Nathan Hsu Interview

By Rahul Acharya | Feb. 16, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)

Nathan Hsu (MD, USA)

I recently met up with 18-year-old Nathan Hsu of Rockville, MD at the Grand Final of the 2014 North American Tour. Originally from Greenwich, CT, Nathan and his older brother, John, began training at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (MDTTC) around 2006. When the twice a month trips from CT to MD became too much, Nathan and his family moved to Maryland to be near their coach for some serious training. Well, it sure did pay off as Nathan is now a 2500+ rated player with quite a bit of hardware under his belt. And, he sure did not disappoint at the Tour. Even though he did not advance to the playoff stages, Nathan not only challenged No. 2 seed Jishan Liang (2656) of New York with very close games 10-9-9, but, he also pulled off a huge upset against No. 10 seed Rui Wang (2637) of California.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Nathan! 

Quick facts about Nathan Hsu:
Highest rating 2520
Multiple-times Champion, Boys Under 14, 16, and 18 Singles, Doubles, and Team events, 2009-14 AAU Junior Olympics

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Nathan Hsu
Photo: Glen Randmer

With Nathan Hsu at the Grand Final of the 2014 North American Tour

1. Tell us how you got started with table tennis.
I first played table tennis on my dining room table with my family when I was really little. When I was around 8, I did a once a week after school table tennis program with Paul David as the coach, and that's when I first heard of table tennis tournaments and training.

2. What equipment do you use?
Blade: Mizutani Jun
Forehand rubber: Tenergy 05
Backhand rubber: Tenergy 64

3. How often do you play and train?
I train six days a week for around 5 hours a day.

4. What is the most memorable match that you have ever played? Why?
I don't really have a most memorable match.  If I had to name one, I'd say it was when I was 12 years old at the U.S. Open, and I beat Ethan Chua in the semifinals. He was around 1700, I think, and I was 1500, so it was a bit upset. I really went into the tournament with no expectations, so it was great to make it to the finals especially after I came back from being down 8-1 in the last game. (Nathan is referring to the 2008 U.S. Open in the semifinals round of the Boys' 11 and Under event.)

5. What are your short-term and long-term goals with regards to table tennis?
An example of a short-term goal would be to get more weight transfer on my forehand or getting to bed early. As for a long-term goal, I'm trying to make the Olympic team.

6. Who is your favorite international table tennis player? Why?
I don't have one. Dirk Nowitzski? (laughs)

7. If you were draw a pie chart to assign percentages to people that have made you the player that you are, what would it look like?
It would have to be something like: 11% Mom, 11% Dad, 10% Brother, 6% Other Family, 6% Physical Trainers, 15% MDTTC Coaches (Cheng, Jack, and all the mini-coaches), 9% Other Coaches, 9% MDTTC Players, 5% Other Players I've Competed Against, 4% Other, and 14% Me.  

8. Honors, titles, and awards that you have won in table tennis.
I've won numerous Junior Olympic Gold Medals, as well as the 2011 Joel Ferrell Award. I won the 2014 Nate Wasserman Scholarship for 18 years old and under. I've also won some Doubles titles at the Badger Open and the Southern Open.

9. Your older brother, John, also played table tennis. Did you guys have any sibling rivalry?
No, we never had any sibling rivalry; there wasn't any debate that I was better (laughs). No, I'm kidding. Actually, we competed and pushed each other a lot, and we kind of learned from each other because we had different skill sets and different approaches to the game. But despite the competitive atmosphere, we still supported each other and really helped each other out whenever we had problems with our games.

Now on to some personal questions:

10. I believe you are in your gap year after high school. Are you happy with that decision? Tell us how you are spending your time. 
The gap year is going pretty good so far. I'm mostly just practicing a lot. Other than practice, I edit videos and "play" guitar. And I'm trying to catch up on some of the sleep I missed out on in high school.

11. Do you have a top pick for college and what would you like to major in?
I don't have a top pick for college. I think I'll do something engineering-related, but I'm not sure. I'm really just focusing on table tennis right now.

12. What do you like to do when you are not playing table tennis?
As I said before, I make videos and practice guitar. Right now, I'm sort of trying to finish editing the vlogs I recorded when I was training in China over the summer, but I haven't had much time with all the practice. Guitar ... well, let's just say I just started and I'm a complete beginner ... let's say ... 200 rating. I also enjoy reading, anything from novel to Manga. I just finished seven books in January, not including Manga, and I'm currently getting back into science fiction with Asimov's Foundation series. I'm on the third book now. When it isn't so cold and snowy, I like playing basketball, just shooting around by myself or going one-on-one with my brother. I enjoy doing a lot of other stuff, but those are my main hobbies right now. 

13. If you could become any super-hero for one day, who would you like to be and why?
Well, I really like Iron Man. Iceman is pretty cool, and Superman and One Punch Man, among other heroes, are insanely overpowered. But considering the one day limitation and assuming that if I was Iron Man, the suit would be taken away after one day, then I'd want to be a superhero with powers that create effects lasting past the one day, even if it means not being able to become a hero with flashy powers like Superman. However, I wouldn't want insane powers like Franklin Richards' reality manipulation because, well, I don't even know exactly what I want to major in, so I definitely wouldn't trust myself to tamper with reality or create new worlds. Even if I could make myself all-powerful for the rest of my life, that would be boring, like a cheat code. 

Thus, I would want to be the Taskmaster for one day. The Taskmaster's ability to instantly learn physical movements and such would be perfect because even if I lose the ability to learn things after one day, I won't forget the things that I already learn. I could watch videos of every Chinese Team member or heck, every top player, and instantly gain their abilities and skills. Or I could watch NBA players and gain Irving's handles and Curry's shot and every other skill. Heck, I could even watch an amazing singer and copy their singing ability. It wouldn't feel like a cheat code because I would still have to go out and actually win tournaments and compete. Of course, though, Taskmaster's memory loss might present a small problem but, ... what was I talking about again? (laughs)

14. What professional career would you like to pursue?
I'm not really sure. As I said before, I'm really just focusing on table tennis. I guess I'll figure things out as I go.

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Thanks Nathan! I'm sure everyone got a few laughs out of this one! Anyways, wish you good luck with your table tennis career and hope you enjoy the rest of your gap year!