Balls of Fury
This past Saturday saw HBS’s first ever annual Ping Pong tournament – hopefully the first of many!
Over 100 students descend on Shad to fight it out for the undisputed title of HBS Ping Pong Champion
The tournament had its genesis a couple of months ago when I had a 30 second conversation with Luke Owings (who is running the SA Cup) after class one day. Or perhaps it was during class. I’m not quite sure. Anyway, he told me how he was hoping to host a number of quick one-off tournaments for the ‘slightly-less-popular’ sports to augment the ongoing basketball, football and soccer tournaments for the SA Cup. I volunteered to take on ping pong and recruited Aleem Mawani (OF) to help out.
So as it turns out, ping pong is a LOT more popular around campus than either of us had anticipated. Over a 100 people eventually competed in the tournament, some even showing up at the unearthly hour of 10 am on a Saturday. We started off with six knockout-style brackets of 16 players each, and then put the top players from each bracket into a final round of 16. This took place towards the early side of Saturday evening, and was cheered on by a sizeable audience.
It was interesting to observe how each initial bracket turned out to be unique in its own right. While some of them were awash with skillful players and keenly contested right to the end, with certain others we saw a clear favorite emerge from the very beginning. Ultimately, we landed up with 16 players who would battle it out for the title. Many more were on the verge of joining them but just about failed to make the cut.
And so the final round was underway. The round of 16 saw a few slightly lop-sided encounters, but also a couple that went right down to the wire. Among them was Aaron Yuan’s (OA) 21-19 victory over Damian Zajac (OF). Michael Lage (OB) just about over-powered Daniel Wee (OI partner) 23-21 in a real ‘fight to the finish’. Meanwhile, Trivikram Arun (OB) staged an unlikely come back, rallying from 16-20 down against Rawen Huang (OH) to eventually win 22-20.
For the quarter finals, we switched to a ‘best of three’ format with each game now being an 11 pointer as opposed to 21. Stephen Menaquale (OH) continued his progress with a hard-fought win over Varun Gupta (OB). Lisa Sun’s (OG) unnerving consistency was a bit too much for Michael Lage, while Joshua Chuang (NA) scored another stylish victory over Trivikram Arun. Old B thus became the unluckiest section with three losing finalists. Meanwhile, underdog and co-organizer Aleem Mawani (OF) continued his impressive run with a close win over Aaron Yuan.
The semi-finals provided for some more unforgettable ping-pong action. Stephen Menaquale vs. Lisa Sun was a battle of attrition. The two most consistent players in the tournament, neither was ready to give the opponent an inch. Points seemed to last longer than an average game, with each player making the most improbable shots. At the end, Stephen just about edged out Lisa, thus eliminating the only surviving female representative at the tournament.
Meanwhile, Joshua Chuang continued to keep the audiences entertained with his inimitable style and bewildering serves. Aleem Mawani fought hard to cause an upset and came quite close to it, but eventually Joshua completed his win with a couple of his trademark unplayable smashes. Joshua thus advanced to the finals where he would be up against old adversary Stephen Menaquale. NA vs. OH. RC vs. EC.
The final was every bit a spectacle as one would have expected. For a while it seemed like everything Joshua threw at Stephen came straight back. The key for Stephen was to maintain his consistency and wait for his opponent to make the error. Joshua seemed more than happy to take on the role of the aggressor. The pendulum kept swinging one way and another, with the on watching spectators absolutely hooked onto the action. There were even a few autograph requests once the game was done. In the end, Joshua just about managed to smash his way to glory, and was thus crowned HBS’s first ever ping pong champion. The only RC quarter-finalist had managed to hold off the challenge of seven aspiring EC champions. Well done!
So that was that. All in a day’s work. Almost a hundred people showed up to win valuable points for their sections in the SA cup standings. The ping pong tournament is the first in a series of shorter format sporting events that will take place over the rest of the semester, featuring sports such as badminton, tennis and cricket. Anyone interested in hosting a similar tournament is requested to connect with Luke Owings (OJ) or Ajay Kori (OF).
Karan Singh is an EC from Section I who is originally from India. Karan loves ping pong, but doesn’t actually play very well (as evidenced by his conspicuous absence from the final knock-out stage).