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History of U.S. Table Tennis Volume 13: 1984

CHAPTER NINETEEN 

1984: $12,000 U.S. Open. 

             In giving us (SPIN, July-August, 1984, cover +) extended coverage of the 1984 $12,000 U.S. Open, held June 27-July 1 at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, Editor Tom Wintrich begins by praising the visiting Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) players and particularly their 20-year-old male star Wen-Chia Wu. “Woe for anyone who had to play Wu,” says Tom and in summary tells us why: 

            “Enroute to his victory in Men’s Singles, Wu defeated two world-ranked players: #20 Eric Boggan (USA) in the quarter’s, and #6 Mikael Appelgren (Sweden) in the final. Wu also won the Men’s Doubles with roommate and sparring partner Huieh-Chieh Huang; the Under 21’s over fellow countryman Chin-Shui Chih; and, in spearheading the Chinese Taipei Team to victory, the International Team event.

            The only event he entered that he didn’t win was the Mixed Doubles. And he wasn’t beaten there. He and partner Hsiu-Yu Chang defaulted in the semi’s to the eventual winners, Chinese Taipei’s Huieh-Chieh Huang and Li-Zu Lin—defaulted so that Wu could conserve his energy for his Men’s match against Appelgren.

            Wu was undefeated in his singles play, posting 18 wins against the strongest field of players in U.S. Open competition since the ’79 Open on Long Island. (Over half of the 64-man draw here in Vegas was rated above 2400, with the majority of that group above 2500.) His overall match record, including doubles, was 28/2 (the two doubles losses coming in the Team competition).

            As a team, Chinese Taipei mirrored the remarkable performance of their National Champion, Wu. In every one of the five major events plus the International Team competition for men and women, the Chinese Taipei players were in the finals or semifinals, including the all-Chinese Taipei U-21 Singles (where runner-up Chin-Shui Chih was extended to 19 in the 3rd by Canada’s Horatio Pintea). Collectively, they shared in the prize money 18 times, earning $3,500 or nearly 30% of the total awards.

            This accomplishment came from an Association that was granted admission to the International Table Tennis Federation just over a year ago and is now eagerly looking forward to their participation in World Championship competition in Sweden in March, 1985.”

            Given the obvious strength of the Chinese Taipei Team here, I, as USTTA President, wrote a letter to Dr. Vladimir Palecek, Chair of the ITTF Technical Committee, urging that, on their long-awaited acceptance into the World Championships in 1995, their Men’s and Women’s teams be inserted into the Championship Division. (They weren’t.) 

Wintrich goes on to tell us that “in this unique (USA-style) Open, spectators see more than Big Five (Men’s/Women’s Singles and Doubles, and Mixed Doubles) play. They see Men’s and Women’s International Team competition, Club Team competition, Age events, Rating Events, Novelty events (Unrated, Draw Doubles, and Hard Rubber), and the special North American Championship event that will produce a qualifier for the elite 16-man World Cup.”

Tom will report on the Big Five Men’s and Women’s matches in due course, but first I want to take up those other events in the order mentioned above. 

Men’s International Team Competition

            Tom points out that “Tournament Directors Dennis Masters and Dan Simon (abetted by wife Patti) purposefully rescheduled the International Team events from the traditional Wednesday slot to Friday to give later-scheduled participants a chance to see the event.” Initially, as we learn from extended Result coverage in the Ontario TTA’s Update ( June-July, 1984), 23 teams were divided into eight round robins—with the winners advancing to a quarter’s /semi’s/final single elimination. In the top half of the draw, USA (Eric Boggan/Danny and Ricky Seemiller) moved into the semi’s with 3-0 wins over Switzerland, Sweden II, and in the quarter’s Indonesia. In the bottom half, Canada (Horatio Pintea and Joe Ng), who’d advanced 3-0 over Indonesia II and 3-1 over Sweden I (Appelgren and Anders Thulin), fell in the quarter’s (in six straight games) to Chinese Taipei I.

            We hear from Wintrich that both of the five-match semi’s were exciting. In the USA vs. Taipei II tie, “Danny narrowly 10, -19, 21 got by Chin-Long Chih who, as opposed to Danny, shows no emotion when he plays and seems to be disinterested in the matches. Eric, however, -19, -20 lost his close match to Chin-Shui Chih, and, obviously disgusted, opted not to play the doubles. The call for help goes out to Ricky Seemiller, who just moments before had beaten Rey Domingo in the Under 2500 quarter’s. Ricky was soaking wet, but exuberant after having unleashed an onslaught of bullet loops, ALMOST every one of which Rey had returned from deep in his court. No time now though to savor the victory. Worse, Seemiller/Seemiller then lost the doubles, 15, -17, -16, to go down 2-1. But USA rallied for relatively easy wins—Eric over Chin-Long Chih two straight, and Danny, 21-11 in the third, over Chin-Shui Chih.

            In the other Chinese Taipei I vs. India tie, Manmeet Singh (India #5) opened with a close 19, 24 win over Hueih-Chieh Huang. But Win-Chia Wu -16, 5, 9 suddenly found his game and stopped Venugopal Chandrashekar (India #4). India rebounded, however, to win the doubles. In the fourth match, Singh played aggressively against Wu and was just as fast, which is saying a lot. By 29-all, the game could have gone, still can, either way—it goes to Wu. And so does the second, 21-18. Huang then wins the critical fifth in three from Chandrashekar.

            In the Team final, Chinese Taipei I gets off to a good start when Huang beats an uninspired Eric two straight. Wu does the same to Danny. Then, although Eric and Danny take the doubles in straight games, a pumped-up Wu finishes off Eric, 13, 12. Chinese Taipei is the $500 deserving winner, USA the $300 runner-up.”

            Wintrich notes that “Chinese Coach Liguo Ai, along with his daughter Li, joined wife and mother Li Henan as new residents of the U.S.” Coach Liguo, on watching the Open play, offers some comments on both the U.S. and Chinese Taipei teams: 

            “The American style, at least that of Danny and Eric’s, is indeed unique in the world. They are very good at blocking and maintaining ball control. However, the Chinese Taipei team was able to offset this strength because their footwork is so good. They could quickly cover the court and re-loop the blocks. While the Chinese Taipei players move similar to the Japanese (as opposed to the larger-sized Europeans who favor spin over speed), their forehand stroke moves faster and their block is done with power. They gain an advantage with the faster forehand and power blocks.”

            [Liguo said he was asked by Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) leaders who he thought would win should Chinese Taipei play Mainland China. He responded:] “The first time they meet, China will not let the Taiwanese move so comfortably. Also, China’s service and return of service will bother them. Consequently, I think Taiwan would lose. However, the second time they meet, the Chinese Taipei players will be more used to China’s style and that will help them [though not necessarily allow them to beat China?]. Right now I think the Chinese Taipei forehand loop is as good as any the Chinese have, while their footwork is generally better than that of the Chinese. However, the Chinese Taipei players need to improve on ball control and counter control.” 

Women’s International Team Competition

            In the Women’s International Team event, three of the 11 teams (playing initially in four round robins) were from the USA. Against heavily favored Japan, USA II (Lisa Gee, Takako Trenholme, and Sheila O’Dougherty) was outclassed. However, though it didn’t help them advance, these American women did defeat the Dominican Republic team (Brigida Perez and Blanca Alejo), 3-2. Takako opened with a loss to Blanca, but Lisa balanced with an 18-in-the-3rd win over Perez. Then, after dropping the doubles, USA finished well with two wins—Lisa over Blanca, and Takako over Perez. In that same top half of the draw, the USA Juniors (Diana Gee and Vicky Wong) lost 3-0 to both India and advancer Chinese Taipei, 3-0. Wintrich, however, stresses that against India our Juniors “gained valuable experience by putting up very strong resistance—Vicky losing to longtime Indian International Indu Puri at 19 and 20; while Diana, winning more points than her opponent, extended Lakshmi Karanth, -19, 13, -19. Also in this tie they actually might have won, the USA Juniors lost the doubles, 19 in the 3rd.”

 In the bottom half of the draw, USA I (Insook Bhushan and Lan Vuong) cruised to an easy win over Peru that advanced them to meet Chinese Taipei I in the semi’s. Wintrich says that, “although Bhushan won both her matches, USA’s 3-1 victory (Vuong had lost to Hsiu-Yu Chang), would not have been possible without the crucial doubles win that 15-year-old Lan’s good play helped provide.

USA then went on to the final where, after Lan had lost her opening singles to 1980 and 1982 U.S. Open Champion Kayoko Kawahigashi, Insook evened the tie with a win over Maruyama. But that was it for USA—Kawahigashi ending it with a straight-game win over Insook. First prize of $300 to Japan; 2nd prize of $200 to USA.” 

Club Team Competition

            Wintrich tells us that the “Club Team competition started on Wednesday morning and concluded 15 hours later at 1:30 a.m., Thursday. It wasn’t planned that way nor was it Tournament Directors Masters and Simons’ fault. They just politely acquiesced to the top players’ agreement that a crossover should be played amongst the four teams that advanced out of the two preliminary round robin groups of six. The original format called for a simple playoff between the winners of each group to determine first ($300) and second place ($200) and another playoff between the two teams that finished second in their group to determine third and fourth ($100).”

[And while Tom’s indirectly telling us the inconvenience this change cost a number of people involved in running the tournament, let me quickly run down the list of those, in addition to Masters and Simon, who need to be lauded for their efforts to make this Open a success: “Publicity: Bill Hodge; Registration: Sue Evans, Yvonne Kronlage; Physical Operations: Dick Evans; Referee: Bob Partridge; Assistant Referee: Allen Barth; Chief Umpire: Tom Miller; Director of Operations: Tom McEvoy; USTTA Booth: Catherine Haring/Yvonne Kronlage; Control Desk: Rich Livingston/John Tentor/Shonie Aki and an additional crew of 12.”]

“In the one crossover Club Team semi’s, Canada (Zoran Kosanovic and Errol Caetano) downed Sweden (Mikael Appelgren and Anders Thulin), 3-0—with Caetano defeating Appelgren, 21-16 in the third. In the other semi, Peru (Tosikiro Tanaka and Walter Nathan) took down USA (Ricky Seemiller, Brian Masters, and Quang Bui). The marathon competition ended when Nathan beat Caetano to give Peru a 3-2 win. Peru gets $300, Canada $200.” 

Age Events (Under 9-17)

            Sue Butler reports on the Junior play, highlighted by foreign players from Thailand, Chinese Taipei, South America, Canada, and Europe (Nisse Sandberg brought eight players from his Stockholm Angby Club). Sue begins with the youngest players then moves on up: 

            “The U-9 and U-11 Singles combined both boys and girls, an action that drew complaints as the parents of the U-11 girls thought their daughters should compete in a separate event.

            U-9 Singles: In the final of the Under 9’s were two eight-year-olds—Eric Owens, who we’ve heard so much about it seems like he ought to be at least 10 or 11, and Daniel Legters, whom we haven’t heard so much about since his dad is a Presbyterian minister serving in Mexico. While Daniel lives with his parents in Yucatan, his older brother, Mark, 16, a 1900 player, lives in Grand Rapids, MI where he continues to improve his table tennis skills working with Dell and Connie Sweeris. Owens isn’t used to meeting a strong player his size and age. So before Eric could adjust, Daniel’s strong consistent game won out, 9 and 14, to make him the new U.S. Open U-9 Champion.

            U-11 Singles: The U-11 format saw the winners of three round robins advancing to a single elimination draw. Both #1 seed Dhiren Narotam (U.S. Closed U-11 Champ) and #2 seed Todd Sweeris had no trouble winning their respective groups. But #3 seed Rene Ramirez barely advanced (18, -17, 20) over new U.S. resident Li Ai, daughter of Liguo and Henan Li Ai.

            Li is a penhold attacker with a strong forehand and a quick topspin serve. She was ranked in the Top Eight in Beijing and as a result was paid a stipend of 12 yuan ($6.00) for extra food. This is no small amount of money in China as the average worker earns 35 yuan per month. The money is paid by the Sports Federation and is distributed to the ranked athletes in every sport by three coaches.

            Although Ramirez did well to defeat Ai, he wasn’t able to get by Sweeris. Todd won two straight to reach the final against Narotam. But then Dhiren was too straight-game strong for Todd and so added the U.S. Open U-11 title to his National U-11 one.

            Unfortunately, the semi’s and final matches were played in the back of the hall under less than ideal conditions as the sports-complex roof was leaking rain because of a major thunderstorm. If the final had been featured on a table up front, this situation could have been avoided.

            U-13 Boys Singles: Jimmy Butler, rated 2210, was 460 rating points above #2 seed Fredrik Persson. Jimmy had lived with the Persson family in Sweden during the month of March, and Fredrik in turn had spent six weeks at our house before this U.S. Open. Both boys had a relatively easy time reaching the final, except for Persson’s narrow 23-21-in-the-3rd escape from fellow Swede Johan Edstrom.

            Jimmy was quick to exploit Fredrik’s backhand weakness—so with deep topspin serves followed by fast backhand exchanges and strong forehand smashes, Jimmy was able to add the U-13 U.S. Open Championship to his Closed U-13 and U-15 titles.

            U-13 Girls Singles: Stephanie Fox, U.S. Girls U-13 Champ, despite the lack of coaches and practice partners in St. Louis, came undefeated out of a round robin to also take the U.S. Open U-13’s. Second was Elizabeth Kecki from Regina, Saskatchewan. Having been coached by her father, a former ranked player, Elizabeth has good strokes and some excellent serves.

            U-13 Doubles: Winners: Jonas Fasth/Persson over Edstrom/Mourad Delyah, -17, 19, 13.

            U-15 Boys Singles: Jimmy Butler and Sweden’s ’82 U.S. Open U-13 Champ Daniel Frejhammer, after defeating all their opponents two straight, met in the final. Both are rated 2210 and have been facing each other for several years. Although Frejhammer is two years older (15), the match figured to go either way. Both boys have good forehands and backhands, but Daniel’s forehand loop is much superior to Jim’s, while Jimmy’s backhand exchange is much better than Daniel’s. There were many long points and Daniel was very stubborn about giving any of them up.

Frejhammer’s determination was the deciding factor in the match, especially in the crucial second game when Jim, having lost the first and down now 16-13, came back to lead 19-16. Even though Jim had the serve, he lost the next three points. At 19-all, a loop by Daniel tipped the net but didn’t land. Ad to Jim. The next exchange was fast and furious, but Jim’s backhand counter missed to bring the game to deuce. Now on Daniel’s serve Jim’s loop doesn’t go in and he’s down match point. Frejhammer then moved to victory—stepped around his backhand and looped-in the match-winner off Jimmy’s deep topspin serve. He was the only Swede to win a Junior singles event.

U-15 Girls Singles: U.S. stars Diana and Lisa Gee were the top seeds in the U-15 Girls Singles, but they faced strong competition from Chinese Taipei’s Su-Feng Huang, the ’83 U.S. Open U-15 finalist.

Lisa faced Huang in the semi’s, and in splitting the first two games Gee seemed to be getting the better of the long points. But in the third and final game Lisa was unable to score with many of her shots and couldn’t contest. Nor could Vicky Wong make a match of it with Diana. In the final, Diana, after losing the first game at 12, managed consistently to hit in winners at the right time and prevailed over Su-Feng 16 and 18.

U-15 Doubles: Winner: Gees over Frejhammer/Butler, 19, -15, 17.

U-17 Boys Singles: In the Boys U-17’s, all the seeded players advanced easily out of the first round, but in the eighth’s there were two mild surprises—Jim Butler’s straight-game win over Sweden’s 2250 Christer Anderson, and Gene Lonnon’s three-game losing effort to upset California Circuit Winner Khoa Nguyen.

In the quarter’s, U-17 National Champion Sean O’Neill easily defeated Frejhammer, while Thailand’s National Junior AND National Men’s Champ Chartchai Teekaveerakit (pronounced Tee-ka-wee-la-git) blitzed Jim Butler. The other two quarter’s turned out to be the best matches in the event.

Chinese Taipei’s 17-year-old Sheng-Chin Feng, a strong penhold looper, has good serves and these gave Khoa Nguyen a lot of trouble. Khoa, however, made good use of his powerful forehand loop. At the end of the first game, the fact that Feng was serving helped him win it at 16. In the second, Khoa mixed up his play more, scoring with loop winners to the penholder’s weaker backhand, and so evening up the match at a game apiece. But in the third, Khoa found himself down 19-16 and couldn’t recover. A couple of good serves by Feng and weak returns by Khoa and the match was over.

The remaining quarter’s pitted Scott Butler against Sweden’s Anders Thulin. Anders had never beaten Scott and indeed had lost to him in the Club competition here earlier. In the first game, Anders, nervous, couldn’t land a shot on the table. But in the second he settled down, became consistent with his shots, and tied up the match. The third game was a point by point battle to the end, featuring exciting rallies of loops, counter-loops, and smashes. At 19-all, Anders served a high-toss that Scott looped. Back and forth went the ball until Anders had been worked deep into his backhand—at which point Scott zipped in a cross-court forehand for the winner. Scott had made the decision to loop Anders’ next serve. And when it came—an outside topspin to Scott’s backhand—Scott stepped around and looped in a cross-court forehand for the match.

Both Feng and Butler must have drained themselves as neither fared well in the semi’s—O’Neill defeated Butler, 10 and 11, while Chartchai knocked off Feng, 12 and 18. Unfortunately for the spectators, the final was also dull as Chartchai lacked the intensity he’d shown in earlier matches. Thus O’Neill successfully defended his U.S. Junior title, 10, 16, 8.

Boys U-17 Doubles: Winners: O’Neill/Nguyen over Scott/Jim Butler, 8, 8.

Girls U-17 Singles: In quarter’s play, Chinese Taipei players prevailed: Li-Zu Lin (though outscored) won over teammate Mei-Jen Huang, 18, -7, 16; Su-Fen Huang beat Diana Gee, 20, 10; and Yueh-Jen Chen took out Lisa Gee, 12 ,19.

The remaining quarter’s between Lan Vuong and Vicky Wong was of greatest interest to the spectators. Vicky, who is being coached daily by Rey Domingo, continues to show lots of strength. Rey says that Vicky really plays well when he can get her to listen to and follow his advice—which she did during this match. Both players were attacking and taking advantage of every scoring opportunity. Lan played quicker than Vicky in the first game to win it at 14, but in the second Vicky forced Lan back from the table and prevailed at 18.

Vicky was up 16-11 in the third, but began pressing a little too hard, enabling Lan to tie the game. Vicky, now visibly frustrated, went for a couple of loops which just went long. Lan ended up running 10 straight points to put herself in the semi’s.

Although Lan fought hard, she just couldn’t get the upper hand on Yueh-Jen Chen, but came 19, 19 close to winning a game that might have meant all the difference. Meanwhile, in the other semi, Li-Zu Lin defeated Mei-Jen Huang 15, 16. Thus the final was an all-Chinese Taipei affair—won by Lin three straight.

Girls U-17 Doubles: Winners: Lan/Vicky over Diana/Lisa, 11/15.

(You’ll note that of all the finals, only the U-17 ones were scheduled best 3 out of 5. The kids in the younger events thought this unfair.)” 

Age Events (Over 40-70)

            Over 40 Men (scores garbled): Final: Bohdan Dawidowicz ($200) over D-J Lee ($100). Quarter’s match of note: Tim Boggan over Bernie Bukiet. Over 40 Women: Magda Kucharski (the Polish star’s mother) over Patti Hodgins, 11, -21, 8. Over 40 Doubles: Lee/Boggan, -16, 18, 20, over Houshang Bozorgzadeh/Igor Klaf who’d escaped Dawidowicz/Howie Grossman, 22, -19, 18. Over 50: Boggan over Bukiet, -17, 18, 21, then over George Hendry, 15, -16, 20. Over 50 Doubles: Hendry/Boggan over Bukiet/Mike Blaustein, 16, -16, 18. Over 60: Hendry over Sy Kenig, 9, 16, 7. Over 70: Lock Koon Wong over Ulpiano Santo, 8, 14. 

Rating Events

            U-2500: Perry Schwartzberg ($300) in succession over Thailand Champ Chartchai Teekaveerakit, U.S. Women’s Champ Insook Bhushan, U.S. Junior star Khoa Nguyen, and Pan Am Champ Brian Masters ($100), 17, -19, -18, 16, 12. (Quarter’s match of note: Ricky Seemiller over Rey Domingo, 12, -16, 22.) U-2250: Dell Sweeris ($200) over Ron Lilly, 24-22 in the third, then over Jim Butler ($100), -18, 6, 12, -19, 10. Women’s U-2100: Jin Na ($100) over Lisa Gee ($50). U-2000: Bernie Bukiet ($100) over Tim Boggan ($50).

U-1900: Tito LeFranc over Mark Legters who’d advanced by Roger Kuseski, 19 in the 3rd. U-1900 Senior’s: Len Hauer over Shonie Aki. U-1800: Tom Miller over Fredrik Persson who’d outlasted Thajav Ananthothai, deuce in the 3rd. Women’s U-1700: Sweden’s Maria Hedlund over Sweden’s Marie Waller. U-1700: Dhiren Narotam, -13, 21, 21, over Paul Cracraft who’d survived John Schneider, -14, 21, 16. U-1600: Ernie Bauer over Hedland. U-1600 Senior’s: Bob Green over Ed Voice. U-1500: Jutta Scholer over Sam Joyner. U-1400: John Walker over James Ritz. U-1200: Jim McKinstry over Sandy Miller, 18, -19, 18. U-1000: Chris Rivette over Morgan Lehman. 

Other [Novelty?] Events:

Unrated Singles: former Jamaican National Champion David Marchellak over Cuong Nguyen. Draw Doubles: Final: William Humphrey/Allen Cornelius over D’souza/Bud Caughman, 22, -17, 22. Semi’s: Humphrey/Cornelius over Aki/Scott Bakke, 13, -16, 18; D’souza/Caughman over Bryan/Dennis Kaminsky, 12, -21, 30 [sic]. Hard Rubber: Dean Doyle over Sweden’s Olle Rondin, 19, 16. 

North American Championship:

            This Championship, Wintrich rightly assures us, “was a serious side event, for at stake was a berth in the prestigious World Cup competition that’ll be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the end of August. It’s a $55,000 all-expenses-paid tournament with 15K for the winner and serious bucks for the other 15 players. USA’s Eric Boggan had already been invited, so the competitive play here in Vegas would qualify a second player to represent North America.

            Danny Seemiller won that remaining World Cup spot. He bested a field (via four round robins) of 13 U.S. and Canadian players without dropping a game. In his initial round robin he beat Attila Malek and Jim Lane (who squeaked by Malek, 19 in the 3rd). Coming through in the three other groups were: Brian Masters in straight games over Ricky Seemiller and Canada’s Bao Nguyen; Brandon Olson with impressive three-game wins over Joe Ng and Quang Bui; and Canada’s Horatio Pintea over runner-up Khoa Nguyen, Perry Schwartzberg, and Ray Guillen.

            In the final group of four, Pintea came second to Danny, and Olson and Masters didn’t bother to play for 3rd-Place. Kosanovic, Caetano, and Bourbonnais [was he even at the tournament?] defaulted.” 

Women’s Singles  

            As Wintrich is quick to point out, just as Chinese Taipei’s Wen-Chia Wu dominated the Men’s play, so did Japan’s Kayoka Kawahigashi, World #31, dominate the Women’s play. “She won her third U.S. Open Women’s Singles title by defeating USA’s Insook Bhushan, 14, 17, 11. Took the Women’s Doubles with teammate Ohiwa—over Chinese Taipei’s Shu-Wa Chuang/Li-Zu Lin, -14, 7, 16. And, with two singles and a doubles win, led Japan to a 3-1 victory over USA in the Women’s International Team competition.         

            Five USA players reached the Round of 16, but only two—Insook and Carol Davidson—advanced. Insook was clearly too straight-game strong for the relatively inexperienced Yueh-Jen Chen, runner-up in the Girls U-17; while Carol upset Japan’s Yamanouchi, -11, 17, -17, 18, 14, with a steady chop defense and occasional pick hits. Meanwhile, Diana Gee was stopped by Hsiu-Yu Chang, 14, 10, 16; Lan Vuong (dropping a key second game) was beaten -18, -19, 17, -12 by India’s Indu Puri; and Kyung Ja Kim lost a -21, 16, -20, -23 killer to Shu-Wa Chuang.

            Chuang and Davidson met in the quarter’s, and of course one of them had to lose—and it was Carol. But not before, leading 2-1 in games, she had a real shot at the semi’s. However, she failed to pull off a second successive upset, anticlimactically falling 21-6 in the fifth when she couldn’t get anything going at all. Carol was more disappointed with how she played in that last game than with losing. But still she can be proud of her quarterfinal finish.

            Others advancing to the semi’s were: Kawahigashi over Hsiu –Yu Chang (earlier, Kayo had K.O.’d USA’s Hanna Butler and Indonesia’s Diana Wuisan); Ohiwa over Puri; and Bhushan, with some -17, 17, 19, 12 difficulty in a match that was played in Expedite from the beginning, over Japanese chopper Maruyama.

            In the semi’s, Insook found herself against another Japanese defender, Ohiwa, and. though forced into the fifth from two games up, she finally prevailed 21-18. Kawahigashi, in her semi’s against Shu-Wa Chuang, was perhaps surprised by…something, for she lost the first game 22-20, then proceeded to annihilate her opponent, 11, 11, 8. Seeing this dramatic loss, some felt that the Chinese Taipei women in particular, apt more than their men counterparts to meet choppers, had better start finding defenders of their own to practice with.

            The final between Japanese chopper Kayoko and USA chopper Insook was played under Expedite from the beginning. (So it had been in the Team competition earlier when Insook had lost to Kayo 16, 21.) Playing under Expedite, however, had little effect on the outcome of the match. It was Kawahigashi’s ability to pick-hit that made the difference, especially since Insook had trouble keeping the ball consistently low. Kawahigashi’s forte is stepping around her backhand and hitting in high balls with her forehand. She scored often with this tactic.

            Insook was playing well, her game back to its high level since adjusting to the two-color rule. But, as Coach Li Ai told her between games, she wasn’t playing with enough ‘courage’—meaning that she was chopping without confidence, not playing her defensive shots offensively enough. The high returns were the result of this defensive play.

            This failure is not meant to demean Kawahigashi’s victory. After all, she consistently scored when hitting, and it was her aggressive stroke-execution that forced the set-ups. The woman is a world-class player who trains regularly, and it was obvious she was the strongest player in the Women’s draw.

            In the final analysis, though, it’s not just Kawahigashi who deserves our praise—it’s the other Japanese women too. While displaying their talent for winning, they also exhibited the unity and sportsmanship of a world-class team.” 

Men’s Singles 

            Wintrich surely agrees that this was one of those tournaments where, as so often happens when there’s a field of foreign players, many of the Eighth’s/Quarter’s matches are great crowd-pleasers. Let Tom begin his Men’s coverage with a player readers of these volumes are familiar with—West Germany’s Engelbert Huging, last year’s U.S. Open Men’s finalist. “In the best match of the tournament,” says Tom, “Huging, in the round of 16, took on Lung-Chang Hsu, at 23 the oldest member of the Chinese Taipei team.

            Engelbert had dropped the first two games but had pulled out the third, 25-23, then won the fourth as well. In the fifth, through a point-by-point struggle in which he relentlessly retrieved ball after ball, Huging established a double-match-point lead, 20-18. But Hsu didn’t fold and aggressively ran four straight—though for the last point he had to loop nearly 15 balls before finally passing Huging. It was the phenomenal rally of the tournament and it brought thunderous approval from the spectators jammed around the court.

Although Huging thought he’d ‘played stupid’ at the end, it was a notable win for Hsu, especially considering that Taiwan doesn’t emphasize the development of choppers—something they need to do to strengthen their offensive players.

            Other Eighth’s matches of importance were Chin-Long Chih over Hueih-Chieh Huang, -16, 19, 15,-20, 16; Appelgren over Switzerland’s Thomas Busin, -14, 12, 20, 20; and especially Teekaveerakit over Danny Seemiller, -12, 15, -20, 11, 14. Essentially the Thai served his way to victory with (1) his high-toss right-to-left spin-serves to lefty Dan’s short forehand, and (2) his left-to-right spin-serves to the same spot. Very few right-handed players can effectively do this with a forehand serve from their backhand side of the table. By eliminating the threat of Seemiller opening off serve, Chartchai could attack fearlessly and, as his confidence increased, so did his percentage of outright winners.

            Although the two had never played before, Chartchai was very familiar with Seemiller’s style. Former Thai and Australian Champion Charlie Wuvanich, who used to battle Danny regularly in important tournament matches when he lived in the U.S., has been Chartchai’s primary coach in Thailand and had advised him about what to do should he play Danny. Then, too, Chartchai was being coached and vocally-supported courtside by Sean O’Neill, a situation that didn’t exactly please Seemiller.

            In the quarter’s, Teekaveerakit was beaten by Lung-Chang Hsu, 13, 11, 12; Zoran Kosanovic [though he might have won in three?] by Chin-Long Chih, 19, -10, 22, 10, and Defending Champion Eric Boggan by Wu, 17, -16,  9, 17. Wu had already beaten Eric during the Team competition and had also beaten him in Taiwan two years ago following the Seoul Open. Wu is little bothered by Boggan’s unique style, is fast enough to react to the anti, and can hit and loop strongly enough to get his shots past Eric.

In addition, Wu’s flat power-block is very effective against Eric’s strategic use of his anti. Normally, Eric gains an advantage with the quick anti-counter because his opponents usually dump their return into the net or at least give Eric an opportunity to open off a return that is relatively weak. Wu, however, can authoritatively jam the ball back at him just as dead and just as fast.

Unquestionably, the best quarter’s match was between Nigerian Champion Francis Sule and 1982 European Champion Appelgren. Both men play topspin off either wing, producing long counter-spin rallies to the delight of the spectators. Sule plays with an emotional intensity equal to Wu’s, performing a self-psyching victory dance after nearly every point he wins. Following the 1-1 tie in games, Sule lost the third at deuce—after just having gone for a game-winning backhand loop that went long. But he didn’t lose his composure or his fighting spirit and took the fourth, 21-19. Some spectators hoped he could pull off the upset because if Sule could then get by Hsu in the semi’s, the final would feature the two most spirited players in the tournament.

Applegren, however, was not to be denied. His fluid strokes, seemingly effortless footwork, and his ‘cool’ lack of visible intensity carried him to a 21-16 victory. Appelgren wasn’t at his best this event, but he kept beating those gunning for him, and when he defeated Hsu in the semi’s, 17, -18, 15, 21, he’d won the right to meet Wu, who’d reached the final with a 17, -16, 9, 17 semi’s win over Chin-Long Chih.

Pre-match speculation favored Wu to win. Appelgren had not looked sharp in his play here. He’d missed the European Championships in Moscow because of an elbow injury sustained while bowling, and, before coming to the U.S., had not played serious competition in three months. In addition, Appelgren had just lost to Wu in straight games a week earlier at the Alhambra International Tournament in Southern California.

In their first game, both players seemed nervous, hitting a little too tentatively and not moving as quickly as they can. Points were short and unexciting with the server enjoying the advantage. Consequently, when Wu broke Appelgren’s serve at 10-all to go up 14-11…17-13…20-15, Mikael couldn’t recover. In their second game, “The Apple” was spinning much better and seemed to be at least somewhat passionate about his play. But after scoring off a counter-loop to close within one at 18-19, Appelgren disastrously served off, then lost the game at 18. Served off and lost the match, you might as well say—for Mikael was never in the third game.  

The confrontation between these two favorites had been the classic offensive battle of spin versus speed—Appelgren doing the spinning, Wu playing the fast attack. The fast conditions (Butterfly tables on a hard surface plus thin air) may have favored the quick attacker, but it was Wu’s intense fighting spirit that really won the day for him.

The 64-man U.S. Open Men’s draw featured 43 foreign players of which 25 made it to the round of 32. None showed more resolve to go the distance, though, than Wu. He demonstrated he has the ability to compete successfully against world-class players, and the U.S. T.T.A. can be proud that it provided the venue to showcase this sportsman’s exceptional talent at such an early stage in his career. For those of us at this U.S. Open it was an athletic performance we will long remember.”