1975: Overseas Tournaments—China’s Huang Liang Causes a Sensation. 1975: Seemiller Brothers and Mike Veillette’s Pro/Con Experiences at Yugoslav Open. 1975: Danny wins England’s Middlesex Open.
Prior to the start of the fall series of tournaments overseas, we learn from Sweden’s Tommy Andersson (TTT, Sept.-Oct., 1975, 5) the results of the 1975 European Youth Championships. This Aug. 2-10 tournament, for which the organizers claimed to have spent $90,000, was held at the 10,000-seat Dom Sportova in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, with 25 or so countries playing on 16 tables. Out of 11 events, the Russians won five.
Boys Teams: Final: Russians over Czechs, 5-1. Notable ties: England beat West Germany, 5-4, and Russia, 5-0 (!), but lost to the Czechs, 5-0. Yugoslavia beat Czechoslovakia, 5-1, but lost to Russia 5-3 (“against the Yugoslav Juhas, Bagrat Burnazyan saved from 20-15 match point down (!).” Hungary got blitzed by West Germany, and last year’s Champion, Sweden, was beaten by Bulgaria, 5-3.
Girls Teams: Final: Yugos over Russians, 3-1, “mostly because young penholder Dubravka Fabri downed Tatyana Ferdman, World #5,” who, like a number of her teammates, favors the “well-known Russian backhand drive.” In the semi’s, Yugoslavia had been down 2-0 to Czechoslovakia, but had rallied to advance. Hungary came 3rd.
Cadet Boys Teams: Sweden (Andersson/Anders Thunstrom, who’ll Captain the World Champion Swedish Men’s Team in 1991, then go on to take a Marketing position with the ITTF) beat Hungary, 3-0.
Cadet Girls Teams: Russia (Valentina Popova/Lyndmilla Bakshoutoval) over Rumania, 3-0.
Boys Singles: Defending Champion Burnazyan (World #40) over a too nervous (intimidated?) Miroslav Schenk (Czechoslovakia).
Girls Singles: the husky Ferdman, “who is a bit clumsy and sulky,” won out over defensive star Marie-France Germiat after the Belgian had come back from 18-15 down in the 3rd to oust Yugoslavia’s great hope, Erzebet Palatinus. Fabri, meanwhile, had upset the Czech Hana Reidlova, 9 and 10 (!)
Other winners: Boys Doubles: Sweden’s Nilsson/Gronlund. Girls Doubles: Russia’s Ferdman/Meshkova. Mixed Doubles: Hungary’s Molnar/Gabriella Szabo.
Cadet Boys Singles: Italy’s Giovanni Bisi over Hungary’s Zsolt Kriston.
Cadet Girls Singles: Gordana Perkucin.
Don’t expect Hungary to win the Nov. 14-16 Hungarian Open at Szeded. World #1, Istvan Jonyer, “was operated on for an injured leg and now needs to rest for some months.” Gabor Gergely, current World Doubles Champion with Jonyer, “is in the Army, and can’t play for 8 months.” However, Tibor Klampar, “who was out of competition almost a year because of discipline problems,” is back playing.
West Germany is no longer depending on their former 9-time Champion Conny Freundorfer (retired from the National Team now for some time) to win them matches—which is just as well, for poor Conny, as Topics (Mar.-Apr., 1976, 3) tells us in covering this World scene, has been quite a victim: “His sport equipment shops burnt away (damage 200,000 [German] marks; 1 USA dollar equals about 2.5 GM), then his father died, then he caught an unknown virus illness, then, during his stay in the hospital, thieves came to his apartment and stole goods valued at 40,000 GM. Such a calamity!”
Hungarian Open Results:
Men’s Teams: Sweden over West Germany, 3-0.
Women’s Teams: England over Yugoslavia, 3-2.
Men’s Singles: France’s Jacques Secretin over Stellan Bengtsson in 5. Semi’s: Secretin over Kjell Johansson; Bengtsson over the Czech Milan Orlowski.
Women’s Singles: England’s Jill Hammersley over Sweden’s Ann-Christin Hellman. Semi’s: Hammersley over France’s Claude Bergeret; Hellman over Hungary’s Szabo.
Men’s Doubles: Orlowski/Jaroslav Kunz (Czech.) in 5 over Peter Engel and Jochen Leiss (W. Ger.), runner-up in the ’76 West German Closed to Wilfried Lieck.
Women’s Doubles: France’s Bergeret/Thiriet over England’s Hammersley/Carole Knight.
Mixed Doubles: Secretin/Bergeret over West Germany’s Peter Stellwag and Ursula Hirschmuller who’ll lose the German Closed to the veteran Agnes Simon.
Danny Seemiller didn’t play in the Hungarian Open, for he was struggling in Mort Zakarin’s tournament on Long Island. But by the following weekend, he, brother Ricky, and Mike Veillette had arrived in Ljubljana for the Yugoslav Open. They began Team play against Italy II (“just as strong,” said Danny, “as Italy I”) with Danny and Mike playing singles, and the brothers doubles. Giontella downed Veillette, 2-0. Then, against Malescki, Danny, after winning the first at 19, found himself 20-19 match-point down in the third before getting in three loops to even the tie. Another nail-biter in the doubles—but again the U.S. came through. “At 19-all [in the third],” Danny wrote, “I served two short side-top serves and the returns came up just enough so that Ricky could put them away.” After that, the elder Seemiller had an easy win over Giontella.
As a reward for beating the Italians, the U.S. moved on to play the Yugoslavs. Their Coach, Dusan “Dule” Osmanagic, had described to our National Coaching Chair Jeff Smart his Team’s yearly Training/Playing regimen, which Jeff recorded as follows:
“June 1—July 1: Beach, sun, vacation. NO TABLE TENNIS!
July 1-July 15: Fitness camp.
July 15-July 30: Table practice in home clubs.
Aug. 1-Aug. 14: Fitness/practice camp combined; coaching.
Aug. 15-Sept. 1: More practice in home clubs.
Sept. 1-Sept. 15: Local, Regional, National Champs.—Team established.
Sept. 15-Oct. 30: Small international tournaments.
Nov. 1-Dec. 15: Big European tournaments.
Dec. 15-Dec. 24: Physical Fitness camp in mountains—ski down/climb up.
Dec. 25-Jan.1: Holidays.
Jan. 1-Jan. 15: Practice camp.
Jan. 15-Jan. 30: More practice in home clubs.
Feb.-Mar.: Play biggest tournament of the year (World’s/European’s).
Mar.-May: Friendly matches, tours, unimportant tournaments.
Clearly this Team was following its serious-minded schedule. Indeed, at this Nov. 20-22 “home” Open, the Yugoslavs would be finalists in the Team’s. But before they could continue with their advance they had to beat the U.S.
Danny opened against Anton “Tova” Stipancic, Europe #3, and “was nothing-to-it ahead at 15-8 before the roof caved in and it was 18-all. Still, as I had the serve I could have won it if it weren’t for a bad call. At 18-all I blocked one real quick into Stipancic’s gut and the ball hit his shirt and then his racket. The ball floated over like crazy and I lost the point. We argued for about two minutes but to no avail. In the 2nd game I played Stipancic point for point until 17-all—and then he ran out the game.”
Surbek, Danny said, “had no chance against this special serve Ricky’s got. It’s a sidespin chop which nobody seems able to handle. At 15-all Surbek put 4 straight of Ricky’s serves into the net—19-15 Ricky. The 5th serve Surbek popped up and ran for the barriers. After Ricky had killed about 7 in a row and it looked like he was about to win the point he finally missed one—and it was 19-16. Ricky then proceeded to miss two of the Yugoslav’s serves in a row and Surbek went on to win 21-19. What a bummer! In the second game…Surbek loop-killed everything. So we lost 3-0.”
China I won the Men’s Teams, beating Yugoslavia 3-2. “The most striking thing about the tournament,” Danny said, “was watching Huang Liang play.” He’s “this unbelievable Chinese chopper with that new Tientsin rubber….[He] made everybody look ridiculous. I mean really ridiculous—he annihilated Surbek and Johansson under 10 and had Bengtsson 15-1 one game [Surbek later said he did better against him the second time].An unbelievably weird sponge he had. No one could read the spin on his serves. No one could bring back the ball. Match after match was just a joke because there was no way to play against this guy.”
Zdenko Uzorinac (TTT, Mar.-Apr., 1976, 2) said Huang had “caused such sensational confusion” that aficionados were saying “they’d seen nothing like it since the appearance of the sponge racket. Huang disposed of the best European aces by such lopsided scores that it was positively unbelievable—likely never before matched in the history of our sport.”
So, who is this Huang Liang? Zdenko says, he’s “21-years old, is a teacher of physical culture in Honan Province in the north of China. He made his international debut this year….He has an orthodox style…, and (it is not believable!) practices only three times a week. In the ’75 All-China Championships he was #5.”
“…Huang is a phenomenal defensive player with a sudden forehand kill. He has an extraordinary backhand service (with full rotation), and when his opponents almost invariably make mistakes, like setting up the ball, he immediately wins the point—if need be with a quick put-away. He is very fast on his feet and his defense is rock-solid. Often he will strategically change the different sides of his racket to induce the high ball that will allow him to use his strong smash.”
“Most people think that Huang’s success is due as much to his table tennis knowledge and fantastic defense as it is to ‘cheating’ with his very special racket.” Zoltan Berczik, former European Champion and Coach of Hungary’s World Champions, said, “I was a chopper, a defender, and…Huang is a splendid chopper: he can cut the ball in 4 different ways—which is rare indeed.” Of course everyone in Ljubljana wanted repeatedly to touch, to examine Huang’s red racket, “and the Chinese had not the slightest objection to this.”
It’s a perfectly legal racket, of special Chinese make. “On the forehand side the racket has a smooth hard surface, but on the backhand side the racket is soft. The pip ridges are very high, can easily be pushed aside, and are very soft so that the ball will simply enter between them. Since Huang is very fast changing his racket sides, and since each side is decidedly different, players are confused by the different rotation of the ball as it comes back to them. [Since the two sides from an-across-the-table distance look the same, the opponent]…never knows which side has been struck, and so makes mistake after mistake.”
“The Chinese have not slept,” said Milan Orlowski, Europe’s #2. “Only 9 months after Calcutta they’ve produced a new service, a short block of their opponent’s drive—and miraculous Huang Liang!”
However, the winner of the Men’s Singles was not Huang, but another Chinese, Guo Yuehua, who downed Huang 18 in the 4th in the semi’s, and who for the next six years will be the world’s dominant player. Danny describes him as “a penholder looper with good serves” who, after Bengtsson had knocked out Surbek, 19 in the 5th, beat Stellan 3-0.
How’d the U.S. players do in the Singles? Ricky blanked two Yugoslavs, then in the round of 32 fell to Orlowski, 3-0. Against the lefty Tothorgosi, Mike, down 2-0 and 14-6, “rallied to 17-all before the Yugoslav brought back Mike’s hardest kill to win that point and followed by running out the match.”
Danny, after blitzing Yugo’s Kuotes and Tunisia’s Ben Ali, met Zoran “Zoki” Kosanovic, #4 on the Yugoslav National Team, who, on emigrating to Canada, would be a two-time U.S. Open finalist, splitting titles with Sweden’s Mikael Appelgren, losing in 1980, but winning in 1982. Up 2-0 and 20-19 in the 3rd, Danny was on the verge of a great win that would bring him into the round of 16, but lost that game 22-20. Then got killed in the 4th. But rebounded in the 5th from 9-all “when I got 7 straight points (two of them on edge balls) to win 21-14.”
That brought Seemiller to West Germany’s Jochen Leiss, who’ll later win our 1977 U.S. Open. Danny tells us he almost took down this ’74 German National Champion. “In the first I was down 19-14, but got 6 straight to go ahead 20-19—only to lose 3 in a row.” Then, with games tied 1-1, Danny couldn’t win the 3rd from 18-all. In the 4th, he says, “I started strong, built up a 12-7 lead—only to watch it slowly dwindle until again I was at 20-all. He finally beat me 24-22.”…“Yeah,’ said Danny, “isn’t that awful—I lost the big ones at deuce. Well, what can I do—I’ve just got to keep at it.”
Other Yugoslav Open Results (from Uzorinac):
Women’s Team: China I over China II.
Women’s Singles: in winning, teenager Branka Batinic, “member of the Yugoslav club Mladost-Zagreb,” defeated Chu Hsiang-yun (China) 3-0, then ex-European Champion Ilona Vostova-Uhlikova (Czech.) 3-1, then Liu Hsin-yen (China) 3-1, and in the final one more Chinese, Chang Te-ying 3-1. Zagreb’s Uzorinac thinks highly of Branka: “She is so universal, can counter attack on both sides, loop, has an excellent service, and can defend away from the table, even lob….She has everything. (Nor did she lose this everything. More than 30 years later, at the World Veteran’s Championship in Bremen, Branka will win the Women’s Over 40 Singles and Doubles, and will at the 2007 World Championships in Zagreb, be of extraordinary help to me in seeing that I got the Media credentials I wanted.)
Men’s Doubles: Surbek/Stipancic over Fu Min/Guo Yuehua.
Women’s Doubles: Chu Hsiang-yun/Chang Te-ying over Liu Hsin-yen/Li Min, 18 in the 5th. Mixed: Secretin/Bergeret over Orlowski/Uhlikova.
Awful as it was for Danny to lose to Leiss, something that could have been worse strangely befell him, and Ricky and Mike too (read Veillette’s “Americans Go Too High,” TTT, Nov.-Dec., 1975, 5; 14; 17). Out of the Singles, out of the Doubles, all three are watching the final day’s climactic matches. After the Men’s semi’s, however, they’ve two hours to kill.
So, behind the playing hall, up, up, up into the hills the three of them climb to see what they can see. How beautiful the view! Until…hello, here was…a soldier with a machine gun, and in a moment some decidedly unfriendly men frisking them. Then they’re sent slipping and sliding back down the steep incline, their hands held high for fear of being riddled with bullets in their backs as they try to…”escape.”
On reaching bottom, the three of them are boxed into a 5x5x5 van and taken to a militia station, where they’re forced to wait and wait and wait. Mike and Mike’s camera are particularly suspect—what of the “army” up in those hills had their eyes seen? Why, nothing, of course….Of course not, said their captors, returning, finally, Mike’s camera, sans film. Four and ½ hours after they were captured, they were released, got a bus back to the hall in time to see “the last game of the Men’s Doubles and the finals of the Mixed—which of course, says Mike, “was better than nothing, better than if we hadn’t ever shown up at all.”
Next stop on their mini-tour: the Scandinavian Open, held Nov. 27-30 at Kalmar, Sweden. Results: Men’s Team’s: China over Sweden, 3-1. The U.S. beat Denmark, but lost to Czechoslovakia—Danny dropping 18, 19 games to Europe’s #8 Jaroslav Kunz. Women’s Team’s: China over South Korea, 3-0. Men’s Singles: Danny noted that “Bengtsson in his 3rd final in as many weeks finally won one…here in his homeland.” In the one semi’s, Bengtsson beat Surbek; in the other, Johansson beat Stipancic. “The Chinese dumped—it was as simple as that,” said Danny. He himself lost to Huang Liang—said, “I swear, I never faced anything like this in my life. I missed 4 out of every 5 serves.” Huang then was beaten by England’s Denis Neale, 3-0. “This was ridiculous,” said Danny—“for nobody in all of Europe could really take a game from him.” Men’s Doubles went to Surbek/Stipancic over Huang Liang/Li Peng.
Women’s Singles: China’s Liu Hsin-yen over China’s Chang Te-ying. Semi’s: Liu over the Czech Blanka Silhanova; Chang over China’s Li Ming.
Women’s Doubles: China’s Chang/Chu Hsiang-yun over China’s Liu/Li.
Mixed: Li Peng/Li Ming over Canada’s Errol Caetano/Mariann Domonkos!
Another Chinese contingent went to the Romanian Open. Results: Men’s Team’s: China (Liang Ko-liang, Li Chen-shih) d. France (Secretin/Patrick Birocheau), 3-0. Women’s Team’s: China d. Czechoslovakia, 3-1.
Men’s Singles: Final: Liang d. Kunz (all games under 10). Semi’s: Liang d. Secretin, 3-0; Kunz d. Li Chen-shih, 3-1. One notes that Kosanovic was leading Orlowski 14-7 in the 5th, but lost, and that Orlowski then was beaten by Secretin, 3-0. Men’s Doubles: Liang/Li d. Orlowski/Kunz, 3-0. Women’s Singles: China’s Sha Min d. China’s Sun Min, 3-1. Women’s Doubles: Lean Pok Sun (S. Korea)/Maria Alexandru* d. Jen Kue Li/Jen Chih Chia (China), 3-1.
In European League play at the Piers Coubertine Hall in Paris before 5,000 spectators, Czechoslovakia’s 4-3 win over 3rd-Place Sweden gave them the lead (Orlowski beat both Bengtsson and Johansson, and Vostova-Uhlikova beat Hellman).Yugoslavia was in 2nd Place, ahead of Sweden, because they were able to get by France, 4-3 (Secretin beat Stipancic but lost to Surbek).
Also in Paris, there was an Old Timer’s tournament which 45 former internationalists attended. At least some of them played: Quarter’s: Urchetti (Switz.) d. Haguenauer (France), 2-1; Sido (Hung.) d. Bye?; Amouretti (France) d. Dolinar (Yugo.), 2-0; Leach (Eng.) d. Roland (Bel.), 2-0. Semi’s: Sido d. Urchetti, 2-0; Amouretti d. Leach, 2-1. Final: Sido d. Amouretti. At the end, Secretin and Purkhart, the two-time French National Champion who was celebrating his 111 appearances for the National Team, put on an entertaining exhibition.
Last year’s Dec. 8th New York Times reported that Danny Seemiller lost to both Nicky Jarvis and Denis Neale of England in London’s Pickwick Invitational. This year, the tournament again had an 8-man field, but a new sponsor, a new location, and a new name—the G.M.C. Masters Invitational at Manchester. And Danny did better. Not only did he beat Claus Pedersen, the Danish Champion, who was runner-up in this tournament last year, but Jarvis, England #2, as well. The remaining player in his round robin he didn’t beat—that was Europe #3 Stipancic. But in the 1st, Danny “was leading 18-13 then finally, after having 4 ads in a row, lost it, 27-25,” then lost the 2nd at 18.
In the accompanying round robin, England’s Des Douglas was a winner over both Surbek and Neale who also lost to the seemingly indefatigable Yugoslav. Surprise, said Danny—the 4th man in this round robin was long ago U.S. World Team member Norby Van de Walle, representing, as he had been for many years, Belgium. Why was he there? “I suppose,” said Danny, “because they wanted a good chopper for TV.”
In the final, Surbek avenged his earlier defeat by downing Douglas, The Black Flash, 2-1. In the criss-cross semi’s, Surbek had beaten Stipancic, 2-0; while (ohhh) Douglas, England #1, had eliminated Danny, 20 and 19. “Yeah,” said Danny, “I blew it.” It had to be some consolation to Seemiller, however, that Mike Lawless of the English TTA sent a letter to him and also to our International Chair Rufford Harrison praising Danny for his improvement as a player and for being such “a credit to American table tennis.”
Danny Wins Middlesex Open
Topics English correspondent, Cosmo Graham, reports (TTT, Mar.-Apr., 1976, 5) on the Middlesex Open, won by Danny Seemiller, “the first foreigner to win this tournament since its inception.” Danny himself considered this Open comparable in strength to our Eastern’s—for 29 of England’s top 30 attended. Graham called Seemiller’s win “magnificent”—the “more impressive in that he didn’t drop a game in any of his matches.” Much of Danny’s success could be attributed to his serves. But more about his Singles wins in a moment.
“Better yet,” said Danny, “Ricky and I won the Doubles.” This event, Cosmo tells us, was “full of upsets.” Mike Veillette had a good pairing, with Jimmy Walker (England #5), “but they went out at their first appearance to the Welsh team of [Graham] Davies and [Alan] Griffiths. The Welshmen lost in the quarter’s, though, to Mark Mitchell and Peter Taylor, of whom it was said, ‘They have to be a good team. No one else can play with either of them.’”
It would seem that maybe no one else could play against Danny and Ricky—for in the other quarter’s in this half, they took advantage of their spin serves to knock out the #1 seeds, Des Douglas and Denis Neale. Then, winning a close match against Mitchell/Taylor, they reached the final. To meet who? Not Dave Brown/Ian Horsham, nor even the #2 seeds Andy Barden/Paul Day. Both of those teams were beaten by Dave Jemmett/“Benny” Robertson. “Neither Jemmett or Robertson have a backhand attack worth mentioning, so they chop on that wing and make up for it with heavy forehand loops.” Although Day had a recent win over the Hungarian chopper Borszei, he “couldn’t read Robertson’s chop and float, and of course this proved costly.” In the semi’s, Dave and Benny said they would have beaten John Kitchener and Dave Tan “had not ‘Benny’ broken his shoe and had to borrow one which was a trifle too tight.”
In the final against the Seemillers, Kitchener and Tan were “inspired.” Graham said the Englishmen “won points by looping each ball harder than the previous one, and…if they could get into a rally chances are they would win the point.” Towards the end-game third, “it was dead even, despite Danny constantly having a go at Rick.” (Did that mean Danny was encouraging or discouraging Ricky?) “Tan, in particular, hit in some breathtaking topspin winners. But in the end, the Americans had the edge with their serves, quick loops, and fast blocks.”
Cosmo said that the Women’s Singles was “no longer a lock” for Jill Hammersley (England #1)—especially as Carole Knight (England #2) “had beaten her the previous two times they’d played.” Why, I wonder, were they meeting in the semi’s? Graham obviously thinks highly of Knight’s game. “Has world-class potential.” (She’s not world-class now?) “Her forehand loop compares well with anyone, male or female, in England… It’s nigh impossible to tell which direction it’s going. She also has an extremely solid backhand with which she can also hit winners if so inclined. Small wonder then that she’s capable of going through Ms. Hammersley’s world-class defense.”
“As the match progresses, Jill is trying to hit as much as possible to keep Carole from the attack and break her rhythm….[But] it looks as if this new strategy won’t help as Ms. Knight leads 20-17 in the 3rd. But Jill keeps on hitting, blocking, chopping”—and gets to deuce. Then is twice ad up until finally Carole can’t get another clutch loop to go in—so, as Carole “throws her bat high in the air,…Jill clenches a well-deserved victory.”
In his own short write-up on this Middlesex tournament (TTT, Nov.-Dec., 1975, 5), Danny said he didn’t want to knock the English officials, for they “took good care of me. And naturally it’s not until you win a few hundred pounds that everybody takes more notice of you and starts to listen to you a little.” However, Danny did think it was “stupid” of the English drawmakers to position him with Ricky in the quarter’s. “Although I’d told them at 8 o’clock in the morning Ricky would get to the quarter’s with me, they didn’t believe it, or didn’t care. They gave me some ridiculous line about, ‘We didn’t get a letter from your Association telling us of the strength of this player.’ Such nonsense.”
Actually, Cosmo tells us, “Nicky Jarvis was scheduled to play Ricky in the third round but had to scratch because of illness. So first up for Ricky was “colorful Middlesex penholder Dave Tan who took the first game at 19; however in the deciding third, “Tan’s weak away-from-the-table game lets him down against Ricky’s quick-angled blocks. Then when John Kitchener (England #12) loses to David Reeves (England Junior #19!), Ricky eventually advances to the quarter’s.”
Cosmo says, “Apparently Danny is much too psychologically dominant over his brother for Ricky to like his chances or even enjoy the match.” Or does little brother just want to support big brother, while also figuratively chastising the draw-makers by depriving the tournament of a quarter’s match? At any event, Ricky defaults, and Danny moves on to the semi’s.
“In the same half, in the other quarter’s, Nigel Eckersley (England #14) beats Veillette, 16, -16, 12, in a scrappy match dominated by errors.” But then Eckersley is stopped by acrobatic Don Parker (England #7) who, in previous years, has wins over Neale, Jarvis, and Danny. Parker in turn falls, deuce in the 3rd, to Jimmy Walker and his quick backhand hits.
In the other half, Desmond Douglas (England #1) moved easily to the semi’s, there to meet Denis Neale (England #3) who’d come out of an interesting draw. “Volatile, left-handed “Benny” Robertson had an excellent…[deuce in the 3rd] win over Mark Mitchell [who’d moved up from England #15 to #9]. Robertson resembles a puppet playing—is all jerky movements and inflexible limbs—but he wins.” Beat the fast-moving Mitchell with chop variations. That was it for Benny though—he got “squashed” by Andy Barden (England #4) who then dropped a 23-21 in the 3rd killer to “Essex power player Dave Brown whose motto is, ‘The closer the score, the quicker I shall finish the point.’ Neale, however, finished him.”
In the one semi’s, Walker couldn’t handle Seemiller’s serves. But that wasn’t the only reason he lost 14 and 9. In the second game, Danny “put on a display of forehand killing the likes of which I have never seen anywhere in England before.”
In the other semi’s, Des was a big favorite over Denis whom he’d beaten twice in earlier tournaments. Graham said, “Douglas’s play reminds me of a fencer, especially on the backhand where he thrusts balls quickly from corner to corner and parries hard kills. His forehand, though, is more reminiscent of a bludgeon and a not particularly powerful or skillfully wielded one at that.” This Douglas-Neale match “is all quick counter-driving. It’s like a high speed chess game, with both men close to the table, both unable to power through the other. Neale may look ungainly but he is still quick around the table and the toughest person in England at deuce.” Cosmo wonders how Denis won the first game, but he did. The second, however, finds Des back in form; he’s “running Neale off the table with his side-to-side backhands…and leads 10-2.” Only he doesn’t win this game either—is caught and beaten 22-20.
Denis and Danny play two deuce games in the final—and Danny, employing his strongest weapon—serve and loop kill—wins them both for the 100-pound check. Cosmo agrees it was “an exciting and impressive victory for a player who never stopped going for his shots no matter what situation he found himself in. Everybody in the States ought to be proud of you, Danny!”
*Romanian world-class star Maria Alexandru is shown here with Michigan’s Stef Florescu who recently received the highest membership honor of the National Association of the Physically Handicapped—the 1975 NAPH medallion. His meritorious service continues as he attempts to get the U.S. Post Office to issue a commemorative picture-postage stamp honoring the 20th anniversary of the National Wheelchair Games and specifically Mr. Benjamin Lipton, founder of the Games; he’s also urged ABC’s Wide World of Sports to cover these 1976 National Games. Stef has just returned from a 30-day vacation in Romania where he was welcomed at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, and got to visit with Ms. Alexandru.