Dan Liu knocks off the top seed. Photo by Bruce Liu
The men played two rounds of Stage One on Friday morning and afternoon, at 12:15 PM and 1:45 PM. Here are the Results (which include the Qualifier played on Thursday - page below that). They are in two groups of eight. They will play two more rounds tonight, and the final three rounds tomorrow. Then the top four in each group will advance to a Final Eight (Stage Two), with carry-overs, and so four more matches. (As mentioned previously, players ranked in the top 250 in the world are seeded by world ranking, and then by rating. And so the top three seeds are Kai Zhang, Nikhil Kumar, and Nicholas Tio. Because the Omnipong software seeds by rating, to force the proper seeding, these three were given "seeding" rating of 3000, 2950, and 2900.)
There were two upsets in the first two rounds, both in Group One. Half of the 16 matches were 4-0. The main upset was Dan Liu (2574, #5 seed in the group of eight) over top-seeded Kai Zhang (2642, world #172), 6,5,-9,10,4. Both were two-winged loopers, with Dan a penholder. After the match, Dan said of Kai, "He has a lot of power from both sides. I had to control the ball, put more topspin on the ball." This was a huge upset, and puts Dan into serious contention - if you can call it that after two rounds.
In the Men's Preliminaries, Aditya Godhwani (2401, age 16) had already pulled off two upsets to advance, including a win over Earl James Alto (2604). Now he pulled off one of the most unlikeliest of comebacks, against Ted Li (2548, age 14). Aditya won the first and led 5-1 in the second when he was faulted twice in a row, once for cupping his hand, and once for holding the ball on his fingers when he served. He said afterwards this so unnerved him he lost his focus, and the game. (He would later be faulted again for serving off his fingers.) After losing games two and three, Aditya won the next two, and so led 3-2 in games. He led 7-5 in the sixth, but Ted scored six of the next seven points to win 11-8. (The two have ultra-modern, close-to-table two-winged looping games, ripping winners off just about anything. Some of their backhand winners had to be seen to be believed.)
In the seventh, Ted served up 5-1, and Aditya missed both, and the next point as well, and so Ted led 8-1. At this point, in my notes, I wrote a paragraph on why Aditya lost, mostly involving Ted's returning serves a little better and more consistently. As I wrote this, I kept jotting down the scores - 8-3, 8-5, and stopped writing at 8-all. Aditya scored NINE in a row to lead 10-8, match point! Ted served and made two nice backhand loops to get to 10-9, but his next serve went slightly long, and Aditya absolutely ripped it with his forehand to win, 7,-9,-8,6,5,-8,9!
One of the more interesting matches in Group One was Jishan Liang (2668) vs. Gal Alguetti (2626). It's a great contrast in styles, with the two-winged firepower of Jishan against the quickness and consistency of Gal. Early on, it was all Jishan. Then Gal, with incredible reflexes and ball control, began to play better and better, and was able to force Jishan into longer rallies, moving him side to side until Jishan either missed or made a weak return that Gal could put away. The rallies were incredibly quick, with Gal winning the next two games that way. Up 10-7 in the fifth, Jishan won 11-9, and then - forced to a higher level by Gal's play, played scary good in the sixth to win the match, 6,8,-9,-10,9,4. (He also did more down-the-line attacking at the end, which Jishan mentioned afterwards.) I've seen Jishan when he plays well, and if he does, he'll probably make the Olympic Team. If he plays like he did much of this match, he probably won't - but Gal may have inadvertently pushed him into a higher, Olympic gear, to the possible detriment of others. We'll see.
Gal also played Ted Li, which had some controversy. At one game each, Gal led 8-4 in third. During a point a ball from the next court apparently rolled into the court, but neither the umpire or scorekeeper saw it, and neither did Ted, who played out the point. Gal said he saw the ball and stopped playing hard, thinking it would be a let, and so Ted ended the point, making the score 5-8. There was an intense argument between the players, the umpire/scorekeeper, and Gal's dad. They finally called for the umpire, who said they would have to play a let, so the score went back to 4-8. Ted almost came back, but lost the game, 11-9. Gal went on to win, -6,6,9,6,9.
In Group Two, five of the eight matches were 4-0, one was 4-1. There were two "contested" matches, only one of which was actually contested, both involving Adar Alquetti (2540). In one match, Nicholas Tio (2592) came back from down 0-2 to defeat Adar, -9,-5,7,6,8,9. In the other, Adar played one of his younger brothers, Sharon Alguetti (2658). Let's just say they didn't play that serious, with lots of lobbing, fishing, and "fun" sidespin shots mixed in with some regular rallies. Match to Sharon, 8,-9,10,-9,8,-10,6.
The next two rounds will be tonight at 6:15 and 7:45 PM.