William Henzell

William Henzell’s Blog March 5, 2014

by on Mar.17, 2014, under William Henzell

After a long break from competition of around 4 months, I got back into the swing of things last weekend. I competed at the Australian Commonwealth Games Qualifying event on the Gold Coast for a place in the Australian team that will compete in Glasgow in July this year. The Commonwealth Games is the 2nd highest event for Australian players, after the Olympic Games. These events only come around once every 4 years so the qualifying tournaments are tense high pressure affairs with everyone battling for a few precious spots.

I took a couple of months off after the World Cup in Belgium in October last year and got back into training in January this year, which left me about 6 weeks to try to get myself into some sort of form for the qualifying tournament. My two training partners David Powell and Heming Hu had both headed overseas for training before the qualification which left me in a tough position. Fortunately I had a chat to Simon Gerada, who runs a table tennis coaching business Health Wellness and Table Tennis in Melbourne, who invited me into his group to prepare. He had brought in some sparring partners from overseas to help his squad prepare so I was able to train against good quality players. It was also nice being back in a group training environment, rather than ad hoc sessions in an empty hall.

I tried to do 2 – 3 sessions each week for the 6 weeks of preparation. The most difficult part of playing table tennis these days is accepting that I’m not playing enough to maintain a high standard. After taking 18 months off work to prepare for the London Olympics, I decided that work would have to come first and I’d fit table tennis in when I could. I don’t regret making the decision but it’s really quite frustrating but there’s no simple solution.

Several of the younger Australian players are putting in long stints of training and competition overseas and are improving well as a result. The most notable being David Powell (mostly to Poland) and Heming Hu (China). Both have improved strongly. Holding the event on the Gold Coast in February was questionable, given the hot and humid climate. We were fortunate that it didn’t rain during the event as it would have affected play significantly. The conditions would have been the same for all for sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok.

I started my matches well taking my first 3 matches 4-0. In my next match Heming came out in blinding form, racing to a 3-0 lead. It’s not all that often you can claw your way out of a 0-3 deficit but I’ve been around long enough to know that young players can get nervous in that situation, regardless of how well they’ve played. I tried to methodically work through the rest of the match, simplifying my playing and giving him opportunities to miss. Slower, spinnier shots and high consistency. I turned the match and won 4-3.

The match left me pretty drained and with the 3 toughest opponent left to play that day, I had a feeling I was in for a rough ride. I lost 4-3 to David, who was playing well, in the next match before beating Australian # 2 Justin Han in the next match. It all came down to my last match against Chris Yan. He had some unexpected losses early on in the event but had beaten Justin and David that day. The winner of our match would go through to the Commonwealth Games team and the loser would have to keep playing the next day for one of the last spots.

I always have close matches against Chris but have managed to win all of them so far. He would have held a 2-0 lead in 3 or 4 of our matches without managing to hold on. Motivation had been a bit of a problem for me at times and my concentration was in an out. I think it is partly because my fitness has dropped over time but also because I’m not as focused on doing everything I can to play well. I would prepare mentally for days beforehand in the past whereas now I turn up and just play. I really got up mentally for my last match given its importance. I started well going up 2-0 and 9-5 before losing the 3rd set. Chris keeps a lot of balls on the table and he makes you pay if your consistency or level drops. I went up 3-1 in sets, he pegged me back to 3-2 and then took a 4-1 lead in the 6th set. I rallied, played a string of great points and took the match 4-2. Mission completed.

Leave a Comment :, more...

William Henzell Diary

by on May.21, 2013, under William Henzell

I let my strength work in the gym slip after the Olympics last year, which was partly deliberate and partly due to having less time available for training. I was mentally and physically drained after the Olympics (and 18 months of full dedication before it) and was not thinking about how to develop my game into the future. I don’t especially enjoy the gym and my main reasoning for gym work is to help my table tennis.

After my first round of tournaments in March this year, where I wasn’t very happy with my play or results, I realised how much my lack of gym work had been letting me down. I felt noticeably slower, that I was getting caught out of position with my forehand and that I was lacking the ability to rotate forwards with a stable controlled movement on my forehand topspin. So I decided to try to get to the gym 2 days each week for at least 30 minutes each time. Short sessions where I would try to target the most crucial few exercises and movements. I’d lost some of my previous strength: around 15 – 20% and I’m still working back towards where I was. I have a lean body type in general and find it difficult to put on much muscle.

Squats are the bread-and-butter gym exercise for table tennis players. Preparing for the Olympics, in Austria, my coaches introduced a new technique where I would go down to close to 90 degrees with my legs, pause, do a small lift (just a centimetre), back down and then power up again. I found this much harder than how I had been doing my squats before – which was just straight down to 90 degrees and straight back up. Pausing meant that I lost that momentum and ability to quickly reverse the movement upwards. I was doing 100 or 110kg on my squats before but had to drop back down to 80kg, and even found this quite hard. There is balance and technique involved, which my body had largely forgotten. It is painful to get back into squats after a long break and I so sore for days afterwards at the beginning. I’ve worked my way back to being able to manage 3 sets of 8 x 90kg and am on the verge of going back to 100kg. I’ve found that I have so much more stability in my footwork again and am able to maintain a lower body position for longer in general. I am better at stepping out of the way with my body when the ball comes to my middle and making room for a good swing.

Lunges are an important counterweight to squats. I have a 20kg bar on my shoulders and then lunge forward with one leg, keeping my knee at 90 degrees and dropping down low to the ground. A risk with doing a lot of squats but not much work on your butt is that your quads become too strong for their own good. The butt isn’t able to support your body well enough and the lower back takes the brunt of compensating. Many elite table tennis players have problems with discs in their lower backs because of this, including myself. I try to keep the lunges similar to table tennis movements, so lunge both forwards, and at outward angles simulating stepping forwards and wide, for example if you need to receive a short serve to the wide forehand. I then press hard off my forward foot while keeping my body in a forwards and stable position to maintain balance.

The next exercise is mainly for injury prevention for my lower back. If I keep up this exercise I have little or no pain in my lower back. If I stop for a month or two I run the risk of doing my back again. This is exactly what happened before the Australian National Championships last year. They were scheduled for early September which was a very poor time for me. I went on a long road-trip through Europe after the Olympics and didn’t do my exercises for 5 weeks. I got back a day before the event started and of course did my back that same day. It was as simple as bending forwards to put my track pants on and I felt a sharp jab in my lower back. It’s an awful feeling to get as I know that I won’t be able to bend forwards or sit down for some time to come. For this exercise, I use a Swiss ball (blow up plastic ball about 65cm in diameter). I lie on the ball face down with the ball under my stomach. I raise one arm and the opposing leg upwards so that they are both at the same height as my body. Then I do the same thing with my other arm and other leg. The exercise keeps the small muscles in my lower back activated and strong.

More to come…

Leave a Comment : more...

A Moment of Misfortune in Beijing, Perhaps Remedied in London

by on Jul.17, 2012, under William Henzell

In the Peking University there was no stopping China as they won every medal that was statistically possible.

The target was set, the goal was achieved.

Furthermore, finding an occasion when any of the three men and three women on duty, was challenged by a player from foreign shores was a rarity. Simply the Chinese were superb.

Arguably there were only two moments of uncertainty. One came at the semi-final stage of the Men’s Team event Korea’s Oh Sangeun led Ma Lin by two games to one and stood at 10-all in the fourth before Ma Lin seized control. The other came from a more unlikely source.

Outside Top One Hundred
The man to pose the problem was Australia’s William Henzell, extremely successful in Oceania and having won medals in both the Commonwealth Games and the Commonwealth Championships, but never having commanded a top one hundred World ranking.

Currently he stands at no.130 on the global list; his best being 108 in June 2010.

A Fluke
In Beijing, in the first stage of the Men’s Team event, he faced Wang Liqin.

He won the first game and in second led 11-10, with the three times Men’s Singles World champion pinned to the surrounds.

Wang Liqin attempted a forehand top spin return, he totally mistimed the ball, which fortunately for host nation hero crossed the net at altitude and landed on the Australian’s side of the table. Wang Liqin had escaped, a total fluke.

The Talisman
At the London Olympic Games, once again William Henzell will appear in both the Men’s Singles and Men’s Team event; furthermore, he will be very much his country’s talisman.

He is the player with the experience; for his compatriots Justin Han and Robbie Frank it will be their first taste of the Olympic atmosphere.

Only in Oceania
Certainly for Justin Han it will be a whole new experience; his international life is entwined solely in Oceania; the Oceania Championships in 2010 being his most successful experience.

Alongside Kyle Davis, William Henzell and David Powell he won gold in the Men’s Team event, before partnering William Henzell to Men’s Doubles success and finishing in runners up in the Men’s Singles event, losing to William Henzell in the final.

Somewhat More Experienced
More experienced is Robbie Frank.

He has represented Australia at five World Junior Championships, making his debut as a 14 year old in 2004 in Kobe, when his progress in the Boys’ Singles event was halted abruptly by a certain Ma Long.

At senior level he has been on duty at four World Championships in addition to competing in the LIEBHERR Men’s World Cup in both 2009 in Moscow and two years later in Magdeburg.

A Gap
None can compete in the experience market with William Henzell, the man who beat Robbie Frank in the final of the ITTF-Oceania Cup in 2011 in Adelaide and earlier this year in Fiji.

London will be William Henzell’s third consecutive Olympic Games; add to that ten World Championships with the debut being in Osaka in 2001 plus five appearances in the LIEBHERR Men’s World Cup, the experience gap is clear to see.

Commonwealth Success
Furthermore, the gap can also be witnessed in Commonwealth and Oceania events.

In 2004 he was a semi-finalist in the Men’s Singles event at the Commonwealth Championships in Malaysia, two years later in Melbourne he was Men’s Singles runner up at the Commonwealth Games.

Oceania Medals
Meanwhile, in addition to winning the ITTF Oceania Cup on the competition’s inaugural appearances, he has won the Men’s Singles title at the Oceania Championships on three occasions; whilst on two occasions he has struck Men’s Team, Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles gold.

Success in Oceania; now can he climb higher and repeat that success on the Olympic stage?

Change of Fortune
In 2008, he came very close; he was unlucky not two move two-nil ahead against Wang Liqin

Now, William Henzell has returned to full-time training in preparations for London and perhaps fortune might just turn his way and the words of the great South African golfer, Gary Player, might come true.

“The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

Leave a Comment : more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!