USATT Insider poses 11 questions to Doug Wruck
11 Questions with Doug Wruck
1) Why do you play?
There are a few reasons that I play. One, as anybody who knows me will tell you, is because I’m a competitive person, and it’s a great outlet for that competitiveness. Another reason that I play is because of the health benefits. It’s great exercise and can really make me work up a sweat. I also love the social aspect. I’ve been playing at clubs and tournaments for about 20 years now, and I’ve made so many great friends over the years. When I go to tournaments, I feel like I spend more time talking than playing!
2) Which is your favorite tournament?
That would definitely be the Badger Open! It’s our club’s (Milwaukee TTC) 4-star tournament, held every year on the third weekend in September. As a member of the board of our club and on the tournament committee, it’s been so much fun to be a part of helping it to grow and prosper, and it’s rewarding to see players enjoying the hard work you put into planning and running it. Linda Leaf, our president, does such a great job coordinating and running it, and it shows in how much fun the players have. I also love playing in it because I get to renew many rivalries with players from through the Midwest. And finally, I think the new facility we moved it to last year is really great!
3) Who is your primary nemesis?
I’ve been playing competitively now for so many years, I’ve built up a lot of great rivalries. Some with players from the Midwest like Arcot Naresh and Robert Douglass. Some with players at my club, like Freddy Kade. But I think my primary nemesis would have to be my friend and practice partner, Tom McGivern. I met Tom almost 20 years ago at a local club. One night, we showed up to play and the club was closed. Even though we didn’t know each other well at the time, he was nice enough to invite me over to play in his basement, and ever since then we’ve been trying to beat each other. Even though our playing levels have changed a lot, we’ve always found different match formats to keep our rivalry alive. Over the past two decades we’ve always crowned a “player of the year” based on who improved their winning percentage against the other, ending the year by seeing a movie and the loser has to buy dinner for the winner. It’s been a great rivalry that’s led to a great friendship that I’m lucky to have!
4) What is your favorite game tactic to score?
I play with long pips on the backhand and a spinny rubber on my forehand, so my favorite tactic is to use the pips to set up a weak shot that I can step around and loop for a winner. I love playing a tactical game that makes both me and the other player have to think, and this type of combination suits me well. My other favorite tactic is to hit with the long pips. It’s a difficult shot to hit consistently, but when I get it on, a lot of players don’t know what is on the ball and have a lot of trouble returning the shot.
5) Thoughts on the Poly Ball.
When I got my hands on some of the early models, I was really bothered by how differently it played. But now that there has been a lot of development put into it, I don’t really think about it at all. The latest versions, in my opinion, play very similarly to the celluloid 40 mm balls. I think the new rubbers that have been developed have helped to offset some of the loss in speed and spin. I use an inverted rubber with a very hard sponge and tacky topsheet on my forehand, and I feel like I can get as much spin as ever. Well, since the change from 38 mm to 40 mm, at least.
6) Toughest Loss?
I hate to admit, there are a lot of these so it’s difficult to choose. Probably the most recent one that I can think of was at the America’s Team Championship last year. In our last team match, we had to win and we would take first place in the division. I had a chance to clinch the win for us when we were up 4-3. It was a tough match, but I was up 5-0 in the fifth game. I proceeded to lose that game, allowing the other team to tie the match at 4-4 and putting a lot of pressure on my teammate to win his match. Thankfully he did, but the thing that made it an especially tough loss was that I felt like I let the team down. With an individual loss, it’s just win or lose for me, but with a team event, feeling like you let the other guys down is really hard. The worst part was, this was the second time I’d blown a 5-0 lead in the fifth game over the same player! It was a great learning experience, though, and I’m determined to never let that happen again.
7) Greatest Win?
One of my most memorable wins was at the Killerspin Holiday Open that used to be held between Christmas and New Year’s in Chicago. It was a large 4-star tournament with a lot of very good players. At the time, I had just switched to using short pips and was beginning to improve my level of play. I had never done well at a major tournament before, but everything was clicking on that day. In the U-1600 event I advanced out of my group, and then overcame a major deficit in my quarterfinal match to pull off an upset and eventually made it to the finals, where I played my best match of the day (at almost 10 at night!) and won first place. I was so excited, I’d never won at a tournament like that, and then as I carried my trophy, I had so many people congratulating me on the walk back to the hotel room, it was a real thrill.
8) How you prepare for a tournament?
Leading up to the tournament, I try to make sure I focus on a couple of key areas in my practice sessions, focusing on things that I think will make the biggest difference in improving my performance. I rarely play the night before the tournament, I find that I am in a better frame of mind if I spend the night relaxing and not thinking about table tennis. On the day of the tournament, I do everything I can to stay relaxed, like leaving plenty of time to drive to the venue and warm up. I never want to feel rushed, as I have enough adrenaline going already, I want to keep as calm as possible. Then I just try to get a solid warm-up and focus on two or three key thoughts that I want to carry with me throughout the day.
9) When you see a new player at the club, what do you do?
I like to make sure that they feel welcome. I think that our club does a great job of welcoming new players and having them enjoy themselves. That includes letting them know the rules of the club, telling them what the method is for challenging at a table, and pointing them in the direction of a player who is at a similar level that they can hit with (sometimes that’s me!). I think it’s important for a new player to come in and have fun, and if they are playing with someone who is too serious or above their playing level that it will turn them off.
10) Player you would most like to play in a tournament?
There are so many great players, but I have to say, since Gordon Kaye listed me as one of his favorite opponents in his interview, I would want to give him another crack at me. We have always had a lot of fun playing each other, and regardless of how heated the competition gets, I know that we can be friendly and joke around afterwards. Gordon, anytime you want a rematch, I’m game!
11) If you had to face Kanak Jha what would your game plan be?
I would want to keep him off balance as much as possible. If I get into a set of offensive rallies with him, I’m going to get blown away. On my serve, I would mix very spinny serves with dead serves from my pips to keep him from attacking, and give me an opportunity to control the pace. Hopefully I could get some third ball attack opportunities from these. On his serve, I would try to focus on placement and trying to be aggressive, to keep him away from his third ball attack. My best chance at staying in the point would be to throw a mix of spin and pips at him, and see what happened!