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Photo of Joo Se Hyuk
Greg in action - well, it could be me instead of Joo Se Hyuk - except I'm not Korean, about 20kg heavier, 10 years older, and if I bent that low I probably wouldn't get back up again! But I look that good when I play - trust me!
Photo by: Mariann Domonkos, courtesy www.ittf.com

Friday 19th October 2006

Just letting you know that I have restarted my blog, but on my About.com site. So if you want to read more of my ramblings, you can go there to read my new table tennis blog!

Thursday 15th September 2006

Well, better late than never, that's what they say! So here we go with a quick roundup of the 2006 Australian Open. For anyone interested, I've got some good photos of the top players up at my About.com site.

These points are in no particular order, just as they come to mind.

1) Big improver - George Tang - moved up to No.2 on the Order of Merit. George has really stepped it up this year.

2) Injuries - 2 Singaporean women sprained ankles - causing about 4 or 5 redraws of the Womens Singles! The floor was a bit slippery but not too bad really.

3) Sickness - William Henzell was ill throughout the week, and missed several matches. This dropped him down the Order of Merit to no.4 for Aussies.

4) Big matches - the VIC vs NSW and VIC vs SA matches were both crackers - going to the wire 5-4 each time to VIC. In the Vic vs SA, the Viccies were actually down 4-2 (Henzell bt Kyle Davis and Robbie Frank, Scott Houston bt Kyle, Piers Carter bt Robbie) but the Vics fought back, with Simon Gerada beating William, then Robbie beating Scott, and Kyle beating Piers. I taped the Vic vs NSW match, but have only got part of the VIC vs SA match, after I was requested to stop filming certain Victorian players. So basically no-one else is ever going to get see what was some great table tennis. Too bad I guess.

5) Singapore was pretty dominant overall, with the odd win to an Aussie here and there in the teams. The roof nearly came off when Simon Gerada beat the Singaporean chopper in the teams match!

6) It was still 3 matches a day on the Mon and Tues for the men - a pretty hard schedule. The women had a nicer schedule with 2 matches a day max.

7) Paul Pinkewich came over to play the singles, and beat myself (darn it), then Andy Shih and Piers Carter enroute to losing to Simon Gerada in a quarterfinal.

8) Who didn't play well - I could get in trouble with this one so I think I'll pass - take a look at the results on the TTA website and decide for yourself.

9) Things you won't see often - the Singapore team helping to put the barriers away at the end of the finals night. These guys and girls are professionals, and they still were happy to help clean up after. Two thumbs up!

On a personal note, I was only reasonably happy with how I played at the Open. I finished with 9 wins and 12 losses, with a couple of close games that could have gone either way. I've still got more things to work on, and I'll be looking at coming back to next years championships another notch better!

OK, that's it for the year. I'm going to take a break from blogging for a while, and maybe resurrect my blog over on my About.com site later on, if I feel up to it. Hope you enjoyed having a read every now and again of how things were going - it's been fun!


Tuesday 8th August 2006

Well, the Australian Open Championships are nearly upon us - it will all start this week on Sunday 13th August. I'll do my best to keep you updated each night.

The WA teams are looking forward to the challenge - we've been doing a bit of training together in the last month, which has definitely helped some of our players who haven't done much training for a while. So we are hoping to do a bit of damage here and there next week.

Our teams for the Nationals are as follows:

Mens Team: Greg Letts (c), Jeff Drew, Craig Campbell, Morten Kilden, Russell Stein.

Womens Team: Becky Sparkes (c), Yuko Mayama, Nicole Low, Nanako Nomura, Nita Teoh.

So am I ready? Well, I'm playing pretty well at the moment. This week I'll just be fine-tuning a few things - working on my serve to keep it sharp, a bit of robot practice to keep my defence technique up to scratch, and some mental visualisation. Nothing too heavy, it's too late for big changes now - what I've got is what I'm going to have to use at the Nationals. I want to be as fresh as I can for when things get going.

Naturally enough, I'll be bringing my video camera along to get as much footage as I can. With many of the top players in Australia, along with players from Singapore, New Zealand and The Phillipines, there should be plenty of great matches to choose from.

Anyway, a deep breath and away we go!


Sunday 16th July

OK, time to report in from the State Open finals night.

I had a pretty good night all round - the only black spot was that I forgot to attach my video camera tripod connector and had to tie my video camera to the tripod with string!

Once I got over that bit of stupidity, everything else went pretty well - here's a summary of the night as it happened.

Mixed Doubles Final - Greg Letts/ Nita Teoh vs Chris Hibbert/ Yuko Mayama. A 3-2 win to myself and Nita - our first title out of about 3 or 4 finals in the mixed. It was a pretty close game, and a little bit of luck on our side here and there tipped the balance in our favour.

Womens Doubles Final - Becky Sparkes/ Nanako Nomura d Yuko Mayama/ Nita Teoh 3-2. Yuko and Nita came out firing to take a 2-0 lead, then lost the 3rd 1-11! The fifth was close, with Becky and Nanako coming from about 6-4 down to win it around 11-8.

Mens Doubles Final - Craig Campbell/ Greg Letts d Chris Hibbert/ Gio Cnapich 3-1. At 1-all it felt fairly close, then Craig and I slowly got on top and managed to keep it that way.

Ladies Singles Final - Becky Sparkes d Yuko Mayama 4-1. Becky won the first comfortably, then Yuko did the same in the second. The third was close but Becky got there around 11-8 or 11-9. The fourth saw Becky begin to pull away, and the fifth saw Becky really turn it on and finish in style with a 11-3 or so win.

Mens Singles Final - Greg Letts d Jeff Drew 4-1. The first three felt pretty close, but I managed to win them with some good serving, solid defence with the right amount of attacking to break things up, and a little bit of luck here and there too! I wasn't really expecting to be 3-0 up, and then Jeff came out harder in the fourth as he does when under pressure, and took it fairly easily at around 11-6. The fifth was a strange game to me - I started off just sticking with my mental management system of focusing hard on running my mental program when serving and returning serve. I think I was 5-3, then 9-5 up, at which point I began to realise I had a good chance to win. I had to get my mental program running again, and got to 10-5, at which point I definitely started to think about winning. Lost the next point to go to 10-6, and for a brief second had a vision of losing from 10-5 up! Went back to my mental program and won the next point for a 11-6 win in the fifth. (I've briefly put the 5 games up on my free videos page for anyone interested in taking a look.)

I should have been doing some visualisation of the match and its progress before the big day, and then I wouldn't have had such a problem at the end. If I'd already been running it through my head about what I would do when I'm about to win, I would have been better prepared.

Anyway, it was great to win a triple crown, especially my first Mens Singles Title and first Mixed Doubles title. Very special moments to me. To put it in perspective though, Jeff has won 10 Mens Singles Titles over the last 25 years or so. He wasn't quite at his best on the night, and I definitely had more of the luck this time around, but he fought hard as always and things definitely could have been different with just a shot or two hitting or missing either way.

Congratulations also to the other winners of the titles, including juniors and special events. I'll see if I can get hold of the results and post them all elsewhere on the site.


Wednesday 12th July 2006

This is just going to be a quick update on how things are going - I'll do a fuller blog later on in the week.

At the moment, we are in the middle of the Western Australia State Open - our big local tournament of the year.

Last night I got through to the final of the Mens Doubles (with Craig Campbell) and Mixed Doubles (with Nita Teoh), which will be played on this Friday night - Finals night.

Tonight will see the Mens Singles and Womens Singles being played. I have a pretty good chance of making the final this year, with a couple of juniors in my opening group, then a likely match against Mike Andrews, and if I win that, a semifinal matchup most probably against Craig Campbell or Richard Ajayi. Provided I keep playing well I'm pretty confident I should make it through to the final, but you never know - any of those three players have the ability to play some great table tennis. So I'm quietly confident but not expecting any easy matches - I'll be as prepared as I can be and they will find me tough to beat over a best of seven.

I'll write again after the finals night to report on how things went.


Tuesday 27th June 2006

Since my last blog update, another tournament and the Grand Prix Finals have come and gone.

The Fremantle tournament was pretty good, I finished runner-up to Jeff Drew with a 2-4 loss, but a pretty good match. Won the Mens Doubles (with Ken Aitkenhead) and the Mixed Doubles (with Nita) so not a bad day all round.

The Grand Prix Finals came down to the final match against Jeff Drew (yet again!). I had earlier defeated Becky Sparkes, Morten Kilden, and Craig Campbell in my group, then Gio Cnapich in the semifinal, so I had a pretty good run to that point.

I went 2-0 up against Jeff, before he fought back and took the next two games with good use of variation. The final game was pretty close until about 7-all, and then Jeff took the last few points to come out with a 3-2 win and the No.1 spot for the Grand Prix overall. Well done Jeff.

Training-wise, I'm still working on some technique issues - I want to get my chop a little lower and more consistent. I'm pretty happy with the rest of my game, but I'm also doing a little more service practice as well. My fitness is pretty good, I'm not having any trouble getting through several matches, which bodes well for the Nationals.

Our State Open Tournament is coming up in a few weeks, so now it's time to get ready for that, and the Nationals is just a few weeks after the States, so we are getting to the business end of things now. Just got to keep things going smoothly and fine tune a few bits and pieces - now is not the time for radical changes.


Thursday 8th June 2006

The tournament on the weekend has come and gone, and I'm reasonably happy with my results. I lost to Jeff Drew in the final 4-2, but came away with an idea or two on what I need to work on to lift my game a little more. I won the Mens Doubles with Ken Aitkenhead, and was runner-up in the Mixed Doubles (2-3) with my partner Nita. So not too bad overall.

I'm back into training again, with an eye to working on a couple of technical matters that I need to bring up to scratch. I'm moving around fairly well, although I could still be a bit lighter. I'm hoping to drop a few more kilograms before the Nationals start.

Other than that, I'm putting in a lot of time on the About.com site, in the hopes of getting it up and going smoothly as soon as possible. The previous guide had 7 or 8 years to build up his content, so I've got a lot of work ahead of me to keep his momentum going.


Tuesday 30th May 2006

Yep - I know it's been a while since I last wrote. Let's just say that between taking over the About.com table tennis site, doing jury duty (what a thrill) and various other bits and pieces, I've been keeping busy!

Training: I haven't been doing as much of this as I would like. I'm starting to get into a routine again, and am hoping to get a lot more training done before the Nationals in August.

Competition: I've been playing pennants, and a couple of tournaments and Grand Prixs have come and gone since the my last blog. I've been doing OK, although I naturally would like to be winning them all. I've got a lot more work to do before I'll be able to dominate the local scene though, on fitness, technique and tactics.

I've got another tournament this weekend, so I'll post next week to let you know how it turned out.


Tuesday 18th April 2006

Just writing a quick entry to show that I didn't die from the cold I mentioned in my last blog!

Actually, a lot's been happening since my last blog entry, which has sidetracked me a bit from doing much on the website lately. I'll fill in more details of what's being going on when I have time in a week or two.

Anyway, here's the quick summary version of what I've been doing table tennis-wise in the last 3 weeks.

Training - pretty much same as usual. Had a cold for a week or so which didn't help much. Will be returning to my weight training this week. Weight is around 84kg.

Mental Training - have restarted my next lot of directive affirmations. Am getting fairly used to the routine now on the table, but need to do more of the off-table stuff.

Competition - have been doing OK at pennants - haven't lost a match since Gio, so I'm now 11/12. I won the Scarborough tournament in early April, but lost in the third round of the Grand Prix (didn't make the semis - not a great night). I'll eventually get around to writing up reviews of these events as time permits.


Friday 24th March 2006

This week's blog is going to be a short one - I think I'm catching a cold and haven't got the attention span to write anything too long!

Training - business as usual. Weight was stable this week. Still haven't got back into the weights yet - next week I think.

Mental Training - back into gear. Started with the Directive Affirmations again.

Competition - played pennants on Wednesday, against the Morley Magic team. Played OK against Chris Hibbert (3-0) and Craig Campbell (3-1), but lost to Giovanni Cnapich 2-3. I had my chances but Gio kept at it and in the end he produced a very good change of tactics at around 4-all in the 5th. He played a few soft balls, which I missed with my backhand attack. That got him a 8-4 lead, and he proceeded to relax and hit some powerful attacks for winners to take the game 11-4 and the match 3-2.

I'd give myself a score of about 6 out of 10 on the night. My mental focus wasn't great - had to keep dragging me mind back on the table and my mental programs. I was playing some really bad shots every so often as well - shots where I had seen Gio hit push with his long pimples and I had failed to adjust, putting the ball high in the air or off the table. Silly stuff like that. I think that I was tired mentally and it was reflected in my play. Physically I was OK though, and I still had chances to win, so it's not all bad. So well done to Gio and I'll do my best to be better next time.


Friday 17th March 2006

Been watching a bit of the Commonwealth Games table tennis on Channel 9 today - saw the Australian Womens Team defeat Nigeria. Well done ladies!

That aside, here is what has been happening here over the last week.

Training - back into training with Frank on Tuesdays, and Mike and Colin on Wednesdays. At the moment I'm focussing mainly on serve return, getting back far enough when defending, and improving my forehand defensive technique. So far, all is going well, but obviously still a fair way to go.

On the fitness side of things, I was a little worried since I was a bit tired for a couple of days - Sunday and Monday. I didn't want a recurrence of my previous fatigue problems. But I think it was just not enough sleep - I was fine again after a couple of good night's kip.

My weight is now 85.75kg (13 and a half stone or 189 pounds for those of you still using the old measurements). Bodyfat is around 13.6%. I still haven't got back into any really heavy training sessions, but I'll start back on the weights probably tomorrow, and bring in the aerobics and robot again next week. In the meantime, my private coaching that I have been doing, plus on table training, competitions and pennants still seems to be getting the weight down. Considering I was 93kg (205 pounds) and 19% bodyfat back in October things are going pretty well. Still no photos just yet though!

Mental Training - I lent my book to another player when I was in Albany, and even though I have already made notes of the main areas I am working on, that seems to have halted my thinking about the mental side. I haven't been using my Directive Affirmations at all - will start back on them as soon as I get off the computer today. I've still been using my mental programs during training and pennants though, which is good.

Competition - I've had a good run over the last few weeks, all things considered. As written in my report about the second round of the Grand Prix, I managed to notch up another win - actuallly the first time I have won a round of the Grand Prix ever! I had a pretty good night, with second round wins over Morten Kilden 3-1, and Becky Sparkes 3-0, a semifinal win over Gio Cnapich 3-0 , and a win in the final over Craig Campbell 3-1.

I am definitely playing better this year, I can feel it and the results are starting to show it as well. Don't get me wrong - I don't feel invincible. But I do feel that I'm getting pretty tough to beat - so anyone wanting to win against me is going to have to really earn it. But it's not like I'm a whole level above the other guys - maybe an edge against most of them, and I feel like I'm pretty much level with Jeff (we've only played once so far this season). Putting it in perspective, I've won a couple of competitions in a row, but Jeff Drew has beening winning consistently for the last 10 years or so over here, so I'd better not get too far ahead of myself!

Anyway I do feel pretty good at present. I still have the prospect of dropping a few more kilos which should improve my speed and stamina, and allow me to train a bit harder, as well as several improvements that I know are there to be made in my technique and mental training. If I can continue to work on and improve these points I have a fair amount of confidence that I will go to this years Nationals as a much better player. Whether that will be enough to move me up the ranks within sight of the top 10 I'll find out later on.

Finally, Summer Pennants has wound up this week, and we're getting straight into Winter Pennants next week. My team will play the top team (Morley Magic) in the first round - their team consists of Giovanni Cnapich (#2 WA Mens ranking in 2005), Craig Campbell (ranked #4), and Chris Hibbert (ranked #8) - so it's going to be a tough night.

I'll keep you posted on how it went in next weeks blog. Until then, go the Aussie table tennis teams in the Commonwealth Games!


Friday 10th March 2006

It's been a busy week, so let's get right down to it.

Training - training has been mainly on the backburner this week. What with the Albany tournament on the weekend, and the Grand Prix Round 2 tonight, I've been wary of doing too much heavy work before the competitions.

I missed my training session with Frank, since I was still driving back from Albany on Tuesday, but I did have my Wednesday session with Mike and Colin.

I had enough time for a quick glance at the video of Mike, Colin, and me before leaving for Albany. Straight away a couple of things jumped out at me - firstly, Mike and Colin were spot on about me playing to close to the table, and needing to take the ball more to the side of my body instead of too far in front. The other glaring fault I noticed was with my forehand chop. Colin gets down on the forehand chop using his knees to lower himself, so that his torso stays fairly upright. In comparison, I wasn't bending my knees enough, and trying to compensate by bending from my waist instead. Result - Colin stays nicely balanced and smooth through his stroke, even if the ball is inches from the floor. I was losing balance on the forehand, and my chops were going too high, and it got worse as the ball got lower and I bent from my waist even more. I'll see if I can add a couple of clips to demonstrate later. (Note: Clips have been added - username and password is gttp4 - Colin Bowler - Greg Letts) Anyway, I had a good mental picture of how I needed to perform my forehand chop before going to Albany, which turned out to be very helpful, as I'll talk about later.

Fitness-wise, as I said, I haven't done a lot of heavy training since my last blog. I have played a tournament on the weekend, followed the next day by my partner dragging me up Mount Lindesay just north of Denmark, a 3hr return trek to a 400m high peak. So it's not like I've just been sitting on the beach somewhere.

I'm now at 86.25 kg, at a bodyfat of about 13.8%. Not bad considering I wasn't watching my diet too carefully while I was away.

Mental Training - I'm starting back on the Mental Affirmations today, and I'll run the 21 days to the end of March. This mental training proved to be of great value to me in the Albany tournament, which I'll get to next.

Competition - I'll make a quick mention of my progress in the Albany tournament here, and write a full account of the event in the Table Tennis in Western Australia section later today, with luck.

Mens Singles - I was seeded #3, and came through my early rounds with comfortable wins over Ricky Weight, Steve Burnet, and Peter Williams. This brought me through to the semi-final against #2 seed Gio Cnapich. I was expecting a tough match here, and this is exactly what I got. Again, I was focussing on returning 2 chops in a row as often as possible, to make Gio hit that vital 3rd attack.

Thanks to my video review of my technique, my forehand chop had improved and I was able to do this successfully on a number of occasions, and in the end this made the difference. I won the first game, and was down about 9-6 in the second when I refocussed on my match plan and running my mental program before serving and returning serve. I went on to take the next 5 points and the game 11-9. This was a crucial point in the match, since I was now 2-0 up instead of 1-1.

Gio fought back to take the next game, but couldn't keep it up for the next 2 games and I ran out the winner 4-1. It's never easy against Gio, but I felt I played that match tactically well and was defending quite strongly. I was then looking forward to the final.

The final was me against the #1 seed, Jeff Drew, who had defeated the unseeded Chris Hibbert 4-2 in the second semi-final. Chris had earlier beaten the #4 seed, Irwin Parker, and was playing his brand of defense and attack very well. Jeff was just a little bit stronger on the big points against Chris but had to work hard to take the match.

The final started with Jeff getting off to a good start, leading about 8-4 or so with the help of a couple of nice loops onto the net and onto the table, while I was stranded several metres back from the table. While I still don't like having nets and edges against me (who does!), I find that it is not affecting me as much this year - mainly because I'm mentally too busy concentrating on running my mental programs from the "With Winning in Mind" book. These days I've got better things to do then worry about whether my opponent is hitting more nets and edges than me. Anyway, I carried on, caught up, and snuck the first game something like 11-9 or 12-10. This was a huge boost since I was now 1-0 up where it had looked like I was going to be 0-1 down. Plus I really wanted to put some pressure on Jeff and see how he would react. This was our first match of the year and I wanted to establish my intentions for this year straight away.

Back to the match. In the second game, I was running smoothly, and my defense was working solidly. I was concentrating on being that extra step further back, and making sure I used my knees to get low to the ball, instead of bending from the waist. This really helped me to keep my chops lower and my balance and movement better, and I ran out the game around 11-6.

I'm now 2-0 up, and having hopes of a 4-0 whitewash. Jeff had different ideas though, and responded by taking the next 3 games of the match to lead 3-2. He was moving the ball around well, and often forcing me to lob the ball to try to regain my position. I don't think I actually got more than 1 lob on in those three games, although the umpire told me later I was missing the end of the table by a couple of inches every time!

So now it's Jeff who's 3-2 up, and I'm fighting for survival. The smart money would be on Jeff to keep on rolling to a 4-2 win, and in fact this looks pretty likely as we slug it out in the sixth game. The rallies are long and tiring, and the pressure is on, but Jeff keeps a point or two ahead until he's leading 10-8, with the serve. Jeff looks tired to me, but then I'm not as fresh as I was at the start of the match either. We've been playing some huge rallies, and both of us have been working hard throughout.

So what do you do now? I focussed as hard as I could on my mental program, making sure that I'm seeing myself watch the contact and making a good return. I watch his serve contact like a hawk, and even get to make a couple of attacks as Jeff gives me a couple of pushes. 10-9. Then 10-all as I make another backhand attack - I damn near miss the ball, but get enough contact to throw the ball high with good spin, and Jeff blocks it long. Phew!

The crowd is going nuts at this stage - I think they want to see a seventh game, it's no reflection on Jeff or me. I focus hard on my serve mental program and get a serve winner (I think!). 11-10 me. Then back to Jeff's serve and I defend solidly again, getting the point and the game 12-10. The spectators applaud - they are going to get one more game after all.

Seventh and final game - I'm pumped and feeling good after saving a couple of match points. I'm still in there, still fairly fit, and looking forward to the last. I'm not looking at Jeff, just focussing on my match plan, and noting that I have to concentrate on good defense (no lobs), with the occasional attack to try to break his rhythm.

We start fairly evenly, round about 2-all. Then Jeff is pushing a few more balls where normally he would attack, and making a couple of mistakes, and we are switching ends at 5-2 to me. What am I thinking as we swap ends? Stuff like the following - Jeff hasn't attacked much at all this game - a choke or is he tired? Jeff used to get a bit nervous, but I've seen him win too many close matches over the last few years to think he's getting tight. We've been playing over an hour by this stage, so I'm betting he's probably worn out. (At this point, Jeff and I had both played a semifinal, the Mens Doubles Final, and then another hour of this final). How do I feel? Not fresh, but I could still play another 5 or 6 games no problem. OK - let's make him work for it.

Jeff came back with a few more attacks, but his rhythm seemed broken and I was still feeling good. At 8-4 I had the serve. Focus on the mental program. 9-4 and 10-4. Ok, now focus on the serve return program - and return the serve. Into the rally - Jeff attacking and me defending. Dammit just miss one will you? Finally Jeff puts a hard attack right at me, I chop low and tight, flick the net on the way through and bounce it over his bat. What a way to end the match but I'll take it.

A 4-3 win to me, after saving a couple of match points along the way. How sweet it is! Go over and check my video camera - I've been taping the finals matches today. I'm going to enjoy watching this later. Hmmm - the camera is off - maybe the battery ran out? Nope - the battery is fine. It was a long match - maybe longer than the 80 minute tape? Nope - still at the start of the tape. So what gives? Oh geez - I was concentrating so hard on the match as soon as I stepped on the court that I forgot to take the camera off pause! Arrrrrrggghh! :p


Thursday 2nd March 2006

Hi all - let's go with another week's update.

Training - haven't done anything on the robot this week - I had a bit of a twinge in my groin while doing some coaching on Friday night, and have been taking it pretty easy since. Fortunately it all seems to have come good, since I got through training and pennants last night without a problem. Phew!

Had my usual session with Frank Kenny on Tuesday, and another hour with Mike and Colin on Wednesday, just before pennants. I've been given some good advice from them both regarding the need for me to play a bit further away from the table, and take the ball a bit closer to my body, instead of too far out in front of me. I'll be trying to do this in the future - I gave it a go last night and it really seemed to help my defense and timing.

I also took some video of Colin defending against Michael (well, all three of us playing each other really)- he has a wonderful style to look at and I'll compare my form and positioning against his. In the past I was always too heavy to go far back from the table, but now that I am fitter I should be able to position myself better. I've got footage of Colin and myself from the front, back and side, so I should be able to really see where I can improve my form.

 

Partners in Pain (usually mine!) - Colin Bowler (left) and Mike Gallagher

Photo by: Me, courtesy: www.gregsttpages.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of fitness, I'm a bit lighter again this week - I'm now tipping the scales at 87kg with a bodyfat of approximately 14.3%. I almost didn't recognise myself on the video - it's been probably 10 years since I was this light. Still got a way to go but I'm very happy with the progress I have made so far.

Mental Training - still on my break from the Directive Affirmations - I'll pick it up again when I come back from my trip to Albany for the country tournament. I'm getting better at using it in matches and finding it very useful it keeping me calm and able to focus on the match.

Competition - Nita and I played pennants last night against the Morley Assegai team of Phil Ranger Jr and Cedric Wilson. I started a bit sluggishly against Phil, and he was quite sharp on his attacking, and the first game was over 11-5 before I knew it. I then concentrated on getting back fast into my defensive position, and keeping my return of serve out of the centre of the table, and I won the next three games comfortably. The mental training really helps in these situations - rather than worrying about being a game down, I reviewed my game plan, and then simply focused point by point on my mental programs for serving and returning serve. I know if I do these right I'll be playing better and if I still lose after that, it's to a better player on the night.

Nita then played her two games in a row against Cedric and Phil, but it's a tough ask for her so early in the season, considering she really hasn't started her training program yet. So these were two losses for Nita, and then I had to play Cedric Wilson.

I have had a number of tough matches with Cedric in the past, but lately I seem to have a bit of an edge on him. He uses antipower on the backhand, but as a medium pimple player myself I don't have too much trouble with that. And since he doesn't attack all that often I have time to push and roll the ball around until I get the one I want to really attack, and then I focus on putting it right into his playing elbow, or to the sides of the table. Last night I was hitting the attacks well against him, and came out with a relatively easy 3-0 win.

Again, Nita and I couldn't quite get there in the doubles, which is no disgrace considering Phil and Cedric are a longstanding top doubles combination in WA. So another 2-3 loss for us.

Coming up this weekend is the Albany tournament. It should be an interesting competition, with many of the top Perth players going down to compete. I'll be back up in Perth on Wednesday, so I'll hopefully have a writeup of how everything went in general late next week.


Friday 24th February 2006

So what's been happening over the last 11 days or so? Plenty, so sit back and I'll tell you all about it.

Training - Still carrying on with the robot, weights and aerobics. Progress continues, and I'm now at 88kg with a bodyfat of approximately 15.2%.

I've also started back training with Mike Gallagher and Colin Bowler. When both Mike and Colin come to the session, we play 1 game to 11 and swap around. When just Mike comes, we do some training. Playing these two very good players is helping my get my defensive work back up to scratch a lot faster.

Mental Training - it's time for a break from my Directive Affirmation (you do 21 days on, 9 days off, so it roughly fits each month). I'll start my next one at the beginning of March.

I am getting better at using the system in a match, since I have been using it in my games at training. I've kind of got the rhythm of it sorted now. At the end of each point, I'll analyse what is happening in the match as usual, then if I'm serving, I'll start the feeling and picturing process in my head, so by the time I'm at the table, I'm ready to go. When I'm receiving serve, I make sure that I don't get down into my ready position until I've done the feeling and picturing process. This is working much better and I now feel pretty comfortable with it in matches. The main problem I am having is remembering to say "That's like me!" when I win the point - but I am getting better at that now.

I am quite pleased with my progress on the mental side of things. I would have to be honest and say I'm only probably giving it about 50% of the effort I should be doing, and it's having good results anyway. I'm going to start doing the whole lot properly and then we'll see.

Competition - I've played a couple more pennant matches since my last blog update. Last week on Tuesday, my team played the Pneumatic Engineering team of Mike Andrews and Irwin Parker. I beat Mike 3-1 and Irwin 3-0. Again, I felt fitter and faster on the court, but was still a bit rusty when chopping. Then I had my first training session with Mike and Colin on Wednesday, which improved my chop a bit.

 

Chris Hibbert - having a resurgence in form this year

Photo by: Me. Courtesy: www.gregsttpages.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week, I had a training session with Mike and Colin on Wednesday directly before taking on Chris Hibbert and Giovanni Cnapich, who make up the Morley Magic team. The training session got me warmed up and helped get my defence that bit sharper before the pennant match. I got off to a great start against Chris, who has been the form player in Summer Pennants this year, and was currently the only player who was unbeaten. I started with good strong defense, and picking the occasional ball to attack, and won the first two games 11-6, 11-5. Chris changed tactics in the third and started to use his defence more, and pick his own attacks better. He got the jump on me and was several points up before I stopped making too many mistakes with my own attack. I started to catch up but Chris took the third 11-9. The fourth was an interesting affair, with both Chris and I trying to tempt the other player to attack so we could defend and then counter-attack. Some good points were played but in the end I got a couple of good shots on at the right time and got there 11-8, for a 3-1 win. Just as well, it would have been a tough 5th game, since Chris would have had the momentum behind him, coming back from 2-0 down.

My teammate Nita then had a good effort against Gio, losing 3-1 in an entertaining and hard-hitting match. I then came up against Gio in an attempt to avenge my Grand Prix loss. The first game was an 11-8 win to me. It was pretty close but my attack was working a little better this time and that made the difference. Gio stepped it up in the second, and was leading by a point or two most of the way, until I caught him at 9-all by chopping a couple on in a row and snuck the game 11-9.

During the break I mentioned to Nita that I felt if I could chop two balls on the table in a row, I would feel confident of taking the third game. Gio hits his opening attack at a ferocious pace and spin, and it is difficult to return at all, let along keep it tight. We were pretty much even up to this point, since I was still struggling to put two chops on in a row. But my attack and serving were evening things up, and Gio makes a few mistakes as well on his attack, since he goes for broke so often.

 

Giovanni Cnapich - a patchy start to the summer season

Photo by: Me. Courtesy: www.gregsttpages.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So into the third, and my goal was to try to chop two in a row as often as possible - if I could do that I reckoned there was a very good chance Gio wouldn't be able to hit the third attack on. In the end this proved to be true, although Gio missed a few of my first chop as well, so I ran out the third game 11-6. A comfortable win on paper but against Gio you know anything can happen, so you can't really relax at any point because you never know when he is going to turn it on. I'm sure Gio would be feeling that he has plenty of room to improve from this effort as well - so our future matches should continue to be interesting.

Nita then lost another tough match against Chris, and unfortunately we lost the doubles 3-2 to go down 3-2 on the night. But seeing as Chris and Gio are the top team, it wasn't such a bad result overall.


Monday 13th February 2006

OK, time to fill you in on what's been happening since my last update.

Training - I didn't do any work on the robot this week. I was feeling a bit tired on the Friday and weekend, so I decided to lighten up a bit, and have an easy week knowing that the first Grand Prix competition was coming up on Friday February 10.

I still did my private coaching, weights workouts, and some aerobic work a couple of times at 45 minutes each. Having the heart rate monitor helps me make sure I'm not slacking off while doing the aerobic session.

Today I'm feeling fit and fresh, and ready to get back on the robot, weights etc. I've had a couple of longer nights sleep which have helped too. I'm now weighing in at 88.5kg, at a bodyfat of around 15.7%. So no photos just yet, but I'm getting closer!

I've also started back on my service training again. I want to be able to get the double bounce serves working well under pressure. I was pretty all over the place to begin with, but I found that spinning the ball on the racket a couple of times before serving in order to get the feel that I want, seems to help me with getting the right contact when trying to spin the serve but keep it short.

I'll also be starting back training with Mike Gallagher this week, which is a definite plus, for reasons I will talk about later.

Mental Training - the Mental Management System is working well, but I'm still not 100% smooth at using it in a match - I'll keep working on it though.

Competition - We had our first tournament for the year on Friday night - I'll provide a full recap of the event in my WATTA section tomorrow - I still need to get some of the results from the WATTA centre. I'll link it from here when I put it up though as well.

 

Richard 'Say it like it is' Ajayi - keeping me and others in line!

Photo by: Me!, courtesy www.gregsttpages.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, I lost to Giovanni Cnapich in the semifinals 3-0, 11-9, 11-8, 11-9. What can I say - he was too good on the day. (Actually, I could say a lot, but I have been told to stop making excuses and take it like a man - thanks Richard!) Gio went on to lose to Jeff Drew in the final 3-1.

General Thoughts

I'm just going to make a few comments on where I feel I am at this point in the season.

Fitness - I'm definitely fitter and faster, and my stamina is greatly improved. My recovery has also improved out of sight with the improved diet and supplements. With still a few more kilograms to lose, I'm looking forward to getting to my playing weight and seeing how well I get around the court then.

Playing standard - I'm pretty match rusty (but everyone else is as well, most probably!), and there are still some areas that need attention. I'm moving better for my defense, but I'm having trouble putting the ball back on the table! I'll up the spin and speed on my robot to help with this, and training with Mike Gallagher will definitely give my defense technique a sharpening up. My forehand topspin also let me down a bit on Friday night, where I didn't land the ball on the table on a couple of crucial points. My return of serve and serve is also a bit substandard, but playing against Mike will soon fix that up again.

Mental - this Mental Management Stuff from 'With Winning in Mind' is very good stuff. I'm starting to get the hang of using it in a table tennis match, and I am finding it to be very good at controlling nerves and keeping me focused on the match. Playing against Gio, I wasn't nervous at all, I just couldn't execute the shots that I needed at the time - more skill work to improve the subconscious skills needed. Once I have worked on the skills a bit I should be in good shape.

Another interesting point is that the 'Directive Affirmation' that I am using as recommended by the book seems to improving my ability to watch my diet as well. I know a top 10 player would have a good diet, and I believe I am a top 10 player, so therefore I follow a good diet. Sounds simple but it is working.

Tactics - I've been doing my video analysis of my matches at last year's Nationals as well as comparing the play of top class defenders such as Joo Se Hyuk and Chen Weixing. I've made quite a few notes on techniques that I could use and I am beginning to bring them into my game. This still needs a bit of work but I feel I will reap the rewards in a couple of months.

Overview - in the last 2 weeks, I have had close losses against Russell Stein and Giovanni Cnapich. While it would have been nice to win, I feel that I am on the right track and have the potential to step up another couple of levels in my play when everything comes together. I'm looking forward to doing some hard training with Mike and Frank, as well as on the robot, in the next month or so. The next tournament is in Albany in early March, so we will see whether I can start to build my momentum in the next few weeks.


Thursday 2nd February 2006

I had a good holiday down south from Thursday to Sunday, and came back ready to get into some more training. Here's this weeks recap.

Training - up to 26 minutes on the robot now. Once I get up to 30 minutes I'll work at cutting down the rest periods to 30 seconds. Following that up with 25 minutes of aerobics and my weights session twice a week. I've picked up a new battery for my heart rate monitor so hopefully I should be able to make sure that my aerobic session is hard enough work.

I'm now weighing in at 89.5kg at a bodyfat of around 16.8% or so. I've got another 8.6kg of bodyfat to drop to get to 8% bodyfat, so I'm still making progress.

Mental Training - just started the Mental Management System (MMS) stuff, but I've still got a few things to iron out - more on that later.

Competition - started our Summer Pennants last night. I had mixed results, losing to Russell Stein 1-3 (14-12, 8-11, 9-11, 11-13 approx) and beating Peter Williams 3-0. I'll talk a bit about the match with Russell.

First of all, let's get the excuses out the way - I'd already done 3 hours of private coaching that day, and I was just that little bit tired and mentally a bit flat. Also I was finding it difficult to get the mental visualisations used in the MMS synched in smoothly with my playing - it sort of put me off my normal game. All my own fault really - I could have skipped the coaching and should have practiced the mental visualisations in a pretend match situation to get used to them. I'll do a bit of that this week before the Grand Prix on February 10.

That said, what can I take away from this match? Well, I still was pretty close to winning even though I didn't feel like I was playing well. So I do feel that I have plenty of room to improve on this effort. I'll work on synching the mental visualisations this week, and make sure I'm rested up for next weeks Grand Prix. I also need to add a bit more spin to the robot when chopping, to help get the chops that bit lower against heavy spin.

So the general conclusion is, I'm a bit rusty but feel that as I get everything working properly I'll lift a bit from this effort. Of course Russell may be thinking the same thing about himself!


Wednesday 25th January 2006

What's been happening this week? Read on and I'll fill you in.

Training - Still working on the robot, up to 23 minutes now, and cut down the rest periods to about 50 seconds. I'm still concentrating on keeping a good low position with knees bent, which is getting easier now.

I'm following the robot with the usual 25 minutes of aerobic work, and a weights session as well twice a week. All going well there. Energy levels are still good, I'm following my diet and taking my supplements, and getting plenty of sleep to help recovery.

I'm down to about 90kg this week, with bodyfat of around 17.5%. Provided the weights do their job and help me hold on to my muscle, I'll need to get to around 80.7kg to be at 8% bodyfat. So I've still got a way to go but I can see the goal is in sight (with binoculars!). Don't worry, we're still a long way off from a photo shoot yet!

I'm now finding that I have a bit of extra zip around the table, and can train a bit longer too. So my court speed is increasing noticeably (to me anyway!).

Mental Training - I've finished making all my notes and getting my documentation set up for my Mental Training using the Mental Management System. I'll keep you posted on progress.

Competition - we start our Summer Pennants next week (Wed night), and our first Grand Prix is on February 10. So I'll soon have a bit more on the competition side of things to report.


Wednesday 18th January 2006

OK, time for another update.

My training is continuing well at present, I'm up to 18 minutes on the robot (1 minute on, 1 off, for 18 minutes on in total). I've now started to add in and out footwork to my side to side movement. I'm still following that with 20-25 minutes of aerobic work, and twice a week with my weight workouts. I'm over the stiffness of the weights now, so I'm starting to push it a little more.

Weight-wise, things are on-track, with my current weight at 90.5kg. I'm still good with my energy level and physical condition - no injuries at the moment. So all in all I'm satisfied with my health and physical training at the moment.

On the mental side of things, I've picked up a couple of books on the mental side of competition - these are 'With Winning in Mind' by Lanny Bassham, and 'the Mental Edge' by Kenneth Baum. For me, I prefer 'With Winning in Mind'. I'm looking forward to incorporating his system into my training in the months to come. This book was a recommendation by Marco on the About.com forum, so thanks Marco! I'll keep you informed on my progress with using the Mental Management system suggested by Lanny Bassham as I go.


Wednesday 11th January 2006

Training continues while I wait for Summer Pennants to start in 2 and a bit weeks. Here's what I've been up to:

Friday involved training on the robot, 1 minute on and 1 minute off, practising chopping - 1 ball to the wide FH, one to the middle, 1 ball to the wide BH, one to the middle, on so on. Did 6 lots of that then switched the robot to random and did 4 more sets with the ball firing to the same positions at random - much harder work. I'm focusing on technique and getting myself lower to the ground using that extended squat position common to the better players - I can really feel that in the legs!

Followed that up with 20 minutes of aerobic training - basically bouncing around on my toes and keeping the heart rate above 140 or so.

To finish, got into my weights again, just easing back into it to avoid any problems. Was still a little stiff the next couple of days though. Friday's weights began with squats, followed by bench press, tricep press downs, calf raises and decline sit ups. I only do 1 set of each, usually from 8-12 reps - once I hit 12 reps I up the weight. The decline situps are a bit different - I do 30 and will add 1 situp per workout till I hit 40 or so, then I'll hold on to weight plate or something to make it harder.

Anyway, even though I haven't done any weights for six months or so, I don't appear to have lost any strength really, which is encouraging. I'm not trying to bulk up, just keep up my muscle mass while I'm dropping the fat.

Saturday was an easy day since I was a bit stiff, just some training with one of my students and a bit of a walk around.

On Sunday I had 3 hours of training with students one-on-one, which was pretty good exercise. Also had a 20 minute walk around Hyde Park - very relaxing.

Monday saw me back on the robot - the same basic drill but this time 6 lots of fixed placement followed by 6 lots of random placement. I'll up this a minute at a time as long as I can - I'm hoping to get it up to 30 minutes or so.

Again, this was followed by 20 minutes of moving around to keep the heartrate up, then my other weights session. This time it was deadlifts, then lat pulldowns, leg curls, seated shoulder presses, seated bicep curls, and more decline situps.

On Tuesday I had a brief 45 minute session with Frank - we weren't supposed to be hitting but we were both down the centre, so thought we might as well. Then a couple of hours of one-on-one with students to finish up. I wasn't too sore from the weights, which is good.

Today (Wed) I'm planning to do another session on the robot, 7 fixed placements and then 6 or 7 random placements depending on how my legs feel (1 minute on, 1 minute off), then maybe 30 minutes off keeping the heartrate up by jumping around.

Oh yeah, got back on the scales today - happy to say I've almost got rid of the Christmas weight gain - back to 91.5kg. I'm aiming to get under 90kg now. Hopefully with a little bit of training I'll get there soon. The supplementation and diet is still working, I feel really good and have plenty of energy for training - it's been a long time since I've felt this well. Very encouraging really.


Friday 6th January 2006

Hi all, I'm back from my break refreshed and ready to go! Time to fill you in on what's been going on.

Health - still good. Definitely better than before, so the diet and supplements seem to be working out after just over a month.

Yep, put on some weight during the break - had some family over and too many family dinners and desserts! I'll give myself a week of training before I report what I weighing in at though - I need a week of hard training for damage control!

Training - started up on the robot a couple of days ago. I'm just running through a couple of basic chopping drills, with a minute on then a minute off. I just want to start building up my leg strength for those longer defensive matches. I'll also be starting back on my weight training today - although I'll give myself a couple of weeks to ease back into the weights so I don't cripple myself.

Training with Frank and Mike has had a break over Christmas, but I should be starting up again in the next week or two.

Other stuff - not much to report really. Things should start happening in February, as our Summer Pennants, Grand Prix and Tournaments begin. I'll keep you posted as things occur.


Friday 16th December 2005

Time for another quick update on how things are going.

Health - I've been taking all the extra supplements for a week and a half now, and have modified my diet according to the plan I was given (apart from my birthday dinners!). At this point in time I am definitely feeling better. Physically, I seem to be recovering a bit faster, and can train a little harder as well. Mentally, I just feel fresher - more alert in general. The general fatigue that I have been so used to for the last few years is pretty much gone - it's actually a new experience to feel myself get tired at night rather than just being tired all day! So although I hope I will improve even more over the next couple of months, I would be pretty satisfied with even this much improvement.

I'm not reporting on my weight though - I haven't been game to get back on the scales yet. I've got a work dinner tonight and a work colleague's dinner tomorrow night (home woodfire pizza - yum!) - so I'll give myself a while before jumping back on the weighing machine. I figure if I can get through the Christmas season without actually gaining any weight I'd be very happy - even going up to maybe 92kg I could live with.

Training - I'm still working on the basics really. Some serve and thirdball, fifthball with Frank, plus some attacking footwork and a little defensive work. A fair bit of Falkenberg with Michael, along with defensive technique and service/serve return work. A couple of games with Mike at the end to keep the matchplay up to speed. And of course I'm still looking after those of my students who haven't taken a Christmas break yet. Still no real work on my robot or weight training or other aerobics yet.

Other stuff - I've put my hand up to be Coaching Director for the WA Table Tennis Association. I've still got to meet with Frank (the previous director) to get my head around everything that is involved with the position. I've got a few ideas already and I'm hoping to make a difference (positive, of course) in 2006.

Oh, and this website has finally started to come out of the woodwork - I've turned back up in Yahoo for searches under 'table tennis' (ranked about 166 at the moment). Now if I can just get Google to figure out that my site deserves a mention, and things will be looking up!


Thursday 8th December 2005

My training continues, with my usual coaching sessions plus training with Frank on Tuesday and Mike on Wednesday.

I'm still attempting to get below 91kg, but although my weight is holding steady my bodyfat continues to edge down - so I guess I am still making progress. Got a big weekend of dinners etc due to my birthday tomorrow - so if I don't post my fitness progress next week you will all know why!

I've started adjusting my diet and taking the many supplements suggested by my doctor. Most of the changes are OK, but giving up my milk, chocolate and honey in my tea are probably the most painful - this had better work! I almost feel like I'm rattling when I walk - I've got that many tablets that I'm taking. Too early to say if it's making a difference yet.

On a different note, I got an email from Kay, the nice lady who did wonders for my knees and back earlier this year, asking if I could put up a link to her website. So here it is Kay - http://www.panabaa.com/ . I would definitely recommend Kay to anybody here in WA suffering from aches, pains or strains - my own knees and back have been so much better since I had just one session with Kay.

OK - that's it for now. Things tend to wind down table tennis wise around here until February or so. I'll still be training and doing private coaching, but there won't be anything to do with competition until February or March.


Thursday 1st December 2005

OK, so what's been happening?

I've restarted training with Mike Gallagher again, and have had 2 sessions since my last blog. I'm definitely a little bit fitter than before - I can last a few minutes more on my drills and my defensive area is improving. Mike has me starting with FH/BH from the BH corner, then shifting to the Falkenberg drill for about 15 minutes. By this time I'm ready for a rest, so Mike does some Falkenberg himself, and then he loops at my FH chop for about 5 minutes, along with the occasional drop shot or loop down my BH.

After that, we open up to Mike looping anywhere with regular drop shots, while I defend and counter-attack. I'm definitely getting a bit better with the FH counter-loop - but still plenty of room for improvement.

Technique wise, I'm also working on improving the consistency of my chops. I'm fairly happy with where I am at the moment defence-wise. Another 7 months of training with Mike should put me in good stead, especially if I can continue to lighten up a bit more - I'm at 91kg now and I'm hoping to get under 90kg in the next couple of weeks, provided I can avoid all the Christmas goodies!

I'm also still working with Frank on our usual routines, practicing serving and attacking against Frank's defence, and also some attacking drills to help keep me sharp.

In regards to my overall health, I'm still a bit up and down in terms of recovery and general fatigue. This is something I've had for pretty much the last 4 or 5 years, so it's only when you have the occasional good day that you remember what it's like to be normal again. I've been to see my doctor and had several tests done, and the results indicate that my Copper and Boron levels are a bit high, which can cause fatigue, and that I have a fairly slow metabolism in general. I've got a stack of supplements and a diet plan that the good doctor has recommended, so I'll have a good read through it all on the weekend and see what changes to my diet are needed. Hopefully this will allow me to have a steady energy level instead of having to fight the urge to lie down and sleep all the time - I have too much to do! We'll see how it goes over the next few months - I have to report back to the doc in 4 months time to run the tests again and see if I've made any improvement. The doc thinks that if things are working well I should notice the difference within a couple of months, so fingers crossed.


Wednesday 23rd November 2005

Once again, I come to my blog only to find that the days have flown by...

I've been behaving myself reasonably well on the fitness side of things - I'm closing in on 91kg and the bodyfat continues to notch down. I've yet to start lifting the weights (still!) but I'll make a real effort to get started this week. I need to add some aerobic work as well, probably using my robot to practice my chopping and counterattack in order to get the most out of the fairly limited time that I have.

I've been training one session each week with my regular training partner Frank Kenny, and I've been feeling quite good and sharp. Add about 8-10 hours of coaching a week and I'm getting a fair bit of table tennis. I'm also finding the coaching keeps me well focussed on my own technique and helps to keep my thinking and analysing the game, which seems to be helping as well.

I've also contacted Mike Gallagher with the intention of restarting our training sessions, and he should be free to start up again fairly soon. My junior training will have a break for a couple of months from December to early February, so I may be able to get some more training time for myself during this period as well.

All in all, things are not going too bad. I'm keeping busy but need to find a little time to brush up on those areas that need more work. Frank helps me keep my serving and attacking sharp, and Mike should help me work on my serve receive and defence, so along with a little work at home I should have most things covered for the coming year.


Wednesday 9th November 2005

Crumbs, the time is going by fast! Has it been that long already since my last blog update? What's been going on?

Fitness

Still chipping away at the fitness side of things, despite have a foodie girlfriend and a few family dinners in the last couple of weeks. Weight is now 92kg and bodyfat down a bit more. Slow but steady progress. Haven't started any weight training yet or specific aerobic training, so must pull my finger out and find the time somewhere.

Goal 2 - Where to improve for 2006

OK - I've had a bit of a general think about my results in the last two Australian National Championships that I have attended, and here is what I have come up with so far regarding what I want to work on between now and August 2006.

Serving - my serves are OK but nothing to write home about. I've got a bit lax of late in terms of keeping my serve sharp. I'm going to have to get back to the basics and make time for some serve practice using my robot at home to make sure I can put the serve where I want to when the pressure is on.

Serve return/short game- I had improved this between 2004 and 2005, but I think I could still use a fair bit of work in this area. Coming up against the speed glued attackers, I need to have an effective return of serve that prevents them hitting the big third ball attack at me. When I was getting into a rally without that third or fifth ball powerloop coming at me, I was doing well. When I couldn't keep the short game tight, I was suffering.

Chopping - I was reasonably happy with my defense in 2005, but I feel that I can make further improvements in terms of my overall defensive area that I can cover, as well as slightly better placement, spin variation and height over the net. I'll be looking to put some solid practice in on this.

Attacking - my backhand attack worked very well for me at the Nationals, but it will be difficult to make huge leaps forward with this stroke. My forehand has plenty of room to get better though.

Twiddling - I was pretty happy with my twiddle game - I've got this fairly polished these days so I don't need major work on this.

Other areas - looking at the tapes, I can see that I am still very upright and with a narrower stance than most other players. This is partly because I was about 15kg too heavy and I my legs wouldn't be able to keep up perfect stance and positioning. Hopefully as I improve my fitness I will be able to get better in this area as well. My fitness also needs attention as I mentioned earlier - I started to really tire in the second teams match of each day - and ache a lot as well. On the tapes, I could see myself starting to lose the spring and bounce in my legs as the day went on. I need to be fit enough to handle the rigours of two matches a day - and maybe even three depending on how many players we have in the team next year. And as a defender my matches aren't the 3 game 10 minute wham-bam-slam matches that the attackers play - the rallies are long and the matches are commonly 20-30 minutes. Age - I could also stand to lose about 10-15 years! On the other hand, the Vets (O/40) are not that far off!!

Goal 3 - Organising my training

Where do I find time for all this? Beats me. My coaching seems to be helping me play better, since I'm hitting a lot of balls to my students and I am always aware of setting a good example in footwork and technique. This seems to be filtering through to my game play, and I'm playing less sloppy points, which is a plus. But I am still going to have to work out a schedule that lets me get the training I need in.

Overall goal for Australia Open 2006

What's a realistic expectation for 2006? How much can I improve compared to the rest? It's hard to say exactly.

On the plus side, if I can drop to a competition weight of 75-80kg, I will be in probably my best shape of my life and this will go a long way towards erasing the handicap I'm giving the other players in terms of my court speed and match fitness. I know I can make further improvments in my chopping, forehand attack, and serve return, all without too much effort. So I should be able to lift by another 2-3 points a match against those players around my level.

On the negative side, I'll be another year older at 35, and have higher expectations and more pressure to perform (in my own mind). I'll also be a little more on the radar of other competitors - I doubt anyone's having sleepless nights about facing me again but they know I can play a bit now, so I won't get too many cheap wins from unprepared opponents. I'm also quite busy with coaching, work and this website, so I may struggle to give my preparation all the attention it deserves. Plus my opponents are younger and probably able to put in more training (both timewise and in terms of being able to withstand the hard work involved), so I may be struggling to keep in terms of quality hours of practice on the table.

Overall, I'm aiming for a spot in the rankings around 10-15. I'd love to be able to match it with the big boys (ie Russell Lavale, William Henzell etc) but if I could sneak a bit closer to the best guys and be in sight of the number 10 spot I'd be ecstatic. It would also be nice to have a defender back in the Australian Top 10. Anyway, that's what I'm shooting for - I've got the next 9 months or so to put in the work required to try and get there.


Monday 24th October 2005

To my shame, I still haven't got around to Goals 2 and 3 (Sigh!). Maybe tomorrow, I tell myself.

In terms of fitness, I'm still tracking OK, although it could be better. Had a wedding reception to go to on Friday night and I'm sure that put me back a pound or two - well worth it though! I'm a bit closer to 92kg than 92.5kg, and the bodyfat has notched down a bit towards 18.5%. Still early days yet though - I've yet to start back on my weight training, which I will need if I'm going to preserve any muscle mass while trying to drop the last of this fat.

I'll also be starting training with Frank next Tuesday, and hopefully back with Michael Gallagher in the near future - although I had better pull my finger out and get my Goals 2 and 3 sorted before then!


Wednesday 12th October 2005

Still haven't got to Goals 2 and 3 yet - spent the weekend buying the last of the new lighting for the living room at home, which hopefully will improve the lighting situation a bit. Also did my usual coaching and actually managed a bit of a hit myself on Sunday. Seems all the coaching I'm doing is keeping me in practice - I'm still not playing too badly at the moment. I'll keep trying to get around to goals 2 and 3 though - can't afford to wait too long!

Fitness-wise, the first week hasn't gone too badly - down to 92.5kg and bodyfat about 18.7% (if I remember correctly). So all is on track there at present. I've also had a few comments from some locals about my weight - to which I say there is plenty of space to put their details up as well - including photos!


Wednesday 5th October 2005

I've finally done the weigh-in, and after a bit of internal debate, have decided to go public with the results. Currently I'm weighing in at 93kg, with a bodyfat rating of roughly 19% (hardly elite level I know!). To get down to competition weight, I need to maintain my level of muscle while dropping around 10-11kg - which would put me around the 8-10% bodyfat level.

So that's the situation for Goal 1. I'll report in every week or so with how it's going for those of you who care - don't worry I won't be doing any before and after pictures though - (the after pictures might be allright, but definitely no before pics!).

Goals 2 and 3 are still ahead of me, and I'll try to spend some time this weekend getting started on those. I've pretty much done all the stuff I want on this website now that I've managed to get my pay per download videos up and running, so apart from updating my blog and writing the odd article things should settle down a bit there.

Will keep you posted.


Thursday 29th September 2005

OK - what's been happening? I've been busy making some plans for the website and doing my coaching, but I think I'm just about ready to start planning for next year's nationals.

I'm currently doing a fair bit of coaching, which is chewing up a lot of my time, so I'm going to have to be fairly well organised to make the most of what free time I do have.

I'll be contacting my training partners, Frank Kenny and Mike Gallagher, and seeing when they are ready to start training again. I've also got to do my weigh-in and start outlining my training plan for the 10 months or so to go before the 2006 Nationals.

First goal: Drop the necessary weight to get to match fitness as soon as possible. So tomorrow, depending on how good my memory is (I tend to wake up and forget about it!), I'll get on the scales and grab the calipers and see where I am starting from, and work out where I have to get to. I'm undecided about putting the figures up on the website - it really puts the pressure on to achieve something once people know what your stats are! Very embarrassing if you end up in worse shape than you started...

Second goal: Spend some time analysing exactly how I went in the last Nationals, and where I have to do some extra work etc. I'll try to get to this on the weekend, and I'll put the results up in the blog once I'm done.

Third goal: Try to work out how I'm going to get the necessary training that I need, considering I have a full-time job, and am currently doing an extra 10-15 hours a week of coaching on top. Not to mention maintaining this website as well. This could be the tricky bit!

So that's the plan for the moment - stay tuned as I start to put the wheels in motion in my quest towards the 2006 Australian Open.


Thursday 22nd September 2005

Yeah - I know, I know - I still haven't done a proper update of my future plans for this blog. I've been busy with coaching, doing DVDs and catching up with my backlog of reader feedback and requests.

Anyway, there is a light at the end of the tunnel at last, so hopefully I'll be able to outline the master plan in the next couple of days or so. But that's what I said last time, so who knows?!


Thursday 8th September 2005

OK, time to outline my plans for my blog this year. I'll going to mainly stick to detailing my progress towards next years Australian Open in August 2006. This should make it easier to see what sort of training and preparation I'm doing in my attempt to move up to somewhere closer to the top 10 in Australia at age 35. (BTW, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself listed at No.916 in the World Mens ranking, and No.20 for Australia, according to the ITTF website rankings as of 7/9/2005 - Woo hoo!! Whether these rankings are completely accurate is another story!)

I'll still write about what's happening in Western Australian table tennis, but I think I will expand the pages on where to play in Western Australia to become a more unofficial website for WA table tennis.

That's the plan anyway, we'll see how it goes...

Tomorrow: The weigh-in!


Wednesday 7th September 2005

I'm just going to write briefly about the A grade Winter Pennant final between Morley Magic (Craig Cambell, Giovanni Cnapich, Chris Hibbert, and Phil Highland) and Morley Scorpions (Irwin Parker, Frank Kenny, Nita Teoh, and myself).

The Scorpions started well with a win by Irwin Parker over Chris Hibbert - 1-0 Scorpions. Then Giovanni Cnapich defeated Frank Kenny - 1-all. I took on Craig Campbell and won - 2-1 Scorpions. Then Giovanni and Craig defeated Irwin and I in the first real crunch match of the night, a match we really needed to win. 2-all.

Irwin then lost 12-10 or so in the fifth game to Giovanni - another crunch match that could have made all the difference - Irwin played really well though. 3-2 Magic. I defeated Chris Hibbert in a close match, making it 3-all. Frank lost to Craig Campbell after fighting hard, back to 4-3 Magic.

Frank and I couldn't quite get there in the second doubles against Gio and Chris, 5-3 Magic. Then Gio beat me 11-9 in the 5th, for a 6-3 win to the Magic. What could have been...

Anyway, well done to the Magic players, and congrats to Morley Table Tennis Club on finishing 1-2-3 in the finals (Morley Magic, Morley Scorpions, Morley Assegai). A good effort for the year.

Tomorrow I'll outline my plans for my blog in the 2005-2006 season, so stay tuned...


Wednesday 31th August 2005

Time to write a bit about the 2005 WATTA State Open - at least what I saw of it.

Tuesday night - Mens/Womens Singles

The Mens and Womens singles were played up to the finals on Tuesday 17th August. Some notable matches in the early rounds included Phil Ranger Jr pushing Giovanni Cnapich to a 4-3 result (8 in the 7th), Chris Hibbert being pushed by Peter Williams to another 4-3 result, then coming out and playing well against Jeff Drew to go down 4-2. Irwin Parker had a good result over Mike Andrews, winning 4-0, and then playing me and giving me quite a hard time as well! The mighty Mick Lee also started well, defeating Russell Stein 4-0 in his Round 1 match.

The semis of the Mens turned out to be #1 Seed Jeff Drew playing the #4 Seed Craig Campbell, and the #2 Seed Gio Cnapich playing #3 Seed Greg Letts.

Jeff vs Craig - Craig came out firing, utilising a topspin defense game instead of his usual backspin. It proved to be effective as well, with Craig winning the first game 13-11 from several errors made by Jeff in trying to smash heavy kicking lobs from Craig. Jeff tightened his game up in the second, winning 11-6 and making it 1 game all, and from there it was a fascinating battle as Craig pulled out tactic after tactic to try to break Jeff's rhythm. The match was close all the way through, and although Craig was on the receiving end of a few unlucky breaks, in the end the sheer consistency of Jeff put him through 4-2 and into the final.

Gio vs Greg - Gio beat me 4-2.

Oh well, I suppose I should write a bit more than that, painful as it is. First, my excuses - I did have a bit of a cold and wasn't feeling all that well, or playing all that well either on the night. But in the end it was my inability to get my return of serve where I needed to put it to allow me to survive Gio's first attack that really cost me the match. So well done Gio, and this year we were to have an 'old' face and a 'new' face in the final.

In the Womens singles - Nita Teoh went out to Nanako Nomura in their semifinal 1-4, while Nicole Low accounted for English visitor Stella Davis in the other semifinal 4-1. Again, another final promising to put a regular finalist against a newcomer.

Wednesday night - Mens, Womens and Mixed Doubles

Wednesday 18th August started with the Mens and Womens doubles. In the semis of the mens, the #1 Seeds, Jeff Drew and Dennis Chen, went out 3-0 (9,8,8) to the #3 Seeds, Greg Letts and Craig Campbell, in a tight, pressure-filled match. In the other semi, Giovanni Cnapich and Chris Hibbert got past Phil Ranger Jr and Cedric Wilson 3-1 (9,-7,8,10), to set up a repeat of the Geraldton Open final.

On the Ladies side, Nanako Nomura and Nita Teoh accounted for Zoe Bolt and Cindy Wang in the first semifinal, 3-0. In the second semifinal, Gemma Cutchey and Stella Davis knocked out Nicole Low and TF Joeng 3-1.

That just left the Mixed Doubles, where in the first semifinal Craig Campbell and Nanako Nomura defeated Chris Hibbert and Gemma Cutchey 3-0 (0!,6,5). In the second semifinal, Greg Letts and Nita Teoh clawed back from 0-2 down to win a nail-biter, 3-2 (-8,-8,7,3,11).

Friday night - Finals

OK, onto the finals. Finals night actually started in the afternoon, when a number of junior finals were played. Personally, I think this is a great idea - giving the juniors a chance to play on the 'centre court' in front of an audience is terrific. It also resulted in some good matches, with Steven Peh defeating Brendan Lim 3-2 in the Under 12 Mixed Singles, Nicole Low defeating Hannah Moldrich 3-0 in the Under 14 Girl's Singles, then Steven Peh returning to defeat Darryl Choo in the U/14 Boys final, Nicole Low coming back on court to defeat Stella Davis in the U/16 Girls final, and a very good U/16 doubles final between Nicole and Jonathon Low against Brendan and Patrick Lim. Unfortunately, it's late at night and I don't have access to my tapes - and I don't remember which team won. Sorry!

Now for the open events. We started with the Mixed Doubles, in which Craig Campbell and Nanako Nomura were too good for Nita Teoh and myself yet again, winning 3-1 for their 4th victory in a row. The Ladies Doubles was a victory to Nanako and Nita against Gemma Cutchey and Stella Davis. The Mens Doubles saw Craig and myself reverse our Geraldton Open loss against Gio Cnapich and Chris Hibbert, winning 3-1.

The Ladies Singles was a tense affair, taking somewhere near 40 minutes (I think) with Nanako winning 4-2. An example of the pressure was Nanako being up 10-4 in the opening game, before Nicole came back to level at 10-all, and I think even go up 11-10. Eventually Nanako managed to take the game at about 15-13, and breathed a big sigh of relief. Nicole continued to work hard but in the end just couldn't quite get there, giving Nanako her second straight Ladies Singles title and third win for the night. Well done Nanako!

The Mens Final, in contrast, was over in less than 10 minutes, with Jeff Drew winning 4-0. Despite the one sided scoreline, Gio wasn't without chances, but Jeff kept his head and managed to win just about all the crucial points. Some good shots were played, but with Gio's style of power hitting it was never going to be a long match either way. So Jeff took away his 10th Mens Title (previous titles in 1981, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1999, and 2004), and I'm sure Gio will be back for another go next year, all the better for the experience (but hopefully not too much better, if I have to play him again!)

There were also a number of other controversies during the tournament, which I am not going to go into because I was still away on holiday when they happened and I only heard about them secondhand. Suffice to say that there will probably be a few letters going to the Board of Management.

A final thank you to the Referees, Umpires, Tournament Director and co, volunteers etc who all helped to make things happen this year. As a player, thanks very much for giving your time to allow me and others to play and have fun.


Thursday 25th August 2005

OK - I'm finally getting around to writing up my blog regarding the Nationals etc. Today I'll talk a bit about the how the Australian Open went, then in the next few days I'll mention how things went in my local State Open and Pennant Grand Final, and the direction I'm planning to take this blog in the coming year.

Australian Open 2005

I came, I saw, I conquered! Well, not quite maybe - but I did all right all things considered. More on that later - I'll start at the beginning shall I?

First impressions - Nita and I turned up on Saturday afternoon (the 30th July) to check out the place - we had arrived that morning on the midnight horror flight so we were in no real condition to do any training, so we just took a walk from where we were staying (in a granny flat/cottage about 45 minutes walk away) to make sure we knew where to go. Found the sports hall at Homebush eventually and by that time there were a few New South Wales players having a bit of a muck around. The sports hall itself is quite good, with nice lighting and blue taraflex flooring, which is quite comfortable to play on. The gratings on the walls are a different story - just perfect for losing balls in (do they collect them afterwards and sell them - that's what I want to know!). There were a couple of rows of stadium seating next to Court 1 and 2 which were handy for spectators and gave a pretty good view of the first three courts on each side.

Sunday was our first training hit for the team, and the official reception after. Monday was the start of the real business, as the teams matches began. Rather than give you a blow by blow of everything, I'll just list some of the lasting impressions and high points from my point of view, looking back.

In relation to me

  • Good wins for me - beating Chamara Fernando, Kamalesh Tharmasuthan, and Sharad Pandit - three players ranked in the 2004 Australian Top 10.
  • Close losses/the ones that got away - losing to Andy Shih 11-9 in the fifth, after being 6-1 up and 2 games to 1 up in the fourth, when the crafty Anthony Jeffress called a timeout! Also lost to Damon Clarke 11-9 in the fifth, Trent Carter 11-9 in the fifth, and Robert Frank 12-10 in the fourth. Curses!
  • Close wins - beat Xuyen Tran 3-1, 12-10 in the fourth. Beat Brad Kiely 12-10 in the fifth.
  • Overview of my tournament - I had a pretty good tournament overall. While not really competitive with the very top players (ie when I played Henzell, Zalcberg - and you could have said the same for Lavale, Brown, Clarke, and Gerada if I had played them), I felt competitive with the rest of the players, from about number 8 in the eventual Order of Merit or so down. My defensive game worked pretty well, although I still need to improve my return of serve, spin variation in defending, and overall fitness. I only played 2 matches per day, and this was enough to push me physically - not so much aerobically - but because my bones and joints in my legs and hips were aching so much. I really needed to be about 10-15kg lighter, and then I might have won a couple more of the close ones.

General impressions

  • Top dogs - no one player was quite as dominant in this tournament - in the teams, Henzell went down to Gerada, Gerada lost to George Tang, Henzell beat Lavale, Clarke lost to Davis, Davis lost to Robert Frank. The top 6 or 7 were clearly a cut above the next rank though (in my opinion, anyway!). In the women's Miao Miao and Stephanie Sang were looking the goods, but with Peri Campbell-Innes, Vivian Tan, May Cho and Jia Chen all close behind.
  • Heartbreaker of the tournament - David Zalcberg lost all three of his matches 2-3 in the Victoria B vs Victoria match. Against Brett Clarke he had 3 match points at 10-7 up in the fourth. A tough result when he could easily have ended up with 3 wins instead. If anybody deserved a hug it was David after that night! I have to say that he took it in the best grace anybody could muster in that situation - a credit to him.
  • Please explain - the premier teams match - Victoria vs Victoria B - ended up being played in front of the players involved, their families and about 5 spectators - of which I was one. Does everyone have to get up early in NSW? This was a match of consistently high standard and with some of the most spectacular rallies of the tournament, but almost everyone went home rather than take the chance to watch some of the best table tennis held in Australia this year. At least I got almost all of it on video - check out my DVDs for sale page if you are interested.
  • The Australia Open Marathon - In the mens, we were playing 3 matches a day for three days straight. Is this really necessary? I understand that there will always be issues with time and booking of halls, but surely 2 matches a days is enough (well, it is for me!). A schedule where the players start play on Sunday, play 2 matches a day until Wednesday, the final match on Thursday and then start the individual events Thursday afternoon might be a bit less gruelling, IMHO.
  • Umpiring standard - pretty good overall, although I would still like to see stricter enforcement of the serving rule regarding getting the free arm out of the way so the receiver can see the ball.
  • Anticlimax of the tournament - the womens final between Miao Miao and Stephanie Sang. I was really looking forward to a tough struggle between the two, but on the day Miao never really got going and Stephanie ran out a convincing 4-0 winner. The semifinal between Stephanie and Vivian Tan was a cracker though.
  • Where did they go? - Where were the New South Wales supporters? I would have thought there would have been a lot of players who would want to come down and support their state team after work and watch some good table tennis. Or is it all just a bit ho-hum these days? Or too far away in Homebush? Or some other reason?
  • Scheduling - I realise that it is tough to schedule a tournament of this size, but is there any way possible to not have the four mens quarterfinals on at once, and the same with the semifinals? (also the same situation with the womens matches). There you have 4 of the best matchups of the tournament all being played at once - what a shame! (And of course, I've only got 1 video camera to try to tape it all!)
  • The players - this was my second year in a row after not playing in an Australian Open for 9 years. It was really nice to come back and see familiar faces (some of whom even remembered me - probably as the looney carrying the video camera and tripod around everywhere!).
  • The young guns - it's interesting to watch the young guys and girls starting to push the older brigade. With Kyle Davis, Robert Frank, Trent Carter and George Tang having good results in the mens, and Michelle Carpenter, Melissa Tapper, Michelle Beaumont and Sisi Zhang and others in the womens, there seems to be a fair bit of new talent coming through to challenge the older, established players.
  • The Kiwis - it was great to have the New Zealanders come over. They all competed well and with great sportsmanship from what I could see - hopefully they'll be back next year. They certainly had an impact, with very good results in the Mens Doubles (semifinalists) and Shane Laugesen being a Mens Singles semifinalist, beating Kyle Davis and Russell Lavale along the way.,
  • Where did they go? Part II - Where are the Tasmanians and the Northern Territory players? I realise that us Western Australian people can't criticise too much, since we only just got a mens team together at the last minute, and had 2 women in the President's team. But it would be really great to have a Tassie and NT team competing again, for a full round up of teams across Australia. Maybe it's a good chance to blood some of the younger players at an early age?
  • Congratulations - to the organisers and helpers who made it all work. I went, played, and had a great time competing and watching the table tennis. Thanks a lot for your time and effort in making it a success.
  • Thanks for the memories - to my fellow WA players - who stuck together and supported one another whenever possible, and made it all a very enjoyable experience. So to Gio, Gordon, Jeff, Gemma and Nita - thanks very much! Same time next year?

Go to Greg's 2005 Table Tennis Blog

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