Robo-Pong Giant Round Robin Table Tennis Tournament

Newgy Robo-Pong

Cheng Li marched into the Akron, Ohio arena on Saturday, March 16, 2013 as top seed rated 2615 in the pool of 81 table tennis players competing for $2000 in cash and prizes.  Closely following behind were Sameh Awadallah rated 2570, Samson Dubina rated 2499, and 12-year old chopper Seyed Hesam Hamrahian rated 2274.

Each of the four events were giant round robin format with the top four players advancing from each group to the next round. There were 24 players per event divided into three groups of eight players.  The morning kicked off with the Open and u1600.  The afternoon concluded with the u2000, and u1200.  Players could enter just one event and play 7-10 matches or be very ambitious like Sidd Khandelwal  (who possibly set a U.S. record last year with 23 matches in one day) and enter both the morning and afternoon events.  Sparks were flying early in the morning as Sam Gacki in group 1 attempted to upset lobbing and counterlooping Don Hamilton.  Somehow Don managed to return one too many smashes and Sam wasn’t able to close out the fourth  game -3,10,-7,13,7.  In group 2, Harsh Khandelwal had two 300-point upsets over Paul Wandrei and Richard Vessel to advance as 3rd in the group.  In group 3, pen-hold player Jeff Xiao arriving from China twiddling with pips and inverted was able to beat Danny Dulkin and Hesam Hamrahian to advance.  In all three of the Open groups the top seeds Cheng Li, Sameh Awadallah, and Samson Dubina cruised through the round robin groups without dropping a single game.

Open table tennis matches through the quarterfinals went as planned without any huge upsets – Cheng Li over Po Hsu Chen, Sameh Awadallah over Scott Endicott, Samson Dubina over Paul Wandrei, and Jeff Xiao over Don Hamilton.  On the top half of the draw, Cheng Li controlled the entire match with a quick 8,4,6,8 win over Jeff Xiao.  The second semi was a different story.  Trailing the entire first game, Samson somehow found a way to come back and win 11-9 in the first game.  Controlling the match with a 3-2 lead the crowd thought that Samson would get his revenge on Sameh Awadallah, who had previously beaten Samson in the Arnold Classic final.  However, Sameh found new energy.  Backhand and forehand counterlooping from the barriers, Sameh was able to pull off the marathon match -9,7,8,-3,-7,7,8.  Sameh contributed his win to his improved physical condition.  He has been running regularly and training hard with the Newgy Robo-Pong 2050 table tennis robot.

Until the open finals, Cheng Li had dominated the competition with tight serve and return, followed by a massive forehand that none of his opponents could even blink at.  The final against Sameh was a much different battle.  Not only could the former Egyptian National Table Tennis Team Member return most of them, but he was often able to counterloop them for winners from both sides.  The crowd pleasing match lasted an hour with Cheng Li coming out on top:  -9, -10, 10, 6, 8, -9, 8.

The other morning event was the u1600 starring Canton’s Jianbiao “James” Tu who looped through the group, quarters, semis, and finals without dropping a single game.  James recently began playing reverse penhold, which gives him more options for attacking with the backhand and allows him to play more central to the ping-pong® table.  His nasty serves, heavy pushes, and strong loops were just too much for the other competitors.  Finishing second was Columbus’ Eric Maskey who had upset Mario Letic in the quarterfinals.  Doyle Harbaugh and Jeff Strawn, the semifinalist, were rewarded with a Paddle Palace gift pack for their efforts.

The u2000 event featured 24 players competing for $400 in cash.  Locals David Bussey and Lincoln Stover each had three major upsets in the round robin groups to surprisingly advance.  With four players progressing from each group, there were 12 players left in the single elimination draw.  The top four got byes to the quarterfinals, while the remaining eight played the first round.  Twelve-year-old Roger Liu made a run for the final, but was stopped short by smashing, blocking, and lobbing Harsh Khandelwal.  In the end, Ali Khatami made an end to all the local Indian players by beating Shreyans Bafna in the quarters, Sidd Khandelwal in the semis, and Harsh Khandelwal in the final.  Congrats to Ali!

The tournament wrapped up with the u1200 event featuring many new players who were delighted to play in their first table tennis tournament.  Anwen Harris, seeded #6 in her group, has been rapidly improving while being coached by her Dad, Scott Harris, advanced as 2nd in her group.  Enrico Stengert started off strong in the event by sweeping his group easily.  His momentum continued throughout the event by beating Nathan Fousek 3-0 in the quarterfinals, Richard Beer 3-0 in the semis, and William Gao 3-0 in the final.  Enrico was very satisfied with his playing and plans to move up to the next event in our June tournament.

I want to send out a special thanks to our sponsors – Newgy, Paddle Palace, and Nittaku.  I would also like to thank The House of the Lord for use of their beautiful triple gymnasium and the large tournament committee that allowed the tournament to run in a timely fashion:   Greg Thompson, Perry Wilson, Pierce Scott, Pastor Taylor, Sam Dubina, Nancy Dubina, Heather Dubina, Joe Ciarrochi and the many scorekeepers who made it interesting for the many excited spectators.  The tournament committee is now planning to host three tournaments per year in Akron, Ohio featuring free meals, free snacks, and free drinks to all the players.  Our next table tennis tournament is scheduled for June 8, 2013.  Entry form now available at:


1st Cheng Li

2nd Sameh Awadallah

3rd-4th Jeff Xiao and Samson Dubina


1st Ali Khatami

2nd Harsh Khandewal

3rd-4th Alex Averin and Sidd Khandewal


1st James Tu

2nd Eric Maseky

3rd-4th Jeff Strawn and Doyle Harbaugh


1st Enrico Stengert

2nd William Gao

3rd-4th Richard Beer and Michael Rostankowski

Samson Dubina

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