2008 Cary Cup - Tournament Report
I went to Cary NC, to play in the Cary Cup, and I got a violent introduction back into high level table tennis. I gambled on playing the U-2400 event on Thursday night, and it brought out Didi, Loc, and myself as the top seeds. I lost to Didi 3-0, as I was just not sharp enough to get my game going that early. All the games lost were close and I won most of the points that went into extended rallies, so I was pleased that I could still compete after a 4 year layoff.
Friday night I went back and played doubles with Scott Butler, a old friend from my days at Augusta College. He hadn't play since the Cary Cup last year, and he played pretty good for a not having touch a racket at all. We had to play Didi and Loc, and we won the first game, and lost the next 3 all very close. Can't ask much from myself if me and my partner were not near the top of their games. But I was getting better though.
Saturday brought the realization that I would have a tough day on the table, after I won my group pretty easy. I saw loads and loads of top players, and I couldn't even count them all. At least 25 very good players, and I was shocked when I found out that I had a 10 man RR to play. The top 4 players advance out of the group of 10. The only thing that made me feel good is because I ride my bike 250 miles a week, I knew I would be fit enough to finish the RR in good condition. What was a grey area was how my arm would stand the day of blasting loops. And what was even more of a grey area was would I be able to keep my emotions that high for the entire day. I was seeded 4th in the group which meant I just had to hold my position. It was probably the first time in my life that really didn't want to put forth the effort to beat the higher seeds. I understood my objective, and that was to advance.
First match: Rocky Wang
Rocky and I grew up playing together and because we are such good friends, we never really want to play each other. But I knew it would be a pivotal match, so it was important to have a great start. Rocky has short pips on the BH, and that is really the place of interest for me. I was able to exploit his backhand to take the first game. The second game he adjusted and took a early lead, and I caught him at 6-all. We played point for point until 8-all, then I won 3 in a row. The third game I got a early lead, and my heavy spin BH loop got me in position to get behind a lot of really quality FH loops. I won the 3rd game at 6, and my first match was in the books.
Second Match: Left Canadian
Excuse me if I can't remember some players name, especially if they are Canadian. This is also a very important match, as it is very important to beat the next guy under me. In my career I have always been weak against lefty's because I step around a lot, but the with the vast improvement in my BH while training in Europe playing a lefty does not pose much of a threat. I hadn't done a short serve or serve return in 4 years, and it took the first game for me to find my position on the table. Somehow I squeezed that game out, but lost the next as I just served too many balls long. He ran away with the 3rd game, as he hit some pretty inspiring shots that would lift up just about anyone's moral. After that I knew I was in for 2 tough games so I settled in for a War. So in game 4 I buckled down emotionally, didn't make any unforced errors, and ran away with the game at 11-4. The fifth game I kept the momentum going, and his inexperience came out as he started to fold emotionally. His coach called a time-out, and that seemed to temporarily calm him down, but after a couple of well played points on my part I had the 5th game in the bag. That was a big match for me. I now have to beat everyone below me.
Third Match: Scott Butler.
This was another match like Rocky, as Scott and I know each other games very well from playing with each other for so long. He is one of the reason my BH improved when I was living in Augusta. I won the match by getting early leads and putting enough pressure to finish out the game without being challenged to intensely. Had Scott been in better form, it would have been a tougher match, but I'll take it.
Fourth Match Homayoun Kamar-Parsi
Actually I had never beaten him "Pre-retirement", and the only thing he had changed was he had short pips on the BH. I really didn't play too inspired as I was more concerned about the rest of the day. I did have flashes of the old "Brian", but lost way too many points on missing serves, and serving long. It's nice to have your first lost 4 matches in.
Fifth Match: Ling Yu
I was informed by Rocky that she was bonafide and had major world class skills. She was a lefty penhold player that had every skill in her arsenal except "Grown Man Power". Again, it was one of those matches that I needed to be sharper on the serve and serve return. I still had really good flashes of the old me, as I totally dominated her in extended rallies. I need more time on the table to handle a player as skilled has her.
Sixth Match: John Wetzler
This was the match that would make or break me. I have lost to him before, and he is a tough match for just about anyone under 2500. With me being off the scene for 4 years, I'm sure he got better which would make it completely an even match, or slightly in his favor. Game one saw both of us finding out which serves and shots worked and didn't work. I was in control of the first game, and he turned the screws on me, I made some errors, and he squeezed out game 1 at 11-8 courtesy of me missing some very high chop blocks.
The second game he played even more inspired, and he even started attacking my serves. I fought back from being down 5-7, and got myself to 10-8. John turned on the pressure cooker, dueced it, and pulled out game 2 at 13-11. Now, I know I have 3 tough games ahead of me, and it's not looking too good for me. 3 games gives him too many chance to stop my run, but I need to win the match to secure my position.
If I win this match it's going to be off of pure "Will Power" and "Experience". I'm just going to have to turn myself inside out to get the result that I need. I started out and didn't make one unforced error, and I'm up 5-1. I keep control over the serve returns, and it allows me to really exploit the rest of the point. I win that game quickly at 11-4. I take that momentum into game 4 and John immediately puts up some resistance. He traded points until 4-all, then I walk away with it by win 11-6. I have shifted back the flow of the match in my favor by really focusing on doing a really good serve return to prevent him from doing his loop kill. If he does a neutral attack shot, then I can put him into difficult thereafter. Game 5 is all mine as I start out really big, but getting a 5-1 lead. All my big shot are landing, and his big shots are just barely missing the table. At 8-3 he I can still feel he waiting for me to downshift, but I don't. He really makes a push and gets the score to 9-5. I made a great 3rd, and 5th attack to get to match point. He makes a serve, then moves to his FH to get ready to attack, and I push deep to his BH, and he missed the push. I got the match 3-2, and I'm still were I need to be.
Seventh Match: Wang Zhen
I basically saw him quietly dismantle every player that he had play so far without much resistance, and I'm sure I wouldn't do much to put a dent in him either. He is one of the most efficient players that I ever played. He does exactly what he needs to do, and not a bit more. I think we can all take a page out of that play book he has. I went into the match trying to figure out how much I need to put forth to see if I could wake him up. Scott told me that he could not even scratch the surface of him. I didn't do anything the first 2 game, but the 3rd game I brought him out of his Rapid Eye Movement sleep as I started to land some good shots. I lost that game 11-8, but I have an idea of how to play him if I ever get my complete game back.
Eighth Match: The other left Canadian
Rocky beat him 3-0, and said he was wet behind the ears and it shouldn't be much of match. I still feel like I'm this big grey area so I'm not going to take him lightly. I win the first game, and he is wet behind the ears, as I get a bunch of easy attacks. But I'm having a battle within as I have crossed my threshold of being "Emotional spent". I win the 2nd game, and barely. The 3rd game I'm starting to get tired of hustling and try to conserve my energy for my last match. It doesn't work, and lose that game. The 4th game I have to fight all the way to the end to win 11-9, and the real problem is I was officially on "Empty".
Nineth Match: John Mar
I have played John plenty of times, and I never have had any problem with him. But there was a tell-tale sign in my legs, that I had no more left in the tank. I get a nice lead in the first game, and I have a brain fart and lose the game 15-13 . The second game I realized I no longer have any cork in my glue, and I start missing all kinds of simple loops. I lose that game 11-9, and I missed at least 5 winning loops. In the 3rd game I'm now running on negative energy, but I'm still putting up a fight in the match hoping that I can get it to shift back in my favor. Nope, I lost that game 11-9 also. I wasn't too upset with considering how many bullets I slipped pass that day. It is only fair that I get hit sometimes. That hit cost me 40 rating points though. I can't remember the last time I had a 40 point lost in 1 match. I had worked myself up to gaining 32 points for the entire tournament, and in one match I put myself under by 8 points. So I should be in the 2380's, which isn't bad. But I did advance, so I get a chance to make to the money round on Sunday
I got back to the hotel, explain the rest of the day to Mrs. P., and I tell her since I finished 4th in my group, I'm going to be staring down the barrel of someone "Loop Kill" the next day. I wake up and I feel like I got thrown off the 2nd floor onto the concrete. I get to the gym and I have to jog for 10 minutes to get the stiffness out of the legs. I also had to play 35 minutes to get the stiffness out of the upper body and right arm. I'm able to get it out, and it was just in time. I had to play Joji Yamakazi of Canada, and as I was setting up the camera Didi whispered to me, " Pushing long to him does not work". Great! Now, I have an idea of what not to do.
Round of 16th: Joji Yamakazi
He comes out "Guns a blazing", and I'm still trying to figure out what sport I'm playing. I got hit with some many loops that he knocked me into another genre. I was in the Green Mile saying, " Hello Boss, my name is John Coffee". After game one, I had an idea of what I was in for. Game 2 was a lot of game one, with me taking more hits from all angles. Game 3, I completely turn the tide as all my serves went short. I landed everyone of my loops that game and did not make one unforced error, and took that game 11-4. Game 4th he came out like games 1 & 2, and he went up 5-1. I was not going to let him just walk away with the match. He was going to have to drag me along. I got the score back to 7-all, and we traded 1 point each. At 8-all I made a great counter-loop off his loop kill, and that was enough to shift it in my favor. I ran out the next 2 points in taking game 4 at 11-8.
For Game 5 I had my plan down pack. Short serves, and push his serves deep. (Contrary to Didi
's advice) My first serve was a fast topspin down the line, and he mishits the ball. My second serve is short and I follow with a BH loop that he misses. He serves and I push deep to his BH, and misses a BH loop. The next serve goes long and I loop it for a winner. I'm up 4-0 in game 5, and I'm in the driver's seat. Then, I have my own major "Brainfart" as I miss my own serves, then I serve deep and he attacks it, which brings him back to 4-2. I then miss 4 serve returns and it is 4-all. All the effort down the drain, but I'm going to fight right to the end. I make another simple error, and we change sides. This is when I would have called a time out if I were really thinking, but I totally forgot about a time out. Actually I should have called a timeout at 4-3. We have a really big counter looping point that I lose, and follow it back up with another unforced error. I had won the last 3 points of game 4, and the first 4 points of Game 5, and now I have just game all 7 points. Whew!!
I still fight, and I get him to make some errors that proves that he is still nervous about his lead, but it's too late as I lost game 5 at 11-7. So that is it for me, my first tournament back happens to be one of the most grueling events I have ever played. Now, I'm firing on all cylinders, though.
My next touranament is a 1-star down in South Florida next weekend, so I'll try to put in a block of training to keep this going.