Edited by Will Shortz.
For those who follow the Olympic sport of table tennis, it should come as no surprise that the Westchester Table Tennis Center’s (WTTC) July Open Tournament continue to solidify its place as one of the country’s premier venues for the sport. Since its opening in 2011, the WTTC has hosted numerous tournaments including those of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association, International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) North America Cup, New York State Table Tennis Championships, and has hosted dozens of Olympic competitors and National Team members from countries around the world.
On the weekend of July 27-28, the WTTC registered its largest group of U.S. and international competitors to date, numbering 192, surpassing the milestone of awarding half a million dollars in prize money since beginning its monthly tournaments in 2011, and crowning its first female tournament champion, Juan Liu, who began her table tennis career in Wuhan, China.
Above (Left) Juan Liu on her way to the WTTC's July Open Championship, (Right) with Will Shortz, Jiwei Xu and Robert Roberts during the awards ceremony. Photo Credit - Glen Randmer
After competing for nine years in China’s Super League, the country’s top table tennis division, Juan moved to the U.S. in 2011 and began competing for the United States. She most recently held the title of the USA’s top-rated women’s singles player. In 2016 she became a U.S. citizen and, under the revised rules of the ITTF, is looking to compete for a spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. Juan captured the tournament title by defeating Eliel Sosis in the Round of 16, outlasting Zhiwen He in the Quarterfinals (-8, 5, 10, -8, 7), dispatching Gal Alguetti in the Semifinals (-3, 6, 7, 9) and taking first-place honors from Jiwei Xu in the Finals (5, -7, 7, 7).
Making her first appearance at the WTTC was 19-year-old Hawra Alasad, a citizen of Kuwait who trains at the Al Fatat Women’s Sports Club in Kuwait City. This soon-to-be Kuwait University pharmacy student first became interested in table tennis only three years ago while watching the 2016 Summer Olympics. With a training regimen that brings her to the Al Fatat club in the evenings and working with a private coach in the mornings. Her goal is to become a member of Kuwait’s first women’s Olympic table tennis team.
Above: Kuwait's Hawra Alasad showing her focus and athleticism as she works her way toward a quarterfinal appearance. Photo Credit - Warren Rosenberg
In a one-on-one interview with MetroSports Magazine, when asked how she came to compete in the WTTC July Open, Hawra told us, “I was searching for table tennis tournaments in the U.S. and found out that the WTTC hosted the largest monthly table tennis tournament in North America so I insisted on being part of it.” She went on to observe that “the level of competition was very tough, as expected, and the event was well-organized and really professional. I really loved the atmosphere, it was a really friendly environment, and I met amazing people.” Competing in the Under 1150 Division, Hawra easily advanced through the first round of play defeating Jaden Chen (10,6,6) and putting up a valiant battle against ultimate Division champion Henry Siegl in the semifinals taking him five games deep but eventually succumbing (-7,4,-18,4,3). Hawra’s advice to young girls and to all competitors is: “Never give up, even when things seem impossible.”
Also competing at the WTTC was Paralympian Ian Seidenfeld who is coming off last year’s double silver-medal win (individual and team) at the 2018 China Para Open in Beijing. The 18-year-old from Minnesota has been playing table tennis since the age of 6 and is following in the footsteps of his father, Mitchell Seidenfeld, himself a Paralympic Games Gold Medalist in 1992 and Silver Medalist in 1996. Ian handily moved through the Round of 16, defeating Zhixu Zhang (4,13,6), but could not find his way past Aditya Sareen in the Quarterfinals, going down to defeat (7,4,9) in the Under 2200 Division.
Above: Ian Seidenfeld working towards his win in the Round of Sixteen elimination. Photo Credit - Warren Rosenberg
Below: More from the competition floor at the WTTC July 2019 Open tournament.
Full tournament results and photos are available on the WTTC website at http://www.westchestertabletennis.com.
Coming up next for the WTTC will be the U.S.A. Table Tennis National Ranking Tournaments on August 26-31 and the first-ever ITTF World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships on October 11-13. And, of course, you’ll always find the monthly Open Tournament. Check the WTTC website for details.