Thursday 28 March 2013

Adidas Powerhouse on top of Denmark

I had the distinct please of interviewing Jonathan Groth, a rising star in Europe, one of the first sponsored Adidas players and twice national champion of Denmark. Thanks for the interview Jonathan and best of luck in Paris :)

Full Name: Jonathan Groth
Date of Birth: 9. November. 1992
Nation Represented: Denmark
Highest World Ranking: 153

Adidas sponsored Jonathan Groth

Equipment Used:

Blade: Adidas Hypertouch
FH Rubber: Adidas, TenZone
BH Rubber: Adidas, TenZone

Your Career

How long have you played table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I started when I was 8 years old. Playing in the school and then started in a club.

What has been the highlight of your table tennis career so far?
Silver In Europeans Mens Doubles 2010 with Kasper Sternberg and to win Danish Championship 2012 and again in 2013.

How has your first season at Fulda-Maberzell been? How has it helped your game being part of the team?
Yes it has helped me a lot.. Just to be around good players and practice with good players has helped to increase my level.

What is your big goal for 2013?
I have no big goal, Just that I can continue improve all the time and get higher on the world ranking.

Your team recently came 2nd at the German Cup so congratulations, how did you feel you played in that event. You managed to win a set and play a great match against Timo Boll in the final, does that performance give you confidence for future matches?
That specific match doesn't give me more confidence. I also played against him earlier in the season and lost 3-2. But I have been playing better the last months so I have just got more confidence with the time.

What is your week like in terms of training, Bundesliga matches and ECL matches?
My week changes all the time.. There is no routine that goes again and again.

Let's talk about Adidas Table Tennis. Recently you became sponsored by them and are now part of their promotions. Many players were at first skeptical about Adidas' ability to produce specialised table tennis equipment. So tell us, how has the equipment been for you?
I have now been playing with Adidas for 2 years and I am really satisfied with the quality of the equipment. The equipment has reached a high level since I started with it, so I am really satisfied with playing with Adidas rubbers and blade.

Groth is two time Danish National Champ in 2012 and 2013

Who do you think will win the mens singles at this year's WTTC in Paris?
I think Ma Long or Xu Xin will win the WTTC in Paris.

Off Topic Questions

Who is your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Roger Federer. Greatest sportsperson of all time in my opinion.

Favourite Food?
I like Mexican food a lot.

Dream Car?

Ideal Holiday Destination?
Some place warm!

First thing you would do if you won $1million?
I think I would take a small holiday ;)

Your Team Mates

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?
You cannot say one person that practice harder than the others.

Who is the funniest team player?
I am playing with Robert Svensson at the moment. He is funny.

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip or inspirational message for table tennis players out there looking to succeed?
Enjoy table tennis as much as possible.

An amazing between the legs shot by Jonathan Groth against Bojan Tokic.

Sunday 24 March 2013

Europe's Top Olympic Qualifier Sets Scope on Paris

The successive winner of the European Olympic Qualification tournament and strong member of the Portugese National team which goes from strength to strength every year, I had the chance to interview Joao Monteiro about his career, the Portugese team and the German League. Thanks Joao and best of luck in Paris!

Name: Joao Monteiro
Date of Birth: 29/08/1983
Nation Represented: Portugal
Highest World Ranking: 35

Portugal's Joao Monteiro
Image Courtesy of the ITTF

Blade: BTY Michael Maze OFF
FH Rubber: Tenergy 05
BH Rubber: Tenergy 64

When did you start table tennis and how did you start playing? 
My first coach, Filipe Amaral went in primary school where I was and made some physical tests to all the children from the school and he chose the best 20 and I was among one of that 20. I started to play at 9 years old in the club Grupo Recreativo de Tercena.

What would you say your greatest achievement in your career so far is? 
5th in London Olympic teams, 2 times quarter finals in singles in European Championships (2008 and 2012), Swiss open winner (2010), 3rd in team in European Championships (2011), 3rd Slovenia Open in singles (2008), 2 times Olympic games representative (Beijing and London), 3rd in Brasil Open singles (2006), 1st in Brasil Open in doubles (2011).

In the European Olympic Qualfication Tournament you won 6/6 matches to qualify, an awesome effort. How did it feel to qualify for the olympic games? 
Is always nice and good when you win a competition without losing one single game and being an Olympic Qualification, happiness is even bigger.

The Portugese team in London reached the quarterfinals, losing narrowly 3-2 to Korea. What does this mean for Portugal?
The team now is very strong, can we expect to see more results like this in the future? We always work hard every day to become better and better so when are coming the big competitions we can fight against the best teams in the world and right now we are in the top also.

The Portugese Men's Team - Apolonia, Freitas, Monteiro

You have been part of the success of Saarbruken in the DTTL and the ECL, do you think the German league is a strong contributor to your level of competitiveness?
Yes, the german league is one of the best in Europe with lot of world class players and is good for me to play against them and grow up my table tennis level.

You have now been based at the Werner Schlager Academy training for some time. Tell us more about the academy and your training regime. Do you feel you have made big improvements since moving to WSA? 
I like to practice in WSA Academy, has very good infrastructures, with world class coaches and very good sparring partners and the spirit between the players is very nice and healthy so I am happy so far to be practising there. Besides, Vienna is a nice city and is very good to have a place where you can relax and feel good, out from table tennis.

Do you believe that the WSA is going to be the centre for Europe's development in the future? 
I don’t know that, but for sure is one of the best european table tennis centers.

What are your goals for the future? Would you like to aim for Rio 2016? 
I always give my best in each competition and of course playing the Olympic games in Rio is one goal for me but for the long run. For shorter time I want to play well in World Championships in May and in October to make better than quarter finals in singles and doubles and to make better than 3rd place in teams.

Off Topic Questions:
Favourite Food: Italian
Favourite Car: Audi RS5
Favourite Holiday Destination: anywhere with my girlfriend
Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Do you have one last tip for players who are aiming to become professional international players? Give always the best in each practice you make and believe in yourselves and in your work. Sooner or later the work will pay off and most important of all, enjoy and have fun playing table tennis.

Monteiro at the Swiss Open. Nice shot!

Thanks so much for your time Joao :)

Saturday 23 March 2013

Shedding Some Light on a Super Brand

Adidas is a sporting company renowned around the globe, perhaps some of you may know they also produce table tennis equipment. They took to the new niche recently (past few years) and have been working to develop high quality products for competitive table tennis players. While many of you may have been aware of Adidas Table Tennis, not so many of you would have had the chance to try many of their products. I was lucky enough to have 4 rubber types and 2 blades to try out from Adidas Table Tennis NZ, you can also try their equipment out if you are in the Auckland area by contacting Phillip Xiao. Here are my thoughts below on the equipment. Also make sure you visit the link to Adidas TT NZ to get in the draw to win a sheet of Adidas TT's new secret rubbers, competition ends 2/4/13 so get in quick!

Also check out the Adidas store HERE to see the full range! If you are local (New Zealand) the contact details for Adidas NZ are:

Phone: 09 262 5001
Or you can get in touch with Adidas' sponsored player Phillip Xiao for more information.

The Adidas Avenger Series Blades

General: I was able to try out the Avenger Off and Avenger Carbon blades with combinations of Tenzone, Tenzone SF, P5 and P7 rubbers. In general the quality of the rubber and blades surprised me, Adidas have certainly done their research and each rubber has a string of benefits for different kinds of players. The professional nature of Adidas is really evident and I think having a brand that boasts such massive marketing prowess can only be fantastic for the future of our sport at all levels.

Adidas Tenzone: Adidas Tenzone is a medium hard sponged variety of rubber and the one which I enjoyed the most out of the 4 rubbers. It really packs a punch and is very strong for attacking strokes. The amount of spin and speed that can be generated is great, I found it was a little bit more comfortable combined with the Avenger Off blade as opposed to the Avenger Carbon where it was essentially like a wild animal (very fast). The tenzone is extremely effective for counterlooping and hitting fast spinny attacking strokes but also generates enough spin to work with heavy backspin balls. The rubber allows you to make strokes quite effortlessly and has a relatively low arc (low throw angle), it really is tailored for quite an offensive level of play. Where it excels in speed and spin, it does not lose out in touch play and is still efficient for service, short touch play and pushing. Some experimenting is necessary to get the right ball contact and bat angle to maximise spin and to keep the ball low, especially in the short push situations. All in all a superb rubber, very much like the Tenergy 05 I currently use on my forehand, but just quietly definitely considering making a change.

Speed: 9.5
Spin: 8.5
Control: 7.5
Overall Rating: 9

Adidas Tenzone in it's professional packaging

Adidas Tenzone SF: This is one spongy little number. Having played with soft rubbers the likes of Tibhar Nimbus Sound and Donic Coppa X2 Platin Soft I can say this is up there with those rubbers. You really feel the softness coming into play, it has a nice springiness to it, especially for blocking and looping. It has a high throw angle, you can really produce a high arc on the ball especially in topspin-topspin loop rallies. It also has much more capacity for variation in the looping game and is significantly easier to use than the regular tenzone against heavier backspin balls as you can really kick the ball up. To get some extra speed out of the rubber I thought it was definitely nicer on the Avenger Carbon, though I felt on the Avenger Off blade it really captured the softness of the rubber. Again, like the regular Tenzone it seemed the rubber did most of the work. Although I didn't feel it was as fast as regular Tenzone in the fast looping (strong 3rd ball attacks and winners) the extra spin and bounce definitely makes it comparable in open rallies. Generates great spin on service and can achieve some very nice touch play.

Speed: 8.5
Spin: 9
Control: 8.5
Overall Rating: 8.5

Adidas Tenzone SF

Adidas P5: P5 was control haven for me. Absolutely fantastic control, particularly in blocking. It's definitely the slowest of the 4 rubbers, but don't let that put you off. It has a really good range of control and spin in the looping game. It can achieve a nice high arc and great table depth. I think where the Tenzone and the P7 were more targetted at fast power oriented games, the P5 is definitely for the more patient player and while it still packs a punch it doesn't quite generate the same amount of power for the big shots as the other 2. I thought the P5 was a really well rounded rubber, probably a little more effective for attacking on the Avenger Carbon blade and for those who really like to maintain the control in their game it works out nicely on the Avenger Off blade. Great spin all round for service and pushing, just a great well balanced rubber.

Speed: 7
Spin: 8.5
Control: 9
Overall Rating: 8

Adidas P5 Rubber

Adidas P7: I thought the P7 really came to the middle ground for me. I loved the Tenzone's fast pace and offensive orientation, but I also loved the control of the P5. Was thinking if only the P5 had a bit more pace it would make a nice backhand rubber for me. Then I finally got to the P7, miracles do happen. This is like the rubber that takes the power of Tenzone but gives it that ever needed extra bit of control. Althought it doesn't match the Tenzone exactly for speed, it is definitely up there. Much like the Tenzone SF the P7 achieves a great range of attacking strokes and is just as effective for loop to loop rallying as for looping against heavy backspin balls. It gives a nice arc on the ball and has a great power level even further back from the table. Despite having said the Tenzone was my favourite of the 4 the P7 definitely came close. I loved it on the Avenger Off and Avenger Carbon blades equally as the speed comes through nicely. The Avenger Off was probably my favourite combo as it brings more control into the blocking game where the P7 can be a little fast, touch play and slower blocks with the P7 were more difficult to achieve as it is a really springy rubber, but it has a nice ability add topspin and give the ball some juice on the blocks. In terms of pushing it takes some minor adjustments but it is a well balanced rubber with some extra kick and is good for producing spin on service and in the pushing game. Definitely also a rubber I may look at changing to, really enjoyed it!

Speed: 8.5
Spin: 8.5
Control: 8
Overall Rating: 8.5

Adidas P7 Rubber

Sunday 3 March 2013

Undying Passion for World Champion Academy Master

I had the absolute pleasure of having the opportunity to interview my all-time favourite player. Werner Schlager the 2003 World Champion, also the only European player to achieve this title in the last decade. I admire so much about Werner, including his staunch commitment to his family and passing his knowledge on through the Werner Schlager Academy in Schwechat, Austria. Thank you so much for doing this interview Werner :)

Name: Werner Schlager
Date of Birth: 28/09/1972
Nation Represented: Austria
Highest World Ranking: 1

Werner Schlager wins the 2003 WTTC
Image Courtesy of ITTF

FH Rubber: BTY Tenergy 05 max. black
BH Rubber: BTY Tenergy 05 max. red
Blade: BTY Schlager Carbon

How long have you been playing table tennis? Who or what influenced you to start playing?
In 1978 I went with my father to a local TT club. Since then I play table tennis on a regular basis.

Obviously in 2003 you had the moment of a lifetime, you won the WTTC in Bercy. How did that feel? Prior to the tournament did you think you had the chance to end up succeeding as the World Champion?
It's impossible to describe that feeling. It came close to the feeling I had when my girlfriend Bettina gave birth to my son Nick. Yes, I did know that I had the potential to win.

Is there any other moment in your table tennis career that compares with your win of that competition?
Winning the European Championships title in doubles in 2005 came close.

In 2011 you opene the Werner Schlager Academy, perhaps Europe's finest training facility. Can you tell us a bit more about what motivated you to do this?
In short, the WSA is a training centre of excellence, one of four ITTF hotspot TT training facilities in the Category A worldwide. Everybody who wants to improve their level of TT is warmly welcome. So far we had guests from over 50 countries, from national team level to hobby players.
Motivation for me was to let others benefit from my experience and the knowledge of my employees.

Chen Weixing and Ma Lin train prior to the 2012 WTTC
at the Werner Schlager Academy.

What was the effect on your own personal table tennis career of opening the academy? Alongside the academy you also gave time for your family, did this also effect your table tennis career?
I had to reduce my training pensum and my participation at international events. My family did grow twice too, which leaves even less time for my TT career.

What are your goals for table tennis now? Are there still things you wish to achieve while you are still competing?
My goal was and is to always play as good as possible.

What are your future plans for the Werner Schlager Academy?
In the third year of our existence we would like to continue growing, which is needed for securing financial independence.

During your career we have seen you execute some amazing techniques, service, backhand drive shots, drop shots etc. How important do you think innovation and creativity are in becoming a successful table tennis player?
Innovation or creativity without safety is worth nothing. The important point is allow an individual amount of creativity based on necessary minimum safety.

Do you have a favourite training drill which you like to practice a lot? If so, why this one?
Middle, corner, middle corner. A perfect exercise for me to check my safety and quality.

Off Topic Questions
Favourite Food: Almost everything, as biological as possible
Favourite Car: Telsa Model S
Favourite Holiday Destination: Home
Other hobbies aside from table tennis: Computer, Physics, Nutrition

The WTTC 2003 final. Werner Schlager vs. Joo Se Hyuk

Again thank you so much for doing this Werner!
u r welcome ;)

Want to read more great interviews with other former World Champions, Cup Winners and Number 1's? Click for MORE INTERVIEWS.