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William Henzell's Blog November 4, 2014

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. There is a highlights package of my match against Mattenet on youtube here BUT they have inexplicably cut out possibly the shot of my career – a backhand topspin round the net against a wide pendulum serve. To see that shot, you’ll need to go to , find my match against Mattenet under “2014 ITTF Men’s World Cup, Dusseldorf” and scroll to 30:44mins into the match. It is worth the effort in my very humble opinion, if you'd like to see one of the 3 spectacular shots I've hit in my career.

The game against Gionis was my first match against a defender since the 2012 Olympic Games and my first match with the new plastic ball so there was some rapid adjustment needed. I’ve been training with the new balls for the past couple of months but I’m still learning every time I play with them. I’ll add my thoughts in my next blog about how the plastic ball will change the game of table tennis.

I played pretty well against Gionis but lost 0-4. I had set points in 1 set and a lead in another but apart from that he always seemed to be a couple of points ahead. I found the new ball bounces quite differently against defensive players; there is less spin in general and the ball bounces up higher. It makes for considerably different timing and a big change from them good 'ol days.

Mattenet beat Gionis 4-0 which meant I needed to beat Mattenet 4-0 to have any chance of progressing. I had played him once before in 2011 losing narrowly in 7 games. I thought my game matched up pretty well against his. The important factor for me being that my fast and up close to the table game cuts down on his time and options. I couldn’t afford to let him find his distance back from the table as he is very skilful at lobbing, fishing and counterspinning once he has found that distance.

I had a good lead in the first set but lost 11-7, fought back to take the 2nd set 14-12 before losing the 3rd 12-10. I was finding that my movement was poorly lacking. I was just not making the small (and often large) adjustments needed to get to the ball at just the right millisecond to time the ball well. It felt like I was making simple errors but they were mostly movement related.

I turned around a big deficit in the 4th set to win 11-8 then led 100-8 in the 5th set; a defining moment in the match. I had him back from the table and his counterspin clipped the top of the net. He made 3 unbelievable backhand flicks on the next 3 points and went up 3 sets to 2. I won the 6th set easily but was always behind in the 7th, losing 11-6.

I found that I have developed my serve quite a bit and improved my ability to move the placement and spin on my tomahawk. Against good players, being able to vary and keep them guessing is just so important. I’m feeling equally comfortable serving from my backhand, middle or forehand and equally comfortable placing it to either spot. I still have some issues mixing the spin as well as I would like but it’s a work in progress. I do wish I’d placed a bigger emphasis on mixing my serves up earlier in my career as I was too afraid of trying new things.

I think I’m in a pretty good place mentally with table tennis. I’m ok with winning and ok with losing and am now able to move on quickly after matches without pondering what might have happened differently. It’s made it 100 times more enjoyable to play tournaments, something I’ve never really enjoyed doing.

Published date: 
Wed, 11/05/2014 - 21:30