Hou Yingchao Upsets Joo Sae Hyuk to Win 2015 Butterfly Los Angeles Open
by Barbara Wei
Over 1,500 people filled the Los Angeles Badminton Club stands on the evening of September 6th to watch the world’s best defensive players compete for the $10,000 top prize in the Open Singles event. Both Hou Yingchao and Joo Sae Hyuk had breezed into the finals, a class above their challengers who struggled with their variations in speed, spin, rhythm and pace. A common phrase uttered by those who faced Hou or Joo after hitting another ball into the bottom of the net was “that had so much spin!”
In the final, Joo played the main roll of an attacker and Hou the defender. Joo’s ability to continuous attack Hou’s chops, while 2600-2700 rated players could not, easily demonstrated to the crowd his world class abilities. Unfortunately for Joo, a back injury last week while competing in the Chinese Super League, visibly hindered his abilities in the final. Joo went down 0 games to 3 before winning two games in a row to bring the score to 3-2 before losing 11-3 in game 6 in the best of 7 final. However, at the end of the match both Joo and Hou were jovial and smiling as the crowd cheered for their impressive display of skill and sportsmanship. Friends for over 10 years, Hou and Joo’s comradery was evident in the respect they have for each other as friends and competitors. Hou praised Joo for competing so energetically despite his injury while Joo expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome he received at the event. Both Hou and Joo are interested in making a future appearance at the L.A. Open and look forward to their future competitions for the rest of the year.
The Women’s Singles competition also featured defensive specialists in every round of competition, with last year’s champion Tang Liying repeating her success at this year’s event. En route to the title, Tang took out 2015 US World Team Member Angela Guan 3-1, 2015 Seattle Women’s Runner-Up Zha Wenting 3-2 (11-9 in the fifth in a nail biting semi-final) and finally Liu Ying a defensive player and visitor to the Silicon Valley Table Tennis Club (SVTTC) from China in the final. The match between Tang and Liu proved to be a marathon affair with the first game lasting well over 15 minutes. Tang eventually pulled out the win 11-7 in the 5th game and was all smiles as she left the arena, buoyed by her local Los Angeles fans.
The L.A. Open is one of the biggest USATT 4-star sanctioned tournaments with a unique energetic fan-fueled environment that makes it exciting for players of all levels to attend. With thunder sticks, whistles, over 2,000 spectators and incredible local media representation, the L.A. Open undoubtedly improves spectator appreciation of table tennis in the local Los Angeles population. Tournament committee director Frank Yeh cannot wait to put on an even better event next year.