Hello Table Tennis world, this is your favorite vicious Forehand Looper checking in after another tournament in the books. This one was the 1-star event in S. Florida. I was planning on coming back to see the wife that is still there until June (Man, that sucks) and decided to go get my loop on while I was there.
Now, I remember winning one of my first tournaments in South Florida in March of 1997 by beating Lily Hugh. You wanna know how much money I won back then? $600.00! is what I walked away with. Now, fast forward 11 years later and the prize money is $300.00. How did table tennis digress to that in South Florida? I can tell you how. From 1997 to 2004 I think I won all but 2 of the tournaments I entered. So the directors lowered the prize money from $600.00 to $300.00, then to a staggering $80.00 for 1st place. They lost me on the $80.00. But now I’m back and playing for something more than money, FUN.
I still have not set any goals for myself in my return to table tennis. Maybe that makes it easier, because I’m really not taking myself too serious this time around. I got in Friday and played some Friday night, then went back to play again on Saturday. I came into the tournament on Sunday morning to work with Uri, as he had Henry Forte to battle, again. The tournament directors should really take a look at who his playing who every tournament. This is the 3rd tournament I have seen Uri play Henry in the same event.
I look at the draw and see that I’m seeded number 3, and I look at the rest of the groups. When I see that Di is seeded no. 6 I know I will be playing him in the quarterfinals. Great! I get to dance with him again. If you are new to the blog, there is a quiet battle going on with Di and I. It’s respectful, but fierce. I can tell that I have always been one of the players he wanted to scalp, but it hasn’t happened. As a matter of fact, it has never even been close. The pre-retirement Brian Pace use to walk right through him.
Well, after about 2 practice session in my return back I went over to the Boys & Girls Club to see if I could get the daylights beat out of me to remember what it was to be sharp. Somehow, I had Di in my group. I have to say he ran through me quite nicely. I only put up a fight the second game in losing 13-11, but he was the sharper player that day. Losing was not what got me, it was the “Low Blow” statement he made afterwards. He said, “ I only played half of my game”. See, now if you really want me to go home and write up 8 exercises on how to dominate your game, then that is how you do it. If he is 2350, then he played 1675 to beat me. Man, I must really suck after a 4 year hiatus. But the stage was set, “I have a screaming, fighting , chew the table before he loses” Di in the quarterfinals.
I spent the early morning video-taping matches and grabbing some practice time on tables when I had the chance. At 4pm, no groups where called out for the Open Singles, and I had to remind myself that I’m at the 1-star tournament. My last real event that I was taking score on regarding professionalism was the playing the German, Denmark, and Swedish Open. Then for the last 4 years I have been racing bikes. When they say you race starts at 9:30, be on the line at 9:15 or you are going to be starting in such an awful position that you will never see the front group.
I get my group and it is a junior, Carlos Zeller and a Spanish guy that I have never met. I really wanted to lose a game to both players just to get accustom to the table, floor, lighting , room etc. But Carlos was unable to close the door on me in game 2. Plus, I got so many nets that it was just awful. The next guy was better and after being up 2-0, I tanked the 3rd just to get another game in, but I beat him 11-2 in the 4th as I found placement on all my shots. What I was uncomfortable with was going from a 2000 player to a 2300 player. I had a great performance in NC at the Cary Cup, but it was not indicative of my true level. I’m playing right around 2400 in tournament matches, so I still have some progress there. Nor, am I really ready to adjust to jumping to the quarterfinals against a guy that I know it would be a highlight to get a win under his belt if he beat me.
I can’t let that happen, not today. Plus, I made up some exercises for him and if I execute them the right way, I’ll be his daddy again like I was before. We warm up and I’m not feeling this at all. I just went from a rinky dink Stiga to a rinky dink Spintech table. Man, I have to stop being so critical. If it’s bad for me, then it’s bad for him, right. Wrong! This is his facility and his tables. OK, Pacer! Get your attitude together. Just before we start the match I get a disclaimer from Di and takes this time to let me know that he is going to be fighting hard. That means he read my post from Feb when I was just a little flustered that someone would fight so hard in a non-sanctioned practice tournament. I told him it was cool, and the reason it was if I play this the right way he wouldn’t get a chance to spread his lungs in jubilation. I’m gonna clip that real quick.
In the first part of this game almost everything that goes wrong, does. The last match of this level that I played was against Joji Y. at the Cary Cup and it was a straight up and down match. He is a 2700 plyaer that I went 5 games with and the match was full throttle. And I came out like I was playing a 2700 player mentally, emotionally, and tactically. I miss 3 of my first 4 serves and was essentially giving him a 1 game lead. Outside of my missed serves I was still playing better than him, and at 6-9, the “Di Protocol” kicked in. I remembered back to the preset exercises I had did to expose his game. At win 2 point to get it to 7-9. I serve a sidespin serve and he flips it and hits the edge. Click! OK! I remember how I used to own him before. I’m down 10-7. Don’t serve sidespin, he flips. Serve underspin medium, and it works, as he loops the ball in the net. OK, on the serve return I need to actually push that ball in the box. Jam it in the box. He serves sidespin with almost no underspin, because he has a loop that built to drive, not lift. I jam push his serve in the wide FH, and he lunges for his and does get to attempt a loop. OK, that 1, get this one and we have a match. He goes for a underspin short to the forehand and I’m able to pick it up for a FH loop crosscourt and he misses. Duece! OK, I’m in my mode right now. I go for a serve short to the forehand, and he goes for a push deep to the FH, but dumps it into the net. OK, nail number 1 is in the coffin. He setting to serve, and all I’m thinking is “Don’t push soft”. When he serves, I know he is leaning to the FH, and I change it up and push the ball “White Line Deep” to the backhand. And he can only push it. I do a turn and burn FH Loop down the line to take my 5th point in a row, and the first game.
At this point the anxiety has left me and I’m actually “Playing to Expose”. All the placement shots I had before started coming back to me and before long I had totally momentum over the match. Almost every attack he goes for is a half attempt and that has him in difficulty because I’m really going after the push. He only blocks from the middle of the table with confidence, so my attack shots go wide to the FH, or wide to the BH. And by the way, he had no answer to my fast serve to his BH. He protects that BH corner by doing the most powerful turn and burn FH loop that most players stay away from that corner. Not me, I’m a true player and what a true player can detect is insecurity. He is not comfortable with that BH hit, and I’m going to let him know I’m aware of that. And I do, by continuing to win point after point by serving and returning to his deep backhand. At the end of the game I discover something new. He CAN’T block a BH after doing a block from the middle. Wow! I never saw this before. He keeps looking at the Spanish guy that is coaching him. Man, that is dead giveaway. He has not answer for the “Protocol”. Never look at your coach in the match. I didn’t win the game easy but I was in control, but I was going to expose this “No BH Block Thing” in Game 3
He has no momentum at this point because he gets it from winning points by executing multiple attack shots to get his rhythm. No rhythm here for him. I start out Game 3 inviting him to flip my serve and my plan is to attack into his strong point, let him block, and rip an attack shot to the backhand. I also discovered that he has no BH hit off underspin, so when he serves underspin I push deep to his BH and all he does is push. So that is an serve return/attack combo in my favor. I serve, do a BH loop and he misses a block. I want him to make that block so bad, because I need to test this “On the fly” theory that I have. I serve fast, he hit it and we get into play again, and just when I’m ready to lock him up, he misses. OK, another coaching tidbit to self Pacer, “Give away the ball, your opponent just may miss”. He make a BH hit off his serve and that is only because I have been over indulging in playing there. The next point I get the set up that I want by attacking to this strong point which is the “ Seemiller “ type block, only to have a brainfart and miss a loop crosscourt to his FH. I raise my hands in the air like, “Pacer, what the hell are you doing, play the right way”. I tighten my concept after that. I finally get the sequence I was looking for and executed it. He serves the ball medium and attack it to this wide FH, he blocks it, I play a BH to the middle, he play the “Seemiller “ block to my FH and loop it down the line. No answer! As a matter of fact, he didn’t even make an attempt at a stroke. He actually pulled back. He has not technique for this sequence. Ahh! It’s on now. At this point I’m getting more and more confident with where I need to place the ball and what will come back. The new additions to the “Protocol” have put me on cruise control. I still make some errors that confirm I’m still getting back into the sport again, but the screws are turning in my head better than ever. It’s a rewarding feeing to be able to “Out Play” & “Out Smart” your opponent, while systemically pulling their game apart. I expose his inability to stabilize the table even further and close out the match working the new angles. To all those people that thought I was just a muscle head that looped the ball as hard as I can ever chance I got, TAKE THAT. The video will be up on www.butterflyonline.com website, check for it.
Now, to the semi-finals, which would be a challenge for a couple of reasons. The first reason was I really didn’t bother to look at who I had to play, and I had just locked in the “Protocol” from Di. I knew I needed more time to detox strategically, but I’m at a tournament that is more like the UPN Network. Not even 5 minutes after my match I was being called up to play again. See, a UPN operation. I was playing a guy that is from Mexico I think, and he is a “Screamer” almost like a cheerleader. I’m not sure I can could put that on ice, because he screams at the most simple points that he wins. I knew he had nothing special, but his ability to play safe and consistent was his special skill.
I went into the first game feeling him out, and letting him take shots. He was reluctant to take any real risk, but instead gave me the ball every chance he would. I indulged him by getting down the first game, and could not put together a surge, so the first game was a wrap. The second game was a lot of the first, but I found somewhat of a “On the fly” Protocol. I was down 4-8, and I found something by feeling in the dark and got the score back to 8-8. I get the advantage in the rally and I make a counter loop to his FH, and he rolls the ball and I lose sight of the ball and by the time I see it I’m totally in bad position and lose the point. I then make a very simple mistake and he is up 10-8. I play a 2 strong backhands to win get the score to 10-9. I realize that he doesn’t really have much in the form of power, and I’m surprise with how easy it is to play him off the table. This guy is a conservative player, that will take advantage of the point if you make a mistake. He only picks up what you give him, so I’m going to have to make a huge error for him to take a chance. At 9-10, I have him that chance as I pop up a no-spin serve and he make a very soft loop, that actually drops short. Bravo! For him. He is not that good, but he is smart and crafty.
I lost the third game the quickest I have every lost any game I can remember since changing to the 11 point game. He started doing the most rinky dink serves, and I missed them ALL. I couldn’t pull myself back from trying to flip them, and my flip shot was “Out of Order” that day. So I proceed to play the right way even if it made me look like I was giving up. And boy was he screaming, at some point it became amusing to see him scream that loud when I push a ball in the net. The way he screamed really informed me that he is really an insecure player. In my career I only vocalized winning a point at a critical moment, or playing a really good point. This guy is screaming for everything under the sun. Why would anyone scream so loud if they haven’t taken one risk in the match. I’ll have to find out later, because this match is a wrap. At 8-4, I ask him the score and he makes a smart remark. Now, See! I’m going to put that one in the bank, and let it gain interest. He proceeds to bust my ear drums with every push or flip I missed, and I lost the match at 11-6. I got 6 points, and that is the worst game I have played in 5 years. The screaming bothered me, and that is why I’m going to do the same thing to him that I did to “Di”. I’m going to create a protocol, and catch up with him later. I watch the match 5 times, and I can’t believe I played that way. I predict I’m going to beat him worst than I beat Di. I’m looking for you buddy.
I walk off the court, and I’m not upset at all. I’m way beyond that. But what came next almost took me down that road. I sit down to change shirt and Mrs. P (My wife) ask me “What’s up with the lady in the wheelchair”. I said, “What’s up with her?” Before she could explain Terese rolls over and informed me that I was wearing a shirt that was in conflict with the ball. My shirt is yellow, and the ball is orange. And, I have just lost 3-0, and I’m packing up to leave and why would she say anything to me about the shirt I had on. One of my students informs her that my opponent said it was ok, but she says that she HAS to inform me. Actually, she doesn’t have to inform me, but she still enjoys sticking it to me every chance she gets. She most likely got her Umpires Certification from a crackerjack box. I was at the Cary Cup 3 weeks before and she is no where never the level of an umpire of Dick Evans and Larry Kessler. But you have to take what you get when you are at a UPN operation. But no cue card rhetoric from me. I just say “OK”, and pack up. Mrs. P says, “She doesn’t like you”, and I look over and say “Ya Think”. She wants to know why there is some tension there and only explain to her that it is insulting to ask a Doctor to clean the toilets, and she laughs but wants more. If someone looked at your Masters Degree in Mental Healthy Therapy only to say, “You are not a therapist”, you just talk to people would you be psst? He gave a quick, “Hell Yes”. And that is what happened to me. I had just came off a 1 year job coaching John Beaumont that went from number 25 in the country to number 4 and winning the Junior Olympics U-16 Boys, only for THEM so called coaches to tell me that I’m not a coach, “I am a hitting partner”. That attempt to downgrade who I was put me at odds with them, and that is where the tension is coming from. That set off a whole host of other events, but that is where it started for me. I have been coaching all over this country and world, only to come to South Florida and have someone tell me I’m not a coach, but a hitting partner. Wow! I didn’t know they were authorities. I found it to be insulting and I used that as my steam.
Since I moved to Florida in 1997 I have been the ONLY top player living here that has not been under their thumb. I know I was the best coach in South Florida and I was the “King” of running tournaments until I got bored with the exhausting process of moving table, finding gyms, and dealing with all those forms. They don’t even know that I coached over 15 of their kids. All those parents came to me and told me that they know that the techniques they are learning from them is outdated and wanted me to fix. it. I coached kids from Palm Beach Gardens, to Boca, to Parkland and Coral Springs. These people that want to describe me as a “Hitting Partner” to make themselves feel superior don’t even know their student are coming to me behind their back to pay me to be a “Hitting Partner”, LOL. I did that for years, and when I came back in 2004 and retired, I retired working with them as it was a road to nowhere. It was counterproductive and a waste of time for me and money for them. That’s the history. For me I didn’t take it person, I took it professional. I’m a top player and coach, and getting resistance from another coach or player is the name of the game. I know that McDonalds gets resistance from Burger King, just like Coke gets resistance from Pepsi. So getting this type of resistance from them only solidified that I’m good and a threat, and it only made me work harder. That “Responsive System” is over for me now, and being retired 4 years made it a lot easier. That was mouthful, and wife had more.
“What’s up with the dude from Trinidad, why doesn’t he like you?” What? Him? I thought! He was pacing around saying “ What the hell is wrong with Brian?” with regards to you and that shirt. Oh! He is one of those people that is under that umbrella of the “Green Foxes”. He is a “Hitting Partner”, and we both laughed. He’s harmless, I said. He’s just supportive of that side. I think it’s good to have “Haters”, because that hates lets you know that you are doing good enough to get their attention. I used to enjoy actually I used to sun bathe in it.
I’m always so good with people, that wife is surprised that I would have tension with anyone. I explain that if you have taken food out of the mouth of someone in such a small circle of specialist, then you can’t expect them to like you. If you had of list of people that didn’t like you, would they be at the top of the list?, she asked. I looked over at her and said, “They are the list”. We both laugh, and exit the building.
I know my blog has recently become a popular place for players to visit to read about what goes on with my training, my approach, my attitude, and my views. One that I know for sure is, I’m absolutely sure I have no idea how far or intense I’m going to pursue it. I’m happy to be back in the sport I love, and I hope that what you read about training helps you become a better player. I hope what you read about how I deal with conflict makes you a better person. I’m even more delighted that anyone would take the time out of their life, and read what I write. For that, I thank you for letting me borrow your time, and your eyes.