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TABLE TENNIS : Domingo Goes Home Smiling : Seniors Open: He beats fellow American and doubles partner, Sakai, to win the over-40 singles title.

July 19, 1993|MICHAEL ITAGAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAGUNA HILLS — There were nothing but smiles after Rey Domingo and David Sakai posted an American sweep at the National Seniors Open table tennis tournament at Leisure World Sunday.

Domingo grinned because he defeated Sakai, 21-19, 21-15, 21-15, in the championship match of the over-40 singles division.

Sakai beamed after upsetting top-seeded Shi-Li Min of China in the semifinals, making the final against Domingo anticlimactic.

Domingo, 45, and Sakai, 46, also teamed to win the title in the over-40 doubles competition, defeating Min and his partner Xin Peng of China in the finals.

"That was the first time Min ever lost in a U.S. senior singles event," Sakai said. "The semifinal was by far the biggest win in the tournament for me, so maybe there was a little bit of a letdown for the final."

In Game 1 of the final, Domingo, from Little Ferry, N.J., rallied from a five-point deficit by outscoring Sakai, 8-1, to take control and a 14-12 lead.

Using exceptional lobbing ability, Domingo forced numerous long rallies, which induced unforced errors by Sakai.

Tied 19-19, Domingo hit a forehand winner to take the lead, then Sakai netted a shot on game point.

"The first game was the most important one," said Sakai of Lanham, Md. "If I win, I've got him back on his heels."

Instead, the second-seeded Domingo won the first game, then sent fourth-seeded Sakai reeling with late rallies in Games 2 and 3.

"I don't remember how many championships I've won," said Domingo, a Filipino who came to the U.S. in 1978. "I just like to play and play. But this tournament was special because both Dave and I beat the top-ranked Chinese players."

Fifth-seeded Peng upset third-seeded Attila Malek of Costa Mesa, 21-17, 19-21, 21-18, 24-22, in the over-40 quarterfinals. Malek won the over-30 singles championship last season. The over-30 division was not contested this year.

In the semifinals, Domingo posted a relatively easy 21-13, 21-16, 21-17 victory over Peng. Sakai's victory was a bit more grueling.

Sakai rallied from an 11-5 deficit in Game 1 to win 21-18. Then after losing the second game, 21-14, Sakai frustrated Min by driving forehands deep to the backhand side to win the final games, 21-17 and 21-12.

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