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TABLE TENNIS / NATIONAL SENIORS OPEN : Consistency Is the Key for Costa Mesa's Malek


LAGUNA HILLS — The men, led by Attila Malek of Costa Mesa, got their revenge at the National Seniors Open table tennis tournament Sunday at Leisure World.

After 11-time U.S. women's champion Insook Bhushan won the over 40 Open title against a predominantly male field Saturday, there was plenty of good-natured ribbing going on between the sexes as Sunday's over 30 Open semifinals approached.

The over 30 semis featured Bhushan against Malek and Alhambra's Wei Wang, the 1990 U.S. women's champion, against defending men's national senior champion Rey Domingo. Both women were crowd favorites, especially Wang, the fifth-ranked U.S. women's player and table tennis coach at Leisure World.

But crowd support wasn't enough for the women to overcome consistently strong play by Malek and Domingo. Both players swept their two-out-of-three semifinal matches to set up an all-male championship.

Malek, the 1979 U.S. men's champion, then swept Domingo in the finals, 21-13, 21-16, 21-17, to win $300. Domingo earned $150.

Malek, 39, displayed power from the forehand and backhand sides in the semifinals and finals. Against Bhushan, he combined an attacking style with a good touch, frequently dropping the ball over the net after the defense-oriented Bhushan retreated well back from the table to return a smash.

In the championship, Malek again relied on the power/touch combination. Domingo made many spectacular lob returns against Malek smashes, but Malek's consistency was the difference.

"He was very good today," said Domingo, a former Philippine national champion now residing in Little Ferry, N.J. "I didn't make many mistakes, but he made less."

Bhushan, who won $1,000 for her over 40 championship, picked up another $300 for her victory in the women's over 40 division. Bhushan, 40, defeated Donna Sakai, 21-7, 21-18, in the final.

The three-day national seniors open attracted more than 200 players to Leisure World, where tournaments in a total of 31 age-group and rating-based divisions were held. The overflow of entrants forced competition to go past midnight Saturday, and tournament director Julius Margolis expected another late finish Sunday.

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