Olajide Omotayo Makes History at the December Westchester Open
by Will Shortz
Olajide "Jide" Omotayo in the open singles event at the Westchester Table Tennis December 2022 Open, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022in Pleasantville, New York. (Photo/Richard London)
The December Westchester Open (Dec. 29-30) was notable for two reasons. First, it had the second-highest number of players in the tournament's history — 220, behind only July's 230. And second, Nigeria's Olajide ("Jide") Omotayo, ITTF-ranked #92 and USATT-rated 2598, became the tournament's first-ever champion from Africa.
Jide's title was a long time coming. Previously he had been runner-up five times without winning.
The most anticipated match of the tournament may have been the semifinal between Jide and Jian Li (rated 2575), a chopper/smasher and coach at the Topspin Table Tennis Club in New Jersey. Jide memorably lost to Jian in the final in December 2021, after winning the first two games.
History almost repeated itself. Jide again won the first two games (6,9), then lost the next two (-9,-4). The final game was a seesaw battle. Near the end Jide was up 9-6, Jian rallied to 10-9, then with some gutsy shots Jide won the last three points to close out the match. Elation!
Following that, the final between Jide and fellow Nigerian Ojo Onaolapo (2599) was almost anticlimactic. Jide won in straight games (11,6,5).
Another memorable match was the final of the Under 2500, in which Tommy Xu, of the Ly Table Tennis Academy in Montreal, defeated Stanley Hsu, of the Maryland Table Tennis Center (8,10,-9.-9,12).
Notably, in winning the Over 50, longtime competitor Rich DeWitt, of Connecticut, set a record of his own — most wins in all events at the tournament over the past 11 years. He has won the U2350 three times, the U2200 18 times, and the Over 40 and Over 50 also 18 times, for a total of 39 first-place trophies.
More facts and figures about the tournament can be found at http://www.westchestertabletennis.com/pics/pdf/TournamentHistory.pdf.
The January Westchester Open will take place January 28-29. Registration is allowed up to the day of the event. Starting in January the monthly prizes have been increased to $8,000, with $2,500 for first.