2012 US Table Tennis Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan – Roger Dickson

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With inclusion of the ITTF Cadet and Juniors events, there were a lot of new faces in the DeVoss Center and the level of play seemed to be at another level! The Chinese/Taipei kids seemed to be playing all the time, but that happens when you keep winning and they won a lot of matches!

On the other end of the spectrum, senior players from the Newgy Table Tennis Center were also kept busy playing and winning too! John Edd Walker found himself in the Finals of the Over 75 event against a player from New Zealand! John Edd put up a good fight but just couldn’t get past the well travelled and practiced Alison Flemming 8,-7, 8, 8!

Bill Neely, of Knoxville, Tennessee, moved up to the 80’s this year and proceeded to add to his achievements by taking home another 1st place finish! Bill was very satisfied with winning as he had several health challenges earlier this year and knows he will be playing better come the Huntsman/Henderson/Nevada Sr. Games!

I try to play one event every year, kind of as a warm-up and this year it happened to be the Under-1500 hardbat.  In the past year I have likely played hardbat (classic style hard pips out rubber on both sides) about four or five times and had planned on having fun, but I quickly found myself playing the top seed with neither of us having losses in our previous matches! Bob Petty –owner of Table Tennis International – grew up playing this style of game and made pretty quick work of the first game. Almost all of Bob’s attacks came from the backhand side of the racket –but from the forehand court! In the second game I was a little too aggressive in the beginning and had to battle back from 17-13, just to get the score to 18-17. In true championship fashion, Bob ended the game with a backhand attack from the forehand side! So I ended the event with a solid second place finish and my first ever award at either a US Open or US Nationals!

In the Open events, former Chinese players made a huge splash. Canadian Olympian Wang (Eugene) Zhen survived a war in the semi-finals with Polish national team member Filip Szymanski (World Ranking 239) 4-3, after Zhen had led 3-1 in games and 9-7 in the fifth! Filip got a great ovation after losing from both the crowd and the Canadian coach too!

Thomas Keinath, the top rated table tennis player, seemed to go hot to cold in matches and was down 3-1 in his quarter-final match before winning three straight games, but then won his semi–final 4-1 against the modern defender style of Qing Liang Wang! With word of his primary racket failing pre-match testing, Thomas came out struggling, losing the first two games, then seemed to right the ship by winning the third at 7. That game loss seemed to light a bit of fire in Wang Zhen as he rolled through the fourth at 1! So here was Thomas with his back to the wall again and again he gave it all he had, just to lose the championship 15-13 in the fifth game! This was the second year these two have met in the finals with a new winner each time!

The Women’s Open event had a real problem - several high level players were left unseeded as they had no current ITTF ranking. This meant many of the quarter-final and semi-final matches on one half the draw were as well played as the final was. I don’t think the Finals really showed the talent level of the field correctly as one-half had former World Ranking #25 Liu Juan and the “Top Seed” JiaQi Zheng, while the other had 16 year old US Olympian Ariel Hsing and “former” Chinese Super League player Huijing Wang. While JiaQi did get a game (4-1), Ariel got blanked (4-0) by the current Houston, Texas-based coach. The finals were like watching a mirror – two penhold grip players, one right-handed, one left-handed, but both trained in the Chinese system. While the older, calmer current coach played well, the younger and dynamic shot maker, Liu Juan was able to secure a 4-1 finals victory and the much larger paycheck!

Roger Dickson

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