(By Yu Di)
2018 US Open highlight coaching moments
Being a coach at Triangle Table Tennis has always been challenge with how busy I am, but over the last 6 months I have been spending the time to spend some time playing competition all over the country. The biggest tournament of the year is the US Open, and I as a coach I really wanted to produce some good results with the players I have been working with.
The US Open this year brought a normal higher level of competition from Europe and Asia. This would pose a challenge in multiple events as vast amount of the top-rated players didn’t have official updated rating. One of the players that I coach often at tournaments from the Wang Chen table tennis club in New York is Nuo Xu, a friend of mine. In the final match of U21 Women’s Singles, after losing the first game, Nuo secure the 2nd game without a problem following my effective tactics and strategies. In the 6th game, a critical timeout at downtime help Nuo defeated her opponent 4:2 claiming the title. Nuo said after the game: “I am very grateful to have coach Yu Di giving me the most important strategies and encouragement at several crucial moments”
Another girl my coaching had an impact on is Jiangshan Guo. Jiangshan Guo is one of the top players in the US living in Raleigh North Carolina representing Triangle Table Tennis made her way to the finals of the Junior Girls. Her unique style of long pips on the backhand and quick attack on the forehand made it difficult for any of the players to adapt to her tempo of play. The fact that she flips her racket and use the long pips on the forehand make her style even more complex. In the finals Jiangshan was up against Ge Chi that is a two-wing looper that uses the reverse penhold grip on the backhand. This would make the match really tactical as Ge has ability to attack from both sides.
Jiangshan took a quick lead in game 1 by using her long pips on the backhand to control the serve return, as well as quick pushing the ball out wide to Ge’s forehand preventing her from execute a quality attack. Ge gained her composure after adapting and was able to even the score at 8-all. Jiangshan won two quick points by control the backhand exchanges with the pips to go up 10-8. Ge was able to win the net two points by attacking the middle prevent Jiangshan from using her backhand effectively. At 10-all Ge Chi changed her approach by challenging Jiangshan forehand to forehand where she missed a block. Up game point, Ge went with the same forehand to forehand strategy to ensure a clean ball, but Jiangshan surprised her with an attack instead of a block. At 11-all Jiangshan decided to block the ball out wide to Ge’s forehand, and the weird travel path of the long pips was too much for Ge. Ge went back to her strategy down game point by going to Jiangshan’s forehand with a clean forehand attack to her wide forehand. At 12-all, Jiangshan used her pips on the backhand to make a serve return to Ge’s forehand where she did a slow forehand attack, and followed it up with a counter attack to the forehand. Up game point Jiangshan started the point by moving the ball side to side, and with Ge just a tad bit behind in her attack, she missed an pips chop wide to her backhand. Game 1 to Jiangshan.
In game 2 Jiangshan changed her approach from game 1 by not exchanging backhand to backhand where Ge was getting comfortable backhand loop in game 1, but placing the ball to Ge’s forehand first, then moving her side to side. When Ge would make a forehand crosscourt, Jiangshan would make a counter attack. With Ge in forehand position Jiangshan would use a chop wide to the backhand, or a forehand attack to her backhand. 11-6 for Jiangshan
In game 3 Ge went up 6-3 by simply adding more power to all her attacks. In the first two games Ge’s attack effort was more conservative, and Jiangshan was able to control the sequence of play. Adding power is shifting the balance of the rallies in her favor. Ge become even more bold by placing her serve return into Jiangshan forehand, then following up with a forehand counter attack. Being in this position made things difficult for Jiangshan as she prefers to start the point close to the table, and with her backhand. Game 3 to Ge 11:5.
Ge took quick control of the game 4 by slowing down her attack in the rallies. This prevented Jiangshan from being able to use the fast tempo in her favor. Ge also spinning her attack with a much higher arc, and that also gave Jiangshan difficulty. After being down 4-1, Jiangshan did fight back to being down, 5-6 and almost tied the game during a long rallies but Ge’s loop clipped the net. With Ge up 9-6, Jiangshan fought back to 10-9 by executing more forehand attack off of Ge’s slow loops. At 10-9, Ge added more power to her attack and forced Jiangshan off the table and end the point with a smash.
Starting Game 5 Jiangshan made it clear that she was adding more power to her shots, and that put Ge in less of a position of control. Jiangshan played her backhand with more power, and the control in the exchanges shifted her way as a result. Ge slowed down her attack even more, and Jiangshan made 2 unforced error, and that even the score at 2. Jiangshan called a time out, and that came back using a tomahawk serve that she couldn’t follow up with an attack. The next point she went back to her new strategy and hard backhands with the long pips, and it forced Ge into a lobbing position where Jiangshan ended the point with smash. Jiangshan new tactic is having problems and success. Because she is having a problem controlling the pips when she hits it harder, she is making some errors. But when she lands it, she instantly takes control over the point. This win with the backhand, then lose with backhand happens at 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, and 6-6.
The next point Ge moved the ball out to Jiangshan’s forehand where she mishit the return off the edge of her racket. The next point followed the same pattern, but Jiangshan made the forehand attack to even the score at 7-all. Ge decided to change her return to the Jiangshan’s forehand where she made a loop, and Ge missed the counter-attack. The next point was clearly the longest rally of the match with Ge spin looping the ball high, and Jiangshan targeting the backhand and middle with her backhand. The point ended with Ge missing Jiangshan quick block into the net. The next point was also a long exchange of rallies where Jiangshan blocked Ge off the table, but wasn’t in position to attack the loose ball that was short. Jiangshan is up 9-8, and Ge responds with what is her most power forehand attack to tie the score at 9-all.
Ge called a time-out even though she just won a pivotal point and the momentum is in her favor. Coming out of the time-out Ge started with a stronger opening attack, which was followed by an equal counter-attack, and three exchanges later Ge played the ball off the end. Down match point Ge increased her power on the forehand and push Jiangshan off the table, and finished the point with a smash. With game tied at 10 Jiangshan did something clever by backing off the tempo dramatically slowing down the exchange. Ge was too far off the table and was not able to get enough leverage on the ball, and rolled it off the end of the table. Jiangshan followed up with the same approach by playing a really slow off speed shot that Ge hit directly into the bottle of the net.
This match went all the way down to the wire, and both players adjusted and responded to their opponents strategy, but Jiangshan gets the International Title today.