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

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE 

1984: Sept.-Oct. Tournaments (Dan Seemiller Wins His Eighth Nissen Open). 

            “The Oregon Open and Closed—see unsigned article (by Jay Crystal?) in SPIN, Dec., 1984, 12—were held Oct. 20-21 at the St. John’s Racquet Center in Portland, OR , with the weather being—brrr!—50 degrees in that indoor tennis-court venue. Reaching the semi’s of the Open were, in the one half, Quang Bui and Defending Champion Bryan Wright who’d advanced over Tait Anderson in four close games. In the other half, it was Jay Crystal vs. Ron Carver who’d steadily thwarted Bob Mandel’s hopes of going on to meet Jay, his practice partner.

            The Open semis were played simultaneously. Down 1-0 to Bui, Wright got to deuce in the second game but only to three in the third. Bryan and Quang had finished their match while Crystal and Carver were in their second game. After winning the first, Jay had to 25-23, 21-19 struggle to gain the final.

The atmosphere for the climactic match was not your usual one—the players were out on the cold tennis court while the spectators were insulated behind glass in the viewing area.   In the first game, Quang was tentative, opening softly on the forehand and missing many fifth and seventh-ball attacks. Winning the long topspin rallies, Jay took the first game at 10. But then Quang got control of himself, stayed very calm in the second and third games, winning them easily by forcing the 27-year-old Crystal away from the table.

            After the break, however, Jay committed himself to playing aggressively. He took advantage of Bui’s reluctance to serve to the forehand. Crowding his backhand corner, where Quang was repeatedly giving him long serves, Jay began attacking. But he also played defense more effectively too. This combination gave him a 21-19 win that evened the match. Still, with games two apiece, Quang could be said to be holding his own. When, in that fourth game, after an exceptionally long lobbing point, Crystal had blasted a ball back that Quang drop-blocked deftly for a winner, the crowd had pounded on the windows to show their approval.                       

            In the fifth game, however, Crystal was on an emotional high, getting more and more pumped up with each point he won. Down 17-13, Bui fought back, drew to 17-16. But then Jay ran out the match for the upset victory and the $200 first-place prize. He also took home an ear-to-ear grin that reportedly is still in place

            Other results: Women’s: 1. Liana Panesko. 2. Naomi Quist. Open Doubles: Bui/Crystal ($100) over Bill Popp/Mandel who’d advanced over the #2 seeded team of Wright/Bobby Rinde. U-2100: Anderson over Popp. U-4000 Doubles: Crystal/Vince Mioduszewski over Popp/Anderson.  U-3400 Doubles: 1. Fredrickson/Mioduszewski over Wong/Natarian. U-1300: Phan over Hassan. U-1100: Quist over Mary Fredrickson. U-900: Quist over Mark Gjestram. College Singles:  Mioduszewski  over Peter Lo. High School Singles: Liana Panesko over Joe Panesko who’d escaped Quist, 19 in the 3rd. Hard Bat: Crystal (after being a sparring partner for Doyle for so many years) over veteran Hard Batter Jim Tisler.

            State Closed Singles: Carver over Anderson who’d upset Wright. State Closed Doubles:  Wright/Rinde over Anderson/Harold Sandner.   

            Crystal may or may not have written the Oregon Open article, but he did put his name to a piece, a quirky one. Here’s Jay’s “Orange Shorts” (SPIN, Dec., 1984, 24): 

            “…After a particularly dismal performance at a tournament in Canada last spring, one of our local players, Al Michael, was complaining about his play, especially a loss to a fellow with baggy orange shorts.

            Following a short discussion, it was decided that Al should buy a pair of orange shorts and wear them at the next tournament. They would then be passed on to whoever had the worst performance, suffered the most humiliating upset, at that tournament. Then they’d be bequeathed in like manner at the tournaments that followed. Thus the shorts became a symbol of ineptitude.

            Reluctance and procrastination kept Al from actually buying the shorts until three weeks ago. By then they had become of larger importance. Bob Mandel and I would trade jokes about the orange shorts, kidding each other about who would wear them next. We all kept a little doubt in the back of our minds—though Quang Bui no doubt felt the more secure among us.

But then in the Oregon Open Quang lost to me.

Two weeks later, Richland, WA hosted the Northwest Team Championship and also an Open tournament. Al Michael agreed to wear his ineptitude the first day of the tourney. Quang, after a little prodding, agreed to wear his the second day.

Sure enough, the fabled shorts immediately began to assert their power. Al, playing me close in the U-2200’s, had me up as a candidate for those shorts, but I successfully resisted. Then I pulled out two three-game matches against Mandel and was spared.

Sunday it was Quang’s turn to wear the shorts. He had them on for his 9:00 a.m. opening match all the way to his straight-game victory over Dan Seemiller in the Open final. The orange shorts were big and baggy on Quang’s frame, but he played as if possessed and left the crowd stunned and amazed. No more orange shorts for Mr. Bui for a while.

As for Bob Mandel, the shorts would come back to haunt him. After his encouraging performance against me, he’d been determined to make the semi’s of the Open and win the U-2000’s. While he indeed made the Open semi’s, he fell victim to the curse of the orange shorts—went down, 18 in the 3rd,  in the second round of the 2000’s to John Fredrickson. And thereby won possession of the shorts for the next tournament.

Meanwhile, if you see Dan Seemiller at the U.S. National’s wearing a pair of orange shorts, you’ll know why.” 

Jeff Mason tells us (SPIN, Nov., 1984, 19) that on Sept. 15th Table Tennis World held both the Northern California Open and its new Northern California Junior Open, said to be “the first of many low-cost Saturday morning Junior tournaments planned for boys and girls from 9 to 17. Though they’ve been coached for only three months, the following young players were already demonstrating excellent strokes: Jeff Feri, Boys U-15 and U-13 Champion; Paul Lourick, Boys U-11 Winner; Robbie Sorenson, Boys U-15 finalist; Carl Ports, Boys U-13 finalist; Sunny Low, Girls U-13 Winner; and Martina McCormick, Girls U-11 Champion.”

“In the one Open semi, Khoa Nguyen survived David Chun, after Dave, playing brilliantly, forced Khoa to deuce in the 4th. In the other semi, Erwin Hom met Sacramento’s spectacular all-around player, James Therriault, and handled James’s lobs and pick-hits perfectly, winning the match three straight.

In the final, Hom took the first game at 19, but was unable to win another. Khoa’s strong looping game was too much for his opponents, especially now that he’s added several new serves and a newly developed backhand loop.”

Jeff, in reporting on Table Tennis World’s Oct. 5-7 Columbus Day’s Open (SPIN, Dec., 1984, 12), says he’s happy to have had “over 75 entries and welcomes the following players returning to the game: Les Madden, former President of the San Francisco TTC; Steve Varela, 1969 U.S. “A” Singles semifinalist; and Nick Sawin, a veteran table tennis promoter from the Bay area.”

Results: Open Singles Final R.R.: 1. Khoa Nguyen, 3-0. 2. Diana Gee, 2-1 (“with an early upset win over left-handed looper Quang Do”). 3. Michael Grooms, 1-2. 4. Erwin Hom, 0-3. “Master Blaster” Grooms, says Jeff, “demonstrated what a couple of months of heavy training can do for a hitter’s game. It can allow you to win difficult matches, but it also subjects you to ‘hitter’s fatigue.’” Open Doubles: Khoa and Roger Nguyen over Hom and “18-year-old Michael Hjortshoj, a former member of the Danish Junior Team.” Senior Esquire’s: Martin Staehlin over Lloyd Henning. Esquire’s: Azmy Ibrahim over Henning. Senior’s: Ibrahim over Tom Miller. Junior’s: Anthony Streutker over Feri.

  U-2200’s: 1. James Therriault, 3-1. 2. Hom, 3-1. 3. Igor Kulbeka, 2-2. 4. Diana Gee, 1-3. 5. Masaaki Tajima, 1-3. Kulbeka, “a recent Yugoslavian exchange student, made his U.S. debut by beating, among others, fellow Sacramento High student David Chun. We welcome Igor and his superb defensive skills.” U-2050’s: 1. Horace Cheng. 2. Behzad Zandipour. U-1900’s: Tom Miller over Varella. U-1750’s: Allen McDermott over Lou Morel. U-3250 Doubles: Therriault/Feri over Jere Brumby/Morgan Lehman. U-1600’s: Minh Do over Geoff Harvey. U-1450’s: Bob Drake over Streutker. U-1300’s: Streutker over Jim Goodwin. U-1150’s: Andy Heroux over Henning. U-2250 Doubles: Sorenson/Hal Reynolds over Henning/Staehlin. Handicap Singles: Drake over Staehlin. 

 Tom Pizzo reports (SPIN, Nov., 1984, 24) that “The Laguna Hills, CA TTC celebrated Leisure World’s 20th anniversary by sponsoring its first 3-Star USTTA tournament, which was also the USTTA’s first national tournament only for Seniors (40 or over). It was a huge success with 77 participants (15 of whom, average age 68.4, were Leisure World members), four business sponsors, and, best of all, 200-300 spectators.

Most of those watching came to see the Over 40 event. In the first semi, former 3-time U.S. Men’s Champion and 8-time U.S. World Team member Bernie Bukiet (rated 2039) upset former Iranian International Houshang Bozorgzadeh (2155). Bernie was opening and Houshang blocking. It was hot and humid in the gym, and, though, as some said, Berniet loses 20 pounds when he goes out to the table, Houshang’s footwork was slightly slower than in previous matches. Bukiet advanced, 18, 9. In the second semi, Marty Doss (2144), though losing the first game, stopped his longtime friend Ron Von Schimmelman pretty much with ease.

In the final, Doss figured his younger legs could keep going at top speed and decided right from the start that he was going to live or die by attacking. Which he did—and won the $200 top prize.” The Over 40 Doubles went to Doss/Bozorgzadeh over Von Schimmelman/Leon Ruderman, 15 in the 3rd. Other Over 40 titles: U-1800’s: Mike Blaustein over J. Schulz, -19, 19, -17, 3, 10. U-3500 Doubles: Rich Livingston/Don Chamberlain over George Schwarz/Rudy Hartmann, 23-21 in the 3rd. U-1600: Robert Shanilec over Leslie Baranyi, 18 in the 5th. U-1350: Harry Bloom over Julius Margolis, 19 in the 4th. U-1200: Herb Gilbert over Margolis. Draw Doubles: Jeff Evans/Foster over Smith/Mary McIlwain

Over 50 Results: U-1750: Livingston over Jack Rozales. U-1500: Schwarz over John Yee. Over 60 Results: Open Singles: Richard Badger over Y.C. Lee who’d outlasted Freddie Borges, deuce in the 3rd. Women’s: 1. Nancy Kellner (3-1/7-2). 2. McIlwain (3-1/7-3). 3. Rose Gilbert (3-1/6-3). U-1500: Evans over Margolis. U-1100: Walt Peters over Leo Egel who’d advanced over Frank Boyd in five. Doubles: Lee/Badger over Konn/George Kelemen. U-2800 Doubles: Pizzo/Evans over Bill Meiklejohn/Margolis. Over 70: Laguna Hills Champion Harry Bloom (71) over Joel Mallory (82). 

“Burbank, CA Mayor, the Honorable Larry I. Stamper [SPIN, Nov., 1984, 11], recently awarded an official commendation to George Kelemen and the Burbank TTC. They’d recorded 1,000 nights of table tennis play, thereby providing recreational play, exercise, and the opportunity for improving the quality and health of Burbank residents. Kelemen was especially commended for the 25 years of volunteer service he has given to the Burbank community.”               

                Results of the Oct. 27-28 Colorado Springs Open, run by Joan Zishka, Larry Rose, and Lavon Tretheway: Open Singles: Bohdan Dawidowicz over Sheila O’Dougherty in five, then over Howie Grossman.  U-2100’s: Donn Olsen over Thavaj Ananthothai, 16, 19, 25. Women’s U-2000 Singles: Toni Gresham over Keri Herman, 19, -19, 23, 21. B’s: Olsen over Ananthothai. C’s: Norm Silver over Skip Aragon. D’s: Vic Smith over Tim Walsh. E’s: Jeff Butler over Herman. F’s: Dave Harrison over D. Brittain. Recreational Singles: 1. E. Driggs. 2. Lee Preston. Military Singles: 1. Butler. 2. Gerald Mack. Senior’s: Grossman over Bob Leatherwood. U-17’s: Herman over Debbie Moya. U-15’s: Tim Roberts over E. Driggs.

            Winners at the Sept. 1 Kansas Wesleyan Closed (Cliff Metzger tells us that all residents within 600 melting-pot miles of Salina, Kansas, including Denver, Oklahoma City, Omaha, and Kansas City, are eligible to play): Championship Singles: 1. Howard Grossman. 2. Brian Thomas. 3. Joe Ogilvie. Women’s: Carol Plato over Sheila Weissberg. Open Doubles: Olsen/Wes Wolfe over Weissberg/Drake. A’s: Lee Land over Wolfe. A Doubles: Craig Yancey/Robert Mayer over Duy Vo/Tai Nguyen. B’s: Mayer over Yancey. B Doubles: Rashid Hassen/Kelly Major over Eli Muhl/Troy Phinney. C’s: Hasen over Vo. C Doubles: Yancy/Mayer over Lohf/Jeff Lobo. D’s: Wing Ngo over Millie Drake. E’s: Mike Revene over Harold “Tim” Lohf. Senior’s: Wolfe over Herb Kaplin. Junior’s: Vo over Seong Jin. Jr. Consolation: Mike Bailey over Lohf.

            Flight 1: Grossman over Ogilvie. Fight 2: Land over Paul Lykke. Flight 3: Vo over Weissberg. Flight 4: Kaplin over Yancey. Flight 5: Jin over Gordon Dickey. Flight 6: Bailey over Major. Handicap: Drake over Olsen. “Crying Towel” Singles: Peter Joo over Phinney. 

            Bill Su (SPIN, Nov, 1984, 22) writes up the Sept. 15-16 second Hilton-Lansing Community College Open, but gives us no results among the 70 or so players other than to say that Jim Doney, after getting by Bobby Powell, deuce in the 5th, won the Open over Bob Cordell.  Bill does say, however, that, innovatively, “the players were able to see their ratings change during the competition, as we used our computer to process their rating changes right at the control desk. [Could get a little crowded there?] Using this system in the future, we hope to give out a Most-Points-Won award.

Bill and his Club offer thanks to their Club President Carl Calille, as well as to Myron “Mike” Edgerton, Bill Hornyak, and Hedy Mantel for helping at the control desk. Thanks also go to Dr. Walter Lingo, head of the Department of Physical Education and Athletics, and to William Zuhl and Richard Mull for their support.

Mr. Amidi, General Manager of the Hilton-Inn Lansing, was very pleased with the turnout and would like to sponsor another tournament soon. Earning our thanks, he plans in the future to donate dinners, Playboy Club gold keys (honored in clubs around the world), and weekend-vacation packages, as well as trophies. We are considering awarding some of these donations as Most-Rating-Points-Gained prizes and/or door prizes.” 

Results of the Sept. 8th Lake Erie Open: Open Singles: 1. Bob Cordell. 2. Simon Shtofmakher. 3. Mike Joelson. 4. Jim Repasy. Open Doubles: 1. Cordell/Repasy. 2. Tima Beka/Doug Hardy. U-2000’s: 1. Repasy. 2. Ray Stewart. U-1800’s: 1. Beka. 2. Ron Schull. U-3400 Doubles: Beka/Vince Turner over Doug/Rick Hardy. U-1600’s: Cliff Chan over Mark Artman. U-2700 Doubles: Turner/? over D. Hardy/Lori Berenson. U-1300’s: Rich Takas over Nick Langovsky. U-1000’s: Berenson over Zig Nagy. Hard Rubber: R. Hardy over Bob Allen. Esquire’s: Neil Myers over Allen. Senior’s: Jim Zimmerman over Myers.

Winners at the $10,000 Canadian National Circuit’s inaugural event, the Central Canadian Open, played Oct. 13-14 at the Etobicoke Olympium, and recognized as an official Sesquicentennial Sports event in conjunction with Toronto’s birthday celebrations: Men’s: Horatio Pintea over Joe Ng (from down 2-0). Women’s (17 entries): Mariann Domonkos in five over Thanh Mach who’d escaped Gloria Hsu in five. Men’s Doubles: Pintea/Ng over Mitch Rothfleisch/Bert Flisberg, 18 in the 3rd. Women’s Doubles: Domonkos/Hsu over Mach/Becky McKnight. Mixed Doubles: Pintea/Domonkos over Ng/Hsu.

U-2000’s: Peter Ng over Pierre Parulekar. U-1850: James Montgomery over Stephane Leveille. U-1700: Leveille over Johnny Ng, 21, -19, 15. U-1700 Doubles: J.C. Hong/Shih Lin over Martin Ladouceur/Leveille. U-1550: Robert da Silva over Carvo Grant. U-1400’s: Paula Antunes over Wayne Ash, deuce in the 3rd. U-1200’s: Lo Chien over Chang. Senior’s: Bill Cheng over George Bonigut. Boys U-17: Stephane Ubiall over P. Ng. Boys U-15: P. Ng over J. Ng. Boys U-13: J. Ng over Peter Chang. Girls U-17: Crystal Daniel over Josee Malette.

Mike Bortner (SPIN, Dec., 1984, 29) tells us that the Memphis Closed was held Oct. 13 at the Mall of Memphis and that “a Thank You must go to George Brogden of the Park Commission who set up the local media coverage.” Mike says, “This year’s tournament featured the strongest field ever—and, though Hugh Lax because of a shoulder injury couldn’t make it, both Robert Flowers, Jr. and Rick Downey reappeared after a long absence.

The Championship went to #2 seed Robert Chamoun, though he lost a match to #4 seed Donny Flowers who repeatedly scored with sudden backhand flicks. Robert was also behind 18-13 in the third to #8 seed Downey before pulling it out, 21-19, with an aggressive finish. This was surely a bitter disappointment for Rick, but he did have the consolation of having downed [downey’d?] the #1 seed Allen Barth. Of course other players had their moments too. Jerry Harris’s powerful loops and smashes sent Denis Fritchie backtracking while playing defensive lobs (which is contrary to his normal style). Robert Flowers had me, Mike, zigging when I should have been zagging. Class A winner Dan Newcombe’s sharp-angled shots forced high blocks from his opponents that he’d blast away. And Clay Dunn/Jerry Harris took out top seeds Barth and Chamoun in the Doubles.

No Florida write-up this chapter, but Lloyd Woods (SPIN, Nov., 1984, 4) has a few words to say about Trinidad’s Sept. 20th Republic Invitational played at the Woodbrook Youth Center in Port of Spain. Women’s winner was Monica Luke over Niala Singh in straight games. In the one Men’s semi’s, Seamus Clarke “stopped former Trinidad National Steve Ragbir, now on the comeback trail.” In the other, Wayne Eastwick, a member of the Trinidad-Tobago Men’s Team at the last Caribbean Championships, defeated National Coach Roland Charles.” In the final, “though Eastwick beat Clarke the first game in fine style, he cracked up in the second and never regained his confidence. Match and Prime Minister’s Trophy to Clarke.”

We learn of Larry Hodges’ round robin successes, as it were (director, player, reporter), from his coverage (SPIN, Nov., 1984, 18) of the Tyson Round Robins held Sept. 22-23 at the Northern Virginia TTC in McLean.

Results: Open Singles: 1. Dave Sakai (losing only one game to Ben Nisbet). 2. Larry Hodges (who’d upset Nisbet). U-2300’s (“a very weak draw,” says Larry, “with myself as top seed, 295 points under the limit”): Hodges over Greg Chamish (1698) “who’d blasted his way through Jim McQueen (1952).” Against Larry, “Greg was up 20-18 in one of our games before blowing it to a couple of sidespin pushes and slo-o-o-ow loops.”

U-2000’s: Final R.R.: Mark Davis over runner-up Jim McQueen and Don Yabiku. “Some of their matches should have been under expedite, but perhaps that’ll happen next time since the trio each signed a S.A.L.T. II (Strong Attack Limitation Treaty). And will Dan Simon stop increasing Mark Davis’s rating just because of his tournament results?”

U-1700’s: “Bernie Lisberger lobbed everyone down. Along the way, he destroyed half our barriers, but since runner-up Jay Barrymore and third-place Kevin Walton couldn’t get through him, Bernie will continue to mistake playing table tennis for center field.

U-1400’s: “Steve Banks over Fred Thompson—despite ‘spotting’ Thompson and everyone else his forehand.” [He didn’t use it? He used it, and it was bad?]

Director Yvonne Kronlage’s Oct. 6-7 Howard County Circuit tournament, the first of the 1984-85 season (SPIN, Oct., 1984, 12), “saw players immediately scrambling for wins that hopefully would allow them eventually to win one of the top prizes, including a Microwave Oven we have added for third place. [First: $1,000. Second: $500.]”

Yvonne says that “parents and friends of junior players are bringing goodies for a bake sale at the next tournament in order to raise money to help junior players travel to upcoming junior events….Moreover, whoever’s at the top in the Circuit-Point standings at the end of the NOVEMBER tournament will receive from the Howard County TTC free entry fees to the Las Vegas National’s. This could be as much as $115.”

Point standings after this first tournament: Dale Weiss (16), Larry Hodges (14), Keith Minnick (14), Marty Staehlin (14), Humilde Prudencio (14), Craig Bailey (13), Barney Reed (13), Barry Dattel (10), Dave Sakai (10), Phil Van Dusen (10), Jeff Harris (10).

The politic political parties at the Westfield, NJ club paid back-to-back homage to two prominent USTTA “players” who’d recently been in the news. First came the Sept. 15-16 Sol Schiff Classic…the Results of which follow: Open Singles: Rey Domingo over Steve Mo who’d 10, 19, -20, -17, 13 staved off Robert Earle. Women’s: Vicky Wong over Marta Zurowski, then over Alice Green Kimble. Open Doubles: Earle/Fu-Lap Lee over Mo/Eyal Adini. Senior’s: Tim Boggan over Bill Sharpe, then over Thomas Nazarbechian. Juniors U-13: 1. Kaz Zurowski. 2. Steve Fink.

U-2200’s: George Cameron over Barry Dattel who’d outlasted Brian Eisner, deuce in the 3rd. U-2050’s: H.S. Wong over Kimble. U-1950’s: V. Wong over Stephane Leveille. U-1850’s: Eric Rothfleisch over Stephen Hochman. U-1750’s: Brian McKnight over Hochman. U-1600’s: Leveille over George Dendrinos. U-1450’s: Craig Winters over B. Hampton who’d advanced over Luz Brown, 19 in the 3rd. U-1300’s: Chris Winters over D. Holtzman, 23-21 in the 3rd. U-1150’s: Winters over Gary Mason. U-1000’s: Roy Greenberg over Lloyd Thomas. Unrated: 1. Tany Makhtany. 2. Benji Lu.

In succession to the Schiff tournament came Westfield’s Oct. 14th Tim Boggan Open…the Results of which follow: Open Singles: Rey Domingo over George Brathwaite. Women’s: Alice Kimble over Vicky Wong. Open Doubles: Domingo/Brathwaite over Robert Earle/Steve Mo. U-2250’s: Eyal Adini over George Cameron. U-2075’s: Dave Valoy over Michael Henry. Esquire’s: Dan Dickel over Bob Barnes. U-17’s: Ovidiu Nazarbechian over Marta Zurowski.

U-1975’s: Alan Fendrick over Alan Feldman. U-1875’s: Trieu Chieu over Marius Wechsler. U-1875 Doubles: Chris Kalagher/Chieu over Dennis Kaminsky/John Beauvais. U-1775’s: M. Murphy over Pedro Pichardo. U-1625’s: Mike Coke over Anthony Gegelys, 19, -22, 22, then over Steve Kong who’d escaped Hazel Santon, -20, 21, 18. U-1625 Doubles: Moreau/Gegelys over Al Matlosz/Kong. U-1475’s: Mark Schmoockler over Mike Seaman who’d just gotten the better of Gloria Amoury, deuce in the 3rd. U-1325’s: D. Holtzman over Aston Brissett. U-1175’s: W.O. Lee over Mike Rubenstein, -14, 19, 18. U-1025’s: Harold Teitelbaum over Carmen Colon. Unrated: K. Amonoo over Puttlitz. 

$3,200 Nissen Open

            Tom Wintrich (SPIN, Nov., 1984, cover+) reports on the $3,200 Nissen Open, played Sept. 22-23 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In thanking popular, perennial Tournament Director Houshang Bozorgzadeh, Tom reminds us that “Houshang, in sending out entry-blanks, likes to include a personal invitation to prospective participants, and has been known to follow up with a few phone calls as a bit of friendly persuasion. Who can refuse lovable Houshang? Certainly not the Seemiller brothers who make the 25-hour round-trip drive annually, arriving just in time to help set up the tables.

            Danny Seemiller has made a career of winning, and the Nissen Open is just one of ‘his’ tournaments. He’s bested the field the last eight consecutive years, his name being the only one ever inscribed on the John Stillions Memorial Trophy. Indeed, it’s starting to become obvious that Danny is improving. Most notably, it’s his defensive play that is better but there’s physical and mental advancement also, although those aspects of his game are much less discernable to the casual observer.

            That may not be what the USTTA’s younger stars want to hear or believe; nevertheless his technique is still progressing, his physical strength gradually increasing, and his mental toughness ever intimidating. Not bad for a 30-year-old, and unlike the Chinese Association’s approach to aging, the USTTA is not about to put their perennial Champion out to pasture. In America, if you continue to win, you continue to play, especially when there are no young stars to replace you.

            It’s to Seemiller’s credit that he’s always the winner here; it’s to the tournament’s credit that finishing in second place is getting tougher every year. Thanks to ever-affable Houshang—some players come just to hear his traditional welcoming speech—the draw is consistently strong. In this year’s Open, there are five players over 2500, two over 2400, four over 2300, and more than enough above 2200. Following a preliminary round robin, the Open is played single elimination until the semi’s when the round robin format returns. Concern and speculation, then, focuses on who will make it to the final four, final three actually, since Danny’s always there.

[I’m going to have Tom continue with the Open Eighth’s, then, before going on to the climactic Open matches, I’m going to bring you the results of the Rating/Age events and the Men’s/Mixed Doubles, and then Tom’s coverage of the Women’s Singles.] 

Open Eighth’s

            The top eight seeds were predictably among the last 16, and while five of them advanced easily to the quarter’s, the outcome for the other three was uncertain. Jimmy Butler began his match against Brandon Olson by winning the first two games, exhibiting a backhand counter that nearly equaled the quickness of Rey Domingo’s but not yet the power of Brandon’s. They were playing on the exact same table at which Butler had knocked Olson out of the draw last year. Brandon remembered that well and was determined not to go down again. He stayed composed despite the fixed scowl on his face and proceeded to win the last three games, increasing his margin of victory in each successive game. It was a fine performance by Olson under pressure during a countering slugfest that delighted the spectators. And it was obvious testimony to Jimmy’s exceptional talent. He may be the one to replace Seemiller someday, but if it takes him another seven years, even Danny probably won’t be too upset.

            Mike Kim, 21, hadn’t even been playing recently, but with the urging of Mildred Shahian he entered the Nissen. After losing the first game at 16 to Canada’s #2 Horatio Pintea, 2200-rated Kim won the next two at deuce to go 2-1 up. He lost the fourth at 18. But, in a relentless serve-and-follow battle, pressed Pintea in the last game point for point right up to deuce. Then Horatio prevailed 23-21.

            Unlike Kim, Mitch Rothfleisch is into playing tournament after tournament, plus he always hassles Ricky Seemiller. This time was no different. Ricky came close to losing; the turning point for him came when he was down 1-0 and 16-10 in the second, but fought back to win that game 21-19. After losing the third but winning the fourth, Rothfleisch couldn’t hold on in the fifth. He’d taken advantage of the brand new Nissen tables whose freshly-painted matte finish would grab the ball more than usual; this hindered the effectiveness of Ricky’s spin-dominated game. Since Mitch was able to counter-hit Ricky’s loops and also draw him into counter-drive points to his advantage, it wasn’t just the table surface that was aiding the Canadian. As Ricky said, ‘Mitch played well and smart and definitely had me for a while, but I got out of his grasp.’” 

Rating/Age Events

            U-2300’s: Jim Butler over Dell Sweeris, -16, 19, 11, 20. U-2150’s: Rothfleisch over Mitch Seidenfeld. U-2000’s: Dan Wiig over Hugh Shorey, 23-21 in the 3rd. U-3800 Doubles: Gary Elwell/Wiig over Scott Butler/Thor Truelson who’d advanced over Dell/Todd Sweeris. U-1750’s: John Elwood, who’d survived Ed Hogshead, 18 in the 3rd, over Kim Farrow. 1500’s: Lloyd Hansen over Vernon Morehead. Men’s Novice: Brad Klug over Gene Kaganabsky. Women’s Novice: Linda Gates over Martha Gates. Handicap: Brandon Olson over Bert Flisberg. Senior’s: Tim Boggan over Norm Schless. Senior Doubles: Boggan/Shorey over Marcy Monasterial/Primo Madrigal. U-21’s: Chartchai Teekaveerakit over Olson who’d advanced by Sean O’Neill, 19, -18, 17. U-17’s: J. Butler over Gene Lonnon. U-15’s: Dhiren Narotam over Elwood. U-13’s: Narotam over Li Ai. 

Men’s/Mixed Doubles

            Men’s Doubles: Dan/Rick Seemiller -14, 18, 19, over Rey Domingo/Horatio Pintea who, though outscored 62-56, had, 20, -11, 21, just gotten by O’Neill/Teekaveerakit.

            Mixed Doubles: D. Seemiller/Ardith Lonnon over Olson/Takako Trenholme, 18, 18. 

Women’s Singles

            “The favorites in the Women’s Singles got through their semi’s—with Connie Sweeris easily defeating Ardith Lonnon, and Takako Trenholme, though dropping a game to Grace Wasielewski, being unthreatened in the third.

            In the final, Connie, now 37, with her straight-game victory over 2007-rated Takako, demonstrated she can still play the game well and, more importantly, smartly. She stuck to her pre-planned strategy of letting Trenholme open the points, and responded to Takako’s numerous barrages of pips-out rolls and hits with good blocking or counter-driving. Occasionally, Connie would crisply smack in a return for a winner, showing another of her strengths.

            Although both women are veterans, they really haven’t played each other that much. When they have played, Trenholme has been the victor more often than not.

            This time Sweeris, acknowledging to herself at the outset her past troubles with Trenholme’s style and rubber, thought it perhaps best to let Takako feel the pressure of initially being the aggressor. So Connie wasn’t afraid to push, tempting Trenholme to go for step-around hits. If Takako would be content to push back the pushes, Sweeris would patiently wait out that part of the point until Trenholme made her play. Both women prefer more aggressive table tennis than repeated pushing, but it was interesting to watch, say, five pushes suddenly turn into bang-bang exchanges in which Connie was clearly the favorite.

            Sweeris didn’t always wait though, sometimes jumping on opening opportunities just to let Takako know she would initially attack too. The most impressive part of Connie’s win was that she stuck to a basic game-plan, but one that wasn’t fixed. She mixed up her play so a predictable pattern wasn’t guaranteed.

After the match, Connie was sitting in the bleachers, a little lost in thought. Mitch Rothfleisch had come over to extend his congratulations, but when she failed to acknowledge his remarks, he jokingly said she had hurt his feelings. Connie snapped out of her reverie, turned to him and said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m just so happy.’” 

Open Quarter’s/Semi’s/Final

            After Scott Butler had advanced over Jim Lazarus in straight games in the eighth’s, Dan Seemiller here in the quarter’s did the same to him. But as Scott got 19 that second game he really didn’t have much to grieve about in losing to the Champ.

            Dell Sweeris, however, felt a little differently about his loss to Danny in the eighth’s, even though he did take a game. It wasn’t the loss that bothered him—indeed, he admitted he wasn’t even concerned about winning the tournament. Sweeris is a nice guy, not a complainer, but he sure didn’t appreciate the wisdom and method of the draw-makers placing him, the #9 seed, against the #1 seed in the round of 16.

            Domingo over O’Neill was also a straight-game match. Danny had predicted the outcome before the start. He explained that Sean is much better off against Rey on a fast table, but on the slower one here with Domingo’s aggressive topspin defense, Sean would have a hard time consistently getting balls by him. So it went—with Domingo winning easily.

            If Sweeris had a tough draw, what would you call the Teekaveerakit-Pintea match-up? Both players were capable of winning the tournament, but only one could advance to the final round robin. Going into the match, Teekaveerakit was the slight favorite of the kibitzers, but Pintea quickly demonstrated that the odds were dead even. He won the first at 16, then lost the second at deuce, then the third at deuce. So, instead of being a 3-0 winner, match over, Horatio was down 2-1 at the break.

            Righty penholder Chartchai plays a fast game based more on speed than spin. He likes to serve and follow, and stay close to the table using quick blocks against topspin drives. Pintea comes at his opponents with loops that effectively combine speed and spin. They have torque, force, and if they’re not passing shots they present a challenge to the blocker. Also, Horatio is not afraid to attack a righty’s forehand, especially if he’s a penholder like Teekaveerakit whose ready position favors his backhand court. Pintea is good in long counter-drive rallies and plays well off the table.

            The fourth game went to Pintea at 18. And the fifth to…deuce…to Teekaveerakit, 23-21. For loser Horatio it had been a lot of work for the $50 quarterfinal prize money.

            Both Brandon Olson and Rick Seemiller had survived five-game tests in the eighth’s, so presumably they were hardened enough to again go the distance—which they did. Though perhaps they shouldn’t have. However, once again Ricky pulled himself out of serious trouble early on—with Brandon experiencing first-hand exactly how Rothfleisch had felt. And no wonder: Olson was up 1-0 and 16-10 in the second, just like Mitch…and, like Mitch, lost that game and the match.

            Rick always seems to be fighting for his life. But rated 2525 it’s obvious he wins a lot more than he loses. Ricky’s a spinner, the slow loop being his forte. Players who can’t handle the amount of spin he generates become easy prey. But against someone like Olson, who’s a power player, he has to fight extra hard because he has to play many more shots per point. But Ricky’s got tenacity on his side and now, like Danny, he’s training with weights to increase his overall strength.

            Perhaps the only negative thing about the tournament—though of course all praise to sponsor George Nissen who came to the tournament on Sunday—was the 12:00 noon start and 7:00 p.m. finish of the final round robin. With so many of the stars simultaneously involved in other events, scheduling conflicts abounded. Even lovable Houshang’s not above criticism and he has to remedy this problem because even devoted TT people have a tendency not to care WHO wins after seven hours with their butts on hardwood bleachers.

            In the final round robin, Dan Seemiller beat both his brother and Domingo in straight games. Ricky should have won the third, would have placed second in the tournament if he had, but he didn’t. Rey beat Ricky in four. Ricky should have won the second, would have placed second in the tournament if he had, but he didn’t. Chartchai’s fast strong shots were too much for Domingo.

Ricky, however, was able to defeat Teekaveerakit in four games, handily in the last two. Ricky’s slow loops were troublesome to Chartchai who likes to play a fast-paced game. Also, Rick’s serves bothered the younger player a lot, especially since it was the first time the two had met. Ricky had been confident beforehand that he could beat the Thailand Champ and he took comfort in the fact that brother Danny has a much harder time doing the same thing. Still, it’s much too early to state that Ricky has a lock on Teekaveerakit. Time will tell if Chartchai can adjust to Rick’s style.

The last match of the round robin between Danny and the young Thai was for first place. Should Seemiller lose, both he and Chartchai would have 2-1 records, but the tie would be broken on a head-to-head basis and Teekaveerakit would be the Nissen winner. Danny of course was eager to avenge his loss to Chartchai at the U.S. Open, and to win the $600 first prize and the $100 bonus for travel expenses.

Their match here was quite different from their match at the Open. Seemiller controlled from the outset to win the first two games, 10 and 17. Chartchai was not hitting in so many loop-zingers like he’d done in Vegas. Also, Seemiller was returning Chartchai’s service better and was blocking better off his forehand. Although Chartchai rallied to take the third game at 19, Seemiller in the fourth followed by going into one of his typical runs—from 8-8 he moved to 18-12. Teekaveerakit scored but one more point before bowing out.

            Nowadays, much of Danny’s success is based on his ability to play a better all-around game. About two years ago he began incorporating defensive tactics during his matches, mainly chopping and pushing. He wasn’t that good at it in the beginning, primarily because he was altering his previously more one-dimensional style based on good serves and the strongest loop in America. (It’s not exactly weak on the international level either.)

As he became more confident with his strategic use of defense, he also grew more confident in his expanding game. At first it seemed like he was taking the easy way out with less aggressive play—perhaps his long dominance in the sport was on the decline? But Seemiller knew what he was doing, and it’s obvious now that his master plan has succeeded as he has more ways to battle his opponents.

Defense is hardly his game of course. Although his chops and pushes are not weak ones, they’re not used to win points outright but rather to deliberately challenge opponents. He frequently wants them to open, confident that his good blocking skills are at the ready or in case of a weak opening he can pounce on the ball. If you push back to him, watch out for that loop. While it’s more of a footwork challenge for Seemiller to vary his shots and the pace of the game, his opponents face the same predicament. To sum up Danny’s current play: think expanded technique, ever-aggressive offense, and a competitive spirit fueled by increasing confidence.