Anthony Lewis: From NiteSpot to Nationals

Claire Murray / Asst. Photo Editor – Anthony Lewis practices table tennis at the Union NiteSpot Wednesday night.

By: Sam Fatula | The Duquesne Duke

If you have ever spent time at the Nitespot, you can formulate a solid idea that one of the following things are going on before you reach the glass doors: a group of guys are together on the far-side wall playing Super Smash Brothers, it’s bingo night or that “pingpong guy” is there again practicing his backhand techniques.

“He’ll come in, set up the table against the wall and play pong by himself,” said sophomore desk aid at the Nitespot Alexander Hogan.  Hogan, a vocal performance major, said that Lewis “is the only person I’ve seen here forcibly move the table to play pong here.”

And even though Anthony Lewis laughs off the fact that he is indeed known as the “pingpong guy” around campus, this student-given title is an understatement.

Sooner rather than later, Lewis can potentially be the guy as he continues to travel and compete in an upcoming regional table tennis tournament, eventually making it to Nationals on the collegiate level.

Lewis, a senior psychology and biology major, competed this past weekend at Penn State for the regional qualifier.  In a pool of 16 players, he won four of five matches, one of which was against the number one seed in the tournament. Lewis, who is representing himself, will next play at Regionals at Virginia Tech on his quest to the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Championship in April which will be held in Monroeville.

Ordinarily, five matches of table tennis would not register as being physically straining, but Lewis’ depiction of a standard match is particularly intense from both a physical and mental point of view.

“There are very specific and general techniques to counter the ball’s topspin or to generate topspin,” Lewis said.  “You have to remember how to use these techniques, especially when the ball is coming towards you at a maximum speed of 90-100 kilometers per hour, in a space of 12 feet or less and revolving at over 10,000 revolutions per minute.”

Lewis attributes his reaction time and overall improvement to the Pittsburgh-Oakland Table Tennis Club and the South Park Table Tennis Club.

“Up until freshman year I was just playing basement pong, but I thought that I was very good because I would always beat my friends,” Lewis said.  “And during my freshman year, Duquesne held a tournament in the NiteSpot.  I thought it was going to be an easy win…and I got shown up, they killed me.  After that, I really started to differentiate between ping pong and table tennis and take the game seriously.”

“Anthony has shot up in his abilities quite dramatically,” said South Park TTC President Gary Egri.  “Let’s put it this way, from last year or a couple of years ago, he has moved from table four [table number representing skill level and ability] to table one.  That itself is dramatic because we have the best players in the area of Western PA.  He has a good opportunity, as far as his level.”

Chip Coulter, who is also an influential part of Pittsburgh’s table tennis scene and member of the Pittsburgh TTC, is also excited to see how Lewis will perform on a national level.

“Plainly, it’s such a cool thing to see Anthony be able to go against some of the best young talent there is in the country,” Coulter said.  “He’s a confident player, and he usually does better when the challenge rises.”

“It’s funny. I get a little bit of recognition…a while back at a party I went to, someone came up to me and said, ‘Oh, you’re the Ping-Pong guy!  You’re always in the Nitespot!,’” Lewis said. “And I guess that’s cool because if you had seen me playing, and had been able to pick me out, it means that I’m doing something completely different than anyone else at Duquesne.”