Table Tennis by Lily Yip
1992 & 1996 US Olympian

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2010 Joola Austrian Junior Open,Linz, Austria, April 1-3, 2010

                                              by US Junior Team Coach, Lily Yip

                                                                         From left to right:  Peter Li, Michael Landers, Ariel Hsing, Natalie Sun

From Lignano, Italy, our USA Junior Team travelled to Linz, Austria, well known for hosting high level international tournaments. The playing conditions were excellent, and the Austrian TTA offered a total of $8000 (Euros) in prize money. While this tournament did not include any cadet or team events, it served as a formidable challenge to our young players and hopefully would provide them with invaluable international experience. And it sure did! Even though all our players from the US got into the main draw, they couldn't go all the way, because of their lack of tournament experience.

During the two days of training at the famous club in Linz prior to the competition, it appeared that our players were superior in many respects to their European counterparts. For example, players couldn't handle Ariel's speed during the practice, but they played much better in the tournament, (and one even finished first in the Junior Girls Singles.) One of the vital points I observed as their coach is that our USA players are weak at adjusting their timing. This is skill which needs a lot of improvement. Many of the European players know how to loop from medium and far distances from the table. They are comfortable backing off with fade-away loops. So they can change the game's rhythm with variations of pace, trajectories, and spins, forcing errors from inexperienced or impatient opponents. They are definitely playing a strategic and imaginative game which is the high European standard. However, it seems to me that our young players can compete with them and should fare well in the near future. After all, our young players are still growing into their bodies and will become more powerful in the years to come. Furthermore, they will develop their mental strength, and their tactics will be more mature. They will better adjust to the pressures of international competitions. They already have excellent speed. For our junior players, the more difficult challenge will be to overcome the higher Asian standard of play.    

After tasting great success in Italy, we experienced a different tournament scene in Austria . Surely, our USA juniors must learn as much as possible from our defeats. They will be our stepping-stones to a higher USA standard that will one day rival the European and Asian standards. Well, 14 year old Ariel Hsing (world ranked #37 in U18) in the Round of 16 was upset by 16 year old Dina Meshref of Egypt (world ranked #54 in U18). Perhaps Ariel underestimated her opponent who played very well. In the Round of 16, Peter Li (world ranked  #166 in U18) lost to the number one player from the Czech Republic , Pavel Sirucek . (world ranked #13 in U 18). At this tournament, Natalie Sun took sick but decided to play anyway; nevertheless, she was able to get as far as the Round of 32. Natalie (world ranked #173 in U18) lost to Poland 's Katarzyna Slifirczyk (world ranked #107 in U18) . Michael Landers (world ranked #238 in U18) lost to the Slovenian phenom Jan Zibrat (world ranked #38 in U18)  As their coach, I could see that the deciding factor was that the European juniors had much more tournament experience than our USA Juniors, and the experience paid off! 


The following is a more detailed account of our results. Moreover, for complete tournament results, please visit the ITTF website.


Junior Girls' Singles: Qualification Group 2- Natalie Sun (USA) lost to Camelia Postoaca (ROU) , world ranked #21 in U18, 0-3: (5-11,10-12, 4-11); Natalie Sun (USA) def. Maja Krzewicka (POL), world ranked #145 in U18, 3-1: (11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 13-11). Round of 32- Natalie Sun (USA) lost to #107 world ranked Katarzyna Slifirczyk (POL), 2-4: (11-8, 5-11, 9-11, 11-6, 2-11,5-11) exit USA 

Qualification Group 6- Ariel Hsing (USA) def. Natalie Kaluzua (SVK) 3-0: (11-6, 11-3, 11-7); Ariel Hsing (USA) def. Katarzyna Slifirczyk (POL) , 3-0: (11-5, 11-6, 13-11); Ariel Hsing (USA) def. Susanne Docter (NED), 3-0: (11-7,11-7,11-7). Round of 32- A.Hsing (bye); Round of 16- Ariel Hsing (USA) was upset by #54 in U 18, Dina Meshref (EGY), 0-4: (9-11,11-13, 7-11, 7-11) exit USA


Junior Boys' Singles: Qualification Group 11- Michael Landers (USA) def. Riku Autio (FIN), 3-0:  (11-4, 11-2, 11-5); Michael Landers (USA) def. Cristian Barbulescu (ROU) , 3-2: (11-12, 11-7, 8-11, 15-13,11-5). Round of 32- Michael Landers (USA) lost to #38 in U18, Jan Zibrat (SVN), 0-4: (5-11, 8-11, 7-11,4-11) While Zibrat displayed excellent serves, Michael needs to improve his service receive. That would make him an even more formidable opponent and narrow the gap between him and the world's best.  exit USA


Qualification Group 15- Peter Li (USA) def. Tommaso Cecchetti (SMR), 3-0: (11-7,11-1,11-2); Peter Li vs. former USA-ARG teammate, Pablo Sargovi of Argentina, (w.o) ; Peter Li def. Mikalai Zrazhavets (BLR), 3-1: (11-7, 11-7, 5-11, 11-9). Round of 32- Peter Li ( USA ) def. Simon Pfeffer (AUT), 4-1:

 (11-7,11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 11-5); Round of 16- Peter Li (USA) lost to #13 World Ranked in U18, Pavel Sirucek (CZE) ,0-4: (5-11, 4-11, 7-11, 6-11). Peter has an excellent arsenal of quality shots, but needs to build his self-confidence and develop mental toughness.  exit USA .


Junior Girls' Doubles - Round of 32- Ariel Hsing (USA) / Natalie Sun (USA) - bye; Round of 16-

lost 2-3,  in a tough see-saw match to a mixed team of  Nadeen El-Dawlatly (EGY) / Daniela Rozinkova (CZE) (8-11,11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7), exit USA .


Junior Boys' Doubles - Round of 32 - Peter Li (USA) / Michael Landers (USA) blending well together contained the mixed team of Adrian Costea (ROU) / Tommaso Cecchetti (SMR) , 3-0:

(11-9,13-11, 11-8); Round of 16 - lost 2-3: (3-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-7, 4-11) to Jacub Dorocinski (POL) / Artur Bialek (POL) , exit USA .


On behalf of our team, I would like to say that we appreciated that the USATT sent our team to Europe for this kind of competition. From competitions like these, we can discover our problems, refine our skills, gain much needed international experience, and develop a tradition of winning. We are in the process of developing an excellent American standard of play that will be internationally recognized and competitive. Hopefully, we will participate in more ITTF Junior Circuit tournaments, and 2010 will be our stepping-stone year to a higher level of play. Also, I would like to thank the coaches who prepared our team so well and the parents who travelled with our team, supporting them in every way. This all contributes to the wonderful team spirit for our USA Juniors, and their steady progress on the ITTF Junior Circuit will keep on growing.