April 27, 2017

Playing in a League and [Not] Reading Hidden Serves
I mentioned in my blog yesterday that some of the USATT board (as well as CEO Gordon) played in the ICC League on Saturday night. I also mentioned I didn’t do very well, and said I’d probably blog about it later. I was hesitant to do so as some will argue that I’m just making excuses. But I’ll just report what happened.

On the very first serve of my very first match, my roughly 13-year-old opponent (I’m told from a local club, not ICC, about 2000 level) served a blatantly hidden serve, hiding contact with his arm and shoulder. I badly missed the first two serves, one into the net, the other off to the side, and complained, to no avail. I didn’t want to create a scene, but at the same time I was pretty disgusted that even kids are hiding their serves illegally these days – but how can I blame him? It’s no different than what the best players in the world and the U.S. are doing, and it’s what his coach taught him to do, and umpires overwhelmingly allow it. If Ma Long and most top players (and Zhang Jike – see below) can serve this way, why not anyone else? I’ve blogged about this many times, and am still working on trying to get ITTF and/or USATT to resolve this issue.

 The key part that many still don’t get is that the key rule isn’t just that you can’t hide the ball. It’s that you must serve so that the umpire can see that the serve is legal, i.e. not hidden. In this case, four serving rules were being broken. (Note that for the last two, when there are no umpires, the players act as the umpires.)

  • 2.6.4: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball … shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server…
  • 2.6.5: As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net. 
  • 2.6.6: It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect. 
  • If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect.

As a player and coach, I knew what I had to do – against his short serves, instead of my usual off-the-bounce flips, and quick short and long pushes, I’d have to take the ball as late as possible so I’d have more time to read the spin by how it bounces and curves through the air, and return them defensively, giving my opponent easy attacks, which isn’t exactly fair.

As a player, I could have adjusted, but I’m basically retired from tournaments, and so my priorities are different. The fact that I was stuck out there, facing blatantly illegal serves, unable to do anything about this, and knowing that this is now the norm, was just too frustrating, and so I pretty much lost any interest in really playing – and my results that night showed it. The other players served legally, and I tried to win, but my heart wasn’t really in it anymore. I do have to apologize to my opponents for how grim-faced I was that night, but now you know why. (I actually defaulted my last match, to a chopper, as my arm was getting sore, and I didn’t want to make it worse.)

Zhang Jike Plays School Kids – and Hides His Serve!
Here’s the video (2:10) – it’s in Chinese, but you don’t need to understand that to understand what’s going on as the kids try to return his serve. The ironic part is that even here, against little kids, he’s illegally hiding his serve – note how in the very first serve (20 sec in) he leaves his arm out to hide the ball.

How to Combine Your Forehand Drive and Backhand Drive
Here’s the article and video (1:36) from Coach Tao Li at Table Tennis University.

Chinese Physical Training/Training in China
Here’s the article, with links to video, from Fremont Table Tennis.

Ask the Coach
Two more questions answered at PingSkills – Deciding the Serve and Anatomic Handles.

US Coaches to Lead Team on Home Turf for Dusseldorf World Championships
Here’s the USATT article.

USATT Insider
Here’s the issue that came out yesterday.

USATT Sanctioned Tournament Video Feature
Here’s the USATT article where USATT will help promote your tournaments.

Dublin Jerome Senior is a Top Contender for Paralympic Table Tennis Team
Here’s the article and video (2:28) from NBC4 WCMH in Columbus, OH, featuring Andrew Schneider. If you’d like to help fund his Paralympic Table Tennis dreams, here’s his GoFundMe page.

USA’s Amy Wang Triumphs in Belgium
Here’s the ITTF article.

ITTF Partners Legends Tour
Here’s the ITTF article.

Erie Open Final RR
Here’s video (58 sec) of some of the best points in the final round robin. That’s Open Champion Samson Dubina against Runner-up Roy Ke and then Seth Pech (3rd).

Duck Pong
Klaus Wood (member of USA Cadet Boys’ Team) recently adopted two pet ducklings. He did so by creating (according to his dad, Matthew), “a well-researched, multi-slide Powerpoint presentation with details on all his duck plans.” That, and straight A’s on his report card, won Klaus the two ducklings, whose names are Ping and Pong. Here’s the Facebook announcement. Here are the ducklings with a ping-pong ball. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Here they are again, in bathtub, with curious dog watching. Inspired by this . . . I give you Duck Pong!

Send us your own coaching news!