Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

November 29, 2017

Rules Questions at the Teams
A number of rules questions and issues came up at the North American Teams this past weekend. Here’s a rundown. (I coached two junior teams during the tournament, one with four players, and one with three.)

  • Late on the first day an umpire came by and watched the team I was coaching for a bit. Then he came over and said, “Yours is the first team I’ve seen where everyone is serving legally.” I’m not sure if this is a good thing – does this mean opponents are getting an advantage since we’re the only ones serving legally?!!!
  • In one of our team matches (not the one mentioned above), an opponent began to catch the serve of one of our junior players, saying his hand was cupped. The kid did have a tendency to cup his hand a bit on some serves, but it wasn’t anything worse than about half the players out there (see umpire comment above), and he didn’t get any advantage out of it. The problem was that rather than ask for an umpire, the opponent just kept catching the ball, over ten times in the first four games as they went into the fifth. Strangely, I was the one who finally called for an umpire after the fourth game, since I’d rather have an umpire call the serve than have an opponent who can catch the serve at any time, which was clearly bothering my player, who was nearly in tears. In the fifth game, no serves were called or caught, and my player won easily. Whether he served legally because the umpire was watching or because the serve wasn’t so bad, I don’t know. However, in this junior’s very next match against the same team, the opponent caught the very first serve, and once again I called for an umpire. Again, no serves were faulted and my player won. Afterwards, the umpire did warn the junior that his serves were borderline. We’ll fix that problem.
  • Hidden serves mostly takes place at the higher levels. I only saw one player hiding his serve against the teams I coached. In the past I would have called for an umpire, but I think the last ten times I’ve done that the umpire simply wouldn’t call hidden serves, thereby validating the opponent’s illegal serving. This type of cheating – yes, it is cheating, by definition – is now accepted as part of the game, to my great disdain. So calling for an umpire would have been pointless. All three of my players played him, and two managed to win. As to it being cheating, the general definition of cheating (and the first one that comes up on Google) is, “act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination.” So yeah, it’s cheating – unless your opponent does it first, in which case you can do so since you are no longer trying to “gain an advantage” – you are trying to keep your opponent from gaining an illegal advantage.
  • After one of the kids I was coaching won the first game, the opponent changed rackets. I immediately pointed out that that was illegal. He didn’t realize it wasn’t allowed, and switched back to his original racket without complaint. The pertinent rule is “A racket shall not be replaced during an individual match unless it is accidentally damaged so badly that it cannot be used; if this happens the damaged racket shall be replaced immediately by another which the player has brought with him or her to the playing area or one which is handed to him or her in the playing area.” This is also the reason why it is required that you leave your racket at the table between games, so a player doesn’t try to secretly change rackets illegally. The rule here is “Unless otherwise authorised by the umpire, players shall leave their rackets on the table during intervals; but if the racket is strapped to the hand, the umpire shall allow the player to retain his or her racket strapped to the hand during intervals.”
  • One opponent had long pips on one side with the label on the bottom mostly cut off. If we’d called an umpire, it might have been ruled illegal, but I didn’t think it was worth it. The pertinent rule is “Any ordinary pimpled rubber or sandwich rubber covering the racket shall be currently authorised by the ITTF and shall be attached to the blade so that the ITTF logo, the ITTF number (when present), the supplier and brand names are clearly visible nearest the handle.”
  • One player we didn’t play showed me his racket and asked if it was legal. It was likely illegal in two ways. First, the rubber had been chipped off along the edges, exposing the wood. The pertinent rule is 2.4.4: “The covering material shall extend up to but not beyond the limits of the blade, except that the part nearest the handle and gripped by the fingers may be left uncovered or covered with any material.” Also, it was pretty worn out in the middle, more than along the edges, and might have been declared illegal due to rule “Slight deviations from continuity of surface or uniformity of colour due to accidental damage or wear may be allowed provided that they do not significantly change the characteristics of the surface.”
  • A lot of team matches seemed to go on longer than needed as teams generally played one match at a time as soon as one team had won four matches. A lot of them didn’t know that you can still play two matches at a time at that point. If the first match is won by the team with four wins, thereby ending the team match, then the other match simply doesn’t count, even if it finished. (The rule on this has changed a few times over the years, so I checked with the referee at the start of the tournament to make sure.)
  • I was surprised nobody mistakenly complained about my coaching between points, which is now legal – I was often calling out or whispering advice, which became legal about a year ago due to the new rule “Players may receive advice at any time except during rallies provided play is not thereby delayed.” I still don’t like the rule, but so far it hasn’t been as bad as I’d feared. There have been cases I’ve blogged about where coaches literally signaled every serve. I also used a few signals at times, mostly for specific serves.
  • One thing I like about team competition is that everyone can coach. The pertinent rule is “In a team event, players may receive advice from anyone authorised to be at the playing area.” So when we played two matches at a time, while I was coaching one player, often the other player would get coaching from the rest of his teammates, or others from his club. Often there’d be two or three kids coaching one of the kids between games, which is a great way for them to learn tactics – both for the player and the junior coaches. Some might think it’s confusing to have more than one coach in a match, especially if you have three kids coaching you, but I think they did a great job – the kids really got into it, and the very fact that they were coaching the matches meant that they were watching the matches closely and learning.

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Riva del Garda, Italy, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3. USA Boys and Girls both lost in the quarterfinals, to Romania and Korea, respectively, but it was a great performance. The boy’s team lost 3-2, but in two of the losses Sharon Alguetti was up match point in the fifth game, including in the decisive fifth match - so close! Here’s the USATT article on it by Matt Hetherington, Valiant Efforts, Medal Finish Passes Within Points of USA. Singles and Doubles are next.

Chen Longcan Coaching at MDTTC
Here’s info (and picture of him playing doubles with MDTTC coach Cheng Yinghua back when they were teammates on the Chinese National Team), and here’s info on MDTTC camps. “Former Olympic Gold Medalist, World Champion Chen Longcan visiting Maryland Table Tennis Center in December & January! He will be coaching at MDTTC Winter Camp: December 26 – 30, 2017 & giving private lessons. Register now for MDTTC Winter Camp! To schedule private lessons, please call 301.519.8580 or email us at” Chen won the gold medal in Men’s Doubles at the 1988 Olympics; Men’s Singles at the 1986 World Cup; Men’s Teams at the 1985 and 1987 World Championships; Men’s Doubles at the 1987 World Championships; and made the final of Men’s Singles at the 1985 World Championships (losing the final to teammate Jiang Jialiang).

2017 ITTF Star Awards: Who Will be the Table Tennis Breakthrough Star?
Here’s the video (75 sec).

2017 ITTF Table Tennis Star Coach Nominees
Here’s the article and video (75 sec).

2017 ITTF Para Table Tennis Star Nominees
Here’s the article and videos (male and female, 75 sec each).

Newgy Coaching Archives
Here’s their coaching page, with links to over 100 articles, including ten by me.

Plastic and Change
Here’s the article from Pro Table Tennis.

Returning to Table Tennis After a Long Break
Here’s the article by Sam Priestley at Eastfield.

Boll: We Are Closing Gap with China's Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Xinhua News. “Despite latest defeats and problems with the new ball used in international competition, China's table tennis stars are still the world's leading fraction, said German Timo Boll.” ‘We managed to close the gap a little bit, but they still rule table tennis,’ the German number two and former first of world rankings said in a recent Xinhua interview.”

The Korean Version of Ping-Pong Diplomacy
Here’s the article from Ozy.

Debut 2017 Xiom West Coast Teams a Success
Here’s the article by Shashin Shodhan.

Fun, Exciting Matches All for a Good Cause at Pong for Harvey
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn. “Nearly three months after Hurricane Harvey slammed into Houston with flooding rains and destructive winds causing an estimated $200 billion in damages, the area’s table tennis community came together for Pong for Harvey on November 18-19th at the Houston International Table Tennis Academy (HITTA).”

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 4
Here’s chapter four of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at

World’s Biggest Table Tennis Tour Opens Bids for 2019
Here’s the info page if you want to sponsor the 2019 ITTF World Tour.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 German Open
Here’s the video (5:12).

The Boy Who Taught Dinosaurs to Play Table Tennis
Here’s the video (1:38)!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 28, 2017

Tip of the Week
The Non-Playing Arm.

JOOLA North American Teams
I spent all day Fri, Sat, and Sun at the Teams in Washington DC, coaching two junior teams from MDTTC. It was my 42nd consecutive year at the Teams, starting in 1976 when I was 16. That year I played with Mike Shapiro and Jackie Heyman. The next year I played with Jim Mossberg and Mort Greenberg (and I think someone else – can’t remember) – and both of them were in action at the teams this year! Most of those years I played, but in recent years I’ve just coached.

Here are complete results. There were 963 players on 238 teams on roughly a zillion tables. Because I was busy coaching the whole time, I didn’t get to see any of the big matches, but here’s the excellent article on the tournament by Matt Hetherington, ASV Grunwettersbach Top the Field in World Class JOOLA Team Championships, with a link to a video of the final. Matt also created a “High-Speed Tour” of the tournament (35 sec)!

As usual, there were lots and lots of tactical things going on. I could write about this for hours. Here are just a few.

  • While warming up, I saw one opponent had this rather long, awkward, flat forehand stroke. I told our players, “With that forehand stroke, there’s no way of making a consistent strong return against a serve that breaks away to the wide forehand.” And so all three players used a steady diet of breaking serves to that player’s forehand, and all three won.
  • Kids tend to be weaker at the corners, while adults tend to cover the corners better but struggle with shots at their elbows. Because many of our juniors play each other a lot, they get into the habit of mostly playing to the corners. (They play adults in league play on Tues and Fri.) So I regularly reminded them to go after opponents’ elbows. By the third day, a couple of them were becoming masters at this, and will now make this a huge part of their arsenal. One player in particular started the tournament out as a forehand looper with no confidence in her backhand loop, and ended it with a series of wins as she discovered the value of a backhand loop to the opponent’s elbow. (“Like Crystal Wang” I told her.) Several players won matches when I told them to put an X on their opponent’s elbow and just keep going after it.
  • A key thing in each match was finding the right balance of serving short (or half-long) and looping, versus serving out (long). They got better and better at this as the tournament went on. Two of them even developed fast, no-spin serves to the opponent’s middle in mid-tournament, and it won them a lot of points.
  • Time-outs were really successful this tournament. I think there were at least five times where I called a time-out, and the player immediately scored three or more in a row. In one match, I called a time-out at 4-6 in the fifth, and the player won 11-7. The key was choosing what serves worked best (including placement), what types of receives to use, placement of their first attack, and (often most important), mental focus and control. Sometimes I called time-outs when a player was obviously nervous, and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes, to calm players down and clear their minds, I’d call a time-out and we’d spend half of it discussing their favorite movie or TV show.
  • I took full advantage of the ITTF rule of one year ago where you can coach between points, often whispering what serve to use. In one match, at I think 9-all in the fifth, my player walked over to pick up the ball. We’d already used the time-out, so I whispered, “Serve fast no-spin to middle, then short backspin to forehand.” He did both serves, and the opponent missed both serves outright! That might have been my favorite moment of the tournament.
  • There was an obvious difference coaching at different levels. When coaching players under 1600, the best winning tactic was often mostly pushing and letting the opponent make mistakes. I don’t like coaching that since it’s not good long-term, but tactically it was often the way to win. At the higher levels, the key to winning was often whoever used tactics to be the aggressor, which meant good choice of serve and receive and looking for chances to loop first to a well-chosen location, usually the elbow.
  • I took a huge amount of notes on the seven players I coached, and will be typing up these notes soon.

Here are some tidbits on the tournament from my perspective.

  • Bundesliga Match. On Friday there was the Bundesliga team match, where ASV Grunwettersbach defeated Post SV Mulhausen. There was a break from team play for this, so I got to watch this. There was a short intermission between matches where a number of local juniors (mostly ages 9-11) played “around the table,” with Wally Green (with a mini-bat) keeping the ball in play for them as they ran about, one by one dropping out until there were just two left – and the eventual winner was Ryan Lee over Kurtus Hsu.
  • Ryan’s Shot(s). That same Ryan Lee pulled off perhaps the Shot of the Tournament. He’s 10, and came in rated 1496, but picked up a lot of points this tournament. In one of his matches that I was coaching he stepped around his backhand – he’s a lefty - and looped a forehand down the line. The opponent blocked it very wide, outside the corner, to Ryan’s extreme wide forehand, an apparent winner. The stepped away from the table, thinking the point was over. Ryan raced to his left, going very wide (not sure how he got there so fast!), and with a last-second lunge, caught the ball very wide of the table, at about table height, with a big sidespin loop. The ball went around the net, hit the table about six inches short of the far left corner, and rolled across the corner. His stunned opponent tried to recover and return to the table, but even if he’d been there it was an unreturnable shot, so he just clapped. Dozens of people were watching, and we all gave it a big ground of applause.
    Ironically, Ryan had another show-stopping shot about five points later. The opponent dribbled a ball over the net to Ryan’s wide backhand. Ryan stepped way around his backhand to attack with his forehand, reached in, and literally smashed the ball after it dribbled over and hit his side. His shot hit the net as well, and dribbled over and hit the edge on the far side for a winner.
  • The Case of the Non-Missing Coat. On Friday morning after I arrived I put my coach around a chair and forgot about it. Throughout the day I moved to various locations in the convention center as I coached at different tables, and as far as I know I never moved or even saw the coat again. Late that night I returned home. Then I realized I was wearing the coat. But I have zero memory of how I came to be wearing the coat, or where and how I got it. It’s like a subconscious table tennis thing, where you rely on muscle memory for a shot – somehow while thinking table tennis thoughts all day I presumably moved the coat to the new table for each team match without ever really thinking about it.

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Riva del Garda, Italy, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3. USA Boys and Girls both reached the quarterfinals, with the Girls losing to Korea, with the Boys playing Romania later today. The USA Boys team is Adar and Sharon Alguetti, Kanak Jha, and Nikhil Kumar. The USA Girls’ Team is Ishana Deb, Rachel Sung, Amy Wang, and Crystal Wang. Here are related articles.

Adjusting Tactics in Tournament Play
Here’s the article by Brian Pace. “In competition players go for the shots they are the most comfortable with, the shots that we have mastered, as well as the shots that expose your opponent. Tactical conflict is created when the players doesn’t acknowledge that the shot they are playing is not being effective. This will result in a bad string of points, as well as playing in a way that benefits your opponent. Adjusting Tactics is one of the skills you have to master, and it is not a technical or physical skill. It is by far a mental and emotional skill that needs to be developed. This blog post will take you through the process of implementing tactics, surveying the outcome, and adjusting tactics. These are the major 3 aspects that create the language behind HOW you get to 11 points before your opponent.”

New from Samson Dubina

Why You Should Make Notes About Your Opponents
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

How to Train Off the Table
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty, where he covers seven aspects: Physical, Nutrition, Visualization, Learn from the best by watching, Information, Serve, and Mindset. (Yeah, I changed “Visualisation” to the American spelling!)

New Articles and Video from EmRatThich

The Hand
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Performance or the Win – Which is More Valuable?
Here’s the article from Epic Table Tennis.

Drop Shot Off Chop
Here’s the video (4:07) from PingSkills.

New Podcasts from PingSkills

10 Christmas Gift Ideas for a Table Tennis Player
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis.

Melton Table Tennis Association Newsletter
Here’s the December issue, with lots of articles, including coaching articles. Here’s their archives page, with links to past issues. Make sure to read the table tennis adjusted movie quotes as conversation starters on page 7! Such as, “I love the smell of table tennis in the morning.”

US Players Win Medals At Australian National Veterans Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the article by Dan Green.

2018 ITTF Team World Cup to be seen by 500 million and will boost table tennis in Britain
Here’s the article from Inside the Games.

Get to Know the Chinese National Team When They Are More Relaxed
Here’s the video (59 sec) from Adam Bobrow. “From smiles and laughter to karaoke with Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin to Chen Xingtong's face during my basic beatbox (she's hilarious), I thought it was a fun night to share with table tennis fans. This was after the finals at The Swedish Open.”

Ping Pong with Water in Space
Here’s the video (10 sec)!

A Little Centaur Pong?
Here are two pictures, centaur 1 and centaur 2.

Send us your own coaching news!

November 22, 2017

Off Until Tuesday, Nov. 28
I’m off tomorrow (Thanksgiving), and then I’ll be coaching at the JOOLA North American Teams (Fri-Sun, 960 players on 238 teams), and taking a rest day on Monday, though I'll likely put the Tip of the Week up that day, since it's already written. (Here’s the USATT page where you can livestream the Friday Bundesliga match on Friday, starting 1PM – see segment below – and here’s the USATT article.) Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and see you next Tuesday!

New ITTF World Tour Standings
Here are the new World Tour Standings, using the new ITTF ranking list. This is the new ITTF ranking system that will take over on Jan. 1, 2018, from the current ITTF ranking system; here is the ITTF explanation. The biggest difference is that the new system takes participation into account, so that a player who plays many ITTF events will tend to get a higher ranking than one who does not – and often higher than a less active stronger player as well. The main advantage of this is that it gives incentive to play more ITTF events. The disadvantage is that it is less accurate overall.

I’m not particularly pleased with the first sentence in the ITTF explanation: “The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) will be implementing its newly developed World Ranking system in 2018 to present a more accurate measure and realistic situation of the playing level, and to ensure that the World Ranking better supports ITTF events.” The second part is correct, but saying it is a “more accurate measure and realistic situation of the playing level” is simply wrong, and they know it, since the system rewards players for participation as well as playing level.

I think Ma Long and Fan Zhendong should be #1 and #2 (though Ovtcharov could challenge Fan for #2), but they don’t play as many ITTF events as Ovtcharov and Boll, and so the two Germans are #1 and #3, with Ma and Fan #2 and #4. Tomokazu Harimoto, the 14-year-old whiz kid from Japan, is #16 in the old system (#18 if you put Xu Xin and Zhang Jike back in – see next paragraph), but he plays lots of ITTF events, and so in the new system is world #7. Is the new system really a “more accurate measure and realistic situation of the playing level”?

On the other hand, the old system seems a bit too quick to drop players if they haven’t competed recently, and so in the current rankings, Xu Xin (was #3) and Zhang Jike (was #6) both were dropped from the list. (They are active again and will be in the next listing.)

Table Tennis Books for Christmas
They are the perfect Christmas gift for your favorite table tennis player – whether that is someone else or yourself! My best-selling book is Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, but other popular ones are Table Tennis Tips; More Table Tennis Tips (why not get both as a package gift?); Table Tennis Tales and Techniques; and the fantasy table tennis novel The Spirit of Pong. There's also Samson Dubina's One Hundred Days of Table Tennis. If you are more into biography, why not get Dan Seemiller's Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion, now on sale at $17.95? If you are more into history, why not get some of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis volumes?

Spanish Open
Here’s the home page for the events in Almeria, Spain, Nov. 22-26.

Bundesliga Livestream - Post SV Mulhausen vs. ASV Grunwettersbach live from Washington D.C, USA
Here’s the USATT page where you can livestream it on Friday, starting 1PM. I’ll be there in person.

Call for Nominations - Annual USATT Coach of the Year Awards
Here’s the USATT info page. I linked to this last week, but this is a reminder that the deadline is Jan. 1.

Fix It or Trash It? Learn to problem-solve during matches
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina. “In every match, you will miss some shots.  When you miss a particular shot in table tennis, what do you do?  Do you adjust your particular shot or do you stop doing that particular shot?”

The Most Comprehensive Guide to Pushing Short
Here’s the video (9:56) from Tomorrow Table Tennis.

Rolling Ball Backhand Loop Drill
Here’s the video (38 sec).

Training with Omar Assar and Marcos Freitas at 2017 World Cup
Here’s the video (22:34).

You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Knock-Up
Here’s the article by Ben Larcombe.

Olympic Dreams Take Hard Work - Gao Jun
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn.

Xu Xin from Strength to Strength
Here’s the ITTF article.

Reversal of Fortune for the Chinese: (Fortune Kooky ??!?)
Here’s the article by Steve Hopkins.

DTTA’s 9th MENSUAL Tourney
Here’s the article, results, and pictures from this tournament in Denver.

Thoughts on Table Tennis
Here are a lot of articles from 2014-2016 from Thoughts on Table Tennis, which I’d never heard of until yesterday.

People are Awesome - Ping Pong Skills and Trick Shots
Here’s the video (1:39)!

Table Tennis Art
Here’s the picture.

Sport Can Give New Life
Here’s the picture of a kid “hatching” from a ping-pong ball!

Alien Pong Cartoon
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 21, 2017

Off Day
Alas, I was up late last night on a project, and woke up exhausted and with a headache that feels like a 40+ steel ping-pong ball bouncing around inside my head. So I’m taking the day off from blogging. (No coaching scheduled today.) I’ll be back tomorrow with a double-sized blog. Meanwhile, here’s the best picture I’ve ever seen of a buck playing table tennis with a ram. (At least I think that’s a ram on the near side based on its rounded horns. But does a ram have a tail like that?) 

November 20, 2017

Tip of the Week
Three Simple Side-to-Side Drills. You might also want to revisit the article I linked to recently from Expert Table Tennis, 3 Basic Footwork Drills for Intermediate Table Tennis Players, which includes video.

Another Busy Weekend
Here’s a rundown.

  • In the Beginning Junior Class, we had our final session for the year. (We start up again in January.) The 90-minute session was divided into three segments. Segment 1: Player’s choice, where the player chose what he wanted to work with, with the 17 players rotating with the four coaches (plus robot). Segment 2: Smashing against lob. After we gave a demo and explanation of smashing lobs, they went out to the table, and took turns smashing lobs against the coaches, where they stay until they lose five points. Segment 3: The Candy Game! I put a HUGE pile of Jolly Rancher candies at the end of the table, and the kids lined up as I fed multiball, three shots each. Whatever they knocked off the table they got to keep!!! (They were allowed to trade if they preferred another flavor.) At the end I gave each of them two pieces each, so nobody left candyless.
  • In the Advanced “Talent” Junior Training, the kids went through stations. (There are 29 in the program, but divided into groups by level – there were eight in my group, with almost as many coaches/practice partners as kids.) The first time around my station was forehand loop/backhand push. (This was with the younger kids.) I fed backspin side to side as they looped the forehand, and pushed the backhand, with the player not doing the drill standing behind mimicking the shots with shadow-practice. (Don’t worry, they’ll be backhand looping soon.) In the second time around we did backhands – I fed the first ball, then the two would go at it, backhand to backhand. We also kept track of who did the most in a row at each station. I’ve been taking lots of notes on the kids for the last month – this week I write up my evaluations for each player in my group of eight. I hope to get them done today.
  • In the Adult Training Session I was a bit disappointed – due to holidays and other issues, the turnout was the smallest this year – just two! So they got a very intense session. After a series of drills, we did a lot of multiball. Since I’m going to be away many Sundays the rest of the year – North American Teams, U.S. Open, and Christmas in Eugene with family – I’m going to cancel the Sunday sessions until January. I'll email the class and put a note on our web page. 
  • In private coaching, since many local players are preparing for the North American Teams, with those students I’ve cut down on multiball (with plastic training balls) and many rote drills, and instead we’re playing more regular points – serve and attack, receive drills, and regular games (where I sometimes mimic styles, level, or just keep the ball in play).
  • In the ongoing debate about whether nets and edges even out – they don’t, some styles get far more – I add the latest data. During my one-hour session with Joanna (private coaching on Sunday), we kept score on how many nets and edges we each got, and she stomped me, “winning” 11-3, 11-4, 11-2, and led 5-0 when the session ended. I’ve blogged about this a few times, such as Feb. 6, 2012, Feb. 21, 2013 (3rd segment, where opponent got 17 to my zero!), and Dec. 8, 2014.

Seamaster Swedish Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF event in held in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 13-19, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video. Here are some videos:

Wonderkid Tomokazu Harimoto Training at the Swedish Open 2017
Here’s the video (3:25).

Flipping like Fan Zhendong -- Powerful Backhand Banana Flip
Here’s the video (9:21) from Tomorrow Table Tennis.

New Articles and Video from EmRatThich

Table Tennis Timing - Why I Keep Missing the Ball
Here’s the article by Harrie Austin-Jones.

China Remain Number One in Table Tennis - German Coach Rosskopf
Here’s the article from Xinhua News.

Race to the Top
Here’s the ITTF article. “Only two men can enter 2018 as the world number one. Will it be Fan Zhendong or Dimitrij Ovtcharov?”

Sri Lanka Continues March Forward
Here’s the ITTF article by Richard McAfee, course conductor.

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 3
Here’s chapter three of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at

National Youth Table Tennis Association
Here are the results of their first school tournament of the season, with 22 schools.

Paralyzed Seminole High Senior Jenson Van Emburgh Wants to Win Paralympics Gold Medal
Here’s the article and video (1:44) from ABC Action news.

Ask a Pro Anything: Omar Assar
Here’s the video (6:15), with Adam Bobrow.

“Serious” Training for the JOOLA North American Team Championships
Here’s the mini-table video (79 sec) by Tony Murnahan – best part is the Dimitrij “Dima” Ovtcharov impersonation in the middle!

Table Tennis Manga
Here’s the new cartoon. (Click on the pictures to see the next one.) According to Nathan Hsu, who pointed the manga out to me, the protagonist loops like Timo Boll!

Jan-Ove Waldner vs. Timo Boll Exhibition 2017
Here’s the video (10:11). I was going to link to the best points, but there were just too many – Waldner twice does his patented no-look forehand block winner, there’s the Waldner chop lob followed by Boll’s backspin drop shot, there are the opposite hand shots, lots of great lobbing, and an incredible point where Boll is smashing to Waldner’s lob – with two balls at once!

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November 17, 2017

Three Examples of Why Table Tennis is So Mental
I did three hours of private coaching last night, and all three featured the mental side of table tennis.

  • My first session was with a Lucy, age 9, a beginner. Last week we spent much of the session trying to get that elusive 20 forehands in a row (live, not multiball), but she wasn’t able to do it. Last night she again struggled for a time. The part that jumps out is that over and over she’d get close, and then miss. At one point she had hit 17 in a row three times, and ten or more in a row about 20 times, but each time as she approached 20, she’d get nervous and miss. This was similar to an experience I had with another student, Sameer, about age 12, that I once blogged about. In three consecutive rallies, Sameer, who was trying to hit 100 in a row for the first time, hit 99 in a row and missed (!), then 97, then 93. At this point he was almost in tears. The very next rally? Once he hit 100 he relaxed and we just went on and on until I finally caught the ball when he hit 1000 in a row! So, back to Lucy – we spent some time focusing on clearing the mind, not trying to guide the shot, and finally she got 24 in a row. The very next rally we did backhands, and in the first rally she got 38 in a row, also a new record for her. It’s all mental.
  • In the next session, with Matt (age 16), who loops very hard from both sides (about 1800 level), while warming up my blocking seemed a bit erratic. So I used a standard mental trick, and imagined it was back in the 1990s and I was practicing with Han Xiao, a star junior I probably hit with for 1000 hours as he won every junior event, made the U.S. Men’s Team, made the final of Men’s Singles at the Nationals, and won Men’s Doubles there four times. Back in those days I could block his loops in drills like a wall, and as soon as I imagined Matt as being Han, the muscle memory of those days came back, and I became a wall again. It’s all mental.
  • My final session was with Ron, and older relative beginner. We’re working hard on his basic shots, and his forehand and backhands are really coming around now. However, he has a few bad habits he’s overcoming. So I stressed the idea that you have to remember the feel of good technique, so that when you don’t do it properly, it won’t feel right, but if you do it right, it feels right. I explained how once you do this, the shot pretty much does itself, and all you have to do is watch the ball and let the subconscious (i.e. muscle memory) take over. I demoed by putting a water bottle on the far side and from my side of the table tossed up ball after ball and smacked it mostly dead center about ten times in a row. The key? I kept up a steady dialogue with him as I was doing this, making absolutely certain not to think about the shots or even to aim them – that’s the job of the subconscious. It’s all mental.

U.S. Open Deadline is TODAY
Here’s the new promo video (36 seconds), and here’s the home page for the event, Dec. 17-22 in Las Vegas. Yes, TODAY is the DEADLINE to enter. There are currently 737 entries (set dropdown menu to “2017 US Open”), and if YOU do not enter, YOU will pay for the wall. Or at least a net set.

Seamaster Swedish Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF event in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 13-19, finishing this Sunday. They are currently to the Final Sixteen in Men’s and Women’s Singles. Follow the action this weekend! Here’s a great game match from the round of 16 - Harimoto Tomokazu (JPN) vs Jens Lundqvist (SWE) (14:08). SPOILER – Harimoto comes back from down 1-3 to win, 11-8 in the seventh, and will now face Xu Xin.

Top Ranked Players Compete at the 20th Anniversary JOOLA North American Team Championships
Here’s the article. I'll be there. Will you? (I'm coaching two junior teams from MDTTC.) 

Pong Road: Episodes 1-4
Here are the episodes. On August 8 I linked to and blogged about Episodes 1-3; #4 (about ten minutes) just went up.  Like them at their Facebook page for future updates. Here’s the description from their About page:

“After years of living in New York and scraping by on tournament winnings, coaching and event gigs, professional ping pong player Rocky Wang decides to leave the big city and weave his way through the United States. With little money and his trusty van (Myrtle the Turtle), he's exploring what American ping pong is really like and the colorful characters that play across the country.” “This is a completely self-funded indie series made by two friends and shot entirely with an iPhone. It's a labor of love made with a lot late nights, sweat and ping pong balls, so please SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and help support our project!” 

ITTF Job Opportunities
Here’s the info page. “Seeking passionate individuals who are interested to join the ITTF in promoting Table Tennis to the World.” Current openings are:

2017 Star Awards Male & Female Table Tennis Star Nominees Announced
Here’s the article. Finalists for men are Ma Long, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Tomokazu Harimoto, and Timo Boll. Finalists for women are Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling, Miu Hirano, and Cheng I-Ching. (Their credentials are listed.)

No Matter How Good You Get, There’s Always Someone Better…
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

China’s Table Tennis Coach
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty.

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue that came out Wednesday.

Zhang Jike Forehand Training WTTC 2017
Here’s the video (65 sec).

Contenders for ITTF Point of the Year
Here's the video (1:51). 

Joo Se Hyuk: A Tribute
Here’s the video (7:02).

NFL’s Cardinals RB David Johnson Loves Table Tennis & PGA Players Play for Bragging Rights
Here’s the article and videos.

Some Robot Play?
Here’s the video (56 sec) – watch out, Ma Long!!! “The Chinese have introduced the new ping-pong robot to the world.” (But I’d recommend throwing some spins at it.)

Sidespin Backhand Loop Around Net Through Duct Tape
Here’s the video (54 sec) of Matt Hetherington having “another fun morning.” There are two other variations (reverse hand and sidespin backhand chop, both around net and through the duct tape), all shown in regular and slow motion.

Paw Patrol Cartoons Chase Plays Table Tennis
Here’s the video (10:33, but the crazy table tennis scene starts 16 seconds in and ends at 2:11). There’s also this somewhat gory table tennis picture with these characters, but it doesn’t seem to be in the video.

Well, Kid, Ya Beat Me
Here’s the all-time classic table tennis cartoon from The Far Side, never gets old. I don’t think I’ve ever linked to it – it’s just too iconic. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

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November 16, 2017

To Dream the Impossible Dream
I’ve always thought that this should be the national anthem of table tennis. After all, aren’t we all dreaming of beating that unbeatable foe, and achieving that impossible dream of being a champion? And of course, along the way there are those bad losses, leading to unbearable sorrow? But if you want to be a champion, you have to face that and go where the brave dare not go.

Here’s the version (8:50), perhaps the most classic (or at least the most views on Youtube at over 3.2 million), from the 1972 movie “Man of La Mancha,” sung by Peter O’Toole. (Yes, the same O’Toole who, ten years before, was Lawrence of Arabia.)

NOTE - I've been advised by John Olsen that the truly iconic version is actually by Richard Kiley in the Broadway musical. Here is Kiley singing it at the 1972 Tony Awards (2:39). Listening to it, I think he's right. 

But my favorite version is the one from the old comedy TV show “Gomer Pyle: USMC,” which ran from 1964 to 1969. Here’s the video of the scene (8:08), which starts at the Lincoln Memorial, and ends with Gomer Pyle’s rendition of To Dream the Impossible Dream. It’s from the 1967 episode “The Show Must Go On,” where Gomer (played by Jim Nabors, a comic actor and professional singer), has a loss of confidence when he’s supposed to sing in front of a crowd – i.e. he gets nervous, just as we all do before a big match. He’s so nervous he loses his voice. Depressed, he visits the Lincoln Memorial, where he is given good advice by a stranger, as well as seemingly from Lincoln himself. He overcomes his nerves, gets his voice back, and gives a brilliant rendition of the song.

Here are other renditions of the song, including versions by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, Susan Boyle, Diana Ross, Jennifer Hudson, Plácido Domingo, and Luther Vandross. The music is by Mitch Leigh and the lyrics by Joe Darion. I actually spent part of this morning creating a table tennis version of the lyrics – but you know what? While they might be considered “clever,” I think they just cheapened the song, and so I deleted them and will stick with the original.

Maximum Spin
Here’s the video (2:34) from Samson Dubina. “Check out this $0.01 tool that you can use today!”

Tomorrow Table Tennis - How to backhand loop against a deep fast push
Here’s the video (6:28) from Andy Zou.

Ping-Pong for Puerto Rico
Here’s info on the fundraiser at Philadelphia Spin this Saturday, Nov. 18.  

Seamaster Swedish Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF event in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 13-19. 

Old Man Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Table Tennis New Generation
Here’s the article from Sports Flu.

Set and Match: Table Tennis as Performance Art
Here’s the article and pictures. “Simon Grenier-Poirier and Dorian Nuskind-Oder’s ‘Speed Glue’ turns table tennis into performance art.” I’m not sure why it is called “Speed Glue” as it doesn’t seem to have any connection with the old speed glues used in table tennis (now illegal), so it’s probably just some poetic name.

Japanese Instructional Video from 1950s
Here’s the video (14:58), which I believe is the one created by Ichiro Ogimura for Japan and later studied by the Chinese. The Chinese and Swedes attribute much of their success from learning from Ogimura, the 1954 and 1956 world men’s singles champion and future ITTF president. Here’s another video (3:42) of Ogimura playing against Toshiaki Tanaka, the 1955 and 1957 world men’s singles champion. These two Japanese players dominated table tennis in the late 1950s before the rise of China. (Here’s my blog on the book, “The Life of Ichiro Ogimura.”)

Martina Navratilova Thrashed Piers Morgan at Table Tennis and He Wasn’t Very Happy About It
Here’s the article and hilarious video (1:38)!

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November 15, 2017


  • Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion. It’s now on sale at $17.95 at Amazon. (It was $24.95 before.) Here’s the back cover blurb:
    “If you are in the sport of table tennis, then you know Danny Seemiller, USA’s greatest modern champion. In ‘Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion,’ the five-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion takes you through his 50 years in the sport, from the early days of training, the breakthroughs, the agonizing defeats and the great triumphs. You’ll learn why the three-sport star – baseball, basketball, and football – changed his focus to table tennis. You’ll experience his trips around the world, from being marched at gunpoint to achieving his boyhood dream of defeating the Chinese. But playing is only half his story. Danny, a long-time coach first in Pittsburgh and then in South Bend, Indiana, was the U.S. Olympic and World Team Coach for ten years, and was named the USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis three times. He served five years as president of USA Table Tennis, ran dozens of major tournaments through the years, and was instrumental in bringing the 2018 World Veterans Games to the United States. He is a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and in 2012 became the youngest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. This is his story.”
  • Weekend Coaching. I never got around to blogging about it, but it was a busy coaching weekend. In the beginning junior class the focus was backhand attack, especially against backhand. In the advanced junior session (“Talent Program”), we had stations with the players rotating through each, and I had the station in charge of pushing. In the adult training session we did a lot of down-the-line practice, backhand attack, and serve and attack drills. In private coaching, I seem to be working on everyone’s forehand loop these days, plus a lot of service practice.  
  • Injury Update. I had a breakthrough last week. For the first time since July, when I injured my right knee at the USA Nationals, I walked up stairs normally. Since July I’ve been taking them only with my left leg, i.e. step up with left leg, follow with right leg, one step at a time. But I can now put normal weight on the right knee. I still wear a knee brace, but it’s more preventive now. In other good news, my right shoulder is about 80% healed, but it’s still a problem. Currently no arm or back problems, though I still wear an arm brace to protect against re-injury.
  • 2018 MDTTC Tournaments. We’ll have 3-star $2700 tournaments on Feb. 10-11, Apr. 14-15, Aug. 18-19, and Oct. 13-14, plus the 3-star Maryland State Championships on June 2-3. All five were sanctioned long ago. The complication is I keep playing around with the event schedule, since we ran into some scheduling problems in our last tournament with a high turnout in some events. I’ve been puttering around with it for the last month, and think I finally have it figured out.
  • USATT Coaching Committee Report. One of the new USATT policies is all committee chairs are supposed to submit a short report for each in-person USATT board meetings. (I chair the coaching committee.) We had a meeting in September, but with another one at the U.S. Open in December, I have to put together another one. (I may bring up with the board that this is too much, three times a year, and suggest we go back to annual reports.) Since September our main activity was setting up the annual USATT Coach of the Year process. There’s also a lot of discussion on the USATT coaching certification process, and I’ll be meeting with USATT High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio at the U.S. Open to go over this, and eventually submitting a plan for discussion to the USATT coaching committee. I've already got a printout of the current process marked up with lots and lots of notes and proposed changes. 

800 Players, $50,000 in Prize Money and 97 Events Highlights 2017 US Open
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn. I’ll be there; will you? Entry deadline is this Friday.

Seamaster Swedish Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF event in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 13-19. In Men’s Singles, China has Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, Lin Gaoyuan, Fang Bo, and Yang An. Japan has Noki Niwa, Kenta Matsudaira, and 14-year-old whiz kid, Tomokazu Harimoto (world #16), heading for a showdown with Xu Xin (world #3 last month, now off the list for non-activity) in the round of 16. Alas, Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Timo Boll are not entered, nor is Simon Gauzy or Vladimir Samsonov – the top European is world #17 Marcos Freitas of Portugal. In Women’s Singles, China has the top three seeds in Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling, and Chen Meng, and Japan the next three, with Kasumi Ishikawa, Miu Hirano, and Mima Ito. (Since I mentioned Ishikawa, here’s a funny picture of her with ITTF Commentator/Voice of Table Tennis Adam Bobrow. Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

America's Ping Pong Prodigy: The 16 Project
Here’s the video (6:55) from Vice Sports, featuring Kanak Jha. “When Kanak Jha was 16, he became the youngest American Olympian participate in the Rio Games. Only a year later, he now is considered the top-ranked US Men’s Ping Pong Player. Looking to take that next step in his development and training, the California native recently moved to Grenzau, Germany. Far away from home and with few distractions from table tennis, Kanak looks to perfect his craft and join the company of the game's elite with his sites set on Tokyo 2020.”

TeamUSA's Final Preparations Begin for World Junior Championships
Here’s the USATT article.

2017 German Open: All Chinese Out with an All-German Final!
Here’s the article and video (5:30, highlights of Fan vs. Ovtcharov) from Shashin Shodhan. “The End of Chinese Dominance?”

Tahl Leibovitz Honored with Queens Ambassador Award
Here’s the article from the Queens Times Ledger.

Coaches Respond, Intense Schedule in Pristina
Here’s the ITTF article by USA Coach Christian Lillieroos.

This Ping Pong Tournament Aims to Raise $175k for Chicago Tech Academy
Here’s the article from Chicago Inno.

Kenta Matsudaira - Mr. Tomahawk (Blocking Magic)
Here’s the video (5:26).

Old-Style Ping-Pong Circa 1900
Here’s the video (40 sec) as two players go at it with old vellum rackets, as used around 1900 but in a modern recreation.

Chat with Adam Bobrow
Here’s the video (9:49) - The Timo point, German Open, Swedish Open... life... whatever.

2017 Kansas City Table Tennis Open Final Highlights
Here’s the video (14:19).

Cartoon Network Ping-Pong
Here’s the picture! I’m not sure who the characters are or where this comes from.

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November 14, 2017

Tip of the Week
How to Play Doubles with a Much Stronger Player.

USATT Board of Directors Teleconference
The teleconference took place at 7PM last night, going until about 8:45PM. Attending were all nine members of the USATT Board of Directors, plus USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, USATT Chief Operating Officer Marc Thompson, High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio, USATT lawyer Dennis Taylor, John McFadden (representing the USATT Foundation), and USATT member Lee Kondo.

Meetings always start with a few formalities – roll call, welcome remarks from board chair Anne Cribbs, and a call for conflict of interest statements. There were none. Then we got to the approval of the minutes for the Sept. 10 in-person board meeting, and teleconferences on Oct. 9 and 19. I asked for a minor typo correction for the Oct. 9 minutes, and the addition of a clarifying sentence for the Oct. 19 minutes. There were no other calls for changes. Then we voted for each – I was rather active this call, and made all three motions for approval. They were each approved unanimously, and should go online soon.

Next came a long session on SafeSport. The USOC did an audit of our SafeSport policies and procedures, and asked that we add a part about requiring USATT staff to pass SafeSport. (Apparently this was included in one part, but not another.) Once again I made the motion to add the needed language to our policies. We’re in overall compliance, with Jan. 1, 2018 the target date for “full compliance.” Of course, there’s no such thing as true full compliance as any club or tournament could sneak in a coach, umpire, or other person who is not SafeSport compliant and we might not know about it. But there will be penalties for this.

Next came updates on the USOC General Assembly (from Anne Cribbs and Tara Profitt), and an update on the USATT Board Manual. (I found two little mistakes – it made my day! But nothing important.)

Then came the CEO reports on the U.S. Open, the upcoming USATT Super Camp (Dec. 26 – Jan. 2 at the Triangle TTC in NC), and USOC funding. No surprises on any of this. (Did you know you can see the list of entries online? Here’s the listing by players, and by event.) We also discussed the upcoming in-person meeting at the U.S. Open. The meeting will take place on Fri, Dec. 15, from 1PM to roughly 6PM, and on Sat, Dec. 16, from 8AM to roughly 6PM. The meeting is open to all USATT members who wish to attend, except for occasional closed sessions for legal and personnel matters. There will also be the annual USATT Assembly, tentatively at 8PM on Tues, Dec. 19, at the convention center.

There was also a closed session where for about ten minutes we discussed super-secret stuff (legal and personnel), and here I’d like to joke about Russian connections except someone out there would probably take it seriously. Then we adjourned.

Seamaster German Open
Here’s the home page for the event, held in Magdeburg, GER, Nov. 7-12. The page includes complete results, and lots of great articles and video. The mind-boggling part was that Men’s Singles was another all-German final, Timo Boll vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov, just like at the recent Men’s World Cup. Chinese stars Fan Zhendong, Zhang Jike, Xu Xin, Lin Gaoyuan, and Yan An all lost. (Ma Long and Fang Bo were not there.) Is China starting to miss Liu Guoliang? Here are a few other links.

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich

Training With Wang Hao and Lin Gaoyuan at 2017 World Cup
Here’s the video (9:10) from Arnaud Scheen. 

Tomorrow Table Tennis - How to Forehand Loop around the Net
Here’s the video (2:51) by Andy Zou.

San Jose Finalist for World Championships in a Growing Sport
Here’s the article from The Mercury News.

A Massive New Ping-Pong Bar is Coming to Downtown Seattle
Here’s the article from Seattle Magazine.

Has China Dropped the Ball?
Here’s the ITTF article. I think it way under-emphasizes the impact the “promotion” of Liu Guoliang from men’s coach into a pointless bureaucratic position.

ITTF Leadership Update
Here’s the ITTF article.

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 2
Here’s chapter two of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at

Robopong 2017 November BTTC Open Tournament
Here’s the article on the Florida tournament.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - October 2017
Here’s the video (13:02).

Timo Boll: Table Tennis Legend
Here’s the video (7:46).

Table Tennis, 1930s to Present
Here’s the video (2:47).

Table Tennis Stamps from Sierra Leone
Here’s the picture. Clockwise from top left: Kasumi Ishikawa, Ma Long, Koki Niwa, Zhang Jike.

Giant Ping-Pong
Here’s the video (13:13) with oversized paddles and what appears to be a beachball.

Bear vs. Monkey Pong
Here’s the video (7:30, but link should take you directly to 3:50, where they have a crazy game for about a minute, with a spider onlooker.

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November 13, 2017


Day Off
Oh boy, do I need a day off. Friday was Veteran’s Day, a federal holiday, and my normal policy is to take those as holidays as well – but I simply forgot, and ended up doing the blog and working all day Friday. Then came the even busier weekend where I coached all day and night. And now, after staying up late to watch the season finale of Star Trek: Discovery, plus The Walking Dead, The Simpsons, and Family Guy – yeah, late Sunday night is my weekly “TV” night – I have all the energy of a broken ping-pong ball. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m normally blogging Mon-Fri, while coaching long hours on Sat & Sun (as well as during the week), so I normally don’t have any days off. So I’m taking today off. (It’s not a total day off – I have a few things on my “todo” list I need to get done today, plus we have our monthly USATT Board of Directors teleconference at 7PM – I’ll blog about that and other things tomorrow.)

Meanwhile, here’s video of “The Diving Point” at the German Open, Timo Boll vs. Lin Gaoyuan at 7-6 in the first game. Who do you think wins the point? Here’s commentator Adam Bobrow’s explanation (60 sec) afterwards on why the umpires got it right and gave the point to Lin, despite Timo’s heroics. Here’s the home page for the event that finished this weekend in Magdeburg, GER, Nov. 7-12, with complete results, articles, and lots of video – and surprise, just like the Men’s World Cup, and with all of the top Chinese competing except for #1 Ma Long, the men's final was another all-German final!

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