Classic Hardbat World Championships: The Dream Team Wins Again - Butterfly Table Tennis
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Classic Hardbat World Championships: The Dream Team Wins Again

Open Teams at the Classic Hardbat World Championships: The Dream Team Wins Again

By Larry Hodges

The Dream Team won in 1992, and now they’ve repeated, 30 years later in 2022. But instead of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and the rest, it was Jimmy Butler and Alexander “The Flash” Flemming. (Alex’s brother, Stephan, also played a few doubles matches.) The two were seeded #1 as well as #1 and #2 in Open Singles to be played the next day. In the Teams, they didn’t lose a singles match. (Their only doubles losses were defaults in the earlier rounds, so they could focus on singles.) But before we get to the final round robin of three teams, there were the preliminaries. There were two big upsets, or perhaps three.

Second-seeded Team America (A.J. Carney and Joseph Cochran) lost to #5 seeded Team Romania (Vlad Farcas and Alexandru Cazacu), 3-2. Team American was up 2-1 with their “big gun” up in multiple hardbat national champion AJ. But Alexandru, after losing the first badly, won the match, -5,9,9,8. In the fifth, it was Vlad over Joey, 5,9,8.

The other upset was #10 seed Dominican Republic and North Carolina (Alexis Perez and Bryce Milford) over #4 Team China (George Guo and Bin Hai Chu). Alexis won both matches – 3-2 over Guo – while junior star Bryce (15, who would win Under 17 here) won over senior star Bin Hai Chu, 11-9 in the fifth in a tournament-changing upset.

The other upset? #3 seeded Team Nigeria (Yinka Olasoji and Randy Hou) were defeated by weather when Yinka’s flight from New York was cancelled. And so the “Therrific Three” were Dream Team, Romania, and Dominican Republic & North Carolina (DR&NC).

First up was Dream Team vs. DR&NC. Jimmy Butler’s main focus is relentless consistency, while “The Flash,” normally more aggressive, often played mostly consistent as well. Result? Some of the longest and best rallies imaginable, especially between Bryce and The Flash, who both play spectacular hitting and counter-hitting games. But there’s a reason they are the Dream Team, and they won nine straight games, with none of the six singles games close. In the doubles, they played The Flash (Alex) and his brother, Stephan, and while the games were closer, they also won 3-0, at 9,9,5. Watching the matches is also a contrast in personalities. Jimmy Butler is always calm and focused, while The Flash is often exuberant, often laughing and smiling between points.

Next up was Dominican Republic vs. Romania. In the battle of the Alexes who are not The Flash, Alexandru Cazacu (ROM) defeated Alexis Perez (DR&NC), 8,6,4. Next came perhaps the match of the tournament, at least in the teams. Vlad Farcas won the first two easily against Bryce Milford, then Bryce won the next two easily, and seemed to be dominating. In the fifth, they battled back and forth to 8-all. Vlad won the next two – winning one with a tricky crouching serve that Bryce put off the end – and finally won, 7,5,-7,-7,9. In the doubles, it was all Romania, 8,7,7.

And so we were into essentially the final, Dream Team vs. Romania. And there, for the Romanians, the dream ended. But Romania put up a fight. In the first match, against The Flash,

Vlad Farcas – a former US Open Sandpaper Champion over Jimmy Butler – had three games points in the first game and two in the third before losing, 13,3,12. In the second match, Alexandru Cazacu came back from down 8-10 to win before losing the match, 7,9,-10,7. In the doubles, with Jimmy now playing with The Flash, it was all a dream as they won at 8,2,5.

And so the 2022 World Hardbat Team Champions are The Dream Team, Jimmy Butler and Alexander “The Flash” Flemming!

Results should go online after the tournament. It is being livestreamed at:

https://www.facebook.com/ClassicHardbat/

___________

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