USATT Insider poses 11 questions to Rahul Acharya
11 Questions with Rahul Acharya
1) Why do you play?
In middle school, I played both soccer and basketball competitively. While I enjoyed my time playing them, table tennis has challenged me the most. The game is fast-paced and it forces players to be constantly moving and thinking simultaneously, making it both physically and mentally grueling. There are many variables - location, speed, spin, etc. The list is endless. This makes the game very unpredictable, and therefore, it gives me the opportunity to channel my creativity into a sport, something that other sports have never offered me. Also, table tennis has opened many other doors of opportunity for me in ways that I had never imagined such as starting a club in my high school and authoring an interview blog. It never gets boring and I can see myself playing table tennis for the rest of my life.
2) Which is your favorite tournament?
My favorite tournament is the JOOLA North American Teams tournament because it helps build camaraderie between team members and it is a great opportunity to play tons of matches over a three-day period. At regular events, many players travel for hours only to play 5 or so matches and call it a day. At my last Teams, I played 20+ matches. I learned so much from match to match and by the last day, I felt that I was a better player. The Teams tournament also attracts players from all over the U.S. and from around the world. It is a wonderful opportunity to play all different styles, age groups, and even nationalities. I had the opportunity to speak to and learn from so many different players at the Teams tournament. I believe that it is a tournament that every table tennis player should go to at least once.
3) Who is your primary nemesis?
Myself. Instead of focusing on others, I have always tried to be a better player than the one I was yesterday.
4) What is your favorite game tactic to score?
Most players love the third-ball attack, but I am a bit different. My favorite way to score is to use a combination of powerful loops to throw my opponent off-balance, and then finish them off with a solid forehand drive.
5) Thoughts on the Poly Ball.
I was dreading it when the announcement was made. Then the day came ... I hated it initially. However, after about a month or two of practice, I felt much better about the ball. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way, even though they break much too often.
I have a suggestion, though. Because there is so much variation between different brands, USATT should just pick one ball for all sanctioned tournaments and stick with it. I feel that players cannot compete to the best of their ability when they are forced to switch between different balls at various tournaments.
6) Toughest Loss?
My toughest loss would probably be against Mishel Levinski, a solid 2450 player, last year. I was rated about 2150 at that time. I played phenomenal at the beginning. I was moving, looping, blocking, lobbing, you name it. Suddenly, I found myself up 2-0, 10-8, against someone who I had never beaten before, or thought I had a chance against. Unfortunately, I got too excited and focused on winning the match rather than playing to the best of my ability, which translated into conservative play. Mishel came back to make it 10-10 and eventually won the third game 14-12. I was not able to recover from the shock of losing the third game, and Mishel beat me with relative ease in the next two games to take the match 3 games to 2. I remember being so frustrated with myself for blowing that match. However, I have since learned to keep myself within certain emotional boundaries while playing.
7) Greatest Win?
I would say beating Henry Zongqi (2500+) at the Westchester 2014 September Open. I was rated around 2150 and had never imagined in my wildest dreams that I could ever beat him. Since I had no pressure, I just played my game and as luck would have it, everything went on. At 2-1 for me, Henry fought hard and took it to the fifth. However, he made some unforced errors in the fifth game and I was able to finish it 11-8 to win the match. This win really boosted my confidence and I played very well through the remainder of the tournament.
8) How you prepare for a tournament?
During the week leading up to the tournament, I try to get in some solid practice with the official tournament ball. With one day to go, I try not to over do it. Just about an hour of good practice does the job. I also do a quick review with my coach regarding general strategies. Finally the night before, I try to get to bed at a decent time. On the day of the tournament, a good breakfast, 15 minutes of stretching, and a 45 minute warm-up before matches is usually what get’s me ready.
9) When you see a new player at the club, what do you do?
Say hello! Sometimes I sign them in, give them a paddle, and answer any questions that they may have.
10) Player you would most like to play in a tournament?
I’m deliberately changing the question to Player you would most like to play. I’ll have to go with my favorite player, Ma Long. I’d like to play him just for the heck of it to see what it is to play a world-class player. As far as player in a tournament goes, I’ve had the opportunity to play many top players at the Westchester Opens already including Qing Feng Guang, Kai Zhang, Jishan Liang, Michael Landers, etc. so I’m pretty content.
11) If you had to face Jimmy Butler, Lily Zhang or Kanak Jha what would your game plan be?
I’ve never had the opportunity to play any of them before so I’d be very excited. Against Jimmy Butler, my game plan would be to loop sidespin to his backhand so I can force him not to use his treacherous punch. Against Lily Zhang, I would try to stay away from fast backhand to backhand rallies and try to get my forehand in more. In my opinion, Kanak Jha plays a strong all-round game, so I would just try to play my best game.