USATT Insider poses 11 questions to Seattle's Bernardo Iturriaga
1) Why do you play?
For fun and for health. I discovered the sport in 1992 and got hooked immediately. I’ve been playing almost nonstop except for injuries since then. I plan to be one of those eighty year olds still playing. I also love that there’s so much to learn and regardless of your level you can always improve more and adapt to new things.
2) Which is your favorite tournament?
The big ones in Vegas for sure – The Nationals and the US Open. It’s like Disneyland for TT players! Great playing conditions, well run, you have a predictable schedule, lots of events to play until your arm falls off and you get to chat with a lot of friends and make new ones. Plus, particularly in the Open you get to see some world class players – pure joy all around.
3) Who is your primary nemesis?
Bin Chen from my club Seattle Pacific TTC. We play almost every week and likely we’ve played ten thousand games, they’re always very close but he usually gets the upper hand. Also Valeri Kim and Jason Shim from my club are so tough for me, I’ve beaten them a few times but their style is very tough for me.
4) What is your favorite game tactic to score?
I play with a lot of lefties, in fact all of the coaches in my club are lefties, so I’ve copied some tactics to mess up righties that are so natural for them, like serving a backhand serve from the forehand side that breaks to the wide forehand. 90% of righties will get out of position with this and then just play to their backhand.
5) Thoughts on the Poly Ball.
It’s been tough for everyone, but if life give you lemons... The Nittaku Premium ones are decent, but the rest are very bad. It’s also hard that there are so many differences between brands. Back in the celluloid days most brands had pretty similar characteristics, hopefully we get there one day.
8) Toughest Loss?
Back in my days with the Mexican National team at a tournament in Panama. I was playing the deciding match in the team event against the #2 player in Panama (cannot remember his name). There were about a thousand people in the gym all cheering for him and screaming at me. I was up 20-18 in the last game and lost 20-22.
7) Greatest Win?
Probably the time I beat Guillermo Munoz in a national Championship in Mexico. He had just qualified to the Olympics and was at his prime and one of the best players in Latin America. I beat him in the second round and then went on to defeat other top players and made it all the way to the final where I lost to Francisco Mendez, another one of the historic top players from Mexico.
8) How you prepare for a tournament?
I like to practice very hard for at least a month or two, I usually try to book lessons with the coaches in my club, who are all 2500+ rated players and do drills and multiballs. Then play for one or two hours after that. I try to do this 3x per week and also play the league on Saturday – it’s important to get a lot of practice matches and focus on things I want to improve and not on the result.
9) When you see a new player at the club, what do you do?
Make sure they feel welcomed and to answer questions they may have. Try to find someone who they can have fun playing with.
10) Player you would most like to play in a tournament?
If I could pick any player in the world, probably one of the top choppers, like Shiono Masato, I like playing choppers and they’d likely just chop everything back so could have some fun.
11) If you had to face Lily Zhang or Kanak Jha what would your game plan be?
I played Kanak at the US open in 2012 and took one game from him, but he wasn’t nearly at the level he’s in right now. I’d say just focus on the basics but try to take risks – they’re likely not going to miss much so will not beat them by consistency.