Lindenwood University Fall Table Tennis Open – Roger Dickson

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This past weekend, September 22-23, Sameh Awadallah and I took a road trip to the gorgeous campus of Lindenwood University in Missouri to see if Sameh could get redemption for the losses he suffered at the St. Peter’s table tennis tournament there in the Spring. (Fun fact: Lindenwood University is one of just four Universities in the U.S. that offers Table Tennis Scholarships.)

2011 National College Table Tennis Champion Fernando Yamazato and Vice Champion Venkat Ramesh, both coming from behind, were able to win in the Spring! Could the training sessions at the Newgy Table Tennis Center in Gallatin, Tennessee turn the tide for Sameh?

As the #3 seed, Sameh knew he would get to play Venkat in the semi-finals, then possibly Fernando. All the top seeds rolled through group play and #1 (Venkat) vs. #3 (Sameh) and #2 (Fernando) vs. #3 (Karin Fukushima) was set for the semi-finals. As teammates Fernando and Karin play alot so it wasn’t surprising that the match was quickly over (8, 6, 8).

Now players from other events and some of the Lindenwood students gather to see the other match - Venkat vs. Sameh.  Quickly the score is 8-3 Sameh, only to see Venkat win three in a row to get to 8-6! Trading points is bad for Venkat as he goes down 11-8 in the first. Starting strong is the key and again Sameh gets up by five just to have Venkat race back to 8-8! A little luck comes to Sameh with an edge ball to get the lead but from there the former Egyptian National Table Tennis Team Member uses his backhand twice to overpower Venkat for the win and 2-0 lead. The third table tennis game starts with Venkat winning the first two points only to see eight straight points go the other way. Trading the next four points doesn’t help and with a sharp block Sameh runs the ball out of Venkat’s reach to win 3-0!

After a short break the Open finals start and the 2011 Collegiate National Champion quickly shows the form that got him his title by winning the first game at 8. In the second Sameh looks like the player from the Semi-final, racing away from Fernando and finishing with an 11-6 win. As a best of five the third game can really determine the match and with a quick start, Sameh has a big lead. Fernando is steady and grinds his way back to 9-9 and has serve! A mistake on the depth of serve lets Sameh get control of the offence and gets the 10-9 lead and promptly calls a time out. I offer no magical advice and just listen to what Sameh has to say then, just “breathe and focus” as he heads back to the table. Of the serves, Fernando has some of the trickier ones from the backhand side and he chooses to use the backhand serve now. Again a slight mistake on serve – too much toward the backhand court – Sameh is able to jam the ball into Fernando’s body and the ball goes weakly into the net.

The fourth game sees a sharp focus come from Sameh as he again jumps out to a lead. While there are high level points being played, Fernando just can’t get momentum and watches a backhand loop from Sameh fly past his backhand block to put an end to the Open Final 3 games to 1 for Sameh.

In the Giant Round Robin on Sunday, the focus was solely on the top three. Could Venkat and Fernando take down yesterdays Open winner Sameh? Due to the order of play Fernando got the first shot at Sameh, and was able to get by in three straight games! After both playing lower seeds, Venkat got his shot at Sameh! At first it appeared that the match would go quickly as Sameh won at 6, but though down in the second Venkat fought back to deuce the game! With serve, Venkat attacked first, see the ball just sail long then watched as Sameh served to the middle and followed with a fierce backhand to Venkat’s elbow. The game two pattern followed the trend as a big lead got erased to a deuce game –again! Sameh made the first mistake, but it was his only one and he wins the game with a well placed short ball, of all things! Fernando was able to quickly dispatch his teammate 3-0 to win first place in the Giant RR- Open Division and relegate his teammate Venkat to 3rd. Sameh finishes second and sees his rating jump from 2376 to 2515!

Seeded #1 in the D division I was wearing a giant target all day and managed to finish in a three way tie for 1st with two losses. Through the tie breaking process, I managed to come away 1st in the Division. The clinching match was a 3-2 win at 13-11 to Memphis fishing/lobber/chopper Perry Smith.

Roger Dickson

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