Yesterday as players came to compete at the Westchester Table Tennis Open in Pleasantville, New York, an exciting victory awaited players and spectators alike, perhaps one not seen from the beginning. Momentum was very much the story of the day as the three Alguetti brothers began their monthly campaign at one of the USA's leading monthly tournaments.
With an inspiring $2000 on the line for first place in the Open Singles, Sharon Alguetti, having won last month in a thrilling display of table tennis, was out to repeat his success. Indeed in 2018 he had already captured 3 titles, the most impressive achievement of any domestic US player.
Extending far beyond the 2600 line, Sharon Alguetti at 2681 was now knocking on the door of 2700. A win at Westchester could give him the final push to take him there.
The group stages began. Comfortable in the opening rounds, he won his first two, but encountered some resistance from Alex Averin in his final group match. Seemingly more passive, Alguetti gave his opponent too many opportunities, ones he made sure to take on most occasions. Alguetti would clutch the match a tight 3-1 and advance first.
His problems continued into the round of 16 as he came up against 2482 rated Ming Liang. Despite having accounted for Ming 3-0 on their previous two encounters at the March and April Open, something was amiss, Alguetti continued to play passively and found himself on the receiving end of some swift combinations from Ming. Facing a 2-1 deficit, Alguetti struggled, but managed to cling on and steal away the match in the final moments, 13-11 in the 5th game.
His quarterfinal would be against Li Jian, a player who had suffered an early defeat last month, but was looking in significantly better form this month. He had accounted for Adar Alguetti in the group stage, avenging his 3-0 defeat from the previous month with a reversal straight game victory. His attacks looked sharp and he presented a very real threat.
The momentum build began. In an absolutely thrilling match with 4 deuce games, the two went head to head. Li was consistent on defense, bringing back ball after ball, imparting heavy spin and keeping the ball low. But the slower pace of the defensive game was giving Alguetti a chance to regain some touch and timing, and to begin to play more aggressively.
The rallies were exciting as Li Jian bounced between rock solid defending and blistering attacks, while Alguetti threw everything into each point. The match went the full distance, Alguetti continuing to get better and better as the match went on and eventually narrowly surpassing his opponent, 12-10 in the fifth. A brilliant display from Li Jian and a real crowd pleaser of a match!
Into the semifinal and Alguetti came up against Kaden Xu, the highest player in the draw at 2703 and recently returned from China. Again, three more deuce games and many explosive back and forth exchanges. Alguetti continued to build momentum, as any memories of his earlier struggles were thrown to the wind. After his intense matches already it was any wonder he could still stand, but his game went from strength to strength.
Holding a 2-1 lead after three very tight games, Alguetti surged home and sealed out the match 3-1. He would setup a final rematch with Akifumi Hamakawa of Japan and the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy.
Hamakawa had defeated Zhang Kai and Liang Jishan both in straight games, and looked as impressive and lightning fast as always.
Sharon Alguetti looked exhausted, match after match he had put it all on the line, exhibiting his finest fighting spirit in the quarter and semi finals.
The final began, what energy did Sharon Alguetti have left, how could he possibly contend the match in his current state? Well that question is impossible to answer, even Alguetti himself couldn't explain what ensued. Hamakawa, already infamous for his unbelievable speed, found himself toe to toe with Alguetti. Matched early in the bounce in the rallies, Hamakawa faced a determined opponent, who had thrown everything at his matches to reach the final, but somehow still had more to give.
Hamakawa was rapid, quick off the bounce, short strokes and a multitude of difficult placements at high speed. There were dazzling moments, amazing points, everything you could wish for in a great table tennis match. The players fought point for point, the left handed Hamakawa throwing out difficult serve variations and initiating with insanely fast backhand flips, often combining them with quick finisher shots to the corner or down the line.
Alguetti's momentum build was reaching a pinnacle, he surged yet again, taking a 2-1 lead as he challenged Hamakawa's speed and dexterity, matching it with his own. Without a doubt the onlookers were shocked at the continuous high level of play from Alguetti, as he sweated through shirt after shirt and his face became red from the repeated friction of his towel.
The momentous display would come to a close in the fifth game as both players gave it their all and Alguetti emerged the victor. Hamakawa humble and gracious in defeat as the two shook hands, an amazing performance by both of them, but the $2000 prize and the honor of winning his 4th Westchester title of the year went to Sharon Alguetti.
As usual, family lined the sidelines, a proud moment and yet among them, and Sharon himself, a seeming bewilderment at just how this had all unraveled. It had seemed in the early rounds that today was not going to be the day for Sharon Alguetti, but he pumped himself up, stuck to his guns, and brought home the win.
Congratulations to Sharon, and, as the results have been processed already, it is only fitting to mark his achievement as he crosses over the 2700 mark to 2703 USATT rating. Incredible!