February 3, 2015

To Players in the Capital Area (Maryland, Northern Virginia, Washington DC):
*****Join Us in the Capital Area Super League!*****

The deadline has been extended to February 20, so you can still enter. We have enough teams already for the league, especially for Division One (though we could use one more), but would especially like to get more teams for Divisions Two and Three.

This is a team league for all levels - yes, that means you! In Europe, some countries have memberships in the hundreds of thousands, all because of such team leagues. (Germany has over 600,000.) Players from Europe talk about how much we're missing without such leagues, where players get to play on a TEAM, surrounded by friends cheering you on. So we hope you'll sign up and share their experience. (Some of this was in yesterday's blog, but I want to emphasize it.)

The league was initiated by Michael Levene and Stefano Ratti, who played in the English and Italian leagues and missed the camaraderie of such team leagues. (John Olsen and I are also members of the organizing committee.) This is your chance to join with us. All money going to the league stays in the league - it is run completely by unpaid volunteers. No payments are due until March 15.

If you want to play but don't have a team - or have a team that needs more players - there's a "Looking for a Team" section on the web site, or you can contact the organizers, who may be aware of other players in a similar situation. If you are concerned about having a home venue, or are concerned about the type of commitment, again contact us at Michael@smashtt.com or rattigno@yahoo.com.

So get your friends and practice partners together, and come join us!

North American Grand Tour Final

It's this weekend at the Westchester TTC in Pleasantville, NY, and I'll be there. Here is a link to the program, with the schedule, rules, fun facts about table tennis, and information/photos on all 16 players (average rating over 2600, led by Eugene Wang at 2799). Here is the tournament flyer, which includes spectator info. Here's the USATT News Item.

The Westchester TTC will host a welcome party on Friday night, Feb. 6 (6-10 pm), for the public to meet the players, participate in a handicap event with cash prizes, and enjoy food/drink. The Grand Finals' preliminary matches will take place on Saturday, Feb. 7 (10 am - 6 pm), with four round robin groups of four players. Two players from each group will advance to single elimination playoffs on Sunday (11 am - 4 pm). 

Here are the 16 players, seeded by Tour Points:

  1. Kai Zhang, Pleasantville, NY
  2. Jishan Liang, Flushing, NY 
  3. Xiang Jing Zhang, El Monte, CA
  4. Bob Chen, Milpitas, CA
  5. Yonghui Liang, Milpitas, CA
  6. Ruichao Chen, German Town, MD
  7. Eugene Wang, Victoria, BC, Canada
  8. Jimmy Butler, Houston, TX
  9. Zi Rui Zhao, Livingston, NJ
  10. Rui Wang, Milpitas, CA
  11. Jack Wang, Livingston, NJ
  12. Gal Alguetti, Tenafly, NJ
  13. Tinglei Wu, Flushing, New York
  14. Dan Liu, Milpitas, CA
  15. Nathan Hsu, Rockville, MD
  16. Crystal Wang, Boyds, MD

The Bionic Man

Here's the new video (9:22) of Navin Kumar (by Peter Scudner). Navin's been in the news a lot recently. He has Parkinson's and a mostly mechanical heart. The video was taped at MDTTC. I helped out as hitting partner, coach, and was interviewed.

Weird but Legal Shots and Tactics

Here are a few weird but legal things you can do!

  • Back of hand serve. The racket say that "A player strikes the ball if he or she touches it in play with his or her racket, held in the hand, or with his or her racket hand below the wrist." So you can hit the ball off the back of your hand! While this is difficult in a rally (though I've done it - it can be painful!), it's easy to serve that way. You just fake a backhand serve and hit off the back of the hand. It's a no-spin serve, but if you keep it low, just the shock factor will cause weak returns. However, I've done this twice in tournaments and both times the opponent caught the ball, thinking it was an illegal serve. I didn't have the heart to press the matter, but I should have claimed the point.
  • Jumping up and waving arms after popping the ball up. I did this once in a match against an elderly Hall of Fame player, and the opponent missed the shot - and began screaming at me! If you do this but don't make a sound, I think it's okay.
  • Waving left arm while serving or receiving. It's distracting to the opponent - and that's the point. Mikael Appelgren (former world #1) was infamous for this, often waving his non-playing arm up as he received, which distracted the server. However, I'm not so sure about the sportsmanship of this one, if overdone. 
  • Super high-toss serves. Against a good attacker, a weak high-toss serve is cannon fodder. But at the lower levels, or against a weak attacker, just the act of tossing the ball up high can throw an opponent off, even if the serve itself isn't so good. I recommend developing the serve itself (after you can do it effectively with a short toss), but even if you can't do it very well, it's a good change-up against some players.
  • Serve lefty. (Or righty if you are a lefty.) It really throws opponents off! Well, sometimes.

Jimmy Butler Interview

Here's the interview. Oh, and who says Jim's a backhand player? See this photo! (Make sure to click on it to see the next two pictures of yours truly.)

2014 Breakout Star Crystal Wang has High Hopes for 2015

Here's the article by Barbara Wei. (Here are lots of other articles from Butterfly.)

Challenge to Non Full-time Players

Here's the article by USATT Hall of Famer Dell Sweeris.

Ozark Table Tennis Club

Here's the USATT news item on this long-time Missouri club.

Forrest Gump - Best Fictional Athlete Ever

Here's the article with pictures and video. "We’re talking about unquestionably the best football player and table tennis champion in history - with clear talents in sprinting, MMA, swimming, hurdles, and ultramarathon endurance. Forrest Gump is Bo Jackson crossed with Usain Bolt crossed with AMERICA."

Some Pictures Making the Rounds

Chimpanzee Pong

Here's the video (4 min). Toward the end he really does play! The chimp acts no differently than a typical five-year-old, both with the way he "strokes" the ball (often oblivious to where the ball goes), and the various antics (such as using the balls as "eyes").


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