(by Steve Hopkins)
The final eight teams in the Puerto Rico Open matched up starting on Sunday. The format in that top division was best 3 out of 5 matches. The top seeded TTA/888 team beat Soderhamns UIF 3-0. Soderhamns was a Swedish team with Casper Strindberg, Elliot Lundqvist, and Daniel Lindso – but they were no match for the TTA/888 team with Zhou Xin, Lily Zhang, Darryl Tsao, and Aditya Godhwani. The second seeded Team Afanador was a collection of great Puerto Rican team members – Brian Afanador, Angel Naranjo, Jabdiel Torres, Oscar Birriel, and Richard Pietri. Team Afanador also dominated their Quarterfinal match with a 3-0 win over Carribean All Stars (Knight, Wilson, Cao, Grewal, and Britton).
The other two Quarterfinals saw Team Diaz top Feliz Nafidaddies and Samson Dubina Academy top Team Rios. Team Diaz advanced to face TTA/888 in one Semifinal. Team Diaz won the first match – with Adriana Diaz winning 3-2 over Darryl Tsao. The next two matches were 3-0 and 3-1 wins for TTA/888, but none of the seven games was decided by more than 2 points. Zhou Xin defeated Daniel Gonzalez 3-1 (11, 11, -11, 9) and then Lily Zhang topped Gabriel Perez (10, 10, 10). In the final match, Zhou Xin defeated Adriana Diaz 3-0.
Team Afanador faced Samson Dubina Academy in the other Semifinal. Team Afanador won 3-1. Like the other Semifinal, three of the matches were close enough to have gone either way. Oscar Birriel won the opening match for Team Afanador with a 3-2 win over Sid Naresh. The final game was a 16-14 win for Birriel. In the second match, Nandan Naresh evened the score with a 3-2 win for Samson Dubina Academy. The next two matches went to Jabdiel Torres and Angel Naranjo with 3-0 and 3-1 wins over Sarah Jallie and Sid Naresh. That gave Team Afanador a 3-1 victory – and punched their ticket to the Final.
When the top two seeds faced off, it was TTA/888 that came out on top. Lily Zhang won the opening match 3-1 over Oscar Birriel. Zhou Xin then topped Brian Afanador 3-1. Angel Naranjo scored the first point for Team Afanador with a 3-2 win over Aditya Godhwani. The fourth match was a 3-2 win with Zhou Xin topping Oscar Birriel. Had Birriel managed the upset, the final match likely would have featured Brian Afanador – an advantage for Team Afanador. Two great teams in a tight battle that could have gone either way – what a great way to finish the tournament.
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