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Never be Intimidated: by Michael Landers

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I recently played in the 2011 World Table Tennis Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands. What made it such a great experience was that I got to compete against the best players in the world. Unlike last year in Moscow, this year was a singles tournament. (Last World Championships was a team competition; it switches off every year) The top 64 players were seeded into the main draw and the other 308 players were put into round robin groups of either three or four players. Only one player came out of each group. After the group stage, the remaining players had to play either one or two single elimination matches to reach the main draw, depending on if they had a bye into the second preliminary round or not. After the preliminary matches came the main draw, which consisted of the best 128 players in the world.

My goal going into the tournament was just to do the best that I could and make it out of my first group. I was seeded second in my group out of three people; the two others were from India and Djibouti. My first match against Djibouti went smoothly, as I won 4-0 without too many problems. The match against India was the following day, and the fact that his world ranking was 220 got into my head more than it should have. (For anyone that doesn’t know, 220 in the world is about a 2700-2750 U.S. rating) My problem was that I kept thinking about how badly I would get killed rather than focusing on how to win the match.

The following day I walked up to the table shaking. After many unforced errors and what seemed like only a few minutes I found myself down 0-3 in games. The next game I decided to try playing without any pressure and just have some fun. Surprisingly, I found myself with game point and closed it out to be down 1-3. I realized at that moment that just because he was 220 in the world, he wasn’t unbeatable. I started gaining some confidence and went up 9-3, but failed to close out the game and lost 14-12. Though I lost the match, I learned an important lesson: to never be intimidated by an opponent. It doesn’t matter how good they are, where they’re from, or what their ranking is. In my case, I lost the match before it even started, which I will make sure to never do again.

Here are some useful tips for the next time you’re the underdog in a match.

-Your opponent is probably more nervous than you are, so don’t count yourself out

– Try to play one point at a time and analyze what’s going on in the match (why you’re losing certain points, where their weaknesses are, etc.)

– Change a losing strategy and have fun! Even if you are losing, it’s not the end of the world. Just try to do something different and see what works and what doesn’t.

Michael Landers

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