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PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 04:06 
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NextLevel wrote:
Go, Wilkinru! Keep taking those trophies, champ!

Lol.

So this is as good as a time as any to diary my experience thus far. Video will be coming, but I'm not entirely sure how useful it will be...

2015 Nationals is my second ever tournament.

To sum it up: Nothing is free or easy in these.

Just before Monday's matches I discovered the reason for my recent back problems. My massage therapist noticed multiple knots in my lower back just wrecking havoc on my legs. Looks like I'll need multiple massages to work them out along with other fixes. I honestly thought my problem was in my legs as I did not feel pain in my back until she pinpointed the spots. Not the end of the world and long term it's pretty good news (I have a plan to fix this issue!). However 48 hours before a set of matches just isn't time to get me back to full health.

The result is I basically cannot do much torso twist on my forehand or forehand loop. General movement isn't very good either.

Event #1 The U2000 super round robin:
Did not go that well. I didn't even win a game against anyone, but I also did not feel entirely out of place. I did give up against the highest seed, hoping to save myself a little bit for the others.
In the end they all at one point were 1800 players (one guy dropped down to 1550, but was around 1800 a couple of years ago) and the young kid beat a 1800 with some real skill. I thought I returned serve fairly well and wasn't entirely out of place.
I went into the E division and had 2 losses and 1 win, getting games in each match. Back was real sore during these.

Event #2 U2700 doubles with my buddy Raul (1250 rating)
We played a couple of older gentlemen at 8 AM, winning that one fairly easily and lost the next round in a tight match to a couple of gentlemen from LA. We made some pretty dumb mistakes.

Event #3 U1000 singles
I realize this is a lowbie tourney, but I will wanted to win it. Partly for experience. Nerves, time outs, tourney rules, etc.

Round Robin: Perhaps this should be called the long pips division! One guy withdrew and I had to play two long pips players. The first player was really solid and way above his rating of ~780. He could move me around and controlled play really well. We split the first 2 games and then I lost the 3rd pretty close. I took the 4th with a pretty important time out. Down a little and serving, took the next 4 points to win that game. Game 5 ended up being more of the close play. My main strategy at the end was to move him to the forehand side (push block still using the backhand) and then loop to the wide backhand where it was exposed. It worked, just enough.
The other match was against a leftie pips player and after being warmed up by the previous guy I was able to breeze through. For some reason his pips just created dead balls, unlike the spin reversal I'm accustomed to. That was actually a nice change.

Since I had beat one of the top seeds to win my group I was able to get a quarterfinal bye.

So the semi finals. One huge advantage for living in Vegas: I got to go home for a few hours and relax before the next match.

Oddly enough my opponent in the semi's was inverted on both sides. The bad news is he had a pretty good loop and a solid backhand in the warm up. Then something "strange" happened the moment the match started: he gave me a push ball to my forehand and I pushed it back shortish, he looped it into the back wall. Kind of the typical problem: lots of practice, but not much practice winning points. Not a terribly difficult match, just attacked in spots. Nerves are a big part on these sort of matches. I don't think I played nearly to the best of my ability but I was still winning.

On to the finals: I had watched the second semifinal. Another local guy was playing against a guy from Cali (the same "group" as we had lost to in doubles! Revenge time!). The local guy looked lost against the serves and backspin from the Cali guy and the match ended quickly.

Starting the final I realized I had no one in my corner and the other guy had 4-5 people cheering for him!
My opponent had a pretty good backspin/side spin serve which he varied the location and side spin direction. I returned them safely, content to push a little until I could line up a backhand loop. Sometimes a forehand loop but I was weary of my back. Early in the match I served various top spin serves and they worked, but then he adjusted. He was good at chopping them short enough. I switched to a flat low serve to his forehand, content to loop it to his backhand. (NL gave me an idea: if having trouble with spin, give LESS spin, get less spin)

A little word about time outs. People don't tend to use them and when they do, they use them terribly. In this final it was 1-1 and in game 3 I was up 9-4. I missed a few shots and suddenly it was 9-8, with me having 1 serve left. I called a time out and came out with a plan for my serve and my returns. I ended up getting a sweet high ball from my serve but the point didn't go my way, 9-9. I made sure to return the ball well and won the next two points. I have to think the timeout stopped my slide. Like a basketball game sort of. It's real important to win game 3 as we all know.

In the final game (game 4) I was again up 9-4. This time he took a time out. What a poor time to take a time out! The match is nearly over. I'm 2 points away from winning. I thought about it when I was up 4-1 with 1 serve left for him - he should take a time out now.

Time outs are best used to win close games, stop slides or to discuss a troubling situation (how to handle serve, 3rd ball attack, etc). Don't call time outs when the match is nearly over.

Friday and Satuday will be some more matches. I'm hoping to win those ones too :clap:


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PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 04:33 
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Go, champ!

Nervousness is inevitable in early tournaments as you are having a novel experience which you often mentally make more of than you should (since it is a tournament and you want to win). As you work through the issues with playing the way you practice, some of those issues will be solved normally if you play more tournaments. While you can beat players at the U1600 level largely by being consistent I'd you are 200 pts better than them, above 1600 it just does not work unless you pose problems to your opponent to solve, which ultinaltely forces you to play how you practice. Then you will lose matches playing passively and you will see that your only chance to win such marches is aggressive play. So it is all about experience. At some point, you will see it is better to lose playing the way you practice than to win without playing aggressively.

Congrats again.

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PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 05:08 
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All of what you said was quite apparent on Monday in the round robin. I came to that same conclusion and I did go for it against those 1800s. I wanted to feel that higher competition and see where I stood. I was happy to learn I didn't feel totally out of place.

Also thanks!


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PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 06:14 
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Yes, wilkinru, but it is when you consistently do what you try to do in practice all the time, even vs lower players, that good things start to happen. The real reason we don't is usually that our shots are too inconsistent so we don't want to take them. But over time, as your shots become more consistent, you will win many matches even when down 9-3 because you are used to playing with a certain mindset. But if you play passive, it is a fine balancing act and in general, the wins are never satisfying and the prospects for long term growth are slim. Playing purposely passive with strategic pushes and blocks is an important skill set, but should also be practiced so that one does not feel as if one is copping out by playing that way.

Good to hear you learned the lesson of taking spin off the ball. I learned it when I was well over 1800, even 1900, so I am happy that I can help people survive my miseducation.

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PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 06:32 
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There are Wednesday night tourney's weekly in town - I get the exact same "pressure to win" hesitation on my shots in that tourney.

I'm going to commit to going for considerably more in those tourneys.

The owner sets the draws. She never puts me in the higher group, even tho I tend to win 90% of the matches. I thought she was actually keeping track...but she wasn't. So I guess I'll just have to impress with good quality loops.


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PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 06:42 
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wilkinru wrote:
There are Wednesday night tourney's weekly in town - I get the exact same "pressure to win" hesitation on my shots in that tourney.

I'm going to commit to going for considerably more in those tourneys.

The owner sets the draws. She never puts me in the higher group, even tho I tend to win 90% of the matches. I thought she was actually keeping track...but she wasn't. So I guess I'll just have to impress with good quality loops.


Don't go for more - just get into position and do your stroke. Going for more is the biggest reason why we miss - we know our average stroke is not good enough. The long term solution and the only sustainable solution is to improve your average stroke. But if you work on getting into position in time to do your stroke, you can do your average stroke and if you have more time, you can increase power or placement quality.

Going for more just puts stress ans tension into your game which is exacerbated by missing under tournament conditions. If you play relaxed, it is easier to accept the results as being more about focus and less about tense effort.

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PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 08:21 
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I meant allowing the mistakes to occur by trying to loop the closer to the table ball, or counter looping even. Attacking longer balls MUCH more on return of serve. etc.

However what you said is an excellent point. I'm seeing this in the tourney over and over. In fact I might be the one that isn't attacking too hard since I'm not really feeling too great physically. Your average shot must improve, it must be consistent and you must know it extremely well.

One thing I learned this year is that each skill in table tennis must be worked on far more than I ever imagined. It took me a full year, perhaps more of fairly consistent backhand loop practice to make it a point positive tool for me. When working with the ball machine, I've got some pretty good control and even some placement options. In a match it isn't nearly as good but it is a very useful tool for me.

Now I imagine my forehand loop taking more or less all of 2016(!) to be point positive. Hopefully the backhand will become that much more of a weapon also. Serve has a fair amount of work to improve too, but I'm happy with the building blocks there.


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PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 09:43 
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Just videotape your practice and always work on the transition as well as the stroke. So if you work on a forehand, do a one FH - one BH drill with it, stationary or moving, so you can get an idea of the right table depth for your stroke. Failing to practice transition is one of the reasons people end up with good practice strokes but bad match strokes as they develop strokes that work at a distance they don't play from.

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PostPosted: 19 Dec 2015, 11:27 
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Welp today I played in the U1400 and got bounced in the quarters.

The other guy had a good serve and returned my serve pretty well. In truth it was all about me running into my Kryptonite.

The Chinese style penhold sidespin serve. I was all over the place trying to return that thing. Half the time I was guessing, the other half I only had a mild plan on how to return it. I did win a game and competed well in the last two games, it was just too much trying to figure out the spin AND play table tennis.

It doesn't matter how much practice I put in, or how fit I get - I'll continue to lose to this type of player- 900 or 1800 rating. I'll need to plug this hole in 2016.

Other than that I did win some matches and had a good time. I even made it to one of the courts with TT flooring - which was my goal!


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PostPosted: 19 Dec 2015, 14:47 
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PostPosted: 22 Dec 2015, 06:29 
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Going to just blab some more here about the 2015 US Nationals.

On Saturday I played in the U1300 and made it to the semi-finals. I achieved my other goal for this tourney: getting a umpire.

I'd have to say these day long tourneys are quite a bit of work mentally and physically. Wake up at 6:30, prepare for a 8:00 am set of matches. Play those and then cool down, only to warm back up for the next round. Repeat all day. This really drained me and I've never done anything quite like it before. I'm glad to have done it. I think I gained more experience doing this than I would have doing higher rated tourneys and crashing out. I might have gained more points doing higher rated events but now I have experience playing and competing in the later stages at large events.

On the quarter finals on Saturday I barely won. I started making some bad errors and just barely won that match. In the semi-finals I had a solid first game but then the same type of mistakes continued. Fatigued.

Going to end with some analysis of where my game actually stands...
1. My return game is a complete mess - I am having huge issues looping off the forehand side. It all seems to be body position. I feel the need to backhand most everything. I will need to do some video analysis to determine how to correct this.
2. Forehand loop just isn't ready for competition yet. I had a few good ones here and there but mostly unwilling to use it.
3. Backhand loop is my best shot. Top spin or backspin, I won point after point with this. I need to make it better. I'm considering taking some lessons just to focus on my backhand. (mostly to see how the coach and I interact)
4. My serves aren't quite there yet. Still more spin and lower over the net can occur.
5. I need to play a little closer to the table early. Just 4-6 inches for now. I'm giving up a little too much court early on. This will take a lot of work.

12/21/2015: The start of practice for Nationals 2016 in July. I've already started working hard on my forehand loop at the local club!


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PostPosted: 22 Dec 2015, 07:11 
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Curious why you have huge FH loop issues but want to work with a coach on your BH loop that is much stronger? Don't you think you would get more bang from improving your FH?

Video should tell you but maybe you are setting up in a BH stance with your left foot forward or even, stops you from rotating on the FH side. Just a possibility.

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PostPosted: 22 Dec 2015, 08:41 
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BRS wrote:
Curious why you have huge FH loop issues but want to work with a coach on your BH loop that is much stronger? Don't you think you would get more bang from improving your FH?


Good question. The coach I'm thinking of doesn't have the best English and I don't want to sign up for 20 sessions of forehand counter hitting just yet. If she actually just focuses on the backhand like I requested and I find value in it (aka I can understand) - then I'll continue with other lessons. Also since my game is pretty heavy with the backhand setup, it won't hurt to get it even better, but you are right, it isn't optimal.

BRS wrote:
Video should tell you but maybe you are setting up in a BH stance with your left foot forward or even, stops you from rotating on the FH side. Just a possibility.


Yeah I was doing that up to 2 weeks ago. I'm now a little bit angled but I still have a heck of a time getting a back swing going for a longer serve to my forehand. I think it's mental - I'm looking for a backhand and then resort to the forehand. I'm looking for a better arm and leg stance that will hopefully help...


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PostPosted: 22 Dec 2015, 08:51 
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Wilkinru,

I gotta tell it to ya straight: you are at a beautiful point in your TT career/hobby. I wish I could go back in time and do it all over again. I would have started with my current coach, I would have pushed less, flipped more, looped more, blocked less. But you have a chance to get it right. And get it right before you accumulate all kinds of crap that you hold on to because you don't want to change.

Just keep that in mind when you make choices about where your TT is going. If I could have learned a proper forehand loop at 1500, and learned to counterloop topspin, my game would look different today. Don't just think small. Think about how you want your game to look in a year or two when making decisions. Because you will be rebuilding it if you take shortcuts. Sometimes we have to live with that but we should ay least know the reality.

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PostPosted: 22 Dec 2015, 09:18 
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Loud and clear NL!

You know I didn't win points with pushing last week. I can't remember any except an edge ball that a push won me a point. I do remember a few good tactical pushes to setup a loop tho - the point is at my current level pushing gives me no edge. I'm done pushing. Today I went to the local club and looped everything that went a little long.

Man I tore those guys up today too...guess a week of competitive play can make you better too.

Also shows something else...people who I'm normally working with aren't really that skilled. In fact I'd say 80% of my hitting with others is with U1300s. I'll need to change that. I don't mind playing with anyone but I need to see better on a regular basis. I don't think I can hit 1800 while only working with 800-1400s.


Of course all of this rating talk is relative. The 1000 rated guy from NY is garbage but the 950 rated guy from Cali takes me to 5 games. The 1350 guy with a ICC shirt consistently loops the crap out of me while the 1300 guy from Wisconsin can't return a serve. (I made these up, but you get the idea)


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