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William Henzell's Blog July 28, 2014

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.

We started competing last with the group stage of the teams event. We had a fairly tough draw with Malaysia in our group; we were seeded 6th and Malaysia 9th with the winner getting an easier draw in the round of 16. We scraped through 3-2 in a tight scrappy match. I didn’t feel very comfortable on court in what was our first test of the Games but used my experience and did enough to win my matches. The win should have given us a good draw for the next round but an upset in another group saw 5th seed Canada finish second in their group and be drawn to play us for a place in the quarter-final. The losing team would be done and out of medal contention. Canada has a strong Chinese, Eugene Wang, player ranked a fair way ahead of me at no. 66. Having a strong number 1 is important in a teams format as he can single handedly win 2 of the 3 matches required, so we were underdogs going in.

I started against Eugene in cracking form. Against a player of that level you can’t afford to get any part of your game wrong. You must be aggressive, serve and receive serve well, be confident in your shots and be settled mentally. If any of those are off then you aren’t going to win. I won two close first sets and was 2 points from victory at 10-10 in the 3rd set. He edged ahead and took the set. He really lifted his game in the 4th set surging ahead to an 8-1 lead. He played an overly confident shot on that next point and missed by metres. He had relaxed enough to be going for brash shots and the next step on that downwards spiral is the attack of the nerves. I clawed back point after point and suddenly had match point at 12-11. I got another chance at 13-12 and felt good. I won the point and was ecstatic at having turned a seemingly hopeless situation around. Our no. 2 player won his match 11-9 in the deciding 5th set which meant I had the chance to close out the match in my next singles match. The next Canadian was weaker than the first and I took a 3-0 victory.

Next up were 4th seeds Nigeria for a spot in the medal rounds. We lost to Nigeria 3-2 in the quarters at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and I had a match point in that game to take us to the semi-finals. That match was one of the reasons that I took 18 months off work at Slater & Gordon and headed to Europe to throw everything I had at preparing for the 2012 Olympic Games. I got back to my desk on level 9 and stared at the wall, tormented by wondering if it would have been a different outcome if I’d been playing more seriously and working less. In addition, my Aussie team had also been knocked out of the 2002 and 2006 Comm Games with 3-2 in the quarters, so I was going to give this one my all.

I started poorly in my first match and lost the 2 first sets. I was playing poorly, felt terribly uncomfortable and had no rhythm at all in my game. In that situation I must go back to the absolute basics, rely on steering the game towards my core tactical strengths and hoping they work. Fortunately they did and I was able to turn the match around winning the next 3 sets comfortably. Our no. 2 lost his match 3-1 and our doubles pair lost their match in a tough 5 set battle. I faced off against the 2002 Commonwealth Games gold medallist to keep us in the match. I started poorly again losing the first set and was set point down in the 2nd set. I fought back taking the 2nd and 3rd sets 12-10 and then won the 4th set 11-7 to level the teams match at 2-2. Our no. 3 didn’t find his game in the deciding match losing 3-0 and our teams event was over.

Part of having left table tennis emotionally behind me after my final big push in London in 2012 is that I don’t get as happy as I used to when winning and don’t get as down as I used to after losing. My whole world used to rise and fall on these results, which is completely draining, whereas now I’m fine with having lost yesterday and moved on straight away. I think this new found peace has allowed me to make better decisions when under pressure and my results have been far better than what they should have been given my focus has been on my professional career for the past 2 years. I’ve had two of my best ever wins in recent months and haven’t previously gone undefeated through the teams at the Comm Games. I may have done some things differently during my career with this in hindsight.

Published date: 
Tue, 07/29/2014 - 02:45