team is seeded 14th and finishes 6th, that’s quite an accomplishment.
Detroit was quite emotional for me. On finishing my last match and preparing to case up my racket, I took one last long look over the rows and rows of tables, and a heavy feeling came over me and I’m sure a tear came to my eyes. I’ll really miss this game.”