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William Henzell's Blog August 4, 2014

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. A 3-0 loss to Singapore in the quarter final ended our run with a respectable 5th place.

I hadn’t felt pressure for the whole Games until I started the early rounds of the singles. Whereas I had just played to do my best up until then, I felt like I was playing not to lose in my first match. I was tired and not enjoying it all. In that state I lose creativity in my game which makes me too predictable, and can create a frustrating downward spiral. The singles event is best of 7 sets, which gives you more time to get out of trouble than in the shorter best of 5 format. The Malaysian, Ashraf (those who attended the Australian Open in June may remember my match against him there), I was facing in the round of 32 is a good player and could beat me on his day. He's got a strong open game with powerful counterspins and first attacks. I was on the ropes when down 2 sets to 1 and scores tied at 10-10. I took that set 12-10, the next set 14-12 and finally the 6th set with 11-8. I was relieved, but disappointed with not finding my own game and not having been able to enjoy the match at all.

In my next match I faced the Scottish no. 1 Gavin Rumgay who received a stack of media publicity here for his celebratory front wedgie a few days earlier ( The match was on a main court and there was a sell-out crowd of 2,500 rowdy Scots. I relished the opportunity to play in that atmosphere, where each point he won was followed by a deafening roar. I’ve played enough matches in front of empty stands in my life to know that any atmosphere is great atmosphere. I played pretty well, controlling most of the match with good tactical play. I had 3-1 lead in sets and 10-7, meaning 3 match points, but tensed up and squandered them all. The crowd sensed a comeback and gave it to me as best they could. I gained another couple, saved a couple of his and finally secured a 4-1 victory to take me to the quarter final. Rumgay is an entertainer and an asset for our sport.

The quarter was very tough, against the no. 1 seed Gao Ning representing Singapore, who is ranked no. 12 in the world. I’m ranked at 115 so it was going to be a tough ask. He is particularly consistent and an expert at manoeuvring his opponents around the court with excellent control and touch. I felt my best chance was to go hard on my shots, which isn’t my usual strategy, but was right for this match. The tactics worked but I was not able to maintain good enough consistency at crunch times. I had 3 set points in the 1st set but lost, which proved costly. I managed to win the 3rd set but went down 4-1 to finish 5th in the singles.

This is the Commonwealth Games out of my 4 that I’ve enjoyed playing the most. I haven’t really enjoyed competing at the others. Athletes train and compete for many different reasons; I play for the daily (now weekly) grind of trying to improve my game and rarely enjoyed the immense pressure I heaped on myself to perform well. My more recent years in the workforce have introduced me to a more balanced cross-section of society rather than just my fellow single minded table tennis foes, but I’m happy to have seen both sides of the fence. I do wish I’d tried harder during my career to enjoy competing more and will continue to make this my main focus for as long as I continue competing.

Glasgow has done a wonderful job of holding the Games. I can’t remember a Commonwealth Games or Olympics where the thousands of volunteers have been more helpful or happy to do whatever they could to make our stay as enjoyable as possible. It’s far exceeded any expectations I could have had. The village has wound down and is pretty quiet at this late stage as many teams have already left.

Our top women’s player Jian Fang Lay and I were two of twenty Aussie athletes up on stage last night in the closing ceremony for the formal handing over of the Games from Scotland to Australia (the next Comm Games is on the Gold Coast in 2018). We were wedged in between Jessica Mauboy and Kylie Minogue’s performances but spent 3 hours waiting around in preparation for about 15 seconds of flag waving at the back of the stage!!

I leave Glasgow with my table tennis future is up in the air and I’m not sure where it will land. I surprised myself by how well I played here and that I enjoyed competing. However I’m enjoying work immensely, am looking at doing additional study and there’s only so many hours in the day. We depart tonight and I’m looking forward to running into you later this week! Finally, a big thanks for your kind words of encouragement throughout the Games!!

Published date: 
Mon, 08/04/2014 - 22:30