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PostPosted: 13 Aug 2015, 02:28 
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Over 3 weeks since my last post, as been on holiday (Kefalonia - lovely island). Actually went 2 weeks without picking up a bat, probably a record for the last 7 years or so.

So, to talk some "balls"; One of our local leagues arranged a bulk purchase discount for XSF seamless and approximately 3,500 more XSF are now in the local club and individual kitbags. You signed up for however many you wanted and these were ordered. This is really good news as it virtually guarantees that XSF becomes the defacto standard in my area. We are all agreeing that seamless is better than seamed, without exception. The discount was in the region of 30% and no postage to pay.

I continue to use the Victas V>15 extra max and Spectol 1.4-1.7 mm. I can't decide about the Victas. On one hand I am getting really good results but it doesn't feel as if it has the power of Rakza...... need to decide what to do. The Victas certainly seems very durable, I have put quite a lot of hours in and it remains virtually unmarked, no chips on the edges and no shrinkage. I assume it has little or no tuning from the factory. Alex, have you tried yours?

Last night at the club we had an influx of players who are not regulars (it is just an open session in the summer). Among them were two players who had beaten me during the last league in what you might term my 'surprise' defeats. Suffice to say they were both avenged :devil: - albeit only in practice!

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PostPosted: 21 Aug 2015, 01:23 
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The latest English TT Association ranking list has arrived ( http://tabletennisengland.co.uk/wp-cont ... -14-12.pdf ) and thanks to my success at the VETTS ratings event (written about a number of posts back) I have as I suspected broken into the top-200 at over-40, moving from 275th to 191st. Looking at the names just around and above my ranking there are some tough games ahead to make more gains! - but feeling quite chuffed to have made a top-200 'milestone'. My next games with ranking points attached will be at the end of September, playing veteran's national league. By the way, if you do look at the list there is no real correlation between 'ranking points' and 'standard' in the UK, it is merely a means of ordering players and the bigger the pool of players in a category the higher the points tally generally.

Aside from the tournament success and rankings ego boost, this last week or so I've also had a few sessions where I've felt that things have gone really well. Of course they are only semi-competitive, at most being practice matches with nothing at stake after doing some form of practice. I'd suggest that it is often difficult to spot improvements in your own game as they are the sum of small, incremental gains. A couple of things this week made me take a step back and realise I've made a few strides forward this summer.

Firstly, I was asked by a parent to give some coaching to a young (16), county-level player. I was asked what I'd suggest he work on - and suggested his backhand openers as I feel he is too passive on that wing and also tends to 'run round' to get on his forehand a bit too far/often leaving vulnerability on the forehand flank. So we worked on that as a single shot drill for a while and then extended it; me serving various balls into his backhand, him opening, me countering with backhand and him trying to get on FH (topspin) for the 4th ball and the point then going open. We were getting him to vary the opener too, between quicker topspin and slower spinnier shots. Later we played a few practice sets where I deliberately would feed shots into his BH so he could put the drills into practice.

I've highlighted a bit of text above - "me countering with backhand". This was never a shot I was comfortable with and I would tend to default to blocking, but under this new SP regime and the practice I have put in it felt very natural and I had really good control! So this is a recent gain, and given I feel very comfortable blocking (short or punch) or chopping incoming "aggression" the wing is starting to feel like a strength rather than a weakness. Of course, most players have a favoured wing and I'm unlikely to ever favour that side. But I doubt opponents will be able to exploit it as much as in the past.

Incidently, I rarely coach and it is always informal. But it was very rewarding to get a message from the dad saying the player had left the venue very happy, feeling that he'd made a huge advance in an aspect of his game that he lacked confidence in. We've agreed to work on a few other things (serves next) and I'm looking forward to it, it feels rewarding.

So on the subject of making strides forward, I have now been using short pips since March. I've settled on Spectol - which was my original sheet and I've discarded the others I've tried. As our league season is fast approaching, I've been asked by a number of players whether I will continue using SP? Public answer is "definitely"......... thought in my head is "Hell yeah!". But it has made me reflect on what I perceive that I have gained or lost? I'll make that the subject of my next post, but suffice to say I feel that I have far more versatility now on backhand than when I played inverted BH (Not saying that Inverted was more limited vs SP, rather that I was more limited with it) - if that makes sense?

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PostPosted: 25 Aug 2015, 22:42 
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It does make sense to me.

I look forward to your continued posts and learning from them.

Oh, and congrats on the breaking the top 200 over 40 barrier!


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PostPosted: 14 Sep 2015, 17:50 
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Vanjr...thanks. it's always good to know that I'm not just talking to myself !

Played a local friendly tournament a week ago...unofficial, and no ranking points on the line. On arrival it was clear that the entry was a bit of a who's who of local.....and somewhat further afield. ....table tennis. It was round robin, with four groups of four, leading to four further groups with group winners going to group 1, runners-up to 2 etc. It was a day of near misses for me, winning just one in my opening group (was 2.1 down and 9.9 in another game but he converted). Went close in the next group but lost all 3 (losing from 7.3 up 2.1 down in one that I should have taken to 5). Overall I played pretty well though but just missed too many opportunities and also I have concluded that 1.5mm Spectol is too slow on my blade for the mixed style I wish to play. So equipment for the year is now decided......

Rakza 9 max
Spectol 1.8
Xiom offensive S

The Victas V15 extra sits on a spare blade, and I can switch seamlessly to it, but feel the Rakza has a little more bite and suits me better. Close thing though, and with a faster blade the Victas would win out for me.

Just a couple of practice sessions since then. Yesterday was especially fun. I have been giving a little informal coaching to a county level teenager, and it is rewarding to see him progress....technically he is pretty good to start with so it is more about fine-tuning. Currently we are working on his backhand openers (both from serve and the 'short game) as well as trying to get a bit more edge into his serves. They aren't bad, but could be spinnier as he doesn't really snap his wrist enough. Next week we will set up a table in the corner with a box of practice balls.

I played really well in the practice matches, both doubles and singles, missing very little on either wing. Unusually I went straight through fellow forum member andrewh13...it is unusual for us to play and the outcome not be close. I was getting in really early and my short services with the sp were causing him lots of issues. When we came off he commented how well my BH was going.....not often I hear that!

I have realised that aggressive shots with sp are actually quite simple, technique wise, and a lot of the conversion phase I have been through this summer is simplifying the extravagance of the inverted stroke. More on that next time, must go now.

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PostPosted: 14 Sep 2015, 21:40 
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I've alluded to a couple of things with regard to SP on backhand in the last couple of posts;

Firstly that I believe SP gives me a more versatile backhand than Inverted did.

Secondly that I have realised that aggressive shots with SP are actually quite simple, technique wise, and a lot of the conversion phase I have been through this summer is simplifying the extravagance of the inverted stroke.

In this post I will deal with the first point.

I would suggest that in the switch I have lost.....

- The ability to loop. I appreciate that some players can loop with some success with SP and Spectol probably counts as spinny enough to loop with. However, I never had a consistent BH loop, so I've actually lost the ability to play a shot that I was never comfortable or consistent with, and with SP there is no inclination to try it and this negative is actually a positive for me!
- A heavy "dig" (push or chop). This is a little bit of a loss, as I had a reputation for getting lots of backspin on my pushes. The compensating gain for me though is variation; if the dig is off of topspin the ball can go back absolutely loaded, and if I choose the push backspin instead of hitting it then it will tend to be more of a float. On top of this, as another gain, it is certainly easier to mix between backspin and float with SP. The key for mitigating this is the basic rule of hitting float and backspin balls where possible.

In the switch the following are outright gains for me......

- Service. This was one element that really concerned me before trying the switch, as I previously used a lot of spinny BH serves. However, I have found serving with SP very effective and an excellent contrast to the very spinny inverted on the other side. I can serve very tightly with it and often surprise opponents with the amount of spin generated. I find the technique to generate this spin is different to using inverted (keeping a longer contact with the ball as opposed to a sharper contact) which again causes confusion. Plus I can always twiddle for serving. So it’s a whole load of positives.
- Serve return. Less spin sensitivity and better control….. and easier to drive balls from long serves.
- Topspin / hitting / driving. This may seem controversial, but I find SP more reliable for opening and controlling topspin for me, on that wing. It is not a killer stroke but it is becoming very reliable and if a ball is up/loose or the opponent a bit out of position I can certainly put it away. Maybe the stroke will gain venom over time, but for now it is a quite reliable rallying tool to support a strong forehand!
- Touch play. Not that any of the shots couldn’t be played with inverted, but the control is superior in the ‘fiddly’ bit of the game. In particular I have developed a quite effective drop shot (a bit of a party piece) over the summer that I can put into effect when I see an opponent taking a step off looking to ‘unload’.

Blocking I have found quite neutral impact, but see major potential in SP. I need to be more active in varying the blocks. With inverted I tended to play just quick blocks and vary direction to try to rob the opponent of time and/or misdirect them. I’m pretty much in the same place with SP but am not using the full potential (e.g. to block short and vary spin).

When I add up the positives and negatives, I think I have gained a lot in terms of versatility.

I would add that I have tried a variety of SP's (as follows);
Spectol in 1.4-1.7 and 1.7-1.9
802-40 in 1.8 and 2.0
DHS 562 1.8
Dr Neubauer Killer (1.5) - I think these are actually more of a medium pip
563 1.8mm

I have found Spectol to be the most spinny for me which is at odds with a lot of reviews which would make 802-40 the top. But that's how I find it. I also find the spin is better after a week or two once the sheet breaks in. Maybe that's why I like it, being a reasonable transition from the inverted I used for so many years. Medium pips in particular seem a step too far for me at the moment, and for the game I wish to play.

I will try to get some video in the next week or two.

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PostPosted: 25 Sep 2015, 21:37 
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Pull up a chair, this will be a long post as it contains a tournament report.

Veteran's national league (over-40s), Division 1B

Held over the weekend of 19/20 September at the University of Cambridge (UK). The National Vets league is a feeder league to the British league which is the highest domestic competition in the UK. Some divisions have an A & B league; there is no differentiation in standards between A & B, just different streams and promotion/relegation is arranged such that you play different teams each year.

6 teams to a division, 2 promoted and 2 relegated.
2 weekends; 5 matches to a weekend (play every other team)
Teams of 3 players, in ranking order. #1 plays 1 & 2. #2 plays 1 & 3. #3 plays 2 & 3 from the opposition.

We were promoted 2 seasons ago to British League Division 2 (there is a single premier, Div 1 A & B, Div 2 A & B) but relegated (conclusively) last year. The jump in standard is quite significant.

Vets National has Div 1 A & B and Div 2 A & B. Last time I played this level I won 15/20 from #3, avoiding the top ranked players in each team. This year my ranking has improved and in our strongest team (we have a small squad) I would be ranked #2. Our number 1 is just inside the top 100 at O-40, I'm 175th and the other 3 players about 100 places below me.

Day 1 Match 1
First match was against a player I had never met, their #1, although I knew of him from another forum. Here's a clue to his playing style..... his username was "chopfloat"! Happy to leave the table and come in and hit the odd one. LP / inverted. Ranking wise his rating had expired (in the UK if you don't do a ratings event for 12 months you start again) but previously he'd been similar to my current ranking. The first end suggested a difficult match for me, as I had some difficulty picking the float up. I had to save a few set points before scraping home 14-12. The close contest in prospect didn't materialise though as I read the next games far better and came through 11-4 11-3. In fairness to my opp he hadn't practiced with plastic and was clearly playing far better by the end of the second day, so maybe I benefited from getting him early!

My second match was vs their #3, who I had played twice 2 seasons ago - one win each back then. I remember having difficulty with his serve in the loss, which is mostly a very spinny backhand effort often off a "lowish" toss. He has a sound allround game, especially blocking and topspin, and I can't quite understand why as an established player he was all the way down at #3 and just inside 300 in the rankings... I would put him better than that. Maybe he had a poor run of form. On this occasion I raced into a 2 set lead only to lose 11-9 11-5 7-11 10-12 5-11. I can't entirely explain how or why; I think he became more positive and certainly looped very well, especially into my backhand. I suspect he may be one of the players/styles that I find a little difficult to handle. Anyway, I look forward to the rematch in January! He certainly had a good weekend and finished joint-top of the divisional averages with 9/10 wins.

The match finished as a 4-2 win for us, as our #1 won both and our #3 won 1 (also losing to their #3).

Day 1 Match 2
Teams can obviously come from all over the country in a National League, but our next opponents were relatively local and I knew a few of their players. On paper this was a very strong team; Their #1 ranked around 100, #2 only a little below and their #3 a newish and clearly underrated player - more on that shortly.

First I had to play their #1, who I had played in my early SP days (May) and been comprehensively beaten in straight sets. He has a very strong forehand, good use of a little sidespin with his loop and also very good yet economical movement. Very impressive to watch. I thought his backhand pretty decent too but my teammates advised me to try to pin him in that corner a little if possible. As I'd not won the forehand to forehand battle back in May, I followed this advice. I also remember having issues with his serves, (i.e. issues returning it well, or at all, no question of its legality). In this encounter I had no such issues with his serves and, in the first end, no issue keeping him mostly in his BH corner. I was also getting in selectively with good offense and won the first end 11-3. As we turned he asked if
I had pips on my BH! (clearly they hadn't bothered him at all in our early encounter). I willingly showed the bat (yes I know I didn't need to) as he is a very decent guy and completely sporting on the table. One thing I have learned at this level is that players learn very quickly how to adapt tactics, especially in competitions such as these where you can get advice from teammates between ends. The next two ends proved a lot closer as he became more active, ran around a lot more balls and also threw in a number of slower, spinny loops. I was quite effective at hitting through the slower loops and my footwork was pleasing as I even covered most into the BH. These ends were close but I took them 8 & 9 for a very good win :up:

We were 3-2 up and I played their (very) underrated #3 who is around 30 places below me in the national rankings. He had very good, generally long serves and an absolute monster of a forehand. I have only ever seen a handful of players hit the ball as hard but it was far from hit and hope. He is quite a big, tall guy and moved very well so once the ball was long could cover the table pretty much exclusively with his forehand. For two ends I was being completely overpowered and the scores of 5-11 and 7-11 could even be considered flattering to me. At the turn to the 3rd end I discussed tactics with my team and agreed to be more aggressive as I simply could not contain this guy. This, coupled I suspect to having adjusted to his serves somewhat, won me the next two ends 6 & 7. So it was to be my first - but not last - 5 setter of the tourney. Now I have to be honest - I had lots of luck in the 5th. Probably 4 or 5 nets/edges and I raced to a 10-3 lead. Game over? NO! He played out of his skin to get back to 10-10 with a combination of returning balls that I considered likely winners and some fine winners of his own. I couldn't quite believe what was going on, and nor could my team judging from the looks on their faces! I can't ever recall losing such a lead. I was conscious that the majority of the hall (12 tables) had stopped and were watching the conclusion of our match. He had first serve at deuce which was long and spinny into my BH. I returned it and he was in behind it immediately with a powerful forehand into my FH. I was on my bike and at the back of the court and chopped it off the floor but it looked as if it would sail long..........but it didn't, it clipped yet another edge! Understandably this irritated him somewhat and there was a bit of a foot-to-barrier incident! (for which he immediately apologised). Advantage to me and service to boot. Much that I had served long had been immediately crushed so I decided to serve short into his FH, he touched short and I saw him drop off the table a fraction looking to unload again.... so I dropped the 3rd ball really short which caught him off-guard and he had to lunge in a bit to play his stroke and flicked the ball long. A win, albeit with plenty of good fortune. I apologised for my good fortune and he was very gracious and apologised for "barrier-gate". He will climb the rankings very quickly I suspect. He only lost to me and the UK #24 (O-40) in the whole weekend, and is only ranked where he is as a new vet that hasn't played enough events to gain a realistic ranking. I suspect I will look back on this as one of my better wins. He actually had 5 match points on the UK #24 as well, but couldn't quite convert.

So this match also finished as a 4-2 win.

Day 1 Match 3
The matches have scheduled start times, which are 10.30, 1.30 and 4.30. For the last match it is quite common to start early as long as both captains agree, which they did. With hindsight, this was a mistake as I had played the last game of the previous match and had to play the first match of this one. The opponent could not have been a greater contrast to my previous opponent; Inv / LP twiddler with occasional pick-hitting. He was also higher rated than I realised, top-50 nationally in our age category. From off the table he looked very ordinary but once the contest started I appreciated very quickly his skills; perhaps the heaviest chops / pushes I have ever faced and good variation off the pimples. He was very skilled at taking pace off the ball too; you see a ball you think you can attack. I dumped more pushes and serve returns in the net than I can ever recall, and every time I knew it was a backspin ball but not how incredibly heavy it was. But this is a style I generally do extremely well against and I think my biggest problem was mental fatigue/concentration and I went down 11-9 10-12 6-11 10-12. I was actually 10-6 up in the 2nd too. FYI he used Victas as inverted, might have been 401?

My second match was relatively routine against a hitter who had some good shots but was maybe too inconsistent; 11-4 9-11 11-4 11-3.

Our #1 was struggling with a "tennis elbow" and lost both of his matches, and as our #3 picked up just the one this match ended in a 4-2 defeat.

We finished the day on 4 points (win=2, draw=1, loss=0), just behind the leaders who were on 5.


Day 2 Match 4
This was the only match that I played at #1, so would face their #1 & #2. #2 was up first and was a player I had played previously, winning comfortably in 3 on that occasion. He had extremely spinny, very long serves. He blocked very well and could topspin well on both sides, favouring BH. He played better this time than last but had a couple of poor starts to ends going 6-0 down twice and I again won in 3 ends 13-11 11-9 11-7. I received all of the long serves defensively either with soft hands at the table or dropping back to chop and with the pimples the returns caused him all manner of problems.

My match against the #1 was interesting. He was an older player (mid-60s?) who has played at a very high level in the past and has now dropped significantly to around #160 nationally. He did not have a good weekend and finished with 3/10, which I am told would have been unheard of in the past. He has had hip and eye surgery in the past few years and hasn't regained full form. I think movement was his biggest issue and I won 6-11 11-5 11-9 11-4, often by playing out wide / switching him. There were flashes of his quality though; in game 1 I struggled immensely with his serves and also at times he caught me on my crossover-point such that I didn't even get bat to ball. Ultimately his lack of mobility told though.

Our promoted #3, now #2, won both of his games as well, so yet another 4-2 victory.

Day 2 Match 5
Final match! This team had the highest ranked player in the entire league, at #24 nationally. As our #2 I played him first, and decided on a strategy of really "giving it a go". This made for a very good spectator sport and was probably the correct approach, as he was incredibly mobile and consistent. I would describe his style as very conventional, forehand dominant and with very good serves. My forehand was generally working very well and I managed to get to 2-2 and 4-4 before he pulled away and closed out 11-6. It was a thoroughly enjoyable match for a number of reasons; Firstly the opponent was a great sport and we had a bit of a laugh at the table. Secondly I felt I had really played up to and beyond expectations, and was just beaten (reasonably narrowly) by the better player. Finally, playing such a free style there were some stupendous rallies! Again I noticed how he was capable of catching me on the crossover point in a way few can, a sign of his class I guess. Our #1 adopted a similar open strategy and got even closer than me, losing deuce in the 5th after a single match point.

This match must have attracted a lot of attention, as it attracted the Table Tennis England rep who tweeted about it – see image!

My final singles was fairly straightforward affair vs an inverted BH / LP ox FH player who was quite unconventional.

The match came down to the last singles with us leading 3-2, but a 5 set defeat for our #3 meant a draw.

Overall a pleasing weekend, with a number of positives and things to work on.


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PostPosted: 27 Sep 2015, 07:15 
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Ooh chopfloat! :) I talk about him quite a lot in my blog. Jimmy plays in my local league and runs thetabletennisforum.com with me.

He's a good player. I've lost the last couple of games to him, but haven't played him with the plastic ball yet. He actually made some comments on the forum about VNL, he said he really struggled to adapt to the intensity in comparison to local league.

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My blog: "Learning to play: as a modern defender": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=22254


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PostPosted: 28 Sep 2015, 10:02 
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An old dog can learn new tricks .. I have in the past 3 months starting to play .. off hand left-handed .. I am steadily improving .. use LP OX on BH to protect this weakness .. my best win in club is vs a player almost 2000 rated 3-1 .. I stroke my 4H loop both with spins outside in and inside out ..

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Hunter Flame / Xiom Sigma Pro 2 2.0 both sides .. Play Right-handed
Gambler Double Carbon / 4H DHS H8 39 degrees Max / BH Kokutaku 911 Long Pips OX / Play Left-handed
729 Wood / 4H Bty Ten 64 max / BH GD CC LP OX .. Play Left-handed
Hunter Fire / 4H Xiom Omega IV Elite Max / BH Xiom Sigma Pro 2 2.0 .. Play Right-handed
Cpen SOS Wood / 4H 729 802-40 2.0 / BH GD Talon LP OX .. Play Left-handed Shakehand
HARDBAT / Shakehand Hock 3 ply / Friendship Dr Evil OX .. Play Right-handed


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PostPosted: 09 Oct 2015, 22:28 
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A brief update......

Being fairly new to the world of national rankings I am paying close attention to the ranking lists...I'm sure my fascination will wear off in due course. The latest ETTA list is now out and I have made 159th, from 175th, due to picking up a few points in VETTS national.... highest ever for me as far as I can recall. Having studied the points system it seems to me to favour those who play frequently. As I will be missing the next couple of tournaments for family commitments, I expect to drop a little as others climb.

Local league has started but I have little to write about. I have played five matches, the first was against a very strong squad and I lost all 3 (one 15-13 in the 5th) and didn't play at all well. It seemed flat after the tournament 'high' The other matches have all been quite straightforward against mid-table top-flight teams and I have gone 12/12 in those. Next week's matches don't look any more inspiring either ....

On the practice front the students are back at Uni and I am getting more table time. At the last session I spent time putting more wrist into my backhand attacks when needed, especially vs backspin. Ironic, as I have spent time over the summer minimising it, and have tended to 'defend' the balls that would require it! It was very effective and I shall persevere, but I could really feel it in the wrist next day. Clearly underutilised muscles!

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PostPosted: 24 Dec 2015, 20:41 
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First post for some while! :oops:

I have to confess to having a bit of a 'low enthusiasm' period for TT, hence no updates. Work was especially busy so I was often rushing to get to matches - still late and not having spent any time with family beforehand; and then to cap it all I had a particularly unpleasant evening with an opponent being very 'out of order' on the table. Without going into too much detail it would have got him red-carded at a tournament without the slightest doubt and involved barrier kicking, foul language, time wasting and aggressiveness. In local league there is no officialdom to deal with it. In fairness his teammates tried to calm him down from the red mist, and the captain contacted me after the match to apologise.

The incident - and similar involving a teammate the next week that I umpired - made me question just why make the effort to play when it is supposed to be fun but you can get nights like those?

I spent a number of weeks just going through the motions but fortunately work commitments have calmed a little and there have been a number of really good, sporting matches that have reignited the flame.

I have reached xmas with a local league(s) Top Division(s) record of played 62, won 51, lost 11. In inter-County and national veterans league it is played 20, won 12, lost 8. What is pleasing is that the 'good wins' are starting to come more regularly now. By a good win I mean matches where you would assess yourself no better than 50/50 to come out on top. In the first part of the season I pretty much won what I expected without any of these bonus wins, but the last 3/4 weeks have yielded more.

I continue to play with my trusty Xiom offensive S, Rakza X max and Spectol 1.8. The pimples play continues to improve (9 months since the switch) and I cannot see me going back.

Inactivity and one poor day at County (1 win 3 losses) has dropped me to 178th in national over-40s. However, I look forward to the next few months where I will get a number of ranking tournament opportunities; The first is in a few days with a VETTS ratings event at Draycott (single group of 8, matched with 7 other players nearest in national ranking to you). Then in January there are County matches and Veterans National league followed by a veterans masters tournament in February.

Things to work on in the new year? Fitness first (although I have been doing pretty well in the gym for a while anyway) and I also want to develop enough twiddling skill to serve backhand with inverted to add another dimension.

I feel better for being back online and will attempt more regular updates.

Merry Christmas / happy holidays to you all!

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PostPosted: 24 Dec 2015, 22:36 
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so_devo wrote:
just why make the effort to play when it is supposed to be fun but you can get nights like those?

Please don't take this question too seriously because the same could be asked no matter what you do or where you go, as I'm sure you know, even at chess tournaments!

To answer your original question, yes, I'm an old dog who learned new tricks when I switched to short pips and stayed with them for two or three years (but I'm just a beginner compared to you).


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PostPosted: 28 Dec 2015, 06:58 
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Zhaoyang.... I agree and my question was somewhat rhetorical....I appreciate you will always meet 'characters' on any sporting circuit, and have to just deal with it. My point was that I lost motivation due to time pressures and lack of enjoyment. Thankfully it was temporary, and I am back!

Today I played a 'ratings' tournament here in the UK (Draycott) where the groups of 8 are based on your national ranking - in this case over 40s. Our group (3) was rankings from approx 180 to 250. I was 2nd seed and won, and the atmosphere and sportsmanship spot on. Report will follow....

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PostPosted: 28 Dec 2015, 08:55 
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Well done! I've been looking forward to some updates. I think sometimes the ebb and flow of enthusiasm is a precursor to a jump in performance, and your win today bears that out.

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PostPosted: 22 Jan 2016, 00:23 
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Time for an update :) . I had written one a week or so again but must have timed-out :( and didn't retype it.

Firstly a tournament report....

Over the xmas break I played two tournaments. Firstly the Draycott ratings that I mentioned from late December. I like the format of ratings events very much, as you are guaranteed a certain number of games and all will be against players similar in ability to you. In this case, we were ranked from around 180 - 250 in national O-40s. We were a group of eight so there would be 7 matches each, and I only knew one player - he had a 2-1 winning record on me. Veteran TT definitely throws in more style variation than seniors, and this was the case here.

Match 1
vs a double-inverted defender who would go back and chop/retrieve, occasionally pick-hitting. I don't think he played up to his ability on the day and finished last in his group. It was a very good warm-up game for me to get my hitting going and an easy 3 set win (-5,-7,-3) once I'd adjusted to the level of chop he could generate, which was quite high.

Match 2
vs a double inverted looper/blocker. This was the player that I had a 1-2 record against so took this very seriously. I actually think we are similar players in many ways, both with a tendency at times to sit back a little and block whilst the opponent takes the initiative. He has a good serve and definitely a better backhand than me so I elected to take the battle more down the centre / forehand areas. Each game followed a similar pattern with it being quite even until 7/8 points and me pulling away for a pleasing win (-9,-10,-8). Coming off the table I think he knew that he should have been more actively offensive in style.

Match 3
vs a left-handed 2-wing looper. I have a good record against lefties, having been coached by a top-10 UK left-hander 'back in the day'. As part of the trick in these tournaments is to conserve sufficient energy to play as well in the last game as the first, I decided to let him come at me and see if I could block and control the game sufficiently. This I did, and with the odd 3rd ball etc I won -12,-6,-8.

A couple of diversions; Firstly, I find many right handers struggle against lefties for 2 main reasons. Firstly, angles are different; both in-rally and especially on service. Secondly, poor service tactics. The first requires practice and thought of course. Lefties generally have strong backhands but is your opponent's as strong as your forehand? If not, there's a tactic! Why not serve from your FH corner into their BH? The rule of generally short serves to FH also still applies, albeit to an area that might seem strange! But start the point thinking about how you want it to develop.

Second diversion; I'm reminded of the first time I met the coach I reference above. I would have been about 16 and a very proficient local league player with a number of years coaching behind me. I went to this new club and introduced myself, saying I might be interested in joining. He said he'd give me a game...... and was still wearing a suit and very shiny shoes! He took off the suit jacket and still wearing shirt, suit trousers and very shiny shoes proceeded to whup me 21-1, 21-2. It was a very harsh and valuable lesson to me about the different levels that exist! Also about developing a tight serve, as he could loop from anywhere, to anywhere. "Would you like to join the club and for me to coach you?" He asked........ "Yes please", I humbly replied......

Back to the tourney.....

Match 4
vs a SP/MP combo player. I can often have trouble with double-pip combo players, and this player was also 3-0 to date. I'd watched his previous matches and any hint of a pop-up and bang! it was gone with the SP forehand. I decided to attack his backhand and not get drawn into 'his' game. I played a flawless first leg (you know, one of those where you think "can I keep this up?") to win 11-2. He looked disheartened, and I went out to a good lead in the 2nd but somehow switched off completely and lost 13-11. It got a lot scrappier from there and he started to hit better but I scrambled a -2,11,-5,-9 victory with two outright service winners at the end of the 4th. I wouldn't have wanted the 5th end.

Match 5
vs a big looper! big (tall, broad) man, big shots. We were talking about styles before we went on, as he'd seen me adopt different tactics for different opponents, and joked that he only played one way. Except he wasn't joking. And played an absolute blinder! I was especially impressed with how he picked up heavy backspin into his BH and sent it back as a loop with interest. I tried a few different approaches but went down 3-1.

At this stage there were 3 players with only 1 defeat, so the group was wide open.

Match 6
vs a thin-inverted ultra spinny defender. Very unconventional. He had little offense but generated ridiculous amounts of back / side spin both at and away from the table. To stay at the table and fiddle would have been suicide, so this was time to get active and get the ball past him. He got a lot back and even from off the table was very good at landing the ball in my BH with the ball turning away. This led to a few ridiculous angle smashes where my winner would finish one or two courts along the hall; I won -10,-6,-5.

Match 7
vs an inverted/MP player, who was top seed in the group. At this stage I was 5-1, he was 4-2 and another player was 5-2. I had to win this match to win the group outright, else there would be 3 players on 5-2 and it would be decided on some form of countback. He used Tenergy FH and Giant Dragon 612 BH, hitting frequently with the 612 which was a horribly flat ball. I lost the first two ends 7,9 and truth be told, didn't really know how to adapt my tactics as he was pretty good on both wings so trying to avoid the 612 hits just led you to a strong forehand. I scrambled the next 11-6 as he may have switched off somewhat. At 8-8 in the 4th I found myself forced off the table desperately trying to chop back a loop into my BH and played one of the best shots I can ever recall! I took the ball virtually off the floor with the SPs but at first it didn't even look as if it would reach table height; however, it seemed to take a slight upward curve and landed short in his forehand. I have no idea how much spin was on the ball - I thought it was loaded but he tried to touch it short, it popped up a little and I dashed in for a BH winner. This point seemed to dishearten him and I closed the game out 11-8 and flew to a 10-5 lead in the 5th. Never one to make it easy on myself I missed several opportunities and he got back to 10-9 before I served an outright winner to close it 11-9 in the 5th. Same serve as closed out game 4............. (no I won't tell you what it was, who knows who is reading and when I might need it!).

Utterly exhausted I collected a nice trophy, had a chat with (and thanked) the organisers and headed back to my room for the night - above a rather nice pub :devil: :devil: :devil:

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PostPosted: 22 Jan 2016, 00:59 
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A week later I played a lower-key veterans' tournament which didn't have ranking points attached. The format here was different; Groups of 3, with group winner going into band A knockout, 2nd to band B and 3rd to band C.

I got a rather harsh draw and ended up in a group with the top seed, a hardbat (Dr Evil both sides) who is ranked around #30 in UK veterans. I randomly found a youtube video of him playing in another tournament .... he's the older of the two players.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8QiFbUHRNU[/youtube]

As you'll see a full-on topspin/drive game is perfectly possible with good technique! I lost the first 2 ends, nabbed the 3rd and narrowly lost the 4th deuce. After winning the other game easily, I went into band B and won the event reasonably comfortably, just dropping the single end (in the final) and won the £20 prize. Does that make me professional now!?

What I wanted to record here though is about learning from your defeats. Often the consideration is your own tactical decisions / mistakes, and I think I'd adapted at the end to the stage that I could give him a tougher game next time. But in this case I took a lot away in terms of the technique and timing he used for BH topspin, given I am increasingly attacking with BH pips. It was a worthwhile defeat, if there is such a thing.

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