OOAK INTERVIEW WITH JOO SAEHYUK (South-Korea, WR12), February 2013 Introduction and acknowledgement
In the summer of 2012, Joo SaeHyuk announced at the London Olympics to be suffering from a rare disease called Behçet's disease. Forum administrator Haggisv (Alex) initiated the idea of sending to him best wishes on behalf of the many fans at the OOAK forum. He called us to post a few words to Joo SaeHyuk and compiled them (see viewtopic.php?f=6&t=20449
It was Birding&table.tennis (Steven F.), former member of the Canadian national table tennis team, who got us into contact with the Korean Table Tennis Association with the help of Adham Sharara with whom he played together on the same team on numerous occasions, as teenagers. The Korean association would hand over our wishes to Joo SaeHyuk. Simultaneously, the Nexy-team also handed over our wishes to Joo SaeHyuk. One week later Steven received a very beautiful email from Joo SaeHyuk which was forwarded to him from Adham Sharara.
This was the e-mail that Joo SaeHyuk sent to us:From: Joo Saehyuk
Subject: RE: Fwd: Get well wishes for Joo Se hyuk
Date: 11 September, 2012 10:16:07 PM EDT
To: "Adham Sharara"
Dear Steven F
Hi. How are you?
First of all, I want to say thank you for all of you guys who wrote me the "get well" wishes. I never expected that people from other countries are praying for me. Due to your considerations, fortunately, I am cured well and practicing table tennis as usual. I hope I can play tournaments well and become a good model as you guys wishes.
Again, thank you for your time and consideration.
Additionally, the Nexy-team received from Joo a “thank you very much for all your support and interest in me." Joo SaeHyuk also wanted to know the OOAK site address to visit your site (especially the board).
A short time later, I launched the idea of going for an interview with Joo SaeHyuk, since we had been able to get into contact with him. At that time he was recovered and he was about to compete again. I had a conversation with Alex about it. He said it might be difficult but that I was free to give it a try. I started this thread: viewtopic.php?f=56&t=20702
in which we collected some interesting questions for Joo SaeHyuk. I then contacted Steven and he was as enthusiastic about the interview idea as I was. Together we went through the process of compiling and creating questions and of carefully getting in touch with Joo through the Korean Table Tennis Association. This took us quite some effort and e-mails but it was very exciting to do.
It took some time before we received Joo’s answers, but he had very good reasons for that: in January, Joo won a decisive match in the Chinese Superleague final 2012-13 and made an important contribution to the eventual WIN of team Ningbo (Ma Long, Joo Saehyuk, Yan An, Zhai Yiming) against Shanghai (Xu Xin, Wang Liqin, Shang Kun, Zhang Yang).
On the 20th of February, we received Joo’s answers in Korean. Steven’s wife (who is Korean) translated his answers into English. The result is shown below.
Steven and I would like to thank some people without whom this interview would not have been possible:
- Mr. Roy Yun of the Korean Table Tennis Association for his gracious help in acting as an intermediary between us and Joo SaeHyuk.
- Adham Sharara for providing us with the e-mail address of the Korean Table Tennis Association.
- Steven's wife for her excellent translation
- And of course Joo SaeHyuk for taking the time to provide excellent answers to our many questions.
- Also, we’d like to thank all the OOAK-members for their contributing questions and Alex for his support and the opportunity he provides for disseminating this interview through the forum.
We also want to mention that our questions were translated from English into Korean for Joo Saehyuk. In a few cases, a bit of the meaning was lost in this translation. In addition, Steven’s wife said that all of Joo’s anwers in Korean were very modest. She tried to capture this modesty in her translation. Also, we forwarded our translation to Joo SaeHyuk and he approved this translation.
We hope you will enjoy the interview,
Pipsy (Styn)The InterviewPast experiences
*How did you get in contact with the defensive style? Have other players and coaches ever told you not to use long pips because you'll never get to be a top player using them or were you encouraged to continue using them?I first learned the defensive style from my coach when I was in 4th grade. When I first started playing table tennis, I used the penholder grip for about one year. I was told to stay away from long pips because it's difficult to play with and it's unlikely that I would be successful using it. At that time I overcame the challenge (of using long pips) by intensively practicing offensive style.
*You have an interesting style in that you chop on your backhand and switch between slow return and offensive play on your forehand. What inspired that style for you?My style was inspired by both Ding Song of China and Matsushita Koji of Japan, and it's a mix of the style of the two players. When I was younger, I was very much impressed by them.
*Is it true that a lot of players in South Korea didn’t really like your style before you reached the top? How did this affect you as a person and as a player?I'm not sure. Of course there are players who don't like my style and there are some styles that I'm not fond of. I think that I attained my present level (as a player) by diligently participating in many competitions within Korea.
*Of what past match do you have the best memories and why?To me, the 2003 World Championships in Paris is most memorable because I received recognition through the competition and it served as a juncture in raising my play to the next level.Equipment & strategy
*Why did you change to DTecs a couple of years ago and why did you change back to P1-R recently? Did (do) you change between those rubbers on a regular basis? If so, why did (do) you do that?There are pros and cons for both DTecs and P1-R, and they vary depending on the table tennis table being played on. That's why I switch back and forth.
*About your decision process regarding balls to your forehand side when you are off the table, how do you decide between chopping and counter looping?I decide based on my previous shot, and my opponent's position and posture.
*Do you think a game with OX long pimples for a close to the table style blocking game has a future?I'm not sure because I've never tried the blocking game.The professional world scene
*At an amateur level, there are some negative stereotypes towards defenders. How are defensive players perceived by inverted players at the top level? Do you have close relationships with the other defenders?I also think that it's more challenging to win with the defensive style because offensive players can set the tone of the game, and can decide the course of attack. But I think that these advantages (of the offensive style) can be overcome (by defensive style) to some degree. Yes, I have very good relationships with other defensive players.
*How would you describe yourself as a person when competing in table tennis and when you are doing other activities? How are these personalities different?I'm basically the same person both during competition and while doing other activities. I enjoy socializing with my fellow players.
*Why do you think there has been a decline of professional (Korean) players using the penholder grip over the years?I think that it's because of the changes in the rules. The decrease in spin and speed requires players to move more. In addition, the (penholder) backhand is a drawback.
*Who are your most fearsome opponents in the top 20? Who do you fear most and why?Wang Hao and Samsonov are the most difficult players for me. Wang Hao seems to have only the pros of the shakehand and penholder grips. His shots are strong and fast, and his backhand is flawless. Samsonov is good at defense and has the stamina that I cannot match.
*Why are the Chinese so dominant and what do you think can be done to break their current hegemony?Of course from time to time it's possible to break their hegemony. But China perfected their management skills for both international competitions and their own professional league. They've been perfecting their system by learning from their mistakes. Also, their players are well paid and this also serves as further motivation. (To overcome China), I think that other countries need to improve.Future of defensive table tennis
*Based on your experience, due to the changes in the equipment rules, how would you advise a youngster now starting the game who wants to be a defender? Would you suggest that they play with long pips, or should they turn to double inverted and attacking play? Would your answer be different depending on what standard of play they were aiming to achieve?It's very challenging to be a defensive player. In order to win, you need to practice both offense and defense. It's really difficult to win with defense alone, so it's necessary to play offense - not just offense, but at the same level that the offensive players perform. Moreover, my guess is that long pips will be less beneficial when the ball changes to plastic in 2014. I've used it, and found that much less spin is produced.
*What impact did ITTF decisions (like the 38mm ball) have on top level table tennis, and what influence do you think the new PVC balls will have (in particular for defenders and defensive style)?The decision can benefit some players while hindering others. The players are somewhat weary because they have to make adjustments (in response to the frequent changes in the rules). Also, the PVC ball doesn't spin very well. Again, it's likely that the new ball will be a hinderance for long pip users.
*Do you believe a (modern) defender can become number one in the world? If not, how should modern defense evolve to produce a number one in the world?Of course it's possible, but I think that it'll be very challenging (for a defensive player to become the top player) because the opponent can control the game by starting the attack and by deciding its course.Future of Joo Saehyuk
*We hope to see you for many more matches, but when do you plan on retiring as a player?My plan is to retire in 2015. I wish I can play longer, but decided to retire because I'm disappointed with myself for not being able to play as dynamic and stylish as when I was younger.
*Do you know there are a lot of players admiring and even imitating your style? Are you planning on coaching your modern style of defense? Do you plan to do something for the defenders in table tennis (e.g. Koji Matsushita became president of Victas and created the P4)?I don't have any plans, but if I have the opportunity, I would like to coach.
*At our forum, a video was posted a while ago showing your son hitting his first table tennis balls. How is he progressing? He is doing well. Thank you for asking. I had him play for a couple of months last year, but he stopped playing because he is not very good at it.Some additional questions
*Many people, of all ages, say that your style of playing table tennis is very inspiring. Have you seen anyone 55 years or older playing your style of table tennis, albeit at a much lower level.Yes, I've seen (them playing) in Korea. They're so enthusiastic and enjoy themselves.
*Does being one of the top players in the world make it difficult to appreciate the simple joy of playing table tennis? The way that you play table tennis is incredibly beautiful to watch. What does it feel like to play table tennis like you?Yes, (being a professional) makes it difficult to enjoy - rather, winning or losing becomes the priority. I just try my best to win and maybe that's why my play is pleasing to watch.
* What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?When I'm home, I spend a lot of time playing with my children. Also I enjoy watching sports.
* Who's your favourite sportsperson of all time?Alex Ferguson. I hope that I can be a leader like him.
* Would you like to add one last tip or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?To me, the hidden potential for the human being is unfathomable. I've encountered so many obstacles, but perseverance brings out the dormant ability from inside of you. That doesn't mean that one needs to work hard all the time, but not to give up and persevere.
*Thank you very much and all the best for your career and your personal life!By Birding&table.tennis & Pipsy & OOAK Table Tennis Forum members
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