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PostPosted: 08 Oct 2017, 10:29 
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I played at a club for the first time today, so I figured it was time to make a blog of my own. I've been playing for nine or ten months in a league at work and done very well there, but I'd never played anybody outside of work before. I was inspired to start chopping early on when I saw a video of Joo Sae-Hyuk's 2003 WTTC win against Ma Lin: partly because the chopping style of calmly parrying strong attacks and waiting for an opening was appealing to me, and partly because all that running around he did looked like good exercise!

I'll start off with a narrative of the afternoon: the club I went to was in Fairfield, CT. The atmosphere was very laid-back. I filled out an info sheet/liability waiver and was quickly matched up with another newcomer named Jaime. He was a older penholder (C-pen with occasional RPB) with a blade he had fashioned himself. We practiced for a bit and then played. I was more defensive than usual and ended up winning 3-0, with the sets themselves being in neighborhood of 11-5.

After toweling off, I was then challenged by a boy who I will call L. I had seen him practicing with one of the other players and he looked pretty adept at pushing and counterlooping, so I went in expecting to be embarrassed. What actually happened is that I won the first two sets 11-2 11-2, and the last set 11-8 or 9. I think L was a bit flustered early on and took some time to settle down - by the last set he started banana flicking serves to his backhand to very good effect, and he wasn't missing shots as much either. Most of the rallies were over in three of four hits. I made sure to congratulate him on his good backhand flick afterwards.

I took a quick break to drink water and cool off a tick, before being approached by a player named Don to play a match. He started the conversation by telling me he could tell by the sound of my racket that I played with long pips. He mentioned before we started that he was playing with anti on his backhand. I took the first set 11-8, largely by attacking his backspin serves to my backhand with my pips and by forcing errors with really heavy pushes. After that first set he settled down and creamed me by about 11-5 in every remaining set. Part of this was that he twiddled a lot and caught me occasionally, but mostly he was very successful at attacking my serves and returns and my footwork was not good enough for me to get into position to defend in time. Finally, the butt-kicking I was expecting!

My next opponent was named Mike. He plays an attacking style with inverted on his forehand and short pips on thick sponge on his backhand. While the rallies were mostly short, this was a great match that I ended up winning 3-2, with the last three sets all going to deuce! On a couple of occasions, Mike commented that my serve had very heavy spin, which surprised me since I was mostly playing a backhand slice serve the whole day. After the end, several of the other players told me I was a "real member" of the club now, because Mike was a founding member.

Finally, I played Ray. I watched part of one of his matches earlier in the day, and he played as a two-winged looper with a very strong forehand and a pretty good backhand. He broke his racket in an earlier match and was playing with a backup. Neither of us had a clear advantage on service and return, and this match was my favorite overall because I was finally able to get into lots of extended loop-chop rallies on both the forehand and the backhand. I also mixed in some more attacks with the pips on receive. I ended up winning 3-0, with the sets going 11-3, 11-9, 11-5. Ray told me afterwards that I had played him smart, and I'm not sure what he meant by that, but I'll take the compliment.

Analysis: I played much more defensively tonight than I normally do, hardly ever mixing in forehand loops. This is probably because I was less comfortable playing a bunch of unfamiliar opponents. I played my backhand slice serve almost exclusively, and in retrospect I'm not sure why - my pendulum serve is probably better. I twiddled on serve on a few occasions with the idea being that I'd get a popup that I'd be able to third-ball attack; it worked a couple of times, and on two occasions my opponent netted the serve, which I cannot understand at all. I got a few wakeup calls that I push too high and not long enough, and that I need to be more proactive with my footwork. Overall though, I am really pleased with how things went; I expected to go something like 1-4 rather than 4-1. And it was three and a half hours of really enjoyable exercise!

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PostPosted: 08 Oct 2017, 11:59 
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Wow, that's a pretty awesome first day at a club, enough to get anyone hooked! :rock:
Sounds like it's a well organised club too, that welcomes new people, kudos to the club! :up: :up: :up:

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PostPosted: 08 Oct 2017, 16:23 
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I twiddled on serve on a few occasions with the idea being that I'd get a popup that I'd be able to third-ball attack; it worked a couple of times, and on two occasions my opponent netted the serve, which I cannot understand at all

If you twiddled and served with the lp I think they might net because the spin is less so it comes back slower off their bat,also the trajectory can be slightly flatter//lower

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PostPosted: 10 Oct 2017, 01:42 
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dazzler wrote:
If you twiddled and served with the lp I think they might net because the spin is less so it comes back slower off their bat,also the trajectory can be slightly flatter//lower


That's an interesting idea. My other thought was that it might have been overcompensation, as a lot of sources (online at least) drill the idea that a serve or push with pips will result in a no-spin ball whereas P-1R seems grippy enough that I can get "medium" backspin if I'm really wristy.

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PostPosted: 13 Oct 2017, 05:05 
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I was playing well at work today, but I noticed one problem: from my neutral position, I have difficulty chopping hard shots with my backhand as it feels like I don't have enough time to turn and make the chop. I have an easier time taking these shots with my forehand, but there's less margin for error chopping with inverted than with the pips. High level amateurs and pros seem to have no trouble at all transitioning from the neutral position to chop from either wing when the opponent fires a hard loop at their middle. Is it more likely that I'm simply not standing far enough back to give myself time to turn and BH chop or that my footwork for executing the turn is inefficient?

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PostPosted: 16 Oct 2017, 06:04 
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Went to the club again yesterday. Got my butt kicked, losing four matches and winning two, with the victories being against REALLY senior guys. One of them was a Chinese penholder named Liu who spoke very little English, but enough to call me "Michael Jordan" for some reason. I told him that if I was Michael Jordan, he was Liu Guoliang. He laughed at that, then we kept playing.

My first loss was against an attacker named Jeff. I got in some good chops and a couple of good shots on the forehand, but he pretty much outplayed me all around and I lost 3:0 (something like 11:7, 11:6, 11:7). Good natured guy though.

The second loss was by far the most painful. My opponent was named Dave, and he started groaning when he saw my racket. Every time he lost a point he'd have a little fit cussing himself out for "being stupid". Every time he lost a set he'd throw his racket on the table. I played my game and was up 3:1 after four sets, at which point he stopped looping entirely and started just pushing everything to my backhand. I repeatedly got impatient and started trying to loop his pushes, but I missed more shots than I made and I ended up losing the last three straight sets and thus the match. The worst part is that I had three match points in the fifth set which I blew. Oddly enough, after the handshake Dave switched gears and was very friendly and even complimentary about my game.

The third loss happened when I played Ray from last week again. Once more I played the whole thing pretty defensively with the exception of a couple of smashes on loose balls. We had some great rallies and I had it tied at 2:2 after four sets, at which point Ray switched to a reverse pendulum serve that I handled very poorly and he pretty much blew me off the table. His third-ball attack was also hitting much more this week, a reminder that my return of service and my footwork need a lot of help.

I played Don from last week again to close the night out. I lost that one 0:4. It seemed like the third or fourth ball in most rallies went to my wide forehand really fast. I think I got fooled by the anti on his backhand less than last week, though.

On a positive note, my wife surprised me with venison tacos for dinner when I got home.

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PostPosted: 17 Oct 2017, 23:05 
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I've noticed some a fair bit of soreness in my knees for a day or two after playing a four hour session at the club. I feel like I'm too young (not yet 30) for this, but what should I be looking at to fix the issue - technique, equipment, diet, etc? Do I just need to take rest days and wait for the little stabilizer muscles around my knees to get stronger?

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PostPosted: 21 Oct 2017, 02:23 
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I played around with one of the Xushaofa seamless balls for the first time today, just hitting around with a coworker during lunch. Very bouncy. When he looped to my backhand (or inexplicably served long topspin to my backhand) he netted my first chop almost every time. I was able to load up forehand chops pretty well, but I was putting them WAY too high - not a new issue with this ball though.

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PostPosted: 21 Oct 2017, 02:53 
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kaesees wrote:
I played around with one of the Xushaofa seamless balls for the first time today, just hitting around with a coworker during lunch. Very bouncy. When he looped to my backhand (or inexplicably served long topspin to my backhand) he netted my first chop almost every time. I was able to load up forehand chops pretty well, but I was putting them WAY too high - not a new issue with this ball though.


You probably should spend more time with these balls - that's what Westchester uses in their tournament, and you are going to one very soon, IIRC.

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PostPosted: 21 Oct 2017, 10:25 
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That was actually my impetus for buying a pack. At work it's normally a mishmash of 1* Stiga 40mm balls and some 3* Gambler 40mm balls I bought and put in the bucket a while back, and at the club everybody else seems to use NP40+ or (rarely) D40+.

Thankfully it looks like not only Westchester but also Hartford uses the XSF seamless balls, so I'll only have to keep one brand to practice with.

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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2017, 13:39 
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Another humbling night at the club.

I first played a visiting player named Steve, a sort of controlled attacker. The club was pretty packed tonight, so the barriers were close to the tables and I couldn't back up very far - frustrating since I was mostly able to get into chopping rallies. Lost in straights sets 14-12, 11-6, 11-7. I overheard later in the evening that Steve is around USATT 1750 and will be at Westchester this weekend. He wears a very recognizable headband if you run into him.

I next played an older guy coincidentally also named Steve, who used a conventional attacking style. We traded sets in the neighborhood of 11-5 or 11-6 until we were at 2:2, and then I pulled away and won both of the last sets 11-3 for a 4:2 win.

My next opponent was a guy named Alex, an attacker with an especially strong forehand loop. I took the first two sets pretty handily, feeling great as I mixed backhand and forehand chops and attacking shots. He then he went to a much more push-heavy game and I lost each of the next three sets 11-8 or 11-9 for a 2:3 loss in the match.

I then played Ray again, and took the first two sets. In response to his mixing up his regular and reverse pendulum serves, I started varying my returns between pushes and sideswipes, which really gave him fits. I also was on fire with very heavy forehand chops that he repeatedly netted. Like Alex, he then switched to a much more push-heavy gameplan and also started making some crazy strong below-the-table backhand loops and I lost the last three sets by close scores for another 2:3 loss. The worst part is that I had serve at 9-9 in the fifth and I faulted my first serve then missed the third-ball attack on the second serve. A consolation: Ray mentioned after the match that he's ~1900 USATT, so I feel good that I managed to play him close.

My last match was against Don (the anti guy), and I once again got my butt kicked. I at least made it close in the last set, but the overall result was 0:4.

One thing that Don and Ray both mentioned is that my serve has a lot of spin but I tend to place it too long, so I guess I need to practice serving short.

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PostPosted: 27 Oct 2017, 07:25 
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kaesees wrote:
Another humbling night at the club.

I first played a visiting player named Steve, a sort of controlled attacker. The club was pretty packed tonight, so the barriers were close to the tables and I couldn't back up very far - frustrating since I was mostly able to get into chopping rallies. Lost in straights sets 14-12, 11-6, 11-7. I overheard later in the evening that Steve is around USATT 1750 and will be at Westchester this weekend. He wears a very recognizable headband if you run into him.

I next played an older guy coincidentally also named Steve, who used a conventional attacking style. We traded sets in the neighborhood of 11-5 or 11-6 until we were at 2:2, and then I pulled away and won both of the last sets 11-3 for a 4:2 win.

My next opponent was a guy named Alex, an attacker with an especially strong forehand loop. I took the first two sets pretty handily, feeling great as I mixed backhand and forehand chops and attacking shots. He then he went to a much more push-heavy game and I lost each of the next three sets 11-8 or 11-9 for a 2:3 loss in the match.

I then played Ray again, and took the first two sets. In response to his mixing up his regular and reverse pendulum serves, I started varying my returns between pushes and sideswipes, which really gave him fits. I also was on fire with very heavy forehand chops that he repeatedly netted. Like Alex, he then switched to a much more push-heavy gameplan and also started making some crazy strong below-the-table backhand loops and I lost the last three sets by close scores for another 2:3 loss. The worst part is that I had serve at 9-9 in the fifth and I faulted my first serve then missed the third-ball attack on the second serve. A consolation: Ray mentioned after the match that he's ~1900 USATT, so I feel good that I managed to play him close.

My last match was against Don (the anti guy), and I once again got my butt kicked. I at least made it close in the last set, but the overall result was 0:4.

One thing that Don and Ray both mentioned is that my serve has a lot of spin but I tend to place it too long, so I guess I need to practice serving short.


I find it interesting that you play some games as Best-of-5 and some Best-of-7, at least your results indicate this. :)

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PostPosted: 27 Oct 2017, 08:54 
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pgpg wrote:
I find it interesting that you play some games as Best-of-5 and some Best-of-7, at least your results indicate this. :)


Yeah, there's not much of a rhyme or reason to it. I just ask the other guy at the start of the match whether he wants to play to best of five or seven, because I saw people playing both on my first day at the club. At work we normally play to best of three for normal matches or best of five for playoffs.

Speaking of work, I beat Jeff (the consensus #1 in our office league of ~35 players) today; the scores were 11-6, 14-16, 11-4. Lots of nice rallies - he uses more of a brushing technique for his topspin shots so I had a good amount of spin to work with. I managed to get in more attacks of my own than I generally do at the club as well. It's really satisfying when the receive with pips -> opponent pushes long -> loop to the opposite corner sequence works out! I had a little bit of a weird feeling in my left knee afterward, though. I might have to think about getting a brace, because the concrete floor is just brutal.

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