Alamedan Claims Gold
Alameda native Aziz Zarehbin brought home the gold at the 2018 USA Table Tennis National Tournament in Las Vegas. More than 600 athletes competed in more than 100 competitions at the event July 2 through 7.
Aziz, 12, won the minicadet boys’ national championship title for the second consecutive year. The event was open to boys born in 2005 or later.
Aziz’s road to gold was hardly smooth sailing as he faced tough challenges from many strong opponents. He was seeded fourth in the event, so he skipped the first qualification round and started in stage two of the event, where the top 24 players were divided into four round-robin brackets.
In table tennis the first player to score at least 11 points with a two-point margin wins the set. Players need to win three out of five sets to win the match. Aziz competed in the group four round robin. He went 4-1 in group four. He defeated Naresh Nandan (9-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-9), Raghav Thiruvallur (11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 12-10), Taran Tummala (11-8, 11-4, 11-9) and Praneeth Tummala (3-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9). His only loss was to Handson Li (2-11, 12-10, 5-11, 2-11).
The top four competitors in each group advanced to a single-elimination tournament to decide the champion. Aziz finished the round robin in a three-way tie for first place with Handson and Nandan, who both went 4-1. Nandan won the tie breaker for first place in the round robin. Aziz finished second, while Handson took third. Thiruvallur was the fourth member to advance to the single-elimination tournament.
Aziz needed all five sets to win each game in the single-elimination tournament. He defeated Darryl Tsao (5-11, 12-10, 14-12, 5-11, 11-7) to win his first round match up. In the quarterfinal, he trailed two sets to one against Steven Tan after losing set two and three 5-11 and 9-11. However, Aziz rallied to win the final two sets 12-10 and 11-7 to advance to the semifinal round.
Aziz faced the number-one seed Ted Li in the semifinals. He again trailed two sets to one (7-11, 11-4, 3-11) entering the fourth set. And just like in the quarterfinal Aziz won the final two sets 11-6 and 11-4.
Aziz took down Aneesh Raghavan in the final. After winning the first two sets 11-6 and 11-9 it appeared Aziz would cruise to the title. That was not the case as Raghavan won the next two sets 7-11 and 10-12. The final set was close, but Aziz won it 11-9.
The Alameda Table Tennis Club (ATTC) brought 11 players to the 2018 USA Table Tennis National Tournament. Alameda players brought home four bronze medals. Vikash Sahu won bronze in U2200 tiered super round-robin division A, an event with 199 entries. Jerry Min won bronze in U2000 juniors from 140 entries. Jerry Min and Greg Rogers took bronze in ABCD Doubles Division A. Aziz’s dad, Payam Zarehbin, teamed up with doubles partner David Akerman to take bronze in ABCD doubles division B.
ATTC is coached by Pieke Franssen.