Beaten Again


angry ping pong
I felt like this a little bit.

Last Sunday was my first time at Masaaki’s Sunday League as a trainee. It was my second time ever, last time right before I started training with him.

It was not pretty. I lost all 5 games that I played. I lost even to people to whom I won before (a woman that I managed to surpass in the 5th set the 2 previous times – this time she won the 5th one!).

The Feelings

I was really disappointed. Since the first game, I found myself thinking: “this is a disaster”. I felt really negative and burdened.

Dissapointing my Coach

I had high expectations for last Sunday. Maasaki (my coach) was going to be there to see how I applied to matches we were working on together during the training. Although he only stayed the first match (the one against this woman), I totally felt pressured to “keep up to the expectations”. We were doing great at the training (we had only 4 sessions or so, though), and he always said that I was making great progress. I felt disappointed that I couldn’t show that during the games.

From Training to Competing

See, the thing that made me most frustrated was actually not losing (well, that too), but most of all, not being able to play at the level I was training. Not being able to perform almost any of the strokes that I learned and executed just fine during the coaching. Not being able to take them into an actual game with an actual opponent that is giving the ball back in unexpected ways. I felt exhilarated when I got them right in the training, and I felt equally depressed when I didn’t do it in the matches.

Enjoying the Game?

Another issue I noticed is that I didn’t have as good of a time as when I train. And that’s also concerning, because the matches should be the ultimate goal of the training and not the other way around. Playing table tennis just for the training is not my goal. I want to be able to translate that joy to matches, where it matters. So that’s another thing that I have to start working on!

The Matches

The 3 first matches were the most disappointing. I guess because I had the training feelings and sensations to compare with. And, as I said, the matches looked awful, compared to the training. So I was in shock. During the second or third one, I realized that’s the way it was going to be, and kind of accepted it and moved on. Also, the last 2 ones were against two guys that were obviously at a higher level than me, and I didn’t have that much pressure.

Results (looks bad)

My results were: 2-3, 2-3, 2-3, 0-3, 0-3. The 0-3’s were against the obviously better guys, people with actual training and looking to improve their game. The first three were with more casual players, and I had higher expectations to maybe win (I thought it should have been easy for me!), and that’s why they hurt more. I was closer, of course, 2-3, but the end result was more painful.

ma long ping pongOutcomes

The Topspin

On the technical side, I realized I played mostly hitting, with the racket flat, almost with no spin at all. I guess that’s what I feel confident with for matches.

The challenge is going to be to transfer the cool and effective spin strokes that I’m actually able to perform (during training) to matches. I didn’t perform any successful topspin against backspin, not even on my forehand (let alone the backhand).

Other Issues

  • Stop the arm after the topspin strokes (don’t let it go over my head). – didn’t do.
  • Preparing and pausing before the stroke. Moving accordingly so I have enough time to pause and hit properly. – didn’t do.

The Tactics

On the tactics side, I realized that I’m basically clueless on the tactics. Meaning, I just send the ball back to the other side with no intention regarding the forthcoming points. Even for the services, I know how to perform some of them well, but that doesn’t give me the point because I don’t really know what to do with the 3rd ball.

The mental side, of course, is still the most important. I have to work on staying positive. Accepting that my level is what it is and I still get benefit and improvement from playing, even if I win not a single match.


At the end, I was able to be more acceptant and just assume that that’s what’s going to happen when I play for the following few times. Especially against people more experienced than me and, to say it plainly, just better than me. Hard for the ego, good for the game!


  1. Gary jackson
    August 2, 2017

    I totally get where your coming from, I’m exactly the same. Ive been playing now for 2 years now and love the game but find it very hard to transfer what I’ve learnt in training to a match. Having said that I do see small improvements and I guess there that small it’s hard to notice. You may not be winning matches yet but you will be having more competitive games I’m sure. I see your point with what’s seems to be great strokes in training and they are, but your being fed the ball, an opponent will not do this for you so to hit the same shots becomes much harder.
    I do find the game very frustrating it seems like a lifetime to learn something new and you can feel like your going backwards too, but I think this is a mental thing.
    So in short try and keep the fun and relax attitude you have in training to matches and play as many matches as you can. Go for everything, take those risk shots and enjoy.

    1. Jose Montoro
      August 2, 2017

      Hey Gary! Thanks for your reply. I think you’re right, it doesn’t go from 0 to 100 in a month, ha, so patience is a good feature to have, too! And most of all, as you said, keeping the relax and fun attitude is what ultimately will make the journey enjoyable. Good point! Where are you writing from, by the way?

      1. Gary jackson
        August 2, 2017

        Hey Jose,

        I’m from crawley West Sussex uk
        My local club is crawley community ttc and we play in the crawley and Horsham league.
        New season starting next month so getting as much training as possible, going off to Portugal for a weeks coaching and hope some of what will be tort to come into to match action ?
        What about your self?

        1. Jose Montoro
          August 2, 2017

          Hey, that’s great! I live in San Francisco and train at the Sunset Table Tennis Club.
          I’ve seen other people going to Portugal to train too- is there a big table tennis community there or something?

  2. Steve Reilly
    August 2, 2017

    Great start to your intended progress in our sport!
    i really like that you already recognise your weaknesses and what requires work; so i believe you will go far.
    During your practice sessions try to ensure you get some irregular play in (like in matches) and have fun while doing it………….. then transfer that fun to your matches whilst you try to relax.
    If you believe that everyone you play is more experienced than you are (and that sounds very much like the currrent situation); you need only remember that your opponents are always going to be under more pressure than you if they lose.
    Try to employ the strokes/techniques you learned during training in your matches without thinking so much about winning the match concentrate more on each point and do your “self analysis” during the game as your own self-analysis is remarkably good for a novice!
    Make each goal realistic and achievable for every training session and subsequent matches.
    BesTT wishes for achieving your goals in the near future.
    Where are you training Jose?

    1. Jose Montoro
      August 2, 2017

      Thanks, Steve! We’re already starting to include some “random” balls in my training. But, according to my coach, our main focus right now is to get consistency on the strokes – which I think is a good point. The transfering the fun to the matches is another thing – but I’m positive and I believe eventually everything will go smoother.
      Thank you for the self-analysis compliment! I think that’s a key in the sport as well as in life, and I’ve worked personally a lot on self-reflection.
      It’s funny that you said that if my opponents are more experienced, they feel more pressure – I felt that myself when playing with more amateur players than me. So I’ll try to keep that in mind!
      I train in San Francisco, at the Sunset Table Tennis Club with Masaaki Tajima as my coach.
      BesTT regardas as well 🙂

  3. Paul Linfield
    August 2, 2017

    Did you put yourself under too much pressure? When I was at my best, I was probably better in matches than training. Work on percentages. Have a game plan. I always think that you need to attack behind your serve and defend more when the opponent is serving. I used to play more open against weaker players and tighter against better players. Play to your strengths and your opponents weaknesses. Take your time. Never give up. I hope this is of some help to you.

  4. John Allan
    August 3, 2017

    Hi Jose,
    I think you have enthusiasm in abundance and a level head. These are two great attributes.
    I guess we all want progress and we all want it now, however it seems that in almost ALL cases the progress is much slower than we desire. Of course we need a little bit of dexterity and aptitude but dedication is the key.
    I myself have just been playing optimistically for less than a year and have had much coaching including a 1 week intensive 1-1 course at the renowned Corby Smash academy in Northamptonshire, England. Sometimes I get so frustrated at my lack of progress and I’m constantly waiting in vain for “breakthrough” moments.
    I’m absolutely confident though that gradually (very gradually) we will reap the rewards of our effort.
    Giving up is NOT an option!
    Good luck and kind regards

    1. Jose Montoro
      August 3, 2017

      That’s a great attitude! Staying positive is undoubtedly a relevant feature. I can feel it in my game, too, when I’m positive and “relaxed” (although it’s not really relaxation, is more just positivity, focus, confidence) I play better too.
      There’s an extra problem for me, which is the availability of training clubs in San Francisco. I can’t really find places to play during the week, so my training and competing is limited to the weekends – probably not the best frequency! I get frustrated by that too. I think we have similar training schedules – I train with a private coach on Saturdays and play matches on Sundays.

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  8. Tim
    October 20, 2017

    I played my first tournament about a month ago and it was a very humbling experience for me. While I was able to win some matches, I also lost matched that I thought I should be able to win. That is the beauty and ugliness of table tennis. The fact is that there are a million different factors that go into matches and sometimes it comes down to the experience level of the competition. Keep at it, it won’t happen over night but if you stick with it, then you will be beating those opponents soon. You have a coach and a direction, just stay motivated and you will achieve your goals. Good luck on your path!

    1. Jose Montoro
      October 21, 2017

      Thanks Tim! So far I’ve just played in the city clubs, not official tournaments. I’m going to do it for the first time in Sacramento in a couple of weeks. I’m nervous already! I totally agree that competition experience is one of the main factors in the games – therefore, it’s important to practice as much as you can. That’s what I’m trying! Thanks for commenting.


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