European Stars Fend Off Challengers to Sweep Open Event at 2015 Hyson Chicago International Table Tennis Open
By Barbara Wei
Almost 270 players from around the country and world competed in 28 events at the 2015 Hyson Chicago International Table Tennis Open on August 8-9th in Libertyville, IL. With 50 Butterfly tables, 100,000 square feet of space, live streaming and a world-class feature court, the inaugural event provided the best US table tennis has to offer. Players enjoyed spectacular organization, on-time events and ample amenities including access to onsite dining and gym facilities.
Invited European stars (Panagiotis Gionis (WR #22 Greece), Bastian Steger (WR #25, Germany), Jean-Michel Saive (WR #127, Belarus), and Lucjan Blaszczyk (Poland)) proved their table tennis prowess by moving into the semi-final rounds of the Open Event without losing more than 2 games each. Before meeting each other, the four players fended off challenges from top Chinese born American players/coaches such as Kai Zhang (2689), Hanwei Wang (2527), Jishan Liang (2670), and Xiao Jie Yuan (2676) in high level battles that drew large crowds on the second day of competition.
On the top half of the semi-final draw, Panagiotis Gionis (WR #22 Greece) met Jean-Michel Saive (WR #127, Belarus) in an entertaining 6 game affair. Gionis plays a modern defensive style with a fierce forehand attack and backhand counterloop, while Saive has a more traditional European two winged looping game. The pair dazzled the standing room only crowd with long rallies and a few exhibition points, before Gionis closed out the match 4-2. On the other half of the draw, Bastian Steger (WR #25, Germany) met Lucjan Blaszczyk (Poland) in a hard fought 6 game affair, with Steger ultimately moving forward. In an evenly matched final, Gionis and Steger had a close 6 game encounter with spectacular rallies and counter loops that impressed the Midwest crowd not commonly treated to table tennis of such caliber.
The 2015 Hyson Chicago International Table Tennis Open continues to fuel the growing fire of table tennis growth in the Midwest. Tournament brainchild Engelbert Solis hopes to expand and improve the event in future years, with the goal of creating a long-standing prestigious tournament with consistent national and international participation.