Unlike many of his peers who might be getting jittery with the end of the Tokyo 2020 qualifying period in sight, Toby Penty looks assured.
The England left-hander is comfortably placed at No.14 in the Race to Tokyo, an outcome, he says, of some sound planning with his coaches. The cushion in rankings even helped him take a month off competition the whole of December; this year, he played the Masters in Indonesia and Thailand last month and is currently at the European Men’s Team Championships before heading to the Barcelona Spain Masters.
Despite falling in the first round of qualifying at the Indonesia Masters, Penty seemed satisfied with his performance and believes the December break was good for him.
“I was training, I had some other personal issues going on, which meant I had to take time out, but I think that was good for me,” Penty said. “Last year was a long year, I think it was good to have time off. Even though I lost I’m happy with the way I’ve progressed with the training since that tournament (Scottish Open) in November.”
Penty had some encouraging results last year. He was runner-up at the Spanish International and a quarterfinalist at the European Games in June; later in the season he was in the semifinals of the Kharkiv International and the SaarLorLux Open. These results have propelled him to No.54 in the rankings, still some way short of his best of No.43. The emphasis now would be on improving his level rather than chasing points.
“Obviously I’m happy, I felt that I secured that Olympic spot it in the first period of qualifying,” he said. “Now it’s not about playing other tournaments. I can afford to do a lot more training. For me, even if I’m not playing tournaments all the time and doing training, it’s upping my level to try and keep up with these guys more regularly. I do come up with them; (but) winning some matches, that’s the only thing missing right now.
“We talked about it at the start of Olympic qualifying – some players are playing up to 30 tournaments. I’ve had a lot of injury problems in the past, so that amount of travelling isn’t going to help me. So being a bit more clever, working on reaching a level higher, because I want to perform at the Olympics, I don’t want to just make up the numbers. I want to be one of those causing upsets that you see on the main bulletins on TV, so that’s the goal.
“My coaches had a lot of faith that I had the level to definitely be playing in the Olympics. The opportunity came out Rajiv’s (Ouseph) retirement. He’s giving me the advice and help as so have Joachim (Fischer), Julian (Robertson), Nathan (Robertson)… so I have a lot of people with a lot of experience. So I’m hoping, especially in the next six months, that’s going to help me a lot.”
A breakthrough result at a top-tier event hasn’t yet happened, but Penty believes it’s a problem with consistency rather than quality.
“I’m focussing on consistency, especially in my defence. There are some areas in my game that can hurt players and I’ve shown that in the past, my front court play and my strong attacking shots from the back, but defensively I need to get a lot better to deal with these players. So that’s not just for the break I’ve had, but going forward as well.”
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