Highlights of Arnav’s run to a silver!
Posted by Shashin Shodhan on Saturday, July 7, 2018
Rishi won a bronze medal in the Under 2200 event which in terms of number of entries with 294 players, was the hardest to medal in. He won his first 5 matches 3-1, then the round of 16 and quarters 3-0, and then lost in the semis 3-0. The opponent in the semis played really well but Rishi could have played better as well. I felt Rishi could have won the gold in the Under 2200 Super Tiered but for the 3rd straight major tournament, lost to a long pips player in one of his main events.
Arnav won the silver in the Under 1800 event to follow his triple-gold performance 6 months back at the 2017 US Open winning the Under 1000, Under 1200, and Under 1500. He had a series of close wins at the 2017 US Open and here too except the semis which he won more comfortably since he had beaten the same player close in the Under 1500 at the 2017 US Open so we knew what to do ahead of time. In the final, Arnav had a chance the first two games but did not follow the strategy as well as he could have before losing 3-0. However, the opponent was also likely too good for the event as his latest rating was around 2,000 and won all his matches 3-0. In the final, Arnav had 9-9 in the first game with serve and at 10-9, they had a really good point that Arnav lost. Arnav had a 8-6 lead in the 2nd before losing 11-9.
Bhavesh and Stephen’s main events were the Under 1000. I thought both players would be in contention for gold (Bhavesh for Juniors U-1000 and Stephen for Adults U-1000). My guess is both play around 1,500-1,800 with me in practice. Stephen had just beaten some of my better juniors in practice going into Nationals. Bhavesh had just beaten the Under 1700 Champion and another 1600+ player in my June tournament. Bhavesh advanced out of his U-1000 group and then lost in the final 16. However, I didn’t get to coach them in the matches they lost due to other matches at the same time which still doesn’t sit well with me. They also need more match play. Bhavesh couldn’t play Under 1200 or Under 1400 as he had to leave to go to India or he would have had a chance to medal in those too.
I also tried playing but I had another bad tournament. I’ve been injured recently so haven’t had a chance to practice or exercise. When I don’t practice or exercise, I play like I don’t deserve to win a match and well, I don’t deserve to win a match. I won silver in the Over 40 doubles event but not exactly one of my career highlights. I know what everyone does against me but when I’m playing well, those weaknesses go away. It’s also hard to play well when students matches are more important these days.
In late 1999 and 2000, I was training full-time and played 2700 in my important matches (beat Pan Am Gold Medalist and 3 points from being US Olympic Team Alternate) and regularly in practice against the Swedish top league players being even in practice matches with the GOAT Jan-Ove Waldner’s club practice partners and teammates and beating all the Swedish players on the Falkenberg elite league team. Since then, I think the only times I played my normal level was when I played recent World #1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov’s group and Rio Olympic Men’s Singles quarterfinalist Quadri Aruna’s group both at the LA Opens. They are such big names, I really got myself ready. I won a game against Ovtcharov, was even the last 35 points of the match with Aruna after I told myself to slow down, and beat the other 2300-2400 players in our groups as easily as they did. Otherwise, I usually beat myself and am not physically fit. I did train in China before the 2008 Olympic Trials and after losing to everyone on the Chengdu (one of biggest cities in China) team the first 1.5 months there, I beat everyone there after. However, I hadn’t played enough tournaments around that time. If I played like I was in 2000, I’m quite sure I could have made both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Teams but coaching has taken priority.
There was also a dark side to the Nationals. There were two separate incidents where I felt opponents were clearly trying to cheat my student at critical times in the match. One opposing coach forced his student to apologize to me after showing bad behavior and a referee was called after a separate incident and sided with me as the opponent’s argument made no sense. I wish tournaments would go smoothly without incident but I have to stand up for fair play and my students. I know how people in the wrong work as to avoid negative focus on themselves, they put negative focus on me or the innocent party even if it’s with an outright lie or nothing to spread. There is one coach given way too much more power in USA Table Tennis so since I’ve told an important person he’s unethical from many incidents grouped together, that club of course has to turn it around and ignore me as if I’ve done something wrong. I also heard recently that the USATT board has looked the other way about the hidden serve problem for the second time where everyone is serving illegally. They didn’t accept the proposal that would have solved the problem. There was also one club that I think asked their players to intentionally lose matches in giant round robins to put their players in easier divisions in singles and doubles which is the only way the series of losses followed with series of wins make sense. I think those gold medals mean nothing and I would be embarrassed to have them.
One funny thing I’ve noticed is that when coaching was not allowed during matches, I would see constant coaching during matches and I felt I was a rare one who followed the rules and didn’t coach during matches. Now that coaching is allowed, the other coaches are not coaching much during matches now but I am now!