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Joe Durso defeated Satish XX to gain a place in the semi-finals
Click for bigger picture
Joe Durso defeated Satish Jagnandan to gain a place in the semi-finals

The men's semi finals match between Rookie and Cesar was both intense and controversial
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The men's semi finals match between Rookie and Cesar was both intense and controversial

Men's Open Competitions

Cesar Sala defeated Eddie Maisonet to seize the National One-Wall title. Sala, the reigning World One-Wall Champion, was clearly on his game and made a convincing case as to why he should be considered small ball's top one-wall player.

Eddie Maisonet, a three time former National Champion himself, is known for his offensive skills. Cesar played a smart first game intentionally keeping the pace slow to control the tempo and frustrate Eddie. When Eddie finally got the offensive opportunity he couldn't convert. However, the 2nd game, was more of a challenge. Eddie stayed in the game forcing Cesar to go to "Plan B", serving low, looking for offensive opportunities and increasing the game's pace. Eddie still played tough, fighting back to within a point, before Cesar made a series of excellent shots to take the win and dash Eddie's hopes for another National Championship.

While the finals went without incident, Cesar's semi final victory over John "Rookie" Wright, the winner of this year's Mayor's Cup was marred by several controversial calls.

Up until the end, it was a great match. Rookie was just awful the first game, gaining several points at the end to make it appear closer than it was at 21-10 Rookie's hand was quite swollen perhaps due to his inexperience in playing a long small ball tournament, where the big blue style of smacking the ball, would take its toll. However, by the second game, Rookie seemed to have adapted to the pain and turned the momentum around to crush Cesar 21 to 9. The tie breaker was a good one when Rookie, down 8-6, lost a contested point and claimed he had been screened. While the crowd agreed, referee Pedro Garcia did not. Rookie, used to more flexibility in arguing calls was not clear that once the ref called the score, play was officially resumed. Still arguing about Cesar gaining the 9th, he failed to turn around for the serve and was then down 10-6. Now in a state of disbelief, Rookie was unable to contain himself, and the scenario was repeated for the final point.

Rookie lost, the crowd was stunned and the game was over. Pedro took heat for the calls and more appropriately for not clearly warning Rookie that play would resume. Some questioned Cesar for making the serves. While you can't beat the script, it should be noted that Cesar did offer to replay the last two points, but was rebuffed by Rookie who said "It's done." Whether it was out of anger and frustration or just choosing to go out in flames in a dramatic ending, Rookie had the opportunity for the replay and chose not to use it.

The Rookie/Cesar theatre was only part of the strange happenings. Robert Sostre last year's National Champ was unable to compete because of a stomach ailment that required medical attention. And in perhaps the most bizarre happenstance, Joe Kaplan, the 1999 National champ was disqualified from his opening match because he arrived too late. Joe's excuse? He was bringing his wife and new baby home from the hospital! Despite his best efforts, he arrived 10 minutes after his match had been defaulted. While the officials seemed to be attempting to be fair, the crowd was not pleased with the result.

With neither the 1999 nor the 2000 National Champ making a tournament appearance the field was a bit weaker than it should have been. Cesar had at least one less major opponent than he would have expected to go through on route to the title.

Men's Open Doubles

A new team composed of Dave Rojas and Rookie Wright took this year's Open Doubles defeating Joe Kaplan & Cesar Sala 21-10 and 21-18. In the first game, Joe and Cesar had a 9-3 lead but lost concentration and were humbled 21-10. In the second game, they were ahead 18-16 and stepping up to serve. Unforced errors resulted in no points. Dave and Rookie then took command of the game and clinched the doubles title with a 21-18 victory.

It was an unexpected victory. Dave has not been regularly playing and Rookie appeared too injured to pull it off. Perhaps Joe and Cesar were not focused, or maybe Dave and Rookie had more to prove.

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