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William Henzell's Blog April 3, 2013

I've had a long and busy period of competition recently with 4 tournaments in past 4 weeks. The results have been acceptable and probably to be expected, at best. Last week the Australian teams travelled to Guangzhou in southern China to compete in the World Team Cup. This year's event saw a return to the old playing format (for the past few years the weaker countries from South America, North America, Oceania and Africa have played our own knockout tournament first, with just the winner progressing) and we were drawn to play against Japan (seeded no. 3) and Chinese Taipei (seeded no. 6). Tough opponents!

My competitions over the previous weeks had been a mix of scraping through, playing poorly, giving my all and losing motivation. I was reminded at the Australian Top 10 two weeks ago just how difficult it is to keep coming out and beating the Australian players 100% of the time. I suffered two losses on one day which is more than the last few years combined. I think a big part of the reason I've been able to stay at the top for so many years is that I'm able to motivate myself to stay as focused and passionate as I need to be in order to win. If I'm not extremely dedicated to the task at hand then I'm no better than the other players. By the end of the 2nd loss, I was particularly unhappy with my form and my mental level in general. I went home that night feeling disappointed and decided I was going to do what I could to turn it around. Fortunately there was a new tournament the next day so I got my chance to redeem myself soon. I arrived with a completely differently mentality and was pleased that I could still deliver, winning all my matches 4-0, including against one of the players I had lost to the day before. An important reminder about what it is going to take from me mentally to stay on top.

In our first match we played Japan and I faced world no. 23 Koki Niwa. I started well going ahead 6-2 but he clawed back to win the 1st set 11-9. My consistency was all over the place and I mixed great shots with some shockers. Some of my misses were just plain embarrassing. I was trying to overhit my shots and play too hard in general. 8 months ago when I was in the form of my life at the Olympics I would have been able to play at that pace, but I'm a few kgs heavier, my legs are slower and my shots are nowhere near as polished. Niwa is left handed and I struggled badly with his serves. I haven't trained with a left hander since July last year and I felt incapable to returning his serve well. In the 2nd and 3rd sets I would have made 4 or 5 errors directly against the serve. I had to try to be aggressive but could not find the right balance between going for my shots and going too hard for my shots. I lost 3-0. We had a good shot at the doubles, taking Niwa and world no. 48 Kenta Matsudira to 5 sets. I felt happy enough with my play and that I had done my best on the day.

The next day we played Chinese Taipei and I faced world no. 47 Chen Chien-An. I started brilliantly, leading 5-0 and taking the first set 11-5. I took another 5-0 lead in the 2nd set and led 8-5. I was playing almost flawlessly - using my backhand flick well against his serve and using my tomahawk serve from the wide backhand into his short forehand to good effect. I've found left handers really hate it if you can use the tomahawk out wide to the forehand. They are often hesitant to flick with the forehand. I missed a couple of easy shots after that and overhit a couple of others and lost. I led 10-8 in the 3rd set but could not close it out, losing 12-10. I just didn't have the shots when it counted to break through and take the match. Even though it's only another 5%, that probably equates to at least 10 - 15 hours of additional training over the past 6 months. I was done at that stage and succumbed 11-1 in the 4th set. We again played well in the doubles but lost 3-2.

These were my first tournaments for 6 months and I can't be too disappointed with the outcomes. The challenge now will be to try to maintain 3 training sessions per week for the rest of the season.

Published date: 
Wed, 04/03/2013 - 19:15