I competed at the World Singles Cup in Dusseldorf, Germany last week. It was my 7th time competing at the event. The format changes from year to year and this one saw the top 8 players go directly through to the Round of 16 and the other 16 players fight it out in a round robin group format. I was drawn in a group with World no. 21 Panagiotis Gionis from Greece and World no. 58 Adrien Mattenet from France. A good group I thought.
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The team event had taken a fair bit out of me and Games fatigue also began setting in. The same surrounds, food, routine, etc day in and day out. I started my individual events with men’s doubles and mixed doubles. I think my game is better suited to singles than doubles, especially now that my speed around the court has slowed down in my older years. David Powell and I went out in the round of 16 in the men’s doubles which left probably my best medal chance; the mixed. My partner Miao Miao and I scraped through two rounds, narrowly winning both matches in the deciding 5th set.
We spent a week training in Shandong, China before heading over here to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games. The training was intense and excellent. I was training with of mix of their younger players (16 -18) and junior national team members. I’d say my level is somewhere in-between the two. We did 6 hours of training most days which was extremely draining and overwhelming, but what we needed to toughen us up for Glasgow.
It's been a completely action packed past 2 weeks for me. Firstly, we had the 2014 Australian National Championships over in Perth two weekends ago. I was forced to skip the team event this year due to work commitments and went over just for the men’s singles and doubles (with new partner David Powell following Robert Frank’s retirement). The nationals is one of the events I rate most highly personally. Winning my first title back in 2001 is still one of my proudest moments as a player as becoming the champion of your country is such a great honour.
My lead-up to the upcoming Commonwealth Games is well underway. There are two-and-a-half weeks until the Aussie team leaves for a week of training in Chengdu, China, before continuing to Glasgow for the Games. It’s almost a month to the day until we play our first matches.
Last weekend I played in the 2014 Australian Open in Sydney. It’s the first time in 15 years the event has been part of the World Tour and featured the strongest field we’ve seen compete in Australia since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
My preparation for the event had been poor; a stubborn bout of the flu, the realities of family responsibilities as well as a busy period at work meant I only practiced a few short hours in the weeks before the event. I had low expectations coming into the tournament.
To start with, a video from yesterday's play at the the German Open, where German Steffen Mengel beat former World and Olympic Champion Wang Hao from China. Proof that very, very tall players can do well and perhaps the beginning of the end for Wang Hao. When top Chinese players Ma Lin (2008 Olympic Champion) and Wang Liqin (3 times World Singles Champions) began losing to much lower players, it didn't take long until their international careers were over.
After a long break from competition of around 4 months, I got back into the swing of things last weekend. I competed at the Australian Commonwealth Games Qualifying event on the Gold Coast for a place in the Australian team that will compete in Glasgow in July this year. The Commonwealth Games is the 2nd highest event for Australian players, after the Olympic Games. These events only come around once every 4 years so the qualifying tournaments are tense high pressure affairs with everyone battling for a few precious spots.
It's about time to sum up another year of table tennis. 2013 has been a pretty quiet year, when compared to 2012. 2012 saw 100% focus on table tennis, playing full-time in Europe with regular Pro Tour events, World Championships and of course the Olympic Games where I was in the form of my life, finishing 17th in the Singles.
I competed at the World Singles Cup in Belgium the week before last and was happy with how it all went. The World Cup is one of the best tournaments to play. There's only a small number of players (18 at this one) which means you receieve great treatment throughout. This World Cup was no different and the players were well taken care of.