National TT champion has work to do
Hubert Lawrence/ Gleaner Writer
LAST WEEKEND’S North American Team Table Tennis Championships, played in Washington, showed national champion, Mark Phillips, he has work to do to improve his game.
Phillips, former national champions Kane Watson and Chris Marsh, and US-based Michael Henry, played to within touching distance of their division’s semifinals, and Phillips thinks they could have made it.
Nevertheless, Phillips thinks the experience was very valuable. “I was expecting a lot of matches but just doing it first and witnessing it, it’s amazing and hard at the same time. After playing maybe three matches, you have another three more to play and maybe another three more, all in the space of a few hours,” he explained.
“And all matches are hard. It’s not like you can step off the gas because these persons are very good. They’re very competitive and they’re not giving away any points. You have to maintain your focus through every single match, every single point, just the same for all matches.”
After a slow start, the team – 4Yardies and a GT – won three of its five encounters in the preliminary group stage and vaulted into the third of 17 divisions. The Jamaicans then stepped on the gas, winning five of their seven Division 3 group matches. Unfortunately, they lost a place in the semis on countback as another team, with a 5-2 record, had defeated them. To add salt to the wound, Phillips and company earlier defeated the eventual runners-up, Mad Green, 5-2. Phillips rued the irony. “The team that went to the finals, we beat that team very easily.”
The national champion won 16 of his 24 individual matches.
“I think I’m not too far off on fitness,” he assessed.
“It’s just that, as I said, all the matches you have to be focused. You have to try to stay hydrated because it’s an entire day tournament. It’s really hard even to eat on time and eat properly. So nutrition was a bit of a problem also, but I think we’re right there. That category should have been ours but that’s how it goes in table tennis: you win some, you lose some,” he said.
Long hours at the practice table lie ahead.
“I have a few things to work on, especially my middle game, staying up (to the table), recovering faster. You can’t play and not expect the ball to come back because these players are bringing back every single ball and you have to be in the point, you know.
“Sometimes there are surprise long serves, you might push back because of fatigue and stuff like that, but you have to remain focused and just get around there and stick to the plan.”
Queried about playing at the event next year, he replied: “Definitely, and I’m definitely taking home a medal next year.”