Tommy Tsang Tsz-tsun, the table tennis star from La Salle College, is famous for his powerful forehand, but what makes him a nightmare for his opponents is his ability to use the right tactics at the right time.
The 16-year-old says: “Return of serve and a forearm smash are my biggest weapons. Being a left-handed player, it’s hard for most right-handers to counter my returns. When they serve, the ball often lands in the middle. From there, I can launch my forehand attacks, and aggressively return their serves.”
The third return is also crucial, but it presents a tactical challenge for Tommy. Even though he can return serves with a forehand smash, his opponents can focus on his backhand. So he always has to change his tactics and pave the way for a power-packed third return.
“I place great emphasis on defence and backhand during my training as I’m not very good in these areas,” Tommy told Young Post. “But when my opponents target my backhand, I have to return it to a spot which would not give them many opportunities to attack. This is where I can use my forehand to good effect.”
Tommy also uses a lot of spin during rallies. “Spin can change the trajectory of the ball. It’s harder for my opponents to return as it can go anywhere. Spin also plays a vital role in the loop, which is a combination of good angle, placement and speed. The heavy topspin makes the ball travel very fast. When the opponents’ returns fall short, that’s where I can attack.”
“Don’t forget footwork,” he adds. “It lays a very strong foundation for you to initiate every tactic. You can’t stand in one position and wait for the ball to come. You need to be attentive and always ready to move. To improve their footwork, table tennis players need to go running and do exercises that improve spinal rotation.”
Earlier this month Tommy won a gold medal in the secondary boys’ singles at the 2017 Hang Seng All Schools Championships. He won the boys’ U15 singles title at the Youth Table Tennis Championships 2016. His dream is to represent Hong Kong at the Olympics. But before that, Tommy said he needs to improve his skills and compete with the world’s best table tennis players to gain more experience.
Tommy will take part in the cadets’ team event at the 2017 Asian Junior Championships in Ansan, South Korea, from June 29 to July 4. As he prepares for this competition, Tommy said he would place greater emphasis on physical power and footwork.
Who is your favourite athlete?
China’s Olympic gold medallist and world No 1 table tennis player, Ma Long. He’s famous for his fast and fierce forehand loop, which he uses to set up the forehand smash. His superb skills and speedy footwork always put him in a dominant position during a game. I hope to copy his powerful forehand.
Which fictional character would you choose as your teammate?
I would want to play with Doraemon. He has many gadgets, which would help us win competitions. For example, a “super table tennis racquet” could help us stretch our hands so we could return the ball anytime, anywhere. The “energy drinks” would also give us unlimited power so we wouldn’t get tired.
What food would you never give up?
Durians and mangoes, or desserts that contain these fruits. I feel happy every time I eat them. They always energise me.