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LAKE OSWEGO – The Oxford Dictionary defines revenge as, to "inflict hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong done to oneself or another." There's also that saying, "revenge is a dish best served cold."
Cameron "Big Tuna" Ferguson took those thoughts to heart as he entered last Wednesday's title bout in the fourth-annual Delap Ping Pong Open Championship.
Two years ago, Ferguson fell in straight sets to Benjamin "The Killer" Miller in the final, the first of Miller's back-to-back PPO crowns.
"I would be lying if I said I didn't think about that a few times," Ferguson said.
This time around, Ferguson got his revenge, coming back on multiple occasions to end Miller's reign and keep him from earning a three-peat.
Final score of the competitive, back-and-forth rematch: Ferguson 2 sets, Miller 1.
"It feels phenomenal," Ferguson said of his first PPO title. "I have dreamed of this moment since I was a kid. Coming into this match, I knew it was going to be a tough task to take two out of three sets from Miller, especially on this big of a stage."
The two newly promoted tax seniors shot right out of the gates with a fast-paced three-setter that took only 11 minutes to complete.
Both Miller and Ferguson were laser-focused and able to block out the distractions of the at-times loud crowd inside Delap's training room.
"The atmosphere was pretty electric," Ferguson said. "But I think the support of the fan base was about 50-50, so I can't complain. I did notice an older gentleman saying some things towards me a few times. I think the crowd was referring to him as 'Caldwell' or something, but I didn't let it get to me."
Ferguson actually entered single-elimination bracket play as the No. 5 seed out of 15 players who advanced.
He knocked out 2012 finalist and current assurance senior Casey (formerly Finney) Devine in his opening match, followed by Revmode accountant John Perkins in Round 2. During the semifinals, Ferguson earned another go at Miller by taking down 2014 finalist and this year's No. 1 seed, assurance manager Stephen "The Commish" Asai.
"I knew Cam is very strong on offense, whereas I am stronger defensively," said the stone-cold Miller, the No. 2 seed who shows no emotion at the table. "So I was planning to let him take the risky shots, and I would just return everything."
Early on, it looked like Miller's strategy might work, as he dominated the first set by scoring the first four points en route to an 11-3 demolition. He even jumped ahead 2-0 in the second set.
Ferguson, however, calmly regrouped, playing more conservatively and accurately to come from behind and claim set No. 2, 11-7, and bring up a winner-take-all third set.
"In the second set, I finally started to settle down a little bit and was really just trying to stay within myself and minimize the amount of unforced errors," Ferguson said. "I knew I just had to take it one play at a time, stick with my game plan, and trust my training."
The third set went back and forth early on between the two Oregon State grads, who started at Delap within about a month of each in late 2012.
Ferguson held leads of 1-0, 3-1, and 4-3 before Miller made a run. He turned the tables and appeared ready to close it out after going up 9-6, thanks to a Miller slam, a Ferguson net shot, and a Ferguson swing and a miss.
But that's when Ferguson turned in the play of the tournament, as his shot nicked the edge of the table, and Miller had no chance to return. The point pulled Ferguson within 9-7, and he went on to score the final four points for the 11-9, nail-biting, set- and match-clinching victory.
"Miller is easily in the top-three table tennis players at the Delap headquarters and a top-25 player nationally," Ferguson said. "The guy is just ferocious out there. He's very hard to rattle, and his seven-foot wingspan really helps him cover a lot of ground."
Miller, who obviously does not like to lose, had a few other theories why he went down.
"I brought my tennis shoes to work but forgot to wear them," he said. "That could have been a deciding factor. Also, Cam had a superior ping pong paddle to mine. I used to have my own paddle but somehow misplaced it."
This year's tournament featured a record 30 total players, spread out over five pools named after Taylor Swift's five released albums. (Asai, the PPO commissioner, just so happens to be a big Swift fan.) New to the competition were players from the nearby Rose Law Firm.
As it ended up, a new individual champion was crowned, and the tax department claimed its third straight title after the assurance department won the inaugural championship.
"Believe it or not, I actually scored more points than Cam (27-25), but he really came through when it mattered most," Miller said. "Congratulations, Cam! You did an excellent job. I'm a little disappointed I didn't win, but at least the victory went to the tax department again this year."
Delap LLP is one of Portland’s largest local tax, audit, and consulting accounting firms, located in Lake Oswego, Oregon.