Khaleel Asgarali struck gold at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (MDTTC) November Open tournament in Maryland, USA, two Saturdays ago.
Seeded first in the open singles with 2,390 rating points, Asgarali had no problems en route to the final. In the quarterfinal round, the US-based Trinidad and Tobago player dismissed Mu Du in three straight games, 11-7, 11-7, 11-7. And in the semis, he defeated fourth-seeded Allen Lin at 7, 8 and 9.
On the other side of the draw, Stanley Hsu whipped Jeffrey Hsin 11-6, 11-3, 11-1 in the round of 16 and cruised past William Wu at 8, 4 and 8 in the quarters. Third-seeded Hsu found the going tough in his semifinal duel with Stefano Ratti, but prevailed over the number two seed, 5-11, 11-4, 11-5, 14-16, 11-4.
The championship match showdown, featuring Asgarali and Hsu, was even more keenly contested. In the seesaw affair, Asgarali dropped the first game, but won the next three. Hsu then battled back, the talented teen taking games five and six to level the contest at 3-3.
In the decider, Asgarali found another gear, turning back Hsu’s spirited challenge for an 8-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 9-11, 11-7 victory.
“It was my first big tournament since I was coming off an injury,” the 34-year-old attacker told the Express. “I broke my toe during the summer and I had to be in a boot for eight weeks. My focus was in and out a little bit but overall I was very sharp.
“I dedicate my performance,” Asgarali continued, “to my friend and mentor Sidney Gunst Jr. who was a huge fan and supporter of mine. He passed a few weeks ago.”
Asgarali, whose father is former national player Nazruddin Asgarali, was hoping to represent T&T at the recently concluded ITTF Pan American Championships in Lima, Peru.
The T&T Table Tennis Association (TTTTA), however, did not accept the invitation to compete in the men’s team event.
“I had sponsors and wanted to attend,” Asgarali lamented, “but was unable to because the TTTTA said they were unable to organise a team.”
Asgarali’s Solo Crusaders teammate, Rheann Chung was the country’s lone representative in Lima. Chung whipped Colombia’s Juliana Lozada in four straight games in the opening round of the women’s singles.
Chung exited in the round of 32. The France-based pro battled hard, extending Argentina’s world number 135, Ana Codina to all seven games before bowing out.
Chung, who is ranked 481st in the world, was also listed to play women’s doubles. However, her partner, Brittany Joseph did not get sponsorship for the Lima trip and withdrew from the hemispheric tournament.
Asgarali, whose national team outings include the 2016 ITTF Latin American Championships, said he is keen to wear T&T colours again.
“I want to play any tournament in Trinidad and Tobago, and want to represent the country at any competition.
I’m playing very well, I’m in form, and should not be missing any tournaments.”
Asgarali is committed to table tennis both on and off the table. He is the owner of the Washington DC Table Tennis Center (WDCTT), and also serves as the WDCTT head coach.