Table Tennis by Lily Yip
1992 & 1996 US Olympian

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2010 Venezuela Junior & Cadet Open-ITTF Junior Circuit, /YOG International Qualification Event 5
(Pan American event) Valencia, VEN, April 19 - 25
              by US Junior Team Coach, Lily Yip


Photo of Michael Landers courtesy of Gerry Chua

Looking into the future was the theme in Valencia, Venezuela. Enter fifteen year old Michael Landers, a significant part of the USATT's future.  He is the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Men's title, is currently USATT rated 2512 and world ranked #242 in the Boys Under age 18 division. Micahel and I travelled together to Venezuela for the ITTF Junior Circuit Open and the Youth Olympic Games Qualification Event. This was his last opportunity to qualify for a spot in the first Youth Olympic Games this coming August in Singapore.  It took us three hours to travel from the airport in Caracas to Valencia . The conditions at the venue were tough, without any air conditioning it was very humid.

 

In the ITTF Junior Open Michael was placed in Group 7 of the 10 groups. Two players advanced from each group to the Main Draw, the rest were placed into the Consolation Event. As his coach, I believed Michael was capable of emerging with a 3-0 record. He was in excellent physical condition and moving well, able to outplay some of the Pan American field but not the high level players who were formidable opponents. 

 

Michael  defeated Jeremy Lau (CAN) 3-1: (11-4,11-7, 9-11, 11-7);

lost to Marcos Rosas (VEN)  1-3: (11-7, 12-14, 5-11, 10-12)

defeated Orell Cooper (TRI) 3-0: (11-9, 11-6, 11-1) .

 

So Michael advanced to the Main Draw with a 2-1 record.

 

In the Round of 32:  Michael faced Mathieu Theriault of Canada (world  ranked #616) , the brother of the number one seed Pierre-Luc Theriault.

Michael won 4-0: (11-6,11-6, 11-5, 11-6) . His short play was superior (interspersed with his improving drop shot), and he was able to attack first to seize the advantage.  

In the Round of 16:  Michael lost to Danilo Toma (BRA) 1-4: (6-11, 6-11, 5-11, 11-7, 2-11) Danilo Toma ,#89 in the world in U18, has an excellent arsenal of serves which  gave Michael trouble. His touch was off, and he resorted to pushing too much. Against a player of Toma's caliber, pushing is suicidal , and Toma capitalized on the opportunity firing off his tellingly effective loops first. At times it seemed that Michael just couldn't read the serves and missed a lot of returns. He did put together a good fourth game, but perhaps at the same time Toma was taking a breather before closing him out in the final game. So no chance, Michael lost, but certainly providing helpful feedback for his future training.  Danilo Toma won the whole tournament beating number one seed Pierre-Luc Theriault from Canada. 4:0 in the Final.

 

April 23 to 24  YOG Qualificational tournament:

Michael Landers was placed in Group 2 where

he defeated Alberto Romo (MEX) 3-0: (11-6, 11- 9, 11-8);

defeated Hugo Rivas (VEN) 3-0: (12-10,11-5, 11-5);

and defeated Orell Cooper (TRI) 3-0: (11-7, 11-4, 12-10).

 

So Michael advanced to the Main Draw with a 3-0 record.  He had taken care of business in a no nonsense manner, beating his opponents handily in straight sets. He appeared to be in good shape for the semi-finals where he again faced Mathieu Theriault of Canada, and prevailed 4-0: (11-7, 11-5, 11-7, 11-9), with another solid victory in workmanship like fashion.

 

In the Finals: Michaelís opponent was Florian Wagner from Germany world ranked #96 in the U18 and lost 2-4: (6-11,12-10,11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 3-11).

Michael was very smart in seeking out a lot of recommendations and valuable information. We had been observing and analyzing Florian's performance and we both had confidence that Michael could win this match.

 

The first three and 1/2 games Michael showed his confidence and played very aggressively which gave Florian a lot of pressure. Their match was very exciting and had many professional level points including many counter loop exchanges. Michael almost had this match. He was up 4:1 and 6:3 in the fourth game. All of a sudden, the game turned, as Florian gained confidence and Michael inevitably lost some, causing Michael to retreat and begin lobbing and playing defensively. Florian then took the last two games.

 

Michael Landers is a terrific competitor and the best is yet to come. It was my pleasure to coach him.