Greg’s Table Tennis Resume
How To Master Long Pips and Antipsin – The Long and Difficult Way!
Greg’s CV – Short Version
For those of you in a hurry – here is the condensed version of my Table Tennis Resume.
|1970||Date of birth – didn’t do much table tennis-wise that year.|
|1986||Played first junior tournament – 3 months later tried out for State Junior Training squad and was accepted. Went to first Australian National Junior Championships as an U/17 state team member for Western Australia. Playing style was a defender/blocker with normal rubbers.|
|1987||Went to second National Junior Championships using long pips. Became qualified State Umpire. Was number 1 U/17 male for Western Australia.|
|1989||Went to first National Championships as a speed glueing attacker.|
|1990||Went to second National Championship as a speed glueing attacker.|
|1992||Went to third National Championships as a combination bat attacker using anti-spin. Qualified as National Umpire and umpired the Ladies Doubles final (I think!)|
|1995||Went to fourth National Championships, this time as a combination bat defender with medium pimples. Also played two National League matches for the Perth Power, against the Sydney Smashers and the Cairn Taipans.|
|2004||Went to fifth National Championships as an old man and a combination bat defender. Qualified as an International Umpire. Became assistant coach of the State Junior Team.|
|2005||Began Greg’s Table Tennis Pages in February. Qualified as a Level 1 Coach.
Played in sixth National Championships. Achieved World Ranking of 916, Commonwealth ranking of 32, and Australian ranking of 20, according to the ITTF website at www.ittf.com, as of September 2005.
|2006||Took over as Guide on the Table Tennis/Ping-Pong About.com site in May.
Played in seventh National Championships.
Won Mens Singles, Mens Doubles, and Mixed Doubles at WA State Open. Was ranked as #1 in the WA Men’s Rankings.
|2007||Competed in eighth National Championships. Won seventh Mens Doubles title at WA State Open. Won Overall Grand Prix competition for the first time.|
|2008||Competed in ninth National championships – won 13 matches, lost 8. Won eighth WA State Mens Doubles title. Reached the Round of 16 at the Australian Closed Mens Singles, and the Round of 32 in the Australian Open Mens Singles. Defeated David Powell, Andy Shih and Piers Carter at the Australian Open, and lost to Justin Han 2-3, 8-11 in the fifth game.|
|2009||Hmm, looking back I don’t remember much about this year. I had a epic 3-2, 15-13 or so in the fifth win against top-10 ranked David Powell at the Australian Open, after saving several match points. I was still competing as a traditional defender with occasional pick hitting. I think this was the year I started having serious problems with aches and pains in my lower body after matches.|
|2010||Turned 40 and starting competing in the Veteran’s scene. Changed to a two wing looping style to try to ease the aches and pains in my lower body. Finished #3 in the O/40 Men’s Order of Merit at the New Zealand Veterans as a looper.
Had an average Australian Open as a two wing looper, and changed to an aggressive up to the table combination bat style, mixing attack and defence.
Finished #3 in the O/40 Men’s Order of Merit at the Australian Veterans. Then changed to a “lollipop grip” in another attempt to cut down the aches and pains in my lower body.
|2011||Finished #2 in the O/40 Men’s Order of Merit at the New Zeland Veterans with my lollipop grip, and reached the semifinals of the O/40 Men’s Singles, losing 2-3 in the semifinal to eventual winner Malcolm Darroch. Received a Silver Medal for the O/40 Men’s Doubles, and a Bronze Medal in the O/40 Mixed Doubles. Also represented Australia for the first time in the Australia vs New Zealand Veterans’ Test Match, winning both my matches in the O/40 Men’s Test. Won the O/40 Men’s Team event with partner Craig Campbell.
Had a mediocre Australian Open, and changed back to my normal defensive style with pick hitting in the middle of the tournament, after which I played better and won the Consolation Singles. After the Open, changed over to an aggressive combination bat style again in order to survive the Australian Veterans week long tournament.
Finished #2 in the O/40 Men’s Order of Merit at the Australian Veterans, along with a Gold Medal in the O/40 Men’s Doubles, and a Silver Medal in the O/40 Men’s Singles. Also received the Table Tennis World O/40 Men’s Best Player award. Started weight training again in late August, and by November I was essentially free of aches and pains in my lower body – bliss! Dabbled with returning to my traditional defensive style with pick hitting, but found myself playing better and enjoying myself more when using my aggressive up to the table style, with occasional defence when required, so I decided to stay aggressive.
|2012||Finished #3 in the O/40 Men’s Order of Merit at the New Zealand Veterans in April, along with Silver Medals in the O/40 Men’s Singles (losing 2-3 to Malcolm Darroch) and O/40 Mixed Doubles. Represented Australia for the second time in the Aus vs NZ Test Match, winning both my matches against Malcolm Darroch (yay – a win at last!) and Stuart Armstrong. Won the O/40 Men’s Team event with partner Craig Campbell for the second time.|
I have been ranked in the top 10 players in Western Australia in every year I have competed since about 1988, as an attacker in the late 80’s, a combination bat defender for most of the 90’s, a speed gluing attacker in 2003 and part of 2004, and once again a combination bat defender since April 2004.
Greg’s CV – Long Version
The full story – for those of you with an attention span longer than 5 minutes.
1986 – I first got involved in serious table tennis at age 15 – like many players, I was a late starter. And just like many of you, I was told by others that I had left it too late to become a top national level player. Unfortunately, I believed them. It wasn’t until my mid-30’s that I realized just what rubbish I had swallowed without question.
I wasn’t like most other players, who served and looped big third ball and fifth ball attacks while running around the court. I was too overweight to do all that, so I stayed put and stuck to doing what I could handle. I stood right up at the table, refused to move back, and pushed the ball with as much backspin as I could get from both wings. When my opponents managed to loop my heavy chop, I blocked it back and moved them around the table until I got the chance to push another loaded backspin. That was my whole game plan. Relentless chop and block.
Within 3 months, I made the Western Australian state junior team. Within 12 months, I was the #1 junior in Western Australia. I was on a roll. Maybe I could be a top player after all? Not according to the local experts though.
1987 – The National Coach for Australian Table Tennis Team visited to run a training camp, and I made the first of what would become a series of mistakes that would take me years to overcome. The coach, Zhou Lan Sun, was a respected coach who had guided the Chinese Women’s Team to a world championship, and who had been the #3 player in the world himself back in the 1960’s. It was Mr. Zhou who saw that I had some defensive potential, and told me to start using long pimples on my backhand.
Fast forward 22 years to 2009, and I’m using long pips on my backhand now. So what was the big mistake? At 16, I was too overawed by Mr. Zhou to ask the questions I needed to know. What style should I use – close to the table or far away? Should I be defensive or aggressive? What are the basic long pip techniques that I need to know? How does training with long pips differ from training with normal rubber? Should I twiddle the bat? If so, when? What type of blade should I use, and what type of normal rubber on the forehand side? Should my grip be deep or shallow? Loose or firm? Anyway, you get the picture – I failed to ask the right questions, and so I missed out on a number of essential pieces of information that Mr. Zhou could have given me – and as a result I slowed my progress down.
I put the long pips on my backhand as instructed, one month before the 1987 Australian Junior Championships. The result was predictable – I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and I played lousy – I’d play one great point and then make three easy errors as the ball flew in all directions from my long pips. I came home from the championships and ripped the long pips right off my bat, and went back to my old smooth rubbers again.
1988-1993 – The problem was, I was hooked. That occasional great point with the long pips had got under my skin. I’d seen players like Koji Matshushita, Li Gun Sang and Chen Xinhua on video and I desperately wanted to play like them, mixing attack and long range defensive chops. So for the next 4-5 years I went back and forth, putting long pips or antispin on my bat in order to copy my heroes, then ripping it off again when it was made painfully clear that I didn’t know how to use them properly. When I wasn’t using long pips or anti I dabbled with speed glue and two wing looping.
Bit by bit, I slowly learned a few basics of long pip play. I had a good natural backhand loop and a lousy forehand loop – due to technique and grip problems. I had no good serves to speak of and a less than great return of serve. I was still around 40-50 pounds overweight, but I managed to claw my way up to around number 10 in the Western Australian men’s ranks.
1994-1995 – I got my fitness together for the first time, and actually got down to my proper match weight of 70.5kg. I was fit and training hard, and looking forward to the 1995 Australian Open. I’d show everyone a thing or two about defensive play!
One week later, I had retired from the sport.
I had been beaten, battered and blasted off the court by opponents using superfast blades, superquick rubbers and a ton of speed glue. At 24, I had had enough. I wasn’t to return to National level play for another 10 years. It would take me that long to realize that I was completely wrong about why I had under-performed at the Australian Championships, and that it wasn’t my opponents or their technology that was the problem.
The problem was me.
2003 – I first started thinking of playing seriously again when my partner started playing in local pennant competitions. I had dabbled in the sport every now and then, but nothing too serious. I was around 108kg (~240 pounds), and I thought that training for another go at the Nationals might give me a good reason to drop some weight. I was way too heavy to move around much, so I bought some max thickness inverted rubbers and a Timo Boll Spirit blade, glued the hell out of it and blasted the ball as hard as I could.
Within a few months I was in the top 5 players in my state. I’d even dropped a bit of weight, down to 98 kg. Things were looking good for 2004, until in July a lump in the side of my head turned out to be non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Cancer at 32 – it looked like my table tennis plans were going to have to be put on hold for a while, if not permanently.
The rest of 2003 and the early part of 2004 was given over to chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Needless to say this took a heavy toll on my body.
2004 – By February 2004 my treatment was over, I was down to 90kg with a body that had been put through the wringer, and my doctor told to take it easy for a while. Training hard or long was out – I barely had the energy to get through the day. But I was damned if I was going to let that stop me from going to the Australian Open – I had got through the treatment and the Nationals were my reward.
July 2004 saw me back in national competition again at the Australian Open. I had switched back to defending with long pips in February, since I was light enough to move around again, and I naturally feel more comfortable as a defender. But I had no stamina and very little training behind me going into the competition. I finished with around 5 wins and 19 losses – not bad all things considered. I was really just stoked to be there and competing at all. I was hooked on competition again, and determined to do better.
2005 – I was still struggling to train hard, and the weight was creeping back on, so I had to compensate in other ways. I sat down and took a critical look at my game for the first time in many years, and it finally became obvious why I had bombed out of the Nationals way back in 1995.
First of all, my grip was wrong. I was alternating between an extreme forehand and backhand grip, and I kept getting caught with my bat in the wrong position. I finally bit the bullet and switched to a neutral grip. It took about 3 months to feel comfortable but it made a huge difference to my game for the better.
Secondly, I was trying to play a style that didn’t suit me. I had the dream of playing like Joo Se Hyuk, chopping on the backhand with my long pips and counterlooping on the forehand with a max thickness inverted rubber, all on a fast looping blade. In reality, I was way too heavy to cover the court and my forehand loop technique sucked. I faced the facts, put a defensive rubber on my forehand (1.0mm Tango Defensive), and decided to chop more with the forehand, and stick to attacking mainly with my naturally better backhand, along with some intelligent twiddling to set up my counterattacks. These were all good decisions, but I still had one more dumb mistake to make – I had just bought another expensive Timo Boll Spirit blade, so I stupidly decided that I didn’t want to waste the money I had just spent. Like an idiot I kept right on using my Timo Boll Spirit to defend with, instead of doing the sensible thing and buying a decent defensive blade that I could control when chopping.
That year at the Nationals, I still couldn’t train hard, and I had gone back up to around 96kg. I was using the wrong blade (but at least the right type of rubbers), and my tactics were better. I wasn’t expecting miracles but I hoped to do a bit better than my first year back in 2004.
On my first day back, I beat 3 Australian top 10 players – Chamara Fernando, Kamalesh Tharmasuthan, and Sharad Pandit.
After that great first day, my level steadily dropped as my lack of fitness began to catch up with me. By the end of the week I was sleeping on the floor between matches in order to keep going. But I had a pretty respectable tournament – and other players had noticed that I was playing well too! So I was quite pleased with my progress.
In 2005 had also started coaching a few local players in order to share what I had learned over the years. Within a few months I was teaching over 12 students one-on-one, most of them long pip and antispin players who couldn’t get advanced combination bat coaching anywhere else. I was also teaching several normal rubber students as well.
2006 – I took over the About.com table tennis site when the previous guide (Sean O’Neill) stepped out of the job. Between writing for About.com, my local coaching and my analysis of my own play, I was being forced to re-examine many of my assumptions and beliefs about table tennis. It was surprising how many things I had to re-evaluate as I learned what was reality versus what was only assumption. I was slowly building a simple, comprehensive framework of how to teach table tennis based on what really works and what really happens out there on the table, not just spouting the usual platitudes and sayings that seem to get repeated endlessly. I wanted results for myself and my students, and that meant I had to get to the facts and what really worked.
2006-2007 – During this time I was playing, coaching my local students, coaching the state junior team, and maintaining two websites – About.com and my own personal website (Greg’s Table Tennis Pages, of course!). I was busier than a one-armed paperhanger! In the end something had to give, and I took a break from coaching for a while – I’m still getting asked to come back and coach by my ex-students today. But I needed a way to coach more than just a handful of students – personal one-on-one coaching just wasn’t cutting it for me – I didn’t like to say no to new students but I just couldn’t handle the demand for my coaching time.
In the meantime, I was still competing at the Australian Open each year. In 2006 I had wins over Alex Swanson, Andy Shih, Colin McKenna and the up and coming David Powell. In 2007 I followed up with wins over Paul Pinkewich, Brian Berry, Guy Fainbloom, and Wade Townsend. I was maintaining my level but I wasn’t improving enough to take the next step up into a place in the top 10-15 Australian men – I was stuck around the 15-25 mark. And I was still way too heavy – around 85-95 kg at various times.
Late 2007-2008 – After the 2007 Australian Open, I sat down and picked Paul Pinkewich’s brains (Paul is an Australian defensive legend), something I should have done long ago. After we chatted, I sat and thought long and hard about what he had to say. Then I went out and bought a proper defensive blade – a Butterfly Matsushita Pro Special. I moved from 1.0mm sponge to OX long pips (no sponge), and from Tango Defensive to Dr. Neubauer Domination 1.5mm on my forehand.
I also reapplied my brain to my fitness routine. With a new approach based on small, incremental improvements, I finally started to get my weight under steady control, and build up my fitness and my training times. I used video analysis to finally work out what was wrong with my forehand loop technique, and improved it immediately. I improved my forward lean and widened my stance. And then I made what turned out to be one of my best decisions yet – I decided to compete in the Australian 2008 Closed Championships.
At the Closed, I finally realized what I had missed in the previous years – the game I actually played at a national level wasn’t the game I was training for! At the Nationals, I relied on a tight push return of serve, steady defense, sneaky twiddling, and a floated forehand chop that set up my good backhand pick hit counterattack. My forehand loop was a very occasional weapon. But in training, I had been spending a lot of time on my forehand loop, and my flick return of serve, while neglecting my push return of serve, my backhand attack and my chop technique. What the hell had I been thinking? Answer: I hadn’t been thinking at all, just blindly going through the same routines I had been taught for attacking players. Stupid.
I had six weeks to go before the 2008 Australian Open – time for a crash course refresher in defensive training. And for the first time I realized just how far off my training had been. My chop technique wasn’t as good as it should be, my defensive footwork was plain awful, and I didn’t have enough spin variation when chopping with my smooth rubber. Yikes!
After 6 weeks of hard work, I was by no means perfect but I was a little better on my defensive basics. So when the 2008 Australian Open rolled around, I was both hopeful that I would do a bit better and a little regretful that I hadn’t woken up to reality sooner.
The end result? 13 wins and 8 losses in the teams competition, including wins over David Powell (#10 ranked in Australian men in 2008) and Andy Shih. A 2-3 loss to Justin Han (the latest wonder arrival from China), the closest anybody got to him in the teams competition (only 2 other players even took a game from him). 2-3 losses to George Tang and John Tawadrous (after a match point in the fourth game too. Curses!) A win over ex top 10 player Piers Carter in the Over 30’s. And no losses to anybody that I should have beaten in the teams competition. Not bad at 37 and still around 30 pounds too heavy!
After the Australian Open, I sat down again and thought things over. The biggest trouble I had at the Nationals against players of my own standard was when they decided to stop looping hard and instead roll the ball softly to my forehand. With the Domination and my less than perfect technique I couldn’t get aggressive with my chop return – I kept overhitting off the end of the table or dumping the ball in the net. So I was forced to float the ball back in order to keep control, which allowed my opponent to tee off on my no spin return while I was stuck close in to the table. Not good! I needed to be able to get aggressive with my forehand chop in these situations, and vary the spin at will. So I decided to switch to Tackiness Chop 1.0mm and learn to chop the ball hard. After a month of practicing hard on my robot, it’s starting to come together nicely, and I’m looking forward to starting competition in 2009. I’m still ranked at 945 in the world as of December 2008, and I want to move up a couple of hundred places in the next 2 years, before I start the over 40’s Veterans competition in 2010.
2009 – I haven’t given up on my coaching ambitions either. I’m starting up an online coaching program which will officially open in around March-April 2009. I’m looking to share my hard earned knowledge of advanced combination bat play with all you fellow long pippers and antispin users. There’s not a lot of good information on long pips and antispin out there – and in fact most of it is what I have written at About.com! And there’s virtually no advice anywhere for advanced level combination bat play.
Let’s face it, I’m not especially talented when it comes to table tennis. I struggle with my weight. I’ve made some real bone-headed decisions when it comes to technique, tactics, and equipment. I’ve been training the wrong way for most of my career. I haven’t always been able to train long and hard. And yet I’ve still managed to take on players who are 15 years younger, 40 pounds or more lighter, and who are using the best of modern attacking technology, and win my share.
Apart from showing I’m bit of a slow learner at times, just imagine what that means for you. If I can do that while making all those mistakes, what could you do if you had my help to avoid making the same stuff-ups I did? I don’t think I’m close to my potential yet – how much room for improvement do you think you must have? That’s the gap I’m going to fill with my online coaching program – you’ll get access to what I know now and what I continue to discover in the future!
And while inverted rubber players are more than welcome to join, my main focus will be on guiding beginning and intermediate combination bat players to an advanced level. If it sounds like the sort of thing you’d be interested in, you can find more details about my online coaching program here.