Kunal Chodri (CA, USA)
17 year old Kunal Chodri is a well-known player in the USA Table Tennis community. His near-impossible comebacks and impeccable touch make him one of West Coast's top talents.
At just 11 years of age, Kunal won the U13 title at the 2011 U.S. Open, thus marking the beginning of a remarkable career. Kunal went on to join the ITTF World Hopes Team the same year, and subsequently, earned spots on the U.S. National Teams for every age category.
I had the opportunity to ask Kunal a few questions. I hope you enjoy getting to know him!
Quick facts about Kunal:
Highest USATT rating 2601
2016 U.S. National Men's Team Member
Four-time U.S. National Junior BoysTeam Member (2016, 2014, 2013, 2012)
Three-time U.S. National Cadet Boys Team Member (2014, 2013, 2012)
2012 U.S. National Minicadet Boys Team Member
Kunal Chodri, 2016 U.S. National Men's and Junior Boys Team Member
With Kunal Chodri at the 2016 U.S. National Championships
1. Congratulations on the 2016 U.S. Men's and Junior Boys Teams! Are you happy with your overall performance at the 2016 U.S. National Championships? If not, what do you think you could have done better?
I think I did okay at Nationals. It is always my goal to try to win the Men's singles title, but I understand that I can't do that every year, so I don't get discouraged if I don't meet this expectation. At the most recent nationals, I believe that I could have began each match more aggressively. This would have definitely led to better results.
2. Do you have any expectations going into the U.S. Open?
I don't have any specific goals going into the U.S. Open, but I will do the best I can. Hopefully, I can get far in each event that I play in.
3. Let's go back to when it all began ... Tell us about how you started with table tennis.
I started playing table tennis when I was 5 years old on my sister's birthday. My dad introduced me to the game, and I enjoyed it from the start. I liked how the game required good hand-eye coordination and fast reflexes, two skills that I naturally had. I also enjoyed the competitiveness of the sport.
4. What equipment do you currently use?
Blade: Butterfly Viscaria
Forehand rubber: Butterfly Tenergy 05
Backhand rubber: Butterfly Tenergy 05
5. How often do you play and train?
I play 4-5 days a week for a total of about 10-15 hours.
6. What are your short-term and long-term goals as far as table tennis goes?
I would like to get to the quarterfinals or the round of 16s at the upcoming U.S Open. My long-term goal is to make the Olympics.
7. I have heard from many table tennis players that you have a very good feeling for the ball. Do you think that "touch" is innate or developed? Please explain.
My feeling for the ball is natural, as I did not train much for the first 8 years of my career. I mostly get my feeling from other sports I play, which has turned out to be my specialty.
8. I've seen you play some very important matches. Unlike many junior players, you don't show much outward emotion, win or lose. Would you agree? If so, what is the reason/psychology behind that? Related to this, does it bother you when your opponent is choing loudly? Does it impact you in any way?
There is no specific reason for showing less emotions on the table tennis court. I guess it's not my style. I do fist pump every so often, though. It does not bother me if someone is choing loudly because I know that they are doing that to pump themselves up.
9. What has been your best win and worst loss so far?
My best win so far was against Brazil's Hugo Calderano at the 2013 Korea Junior & Cadet Open. My worst loss was against Istvan Molnar from Hungary.
10. Is there a notable change that you have undergone as a player in recent years?
There hasn't been a significant change in my game, as I always try to attack. I have mostly developed my game from feeling for the ball, and now I try to improve the other facets of my game, such as movement, and judgement.
11. If you were to choose three things that playing table tennis has given to you, what would they be in order of importance to you?
Competitiveness, being friendly with people, and having fun with what I am doing.
12. Is there one person, family member, friend, or coach, that has played a significant role in your success? If so, how?
My dad has pushed me to become the player that I am today. He has always encouraged me to get better and better. He might be crazy at times, but I know that he is doing it because he wants me to be the best player that I can be.
13. What do you think are some of the most important skills for a table tennis player to have in order to reach the highest level?
Some talent is needed, as it will be easier to get to a higher level. However, talent can only take one so far. While one needs to come up with specific tactics before the match, one must also be able adjust to whatever the opponent is doing during the match. Hard-work and targeted training are also crucial for any player. There are many more, but these are just a few things which are needed.
14. Who is your favorite table tennis player? Why?
Jan-Ove Waldner is my favorite player of all time. His feeling for the game was unbelievable, and he was always able to adjust his game to any style of play. I also admire the fact that his career lasted for such a long time(early 1980s to the mid-2000s). Jun Mizutani is a close second.
15. What you like to do when you are not playing table tennis?
I like playing other sports. I am a huge follower of basketball, baseball, football, and tennis.
16. If you weren't playing table tennis, what might you be playing?
If I wasn't playing table tennis, I would be playing basketball.
17. Anything else you would like to add?
808s and Heartbreak is one of the greatest albums of all time. Props to Kanye West for that album. His work now, though, is straight trash other than a few songs like No More Parties in LA and Blood on the Leaves.
Kunal, thanks for your time, and good luck to you in all your table tennis endeavors. We wish you all the best!