Touring the west

by Varghese on December 8, 2007

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I love to travel and visit places. After I became a serious ping pong (or table tennis) player last year, I added playing at the clubs in the places where I visit, an item in the to-do list. This year itself, I visited places like (1) Columbus, Ohio (2) Denver, Colorado (3) Las Vegas, Nevada (4) San Diego, California (5) Los Angeles, California and (5) South bend, Indiana. The visits to the table tennis clubs were worthwhile - I’ve learned so many lessons from players from various table tennis clubs in such places.

At Las Vegas:

On Thursday, I played at the Las Vegas Table Tennis club also called Vegas TT. The club is located on the Highland drive. I have been there before, and the guys who run the club are great. Tony who is running the club is an 1800 USATT player. I’ve played against him in April when I visited the club last time. I wanted to play against him this time when I visit, to measure my progress from last time we’ve I played together. Unfortunately I was disappointed. He was busy, and I did not bother him. I played against three players there. I don’t remember the names of the players. One player comes in the range of 1400-1600, and the other two players are between 1700 and 1900.

Two players among the three I played against are good topspin players. The young boy, who has some roots from Srilanka, took the first game out of me. I haven’t practiced before, so the in the first game I taught myself to adjust for elevation, flight path and mobility. I won the consecutive three games. I was able to see how comfortable he was to play against a long pips player and his style and form was good too. I doubt he was ignorant of playing against long pips players. He played very strategically and used the golden rule of playing against long pips players and that is to have patience. I was so much impressed by his top spin looping to two wings of the table.

The next player I’ve played against uses the long pips on his bank hand. He uses Dr.Neubauer Super Block. I was so much impressed by his strength to loop hard to my forehand. I’ve moved very well in the games, and blocked his forehand loops, and sometimes counter looped too. His long pips did not trouble me a lot because all the shots came from his backhand were blocks which carried only moderate underpin. Some of his back hand blocks had good reverse spin. I have lost at least 2 points because of the reverse side spin his long pips generated; however I won the match 3-2.

The third player Mr.Samuel is a penholder pips player. He has medium pips on the back hand and short pips on the forehand. What can I expect from him? It is simply dead or no-spin balls. I love to smash against dead spin and moderate top spin shorts. But things were different when the games started. He started looping my chops sometimes with medium pips and sometimes with short pips, and his returns were high. That did not trouble me much to chop back, but his quick smashes gained him so many points when I was not alert. He troubled me also with his occasional forehand smashes. I did not lift those chops well, and I just wondered how my change of racket angle and lifting is so important against under spin balls. There would have been few different things which I should have been done to win against him – that is to loop his low arc light top spin balls with my inverted side, cover the back hand little more and smash those shots with my long pips. I would probably play against players who use a combination of pips rubbers with my other paddle which has Joola Octopus.

At Los Angeles, California:

The life surrounding the table tennis game in California is awesome. I’m really breathing a fresh air of table tennis spirit in this area. In the State of Utah, I have played against only one or two 1800 and above players. I have found I can play a competitive game against them. Here in California, most of the players I have met at the club are above 1800.

At the Gilbert table tennis club:

I have been there before. One thing I hate about going to that club is the California traffic. On a rainy day, driving in Los Angeles downtown makes anyone crazy.  With a GPS in one hand, and on a rainy day I was nervous how can I make up to the club before the round robin starts.

I participated in the round robin on Friday October 12, 2007. The first game was against Kundan, a 2100 USATT rated player. What a defensive player require more than anything else? It is space which is not enough here at the club. Kundan was very good at looping to two wings of the table. He kept the ball low with heavy top spin. I’m glad I played against him though I lost to him.

Against Misha, Ricardo Gonzalez, William Lin at Gilberts

After 6 hours of driving from Las Vegas on that day, my legs were swollen – I could not move my legs after the first match with Kundan. The match against Misha was interesting. He is a smasher, and will not give you any opportunity to return his ball. He is a 2400 USATT player. He set up his smashes after pushing to my back hand with heavy underspin. I converted those underspin shots to top spin for him to play the top spin. But my returns went either long or were high which made him to smash back. A beautiful thing I noticed of this player is that you can’t figure out his forehand or backhand mistakes because both were the same for him.

With Wei Wang and Diego Schaff

The next day which is a Saturday, I played at the Westside table tennis club which is run by Wei Wang and Diego Schaff. Wei Wang is a US Champion, US Olympian and a coach. Whenever the club is open, there are numerous players who come there to take coaching from her. Wei and Diego have come in the movie Balls Of Fury as a Catholic Priest and a nun for some few seconds. Diego is involved in various table tennis video productions for Killerspin and USATT.

At the round robin, they have two divisions. One division is 1800 and one division is below 1800. Diego put me in the below 1800 division. I won that division. I had one unfortunate event where one of the players felt very frustrated by playing against long pips. He told me later he can’t play against long pips players. The frustration was expressive on his face when the game started. I gave him high balls so that he can hit, but he seems to get back to the frustration mood after seeing no spin and under spin balls.

After the round robin, I had some good time with some top rated players who loved my chops. They told me it is fun playing against me because of various spin shots that I can generate. I regret I could not play in the 1800 group. I felt that is okay -  it is my responsibility to win more matches and get my rating high.

I’m planning for the next visit to Los Angeles soon. I should be playing in the 1800 group then.

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