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 Post subject: Chronicles of Gossima
PostPosted: 24 Dec 2013, 06:13 
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Stumbled up this section of the board. Enjoying reading some of these so far. Got inspired.

Two posts from today. First post was a simple intro (who I am. etc) Nothing TT content wise so I won't post it.

Blog can be viewed here.
http://chroniclesofgossima.blogspot.com/

2nd entry: (hope during this exploration, somebody somewhere finds it worth while) ;)


I learned the hard way tonight about the value of proper warm up.

Club meets weekly from 5-10 pm on Sundays. I got to club around 6:30 in the evening directly after church. Being 34, I know the value of warming up & stretching. Ideally I try to spend at least 10 minutes stretching and warming up. Once I’ve done that, it’s time to begin warming up the strokes. That didn’t happen tonight and I paid for it.

Showing up at the time I do, generally players have already been there for a while and are in full compete mode. My partner and I were being challenged to a doubles game no less than two minutes after I had walked in the gym. I stretch for about 30 seconds, walk over to the table and ask them if we can warm up for a bit. They agree and sure enough, 2 minutes later we begin the match.

You can guess what happened next. In a best of five, they won: 3-1
8 - 11 (I was ice cold.)
11 - 7 (My partner caught fire mid game.)
10 - 12 (Credit to one of their players who upped his game in key moments. #Clutch)
6 - 11 (A stomping as again I was cold. Service errors, you name it.)

These players we lost to I know my partner and I can and usually do beat. However I did not play close to the level I should and it was a quick match.

This loss started the night off on a bad note and seemingly set the tone for the rest of the evening. I was battling the negative thoughts from playing so poorly and my partner was dejected from losing as well. It only snowballed the rest of the night with more losses as we both played poorly.

I don’t believe one bad match could or should carry over into the rest of the evening. Nights like this one can still provide value. You can practice gutting out wins in a night where you don’t have it. That’s a valuable skill to have and a good teaching moment. Having said that, having to practice overcoming an off night was completely unnecessary. Why put yourself in that situation if you don’t have to. It all could have been easily avoided had I gone through the process of proper warm up. It helps prevent injuries and gets your mind & body ready to play.

Consider this night as a hard lesson learned.

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PostPosted: 24 Dec 2013, 06:48 
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not for me, the first game is the warm up lol

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PostPosted: 24 Dec 2013, 09:08 
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It can be hard to overcome "one of those nights"... you never know if there is a reason you're not playing your best , or if it's all in your mind. :(

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PostPosted: 26 Dec 2013, 00:56 
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Are you prepared strategically as you could be?


I'm sure most reading this would think "Yeah... I think so." But lets dive into this further. I got this idea from a book I'm currently enjoying.

"Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis--Lessons from a Master" written by Brad Gilbert and Steve Jamison.

I grew up watching tennis as it was my older brother's favorite sport. I certainly remember Brad Gilbert. As I recall, and as the book describes, Brad was not the most talented player on tour; nor did he have the prettiest of strokes. Yet, Brad was among the top ranked players in the world for years, has beaten some of the all time greats and certainly made a nice living for himself in the process. How did he do it? Brad excelled as a thinker. Out-smarting and out-strategizing his opponents. It's a good read. I recommend picking it up.

One trick Brad did was he kept a little black book as he called it. No, not the kind of little black book you might imagine. His black book was filled with scouting reports and information from his matches. It can be a valuable resource. Try it. Next time you play your club mates or play in a tournament, keep track of the score and write a brief entry what happened in the match. That's the best time to record details you might later forget. Do it while it's still fresh in your mind. Furthermore, players you see at tournaments, scout their matches before you play them. Get every advantage you can. Get the details.

- What is their best stroke?
- How's their backhand?
- Are they athletic?
Is mobility a problem for them?
- What's their style?
Two winged looper?
Modern defender?
Blocker?
- What equipment do they play with?
It's important to note & prepare yourself if they play with any type of pips or an anti-spin.
- Are they short?
Yes, I asked that question as at times I will take a little off the ball to place it wide knowing shorter players can have a hard time getting there.
- Are they prone to unforced errors?
- Do they largely wait for you to make the error?

Sooner or later you will have a database of information impossible to forget because it's recorded.

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PostPosted: 26 Dec 2013, 08:52 
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This is great advice. As a team captain, I gave serious thought to purchasing Ping Skills membership for the team - I checked with Alois, and he was cool with everyone sharing one account, to build up a record of matches and players.

I try to do this by blogging a bit... but I could probably be more thorough.

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PostPosted: 28 Dec 2013, 09:20 
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Get ready for a little gamesmanship

A local tournament called The Lincoln Open is just around the corner and I'm sure players are anxiously getting ready making sure their games are in top form.

Outside of wanting to be sure I'm peaking in regards to my strokes, I am preparing myself mentally for anything that may come on or off the table. As usual in how we learn the most, we learn from losses. Let me tell you about one of the all time great psych jobs and uses of gamesmanship pulled on yours truly last summer in the 2013 Cornhusker State games.

I was playing an old veteran from our table tennis club we'll call Larry. It was a knock-out match to advance to the quarter finals. I had to win this match for a chance to medal. In the tournament you play a best 3 out of 5 game series.

Larry won the first game. I even the score up at 1-1 in game two. Then I add another in game three to go up 2-1. I'm threatening to put it away with all the momentum in the world. Things are going my way.

Here's where it all changed.

Early in game four I take a small lead. It's my serve and Larry mentions to me we have the order wrong. (For those not familiar with table tennis scoring, there's a specific pattern to who should be serving depending on how many points have been played.) "No Larry it's 4-2" I reply. "This is correct." How could he think this is wrong? After all we are only 6 total points in. It's not that complicated. "Cut him some slack Steve. He's an older guy and you know this happens from time to time with him at club." I thought. Big mistake. Larry has been playing table tennis probably before I was born and has more experience and savvy in his pinky than I do in my whole body. We continue. Following the next series of points Larry continues insisting that we had something wrong. Confused as to what Larry was talking about, I begin to get aggravated by what seems to be his constant badgering about the score & order. I lose my focus. Larry comes back from the deficit in game four to even it up 2-2.

The final game ensues and I'm boiling about how I dropped that game realizing he broke my rhythm. It's a close final game and I actually get to an "Ad in" match point despite my anger. Larry is serving. I'm thinking in my head "I'm one point away and I'm going to show him. I know his serve and what's coming." Larry serves and I want to smoke a winner at directly at him with an exclamation point. The ball goes well long. Back to Deuce. Larry takes the next two points. Game, set, match.

Still thinking about what the fuss was all about, immediately after we shook hands I asked Larry what he was talking about.

"We got the order wrong in that third game."

I was livid. The Hulk would have thought I lost my cool.

Game three? Game three!!! As in the game that was done and over with when we were playing? He was raising his ruckus in game four! Never once did he say anything about the score in game three. I stormed out of there hot as a pistol.

It took me a quite a while to forgive Larry for working me over like that. Having said all of that, as angry as I was, I learned an incredible lesson that day that will serve me well the rest of my table tennis career. If you are playing someone in a tournament, club league match or anything with stakes, be prepared mentally for some gamesmanship possibly coming your way. I've heard it all in tournaments. From gamesmanship to out right cheating where a fellow club member beat a player, the loser offered to turn in the score sheet and switched the results. That might be a little extreme but the point is to be ready for any & everything.

Had I been prepared for Larry's tactic, I would have realized that he is simply trying to break my momentum and get me angry. From there I could have taken counter measures. The key thing is recognizing it's happening. That's step one.

Whether you think gamesmanship is right or wrong is really moot. It's not going away and could happen to you at some point. Will you let it get the best of you? Or will you overcome everything your opponent could possibly throw at you and win.

What do you guys think? Any of you have a good tournament story? Feel free to share.

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PostPosted: 28 Dec 2013, 10:17 
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It's certainly poor gamesmanship from Larry if it was intentional. You're right though... it's good (but tough) lesson to learn!

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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2013, 21:57 
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Club Play from 12-29-13

Here is a match (best 3 out of 5) my partner and I, in dark gray, had the other night. This was a good win for us as Quan, the guy in the light gray tshirt, is a 1600 level player and the best player on the table here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoiIyrQJ ... e=youtu.be


(sorry I can't seem to figure out how to embed youtube here. If someone knows, please fill me in)... Okay I know how that feature works now. Thanks haggisv)

As a penholder, nothing aggravates me more than pushing short backspin serves or pushing long backspin. It's a passive mindset which is not advantageous for penholders. I can loop but not yet at a consistent enough level to my liking.

This night everything just seem to click. I was focusing more on more elbow action up on my loops vs backspin and it was working. Furthermore, the best penholder at our club gave me a valuable tip which proved priceless. I asked him how he flips short serves to his backhand. As a penholder, you'll get that a lot. He doesn't use reverse penhold backhand (RPB). Rather, he's a traditional backhand (TBH) player.

No matter what happens, he always seems to get the fast paced, topspin to topspin rally he's looking for. He showed me his technique and you will see me applying it in the youtube video above. I might post a closer video of it in the future if I find it continues to prove successful for me. I was amazed how easy it was. I also asked him when do I perform that flip vs pushing? His answer? The only time you push is if you are out position. Otherwise you always attack. Spoken like a true penholder.

I began taking his approach and remembering his words of "you must make high friction on the ball" and also applied it to my forehand as well. The shots are not extremely powerful but they accomplish my goal of turning the point into and open game which I prefer.

Overall it was a good night and I'm hoping to continue the development going forward.

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Last edited by suds79 on 02 Jan 2014, 00:28, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2013, 22:22 
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Great video - I really appreciated seeing this.

Regarding your gamesmanship story, I saw a 'good' example in a recent league match that was taking place on the table adjacent to my own match. One of the strongest sides was playing against a slightly weaker side. However, the slightly weaker side has been playing very well this season and caused a few upsets already. Arguably the strongest player from the strong side had lost the first pretty heavily. He pulled the next one back 12-10, with a lucky net, and then lost the third by some margin. His opponent was playing really really well. Then the strong player mysteriously claimed that his feet were slithering on the floor, and indicated he thought there was some sweat or water under the table. His team mate went to find a towel (which took about 5 minutes), and they did some wiping under the table. Once they restarted, the on-form underdog had lost his rhythm and concentration, and lost the last two, to lose 3-2.

I can't judge whether there was really any slippery stuff under the table, but the interval totally ruined the other fellow's rhythm. I thought it interesting, and made a note. When I spoke the the loser the next time I saw him he specifically mentioned it, and said he felt he'd been a victim of gamesmanship. Interesting stuff.

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PostPosted: 07 Jan 2014, 05:04 
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Jpen vs Cpen: Which is right for you

Today I'm going to give a few of my own personal observations between Japanese penhold (Jpen) and Chinese penhold (Cpen) in how they differ and which one is right for you.

This debate is an age old one with no correct answer. It's largely a matter of preference. I will occasionally switch between the two styles as I love how they both play.

I should point out that there are several combination types of Jpens & Cpens out there in terms of shapes and sizes. This is taking a look at them in their more traditional sense.

I'll start by comparing two blades I own.

Jpen: Nittaku Airuline 8.8 / Cpen: Stiga Clipper Classic

Nittaku Airuline 8.8

As you can see (pictures on my blog), the Nittaku has a more rectangular head and is designed to only have one side of the blade hit the ball. On the backhand, you perform a traditional penhold backhand (TBH).

Jpens typically have an oval shaped sweetspot.

Stiga Clipper Classic

The Stiga is more rounded and can have a rubber attached to the backhand side of the blade for executing the reverse penhold backhand (RPB).

Cpens typically have a round shaped sweetspot.

I've hit with multiple Jpens & multiple Cpens and one constant theme I see is this. Jpen hits with more power. Cpen hits with more spin. This is not to say you cannot spin it with Jpen nor hit power shots with Cpen. It is not an all or nothing situation. It is simply the impression I've formed over the years.

Here's why I think the two different type of blades play the way they do.

With Jpen, the elongated, narrow head provides a more oval sweetspot further out on that paddle. The blade head speed on the farthest tip is moving at a faster speed compared to closer to the handle. This creates massive speed & power when you contact the ball further out. You also have the cork piece to wrap your index finger around. This provides me a hook, if you will, to swing the blade extremely hard with no thought or fear of the blade slipping out of my hand due to the centripetal force created during a swing. I've often described it as the feeling of hitting the ball with a baseball bat. The power and speed created is truly unbelievable. Lastly, given the hitting surface area, which is very long and not very wide, you have more margin for error swinging on a horizontal plane again providing further power with a direct, head-on contact.

With Cpen, the rounded head provides a circular sweetspot. You have more room given the width of the blade to swing on a vertical plane. With this stroke I tend to brush the ball more and thus greater spin is created. The power is still significant given the nature of penhold but the spin is much higher for me vs Jpen.

Cpen also opens the possibility for the RPB stroke which became popular in the 90s thanks to Liu Guoliang and later on perfected by Wang Hao (pictured right). For years the argument against penhold was the claim of a weaker TBH vs a shakehander's backhand. That changed with the advancement of the RPB and the ability to aggressively counter-drive and loop backhand shots.

Another thing I love about Cpen is the versatility it offers if you are a combination player. If you prefer the traditional backhand as I do, you can get creative with what rubber you put on the backhand side to make for a tricky, tactical game. You could play inverted on your forehand and long pimples on the backhand for example (could be any rubber of your choosing on the backhand side). This would free you up to perform a backhand stroke with your inverted TBH or long pips RPB. You could also learn to twiddle making the possibilities of types of shots at your disposal are almost endless.

In closing I will summarize it like this.

If you want to play a fully power, single winged attack, speed game, play Jpen.
(Makes for a great workout given the moving around you have to do.)

If you want to play a balanced two winged attack or tricky combination twiddle game, play Cpen.
(Duel inverted rubber on both sides is by far the most common style in today's game among processional penholders.)

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PostPosted: 07 Jan 2014, 07:13 
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Interesting observations about the cpen and jpen... makes perfect sense to me. :up:

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PostPosted: 09 Jan 2014, 23:47 
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Winning the All Important First Game

I'm sure most of would guess that the player who wins the first game has an increased probably of winning the match. That should come to us as no great surprise. But let's dive into just how much that advantage is. Perhaps after seeing the following stats, we all can have a greater appreciation in making sure we are ready and completely focused the moment a match starts at 0-0 vs "warming up" or "getting into our groove". I know I have been guilty of this as much as anybody so it is my hope that this to serves as a reminder to myself just as much as it might to you reading this.

I went through ITTF's page to review the statistics from the last 2013 World Table Tennis Championship held in Paris last summer. The WTTC along with the Olympics is the biggest tournament table tennis has to offer. It is what top players aspire to win someday. Needless to say, it is a big tournament and the sample size is big enough for us to get some interesting, reliable data.

I looked at the results from the Men's Singles. In that tournament, 123 matches were played with the winner taking the best 4 out of 7 games.

Of those 123 matches, the winner took game one 92 times!

123 matches (stats from winners)

- 92 won game 1 in the best 4 of 7 and went into win the match = 74.7%

In short, if you take game 1 in the best of 7 series, you have a 74.7% chance to win. If you lose that first game, you're chances of winning gown down to 25.2%. That's pretty substantial. Here where I play locally, tournaments are held with a best 3 out of 5 game format thus making game 1 even more important. There is even less room for error and less time to mount a comeback should you lose that first game.

Lets play Devils Advocate for a moment and purpose the following argument.
"Steve come on. Those stats are skewed because all the 4-0 sweeps in the tournament. Sometimes a player is far superior and is going to win regardless. It doesn't matter if they won the first game or not. You knew Xu Xin was the number 1 seed was going to cruise through several players below his level."

While those games still count, I would say this is fair. After all, Xu Xin did have 4 matches where he won 4-0 padding the "won game 1" stat.

Let's then remove all the 4-0 games where one could argue a player is far superior to the other. Pretend they didn't exist. Never happened. Certainly the other closer matches would be more even correct? Well, not so much.

Of those 123 matches minus the 4-0 sweeps, you are left with 92 total matches where at least each player won a game. How did the numbers stack up then?

92 matches (stats from winners who lost at least one game in the match)

- 61 won game 1 in the best 4 of 7 and went into win the match = 66.3%

So that number dipped from 74.7% to 66.3% in what you might consider more even matches. Should you lose game 1, what are your chances of still winning the match? 33.6%.

As you can see no matter which way you slice it, your chances of winning the match after taking game 1 increase dramatically. Of course this is from the 2013 WTTC. Next time you play, record your own scores from your matches. Report them back here in the comments. I think you will find similar results.

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PostPosted: 16 Jan 2014, 06:10 
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The Inner Game of Tennis: A Must Read


I'm currently enjoying a book my brother recommended to me called The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey.

This is a great read regardless of what sport you are participating in and I highly recommend it. If you are interested in taking your game to the next level or have someone who wants to learn about the sport, I recommend reading this first. You will learn a lot about yourself and a lot about coaching.

How we've been coached to learn in sports

I find a lot in similarities having played both tennis, when I was younger, and table tennis. Both being racquet sports, you will find no shortage of fundamentals and techniques to perform even the most basic of strokes. Ask any fellow table tennis enthusiast or club member what encompasses a simple forehand loop and you will hear things of the sort.

- Be sure you are low with your feet at least shoulder width apart
- Knees bent
- Wrist down (if you're a shakehander)
- Weight transfer from back leg to front
- Brush the ball vs direct flat contact

Those are just a few of the fundamentals you might hear. I could go on. That's a lot to remember for an action you will perform in about a second. How can one remember all this? When someone is playing at their best, is it because they're following all these steps?

What makes this book great

Tim, as a tennis coach, noticed players often having conversations with themself. "Stupid!", "That's a lazy stroke." "horrible backhand." He began to ask himself, who are these people talking? How would you categorize this relationship if it were between two people vs one person talking to themself? Abusive right? Demeaning? Obviously not a healthy relationship.

Tim asserts there are two selves. Self 1, which is the conscious mind, is demeaning self 2, the unconscious mind. Self 1, with all it's logic and knowledge of fundamentals seems to think self 2 is some type of moron incapable of performing the most simple of tasks. "Why can't you get your racquet back in time!"

The book's premise is to let your body do what it already knows how to do.
Let it happen.

Ask yourself about the last time you played great. I mean you were really on. You were in the zone. What were you thinking about? (take a minute to ponder that question).... Nothing right? That's exactly the point. Your muscle movements were not rigid trying to follow the 15 steps in your conscious mind performing the perfect loop. Rather, your mind was clear and your body was free flowing to perform.

Tim gives several examples in the book that helps prove his point so I will not give away the spoilers. However I did have a simple experience during my weekly club night where I immediately thought of this book.

I was practicing with a newer player I invited to club. We were having a good time just hitting. During this practice he saw a higher ball he liked and really wanted to smoke it. The right idea but the execution was off as he mishit it and the ball came flying right at me with the speed of a smash. Before I knew what happened my hand had reached up and caught the ball instinctively before I even had a chance to flinch.

How did I do this? I couldn't repeat that feat again with 100 more attempts had I tried. That's the key point to remember though. Your body, self 2, has the ability to do multiple complex things far beyond your understanding. All you have to do is train your conscious mind, self 1, to trust self 2 more. The book goes into how to do that.

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PostPosted: 17 Jan 2014, 04:29 
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Traditional Penhold Backhand Grip

Here's a quick video where I talk about the traditional penhold grip and a slight modification that has helped me with my backhand.



One thing I did not note in the video is that it is relatively common for younger penholders of today to utilize only the reverse penhold backhand. Take Wang Hao for example, you will almost never see him execute the traditional penhold backhand. For these players, I would suggest keeping the traditional penhold grip I show in the beginning of the video. If you are not concerned with closing your TBH enough because you always use RPB, then there is no reason to switch from the norm. However if you do like to use the TBH technique, give this grip a try. See what you think.

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PostPosted: 25 Jan 2014, 06:29 
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Location: Lincoln, NE (USA)
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2014 Lincoln Open Recap

Last Sunday I competed in a local tournament called the Lincoln Open. I competed in two events. Open Singles & under 3000 doubles with my partner. People have asked me how it went and I have to honestly say I played average with good & bad moments.

I started out playing in the singles. The first session is a round robin classifying stage where the groups are broken up into A, B & C class. All together I played 5 singles matches and won only 3 of them. A disappointing result.

Next were under 3000 doubles. I actually switched blades from my Cpen duel inverted setup to another Cpen of mine with Inverted/short pips (no sponge). Switching blades in the middle of a tournament would probably not be something to recommend but when you're off as I was, I figured why not. Turns out I got lucky and it worked. Ben & I played pretty well finishing 4-2 with a couple of those wins being extra satisfying beating players who beat me in singles.

Overall takeaways from the Lincoln Open

I still struggle with modern defenders.
- In singles I lost badly to a modern defender who pushed ball after ball at me and I could not loop a ball in to save my life.
- I play better against your standard attackers most likely because this is what I am use to at the club.
- I played a much closer match against the player who ended up winning the A class open singles, who was an attacking player, compared to the modern defender. Go figure.

- After watching the video of several of my singles matches, I could not believe how many easy balls I was hitting long just giving away points. I must have been tight is the only thing I could think of why the execution was off. I had the point I wanted a fair number of times only to blow the put away shot.
- What is interesting is leading up to the event, my wife asked me how I was feeling. And I replied "I feel good. Feel ready." That was the truth. Yet when it came time to complete, I didn't have it.
- I think more tournament experience is needed to practice being in those pressure situations that is hard to replicate during club play where generally I am more relaxed and easy going.
- There must be a fine line in "wanting to improve" and place well vs "simply going out and having fun". Sometimes I feel like it's a one thing or the other with me.

- I'm a better combo player than a duel inverted player.
- There was a situation in a doubles match where this one opponent was getting me with his serve. Credit to him as he was disguising it well. We were in danger of dropping this game in what turned out to be a close match. I twiddled to returning serve with my hardbat short pips side and it worked. Not only was I not making errors or his partner was getting easy 3rd balls to put away, I heard his partner say after an error on the 3rd ball "Ah tricky... I hate pips." Talk about a strategic & psychological advantage. You can bet I'll remember that next time we play.

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