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2020 US Olympic Trials - Mens Preliminaries - and Dan vs Chi Sun, WOW!!!

By Larry Hodges | Feb. 27, 2020, 8:35 p.m. (ET)


Dan Seemiller vs. Chi-Sun Chui - the highlight of the Men's Prelminaries. Photo by Bruce Liu.

The Men's Preliminaries started with 30 players and played two rounds to get to the eight qualifiers. They will join seeds #9-24 in the Men's Qualifier - eight groups of three, with the eight group winners advancing to join the top eight seeds in Stage One, the Final Sixteen. Here are complete results. Here are the eight Qualifier Groups. (All results are posted at Omnipong.)

The first-round matches went mostly as seeded. The only upset was Joshua Mak (2193) of Texas over California's Shashin Shodhan (2235), 9,-7,-5,6,7,8.
The second round is where we got some doozies. Here are the results, with commentary afterwards - and you'll want to stay for the Dan Seemiller v. Chi-Sun Chui match, one of the dooziest of all.

  • Aditya Godhwani (2401) d. Anthony Chu (2219), 7,-8,7,-9,2,-11,2

  • Jeff Ruiz (2295) d. Roy Ke (2391), 8,6,-5,-8,7,-5,12

  • Eliel Sosis (2323) d. Joshua Mak (2193), 9,10,5,6

  • Joseph Cochran (2373) d. Martin Rogers (2288), 5,-7,1,6,7

  • David Zheng (2302) D. Austin Preiss (2382), 7,7,10,-6,8

  • Stephen Chu (2323) d. Steven Gong (2388), -9,-10,9,8,4,6

  • Paul David (2357) d. Kobe Couyoumjian (2271), -9,7,10,-9,5,2

  • Chi-Sun Chui (2339) d. Dan Seemiller (2322), 6,3,8,-8,-12,-10,13

 

Aditya Godhwani was the top seed in the Men's Preliminaries at 2401, but had to battle in his match against Anthony Chu (2219) until the last game. Second-seeded Roy Ke (2391) was not so lucky, losing deuce in the seventh against Jeff Ruiz. Jeff is a tall, non-Asian lefty penholder, coached by Stellan Bengtsson.

And now comes the match of the day. In one corner, Dan Seemiller - five-time US Men's Singles Champion, from the South Bend TTC in Indiana, age 65 but still rated 2323, over 2450 three years ago, and over 2500 just five years ago. In the other corner, Chi-Sun Chui, former junior star and two-time Men's Team Silver Medalist at the Pan Am Games, age 46 and rated 2339, from the School Learning Tree TTC in Escondido, CA. One interesting tidbit - during his prime, Chi-Sun used inverted on both sides, but he was now using short pips on the forehand.

It didn't start out like a close match. Chi-Sun relentlessly attacked Dan's forehand, mostly with his backhand, and often served long to the forehand, following with another backhand crack into the forehand. Dan plays with the Seemiller grip (which he basically invented), which is strong in the middle (since he uses one side of his racket for both forehand and backhand), but is not as good against shots to the wide corners, especially the wide forehand. (But it gives him an off-side, where he has anti to vary his returns.) Dan seemingly had no answer to these attacks to the forehand as Chi-Sun won the first three easily at 6,3,8. Dan had his moments. In game one, he was down 1-4, then 5-5, then lost 6-11. In game three, he was down 1-6 and came back to 7-8 before losing, 8-11. Dan pulled to a 6-2 lead in the fourth and won, 11-8.

In game five, Dan leads 3-0, 6-3, 8-5, then it's 8-8. Up 9-8, Dan misses an easy smash, and it's 9-all. Then Chi-Sun gets the first of many match points in three games, 10-9. Then Dan leads 11-10, 12-11 and 13-12 before Chi-Sun smacks a backhand off, and Dan wins, 14-12. At this point, the patterns are set - Dan relentlessly serve and attacks with his forehand, often serving side-top, with Chi-Sun mostly pushing them back passively, trying to chop down on them, but often popping them up. Afterwards, Chi-Sun would say, "That serve was crazy good, I couldn't handle it." When Chi-Sun served, he'd often serve long, and usually follow with a big backhand to Dan's forehand. If Dan pushed or blocked back with his anti side, Chi-Sun would topspin soft and try to follow with the big backhand.

In game six, Chi-Sun leads 7-4, and Dan takes a timeout and talks with his coach for the match, Attila Malek. Afterwards, Dan serve and rips a winner, to make it 7-5. At 9-7, Dan smashes, and Chi-Sun backhand counter-smashes! So it's 10-7 match point for Chi-Sun. At 8-10, Dan serves two tricky serves, and Chi-Sun puts both off the end - Deuce!!! That's four match points so far for Chi-Sun. At 10-all, they have a great point, ending with Dan suddenly chopping, Chi-Sun rolls the ball softly with his forehand pips, and Dan smashes. Chi-Sun puts another backhand off, and Dan wins another game, 12-10.

In game seven, Dan goes up 5-3, then loses four in a row. That's how much of this match went - they took turns winning in streaks. Down 5-7, it's Dan's turn, and suddenly he's up 10-8 match point. Chi-Sun serves, and Dan puts it in the net with the anti; then he misses a backhand, and it's 10-all. Dan serve and loops, then misses the follow, and now Chi-Sun has his fifth match point, 10-11. And then Chi-Sun backhand kills a winner, and it should be over - except Dan counter-smashes a forehand to deuce it! Dan then has match point at 12-11, but Chi-Sun backhand hits a winner. Chi-Sun has his sixth match point at 13-12, but this time his backhand goes into the net, 13-all.

And then, after all this drama, it ends suddenly. Dan serves and loops off (match point #7 for Chi-Sun), and then puts Chi-Sun's serve in the net. And Chi-Sun has won the Match of the Day, 6,3,8,-8,-12,-10,13.

It was a heroic match for both, win or lose. "I gave it my all and have nothing to be ashamed of," Dan said. "But it's the first time in a long time that I cried after a match."