July 17, 2013


Yesterday's focus was on the backhand. I gave a talk on it, explaining both the technique and the variations, such as how dropping the tip gives more power (sort of a second forehand) but you lose quickness and have more trouble in the middle, while holding the tip higher does the reverse - though you can still hit it pretty hard. I also explained how the backhand has evolved, from the flatter backhands of the past to the more topspinny ones of the modern day. I also talked about the revolutionary change in penhold play, from conventional backhands to reverse penhold backhands.

For some reason many coaches do not have their students do backhand footwork. I too am sometimes guilty of getting lazy on that, focusing on forehand footwork. Often players only do backhand footwork in conjunction with forehands, such as alternating forehand and backhand shots (either alternating from the corners or alternating both shots from the backhand corner). How about backhand-backhand footwork, where the coach puts a ball to the wide backhand, and then a ball to the middle backhand (or even more to the middle), and the player moves side to side hitting backhands? This type of footwork is even more important for players who use good topspin their backhands, whether looping or just having a topspinny backhand, since these players have longer strokes, and so positioning is even more important to get it right. (Players with more of a blocking stroke should also move for each ball, but can often get away with more reaching.)

Later I completed my serving lecture, going over deception and fast serves. Then we had service practice. As usual, we finished with games. Many Brazilian teams were victorious, many cups were knocked off tables, and poor Froggy also got smacked around a bit.

I had a little fun demonstrating long-distance serves, where I'd serve on a table from 50 feet away, usually from the side, using sidespin to curve the ball onto both sides of the table.

Speaking of serves, several of our top juniors are fiddling around with some seriously funky trick serves. One used one at the recent U.S. Open over and over, and kept winning points with it, often about twice a game. I'll never understand why players don't develop their serves more. It's not a matter of trying to rely on trick serves; it's a matter of not throwing away points by an inability to throw variations at an opponent, including a few trick serves for free points. If you don't, you are giving away points and playing level. (Trick serves are generally serves that will win a few free points, but once an opponent gets used to them, they are ineffective. Players should mostly rely on serves that set up their game - usually their attack - while mixing in a few trick serves now and then. There's an overlap between the two types of serves.)  

New Non-Celluloid Ball

Here's a discussion of the new non-celluloid ball proposed for 2014. They say it's confirmed. Anyone want to do some investigative work on this?

I'm Going to Haunt You

Here's a video (5:39) of table tennis to the music of Sharleen Spieri's "I'm going to haunt you," which sounds like country music to me. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.)

New Balance Shoe Commercial

Here's a commercial from New Balance (16 sec) that features table tennis as they advertise that they employ 1300 U.S. workers while their competitors employ zero. I have no idea how the table tennis is relevant to the commercial. But it's table tennis!!!

Non-Table Tennis - Novel Sale

Yesterday I blogged about selling my novel, "The Giant Face in the Sky." The novel is about 90,000 words and 451 pages double spaced. It's a humorous fantasy retelling of the U.S.-Soviet race to the moon in the '60s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts - sort of Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race. Here's the three-paragraph description in my cover letter when I submitted it. (Not mentioned here - at the start, all Neil wants to do is play ping-pong. He has to drop this "childish" desire to save the world.) 

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The powerful sorcerer John F. Kennedy has just won his third term as president of the United States. Neil (alias Neil Armstrong, though his last name is never mentioned) is 13 years old, and badly wants to be someone, do something. It's his mantra. Instead, he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world," and who (along with just about everyone else) constantly berates and humiliates Neil. Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends the text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text. It fixates on Neil, reacting wordlessly to whatever he and those around him say or do.

Realizing that anyone who gets to the Face can lob down spells and have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets, led by General Death, invade the U.S. over and over in an attempt to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. When a meteor assassin named Buzz fails to kill Neil, the talking, floating meteor becomes Neil's protector and companion--with the rather unfortunate problem that in exactly one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

Kennedy, with advice from the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, and with trusty sidekick Dogface (alias Lee Harvey Oswald), puts together a motley crew to go to the Face: Neil, Gus, Buzz, and the sorcerers Jackie Kennedy (weapons expert), Conrad (a hippy dragon whose hobby is swallowing celebrities), Wernhera (a sorcerer living in Conrad's stomach), Apollo (the Greek God and son of famed children's author Dr. Zeus), and Jim (a 2-D sorcerer from another universe). Can they make it to the Face before General Death, and before Buzz kills Neil?

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Re: July 17, 2013

The 2014 date is something that the ITTF has set and confirmed.  Whether it will actually come to pass is anybody's guess at this time.  Which ball will be adopted for ITTF tournaments is still unclear.  Odds are it will be a DHS ball since the ITTF and DHS seem quite cozy on this ball change and development.  That means it will probably be a seamed ball.

I have the Palio seamless ball and none of my samples have a major roundness problems.  They don't spin with the same stability as a very good 3* ball, but seem to wobble about as much as a mediocre 3* ball when spun quickly.  They bounce slightly higher (very slight) and don't spin up as much nor do they carry the spin well.  They kick out less when they hit the table and they also slow down more quickly.  In other words, they tend to "sit up" a bit making it easier to initiate an attack against them.  That's why I suspect that while these balls are slower and would seemingly give defense an edge, it may not work out that way in the end since it will be a bit easier to initiate an attack with them.



Re: July 17, 2013

About new non-celluloid ball. About a week ago, while I was on vacation in Europe, I played with new hybrid balls. They had a seam and the material is mostly new PVC plastic (however I was told that some celluloid is still mixed in there; I was also told that it was manufactured by DHS).

I have practiced for about 30 minutes with these balls, and I should say that they didn't seem that different from regular ones (I mean good quality training balls like GoGo or Donic 1-star). They feel a little tighter, not as soft as celluloid balls, but very close to my regular training balls in terms of spin and speed. Well, perhaps just a tiny little bit less spin. I was told by my practice partner that he'd been using them for a few weeks and they are much sturdier than regular balls (in two weeks of everyday practice he only broke one of them). However he is not sure whether these are the balls that ITTF intends to start using in 2014, because they are hybrid (still use some celluloid).

He also said that seamless balls he was recently given for testing were pure crap - they broke easily and distribution of the plastic along the surface was not uniform. He also tried seamed ball made entirely of PVC and was very critical of that one as well - he said that the seam was quite hard and the rest of the ball much softer which led to all sorts of problems.