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PostPosted: 14 Jan 2015, 21:41 
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OOAK Interview with Panagiotis GIONIS (Greece, born 7-1-1980, WR 21)
by Pipsy

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INTRODUCTION

Panagiotis GIONIS (born January 7, 1980) is a Greek defensive table tennis player (chopper) and a dentist. He is member of the Greek National Team and has competed in 3 Olympics and many World and European Championships. He has been playing professionally in Germany and France (Angers) since 2001. Currently he is playing for the German top club Borussia Düsseldorf together with Timo Boll, Patrick Franziska & Achanta and is being sponsored by Tamasu Butterfly. Gionis was third in the men's single 2013 European Championships and second with Greece in the team event. He is currently ranked 21st in the world and 7th in Europe. His best result was WR 20 in November 2014.

STORY BEHIND THE INTERVIEW

Mid October 2014, in the University Table Tennis Team of the University where I work, I was playing against a very friendly Greek student, Dimitris, who was a fanatic table tennis player and who happened to be acquainted with Gionis. I told him about the forum and that we are all big fans of him and his playing style. I also told him about the interviews I held with Joo SaeHyuk (together with Birding&Tabletennis) and with Masato Shiono (with the support of Donic Japan), both in 2013. Dimitris said he could bring me into contact with Gionis. And indeed, to my surprise, two days later I received a facebook friends request from Gionis himself :-). We had a chat conversation where he kindly agreed to the do a written interview and then we exchanged our email addresses. The next step was the collecting of interesting questions from the OOAK members (viewtopic.php?f=2&t=26717). I received many good questions. I couldn’t ask all single questions (‘too much’ for Gionis), but as you can see, still most of them made it! For three questions (life outside table tennis, worst and best game, best memory), I could retrieve some information on Gionis' website so I included it to the interview. Gionis was very busy traveling between Asia, Dusseldorf and Greece but I got his response in the beginning of January. Since Gionis is a well-educated man, he had no problem doing everything in English. A week later, two days ago, I had another conversation with him on FB to clarify the things I didn't understand or where I needed some more information. Today you can read the result. I hope you like it.

A big thank you to:

- Panagiotis Gionis for taking the time to answer all these question in detail although he had such a busy schedule. Also for being so nice in our communication.
- Dimitris for introducing me to Gionis… Thanks buddy!!
- Haggisv and forum board for their continuous support
- The OOAK members for their interesting questions and for making this such a great forum


THE INTERVIEW

PERSONAL HISTORY AND FUTURE

*Why and when did you decide to be a defensive player? [Pipsy]

I was nine years old when I started playing table tennis. I wanted to play football like all the other children but my parents were afraid that I'd got injured so I went to a table tennis club that was very close to home. It was the Romanian coach from that club, George Kurou, who noticed I had better skills than my team-mates so he started training me. And he was a old defender. In less then one year, I made it to the national youth team.

*Is there a particular table tennis player that inspired you to play defense? [Birding]

When I was in the National team, I could see the former Juniors European champion Daniel Tsiokas playing. He really was a big source of inspiration for me. He also gave me a lot of advice in my Juniors period before going to the seniors team. We always shared our room and had some great moments together.

*You are one of those players who seldom (or never) change equipment. What other blades or rubbers did you use in the past? [Pipsy]

Indeed, I have always played the same equipment. Only before I played Butterfly Tackifire D instead of Tenergy. I am not a guy that likes many changes.. I am satisfied with my equipment and I trust it for 100%..

*It seems that many defensive players, such as yourself, peak at a later age than offensive players. Why do you think this is the case? And in your case, how can you explain your current success at age of 34 with a 21th place on the world ranking? [Birding]

I think there are three reasons for me. First of all, I never practiced table tennis professionally until the age of 22 because of my studying to university as a dentist. Only after I finished my studies I started to practice more hours and two times a day. Secondly, I feel that defense is a totally different style of playing so you need to improve many things during practice and that means you need more time... And thirdly, pimples need a lot of feeling and I think that during the years you understand better the philosophy of pimples... Anyway I think that for defense you need more experience than offensive players.

*To what match do you have the best memories or what do you consider as your best match ever? [Pipsy]

My best game would have to be in the European Championships in 2013. It was against Samsonov in the semifinals. I won that match and we moved on to the final and also got the Silver medal...



Also, a match I will never forget was in the round of 16 at the 2012 London Olympics against Kishikawa. I had match ball and lost a very easy point. I will never forget it... My worst game would have to be in the European Championships in 2007. In the Quarter finals we were playing against Croatia and I lost both my matches. Therefore, we were not able to advance to the semifinals and lost the medal...

*How long do you want to go on with table tennis at top level? We all hope it will be for a long long time ;-)? [Pipsy]

I really hope to continue a bit more... If my body is ok and I have no injuries I think I will go on for 4 to 5 years more.


EQUIPMENT

*Is your Korbel blade a normal standard sized blade or is it customized oversized (like other defensive blades). What sponge thickness do you use under your Feint Long II? And what Tenergy are you using and what thickness? [Manofan, Lorre]

My Butterfly Korbel blade is Japanese and special weight just for me, heavier than in production. Tenergy 05 is 2.1 and Feint Long II is 1.1

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*Why did you choose for Feint Long II on your backhand and not Feint Long III or TSP Curl P1r or any other pips? [Birding]

I play with Feing Long II since I was a young boy and this means I am most confident with this rubber and also i know the tricks can do ;).

*What are your impressions of the ITTF, and the impact these decisions are having on players and the sport? [Haggisv]

I think ITTF make many changes and very often those are not good for the sport... Anyway it is their decision and we have to accept..

*Do you have any comments on the new poly ball? It would be very interesting to read your comments on how the poly ball will affect defenders. Are you thinking about changing your setup because of the poly ball? [Birding]

I think the plastic balls are not so good for defenders because the rotation is less... Anyway a good defender at top level must have also good attack so I'm trying to think it like it's the same for everybody.. My opinion is that this is not the main problem but the quality of the balls are very bad so i hope soon this will be improved...

*I believe you're currently sponsored by Butterfly, correct? What sort of support do you get from your sponsor? [Haggisv]

Butterfly supports me a lot in many things and I want to thank them for it....

*Do you get much involvement in testing and development of their new equipment? For example the Gionis Carbon blades? [Haggisv, Pipsy]

Of course I have tested all my blades and I am the one that told them my opinion for each blade...


TECHNIQUE & STYLE

*Do you think the modern defensive style is a 'dying art', or do you think it will grow as it's much more interesting and entertaining to watch? [Haggisv]

I think that during the years there will be more defenders...It's more exciting for spectators and I really hope to see more and more defenders...

*Do you play more aggressively now than 10 years ago? If so, why is that? [Def-attack]

I play more aggressively because against current top players it is difficult to win only with defense...

*On your forehand, when away from the table, if not attacking, you mostly fish, rather than chop. Why? What is the aim of your forehand fishing? [Birding]

My aim is to prepare for a good forehand far from the table so that the opponent will be suprised..

*Have you ever tried to twiddle your blade? Why do you choose not to twiddle? [Sir-Elrik]

It depends on the opponent. Sometimes I do it and sometimes I don't. In the German Bundesliga match against Gacina for example, I did it regularly and it worked well [conversation after interview]



*Why do so few of the top defenders attack with their pimples? [Sir-Elrik, Dunc]

Because it is so very difficult, especially with long pimples..

*When pushing, what do you mainly think about? Depth, height, spin variation, location... How do you play your pushes to set up your game? [Dunc]

Pushing must be deep and not so high from the net... Spin variation is also very important: spin versus no spin is the best way to confuse the oponent...

*How does "psychology" play a role in your table tennis game? [Pipsy]

Psychology has the most important role in table tennis.. If you are afraid or if you are not playing with confidence, you simply can't be a good player.. even if you practise many many hours...


PROFESSIONAL SCENE

*Who are your most difficult opponents? Can you describe what exactly give you the most difficulty? [Birding]

The Chinese of course because they are very fast and strong. Also, you can never find an easy point..so this creates stress and makes you to take risks...

*Can you describe what is it like to play against other top defensive players such as Joo SaeHyuk? What particular strategy do you use against defensive players? [Birding]

There is no special strategy against defense... Just when I serve against defenders I'm trying to attack their ball and if I see I have problems then I'm playing more defensively..

*Which top players are really nice guys and do you consider as your 'friends'? Is there a particular strong friendship amongst defensive players? [Pipsy, Birding]

I have no specific strong friendship relation with any defender... Most players I know are nice guys. Timo Boll is an unbelievably nice guy and so is Franziska and Kamal [Achanta]... Also I have some good contacts with my ex-teammates from Angers [French league]: Jens Lundquist and Martinez and Brossier...

*Do you think there is currently a defender who has the potential to make it to the world's top 10? [Pipsy]

Joo Se Hyuk is definitely the best defender in the world. He is the only one that was top 10 in the world for many years..

*How do you like playing in the German Bundesliga for Borsussia Dusseldorf? How is the atmosphere? [Pipsy]

It was hard to leave Angers where I had five great years, but Borussia was a big step for my career because it is the best team in Europe. I was warmly welcomed there and I like the atmosphere a lot. It really is fantastic and gives me more power to continue and to fight for each win..

Image


OTHER QUESTIONS

*Are you a full time pro since you are playing in the German TTBL? Or do you combine your job as a dentist with a career in table tennis? [Lorre]

It is only the last 3 years that I am totally professional and I'm not working as a dentist..

*Can you tell us something about your life outside of table tennis? [Pipsy]

Food: Sushi, Cabbage rolls (Greek Traditional Cuisine: Lachanodolmades)
Restaurant: “Square Sushi” in Kefalari-Athens (Greece)
Music: House, RnB, Greek
Hobbies: Movies, Play Station, Swimming
City: New York, Rome, Athens
Vacation Place: Creta

*Do you get a lot of female attention in the TT world? I suppose you do :-). Any story you'd like to share :-)? [Lorre]

I don't really have any story about female fans. Just like with the other players, they take some photos or ask for autographs..[Gionis has a very pretty girlfriend, ed. ;-)]

*Would you like to give an inspiration message for the many defensive players here on the OOAK Forum? [Birding]

I wish everybody in the forum a happy new year with health and happiness... My inspirational message to the defenders is that they need to be patience because it simply takes time to understand the philosophy of defense. Also, the biggest secret is not to expect to win the point only from defense but to try to find the right moment to surprise the opponent with attack..

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Last edited by Pipsy on 22 Jan 2015, 22:22, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 15 Jan 2015, 02:44 
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:clap: Very good.

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PostPosted: 15 Jan 2015, 06:43 
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Thanks a lot! Great effort!
I really enjoyed reading it. And those last words are truly inspiring :).

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PostPosted: 15 Jan 2015, 13:00 
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Good interview (Great youtube links too).

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PostPosted: 15 Jan 2015, 13:31 
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Pipsy,

I would like to thank you for all your effort in arranging for this interview of Gionis. This interview was great. It was such a pleasure to read, I enjoyed it immensely, and I learned a lot about Gionis too. Like so many members of the OOAK Forum, I have watched many videos of his matches. Now, I feel as if I know him a bit as a person, and not only as an amazing table tennis player. He sure gives a great impression.

Also, I recently noticed that Gionis and Joo SaeHyuk were born just 13 days apart (Joo was born January 20, 1980) . Its neat that the two best defensive players in the world were almost born on the same day!

Thanks again,

Steven

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PostPosted: 15 Jan 2015, 15:41 
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Great Interview Pipsy! :clap: :clap: :clap:

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PostPosted: 16 Jan 2015, 05:13 
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birding&table.tennis wrote:
Pipsy,

I would like to thank you for all your effort in arranging for this interview of Gionis. This interview was great. It was such a pleasure to read, I enjoyed it immensely, and I learned a lot about Gionis too. Like so many members of the OOAK Forum, I have watched many videos of his matches. Now, I feel as if I know him a bit as a person, and not only as an amazing table tennis player. He sure gives a great impression.

Also, I recently noticed that Gionis and Joo SaeHyuk were born just 13 days apart (Joo was born January 20, 1980) . Its neat that the two best defensive players in the world were almost born on the same day!

Thanks again,

Steven


Thanks for your kind words, Steven. It is indeed neat that both Gionis as Joo SaeHyuk, currently the best defenders in the world, are born in January 1980 :).

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PostPosted: 16 Jan 2015, 22:31 
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Interesting comment about sticking to the same pimple he's used for so long... he's confident with them and knows the tricks ;) Makes a lot of sense I guess.

His comments about the plastic balls confirms our suspicions as well...less spin and lower quality. He seems to just accept the ITTF decision though... perhaps this is normal for the elite players.

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PostPosted: 16 Jan 2015, 23:02 
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:up: :up: :up: (what more to say?)


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PostPosted: 17 Jan 2015, 00:25 
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*What are your impressions of the ITTF, and the impact these decisions are having on players and the sport? [Haggisv]

I think ITTF make many changes and very often those are not good for the sport...


VERY FUNNY :lol:

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PostPosted: 17 Jan 2015, 01:14 
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Bogeyhunter wrote:
*What are your impressions of the ITTF, and the impact these decisions are having on players and the sport? [Haggisv]

I think ITTF make many changes and very often those are not good for the sport...


VERY FUNNY :lol:


And the comment about the ball... Says enough.
Very honest response.
The pro's aren't idiots: that's for sure. The ITTF in contrary...


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PostPosted: 17 Jan 2015, 11:29 
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haggisv wrote:
Interesting comment about sticking to the same pimple he's used for so long... he's confident with them and knows the tricks ;) Makes a lot of sense I guess.


He says he's not the guy who likes to change his equipment... I think at each level some people like to experiment & are interested in equipment, while others aren't. I am sometimes so surprised that some of the high level players in Belgium have absolutely no clue about (characteristics and differences in) equipment

haggisv wrote:
His comments about the plastic balls confirms our suspicions as well...less spin and lower quality. He seems to just accept the ITTF decision though... perhaps this is normal for the elite players.


I think this is a pitty... If the elite players really united to jointly raise their voice (or jointly take action) about such crucial decisions, ITTF would have no other choice than taking it into consideration. Where is ITTF when the elite players don't follow?

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PostPosted: 17 Jan 2015, 17:37 
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Pipsy wrote:
I think this is a pitty... If the elite players really united to jointly raise their voice (or jointly take action) about such crucial decisions, ITTF would have no other choice than taking it into consideration. Where is ITTF when the elite players don't follow?

So true. :up: I think they have better things on their mind though, or perhaps they think it will make no difference.

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PostPosted: 18 Jan 2015, 00:00 
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Pipsy wrote:
I think this is a pitty... If the elite players really united to jointly raise their voice (or jointly take action) about such crucial decisions, ITTF would have no other choice than taking it into consideration. Where is ITTF when the elite players don't follow?


It's strange, though. They are already united: the Athletes Commission is designed to do this, isn't it?


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PostPosted: 18 Jan 2015, 21:42 
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Yes, the 'institution' is there but apparently it's not a place where elite players (can) jointly raise their voice. Or, as Haggisv said, they don't take any effort because they think it won't make a difference anyway. Any idea who are the representatives in this commission?

Lorre wrote:
Pipsy wrote:
I think this is a pitty... If the elite players really united to jointly raise their voice (or jointly take action) about such crucial decisions, ITTF would have no other choice than taking it into consideration. Where is ITTF when the elite players don't follow?


It's strange, though. They are already united: the Athletes Commission is designed to do this, isn't it?

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