(Lisa Li, Alex Zhang, Winston Chen, Bo Ding, Chao Zhang, Bruce Liu)
by Chao Zhang
Sunnyvale Team 2008 challenged MSC The Incredibles II on February 16th. Sunnyvale’s lineup consisted of chopper Lisa Li with inverted rubber on one side and long-pips rubber on the other side, Winston Chen with his over-the-rainbow-toss signature service, and two-winged looper Alex Zhang. MSC Incredibles II countered with lefty Bo Ding and his super-spin service, forehand power looper Bruce Liu, and 2007 USATT U1500 national champion Chao Zhang.
After the first four matches, the team contest was dead even at 2:2. Bo appeared invincible in defeating Lisa and Winston in his two singles matches. Alex had upset Bruce in singles and then paired with Winston to defeat Bruce and Chao in the doubles.
The final showdown came down to the match between Lisa and Chao in a very tense atmosphere. But the first two games were just as one-sided as could be. There was only one word to describe Lisa’s chopping and smashing - beautiful.
On the other hand, Chao didn’t seem to be capable of playing at that same level. He just couldn’t read the spin that Lisa put on with either the smooth rubber or the long-pips rubber and became more and more frustrated as the match wore on. During the breaks, both Nelson Yu and Bruce tried to inspire him to a spiritual - if not downright religious - belief in himself.
But the reality was still cruel since it didn’t take Lisa long to lead again 7:3 in the third game. Chao called a time-out before the gap widened even further, and it proved later to be a wise move and the turning point of the match.
After the time-out, for some unknown reason, Chao turned into a real Incredible. He managed to come back to 7:7 only to get right back down again at 7:10. But he miraculously saved three match points and dragged the game to deuce. Lisa had a couple more match points after that, but Chao just wouldn’t give in and let her go with the victory. Chao saw his first game point come at 14:13 and he converted it. Game on!
Chao sustained this level of play and won the fourth game. So the outcome of this contest would come down to a climactic fifth and final game of the fifth and final match between these two teams. This match had become so dramatic that it had drawn and held the attention of everyone in the gym at this point.
The fifth game went neck and neck until Lisa broke away to take an apparently decisive lead at 10:8 and two more match points. During the next point Lisa chopped the ball right on Chao's base line. Due only to his raw instinct, Chao was able to reflexively return the ball - but high, slow and close to the net. Lisa rushed forward but - inconceivably - missed this easy shot. Chao felt resurrected and bumped his chest like King Kong. Then he fearlessly looped and smashed to win the next three points and this epic battle against all odds.
This was a great tie and both teams demonstrated skill and sportsmanship. The 3-hour play left everybody with many memorable moments and was a true showcase of what the BATTF league can be. The moral of this story? That's easy... “Never give up! Never surrender!”
MSC - the Incredibles over Sunnyvale Team 2008 3-2
- Bo over Lisa 3:1 (12-10, 7-11, 11-5, 11-5)
- Bruce lost to Alex 1:3 (7-11, 9-11, 11-8, 8-11)
- Chao/Bruce lost to Winston/Alex 1:3 (9-11, 4-11, 11-9, 8-11)
- Bo Ding over Winston 3:1 (11-6, 13-11, 7-11, 11-2)
- Chao over Lisa 3:2 (7-11, 4-11, 15-13, 11-8, 12-10)