You gotta admire an athlete who relentlessly pursues a goal to get to the top in spite of a lack of major titles. A journeyman player who keeps scoring lots of wins, but never finishes first. Such might be an apt description of Simon Gauzy of France. Looking back over his world ranking for the last several years since he left the junior ranks, one can easily see the unceasing effort to climb the ranking ladder in his pursuit to be the best athlete he can be:
- 2014: 80
- 2015: 37
- 2016: 32
- 2017: 14
- 2018: 9
What’s surprising is the progressive improvement of Simon with no slippage back down the ladder. That’s very rare for any player, but especially for a young player from Europe who has to contend regularly with the table tennis stars from the Asian superpowers of table tennis. With such a consistent performance against the world’s best players, perhaps Simon is poised to have a breakthrough year in 2018 and climb into the top 5 and keep his year-over-year improvement record intact.
2017 was certainly a good year for Simon with wins over such well-known players as Timo Boll and Jun Mizutani. He captured the bronze medal at the Europe Cup in front of his home country’s fans, finished fourth at the World Cup, and made it to his first World Tour final at the Australian Open, where he lost to Vladimir Samsonov.
Simon is sponsored by Cornilleau and they have just introduced two new namesake blades, with the appropriate model name of Quest, in recognition of Simon’s relentless quest to get to the top of the world rankings. The blade comes in two speeds, OFF and ALL+. Simon’s personal choice is the OFF one that is designed for a polished offensive game combining fast play close to the table and variations in mid-distance spins as seen in this short video clip of Simon:
This blade has the control and touch needed to make those crazy spinny shots that Gauzy is noted for. But it also possesses the power to finish off points when the opportunity presents itself, as seen in this clip of Simon playing Samsonov in the finals of the Australian Open:
For those of us with lesser skills than Simon, the ALL+ version of the Gauzy Quest blade might be preferable. Favored by players seeking control, with a focus on incorporating rhythms and spins, which make for easy points. Used in association with ALL/OFF rubbers, this blade is the perfect ally for players trying to perfect their game. Teamed with OFF+ rubbers, it provides both precision and control in the counter-initiative phases, while never sacrificing put-away power.
Cornilleau’s other sponsored player with his own rising claim to fame is Hugo Calderano from Brazil. He’s of comparable age as Gauzy and with a similar remarkable rise in his world ranking. For Hugo, however, his rise is perhaps even more unexpected as he does not have the same competitive pressures and quality training environment in South America as Simon enjoys in Europe. Here’s how Hugo has climbed the world ranking ladder:
- 2014: 190
- 2015: 56
- 2016: 77
- 2017: 20
- 2018: 17
Hugo has now reached a higher world ranking than any other player from the Americas in many a decade. He had a pair of dominating wins in this hemisphere in 2017, gaining first place at the ITTF Pan Am Championships in Columbia over fellow Brazilian Thiago Monteiro 4-0, and then taking the title on his home turf at the Brazil Open, where he handily defeated Amalraj Anthony of India 4-1. This is on top of numerous titles in North and South America in prior years including the Gold Medal at the Pan American Games in Canada in 2015.
Cornilleau introduced two new blades in Hugo’s namesake also with the model name Foco. Foco is a type of urban warfare made famous by Che Guevara during the Cuban Revolution and noted for its use of small, fast moving paramilitary groups to sow discontent against a sitting regime. Perhaps a fitting name to honor a player who uses fast moves close to the table to sow discontent among everyone he faces in South America.
Available in OFF+ and OFF– speeds, with the OFF+ being Hugo’s choice of weapon. Designed for a fast game with a strong emphasis on offensive play where taking the initiative is the absolute priority, this blade will immediately win over the player who works close to the table, playing the ball very early. Featuring a fairly thick Kiri core, the player will also feel at ease with mid-distance shots, when longer, more sweeping strokes are called for and power is crucial, especially with the new plastic balls.
The OFF– Foco is a reference for offensive players seeking predominantly mid-distance pace and spin. This tolerant, dynamic blade is perfect for players who favor topspin, particularly those who play the ball fairly late and with a view to producing curved trajectories. The combination of wood species makes this a versatile blade model, which can be adapted to all types of rubbers.
Simon and Hugo are indeed rising stars worthy of keeping an eye on as they progress through the 2018 season. But who is better between these two? Interestingly, they did meet once in 2017. Simon came out on top at the Austrian Open, winning their match 4-0. These two also teamed up together in Men’s Doubles at the Czech Open, where they worked their way into the semi-finals before falling to a pair of Hong Kong players.
Two players sponsored by Cornilleau to watch over the next few years.