June 9, 2017

Serve Practice and the Complacency of Non-Practice
By the time you’ve reach the intermediate or advanced level in table tennis you probably have at least decent serves. You can serve an advanced beginner off the table, and probably have “go to” serves that score you points against your peers, maybe even against stronger ones. And since you already have those serves, you don’t really need to practice them, do you? After all, you are using them in games every week, which keeps them honed and ready to use at their very best, right?

Wrong. There are three flaws with this logic.

First, no matter what level your serves are, they won’t have that little extra they’d have if you practice them regularly. Recently, in preparation for the Serving Seminar I’m running at the Nationals, I practiced my serves a few times, something I hadn’t done much recently. The result was immediate and obvious – my students, even advanced ones who were used to my serves, some of them practically growing up returning them, began having fits with them. It led to a lot of frustration – I had to explain to them that they weren’t getting worse, that my serves were actually better, back to where they had been years ago when I practiced them regularly. What specifically made them better? With a little practice, I’m keeping the serves lower (low-bouncing net-grazers), and getting both more spin and (more importantly) my contact is much quicker and more deceptive (as they used to be), and receivers are having fits telling my side-backspins from my side-topspins, and other variations.

Second, because I’m practicing them, I’m back to being able to pull off very deep serves where the ball actually goes very deep. It’s risky serving too deep, and so most players don’t go too deep. With a little practice, you can serve consistently at almost any depth, including big breaking serves, fast no-spins, and those sudden quick down-the-line ones, with the bounce on the far side within six inches or so of the end-line, jamming receivers.

Third, if you don’t practice your serves regularly, how can you improve them? With just a few minutes of practice last week my backhand serve went from okay to a deadly weapon. How? Because I practiced it, and can how whip the racket through the ball at full acceleration while grazing the ball and changing racket directions just before or after contact – and the receiver has to read all this.

I blogged about Service Practice on June 2, and gave these two links to serving articles:

Improvement of Players Who “Goof Off” – Part 2
Yesterday I blogged about improvement of Players Who “Goof Off.” Here’s an interesting Facebook comment on it from Han Xiao (many-time USA team member, 3-Men’s Doubles Champion, Men’s Singles Finalist).

“It's likely that players who really focus on training rather than goofing off will develop a better understanding of ball contact, spin, body control and mechanics, etc. that will allow them to pull off more creative shots with relative ease as well. I also know from personal experience that the goofing off or laziness in certain situations becomes a bad habit, so it's actually actively detracting from your game instead of just reducing your training efficacy. For a few months in my career I kept doing things like settling for a backhand every time after covering the wide forehand, and even chop blocking the next ball quite often. Things like that really set you back a bit and a few months of bad habits will really hurt a player's development.”

Building Blocks of Table Tennis
Here’s the page from PingSkills, with links to nine videos, most about two minutes long. “To build a complete table tennis game you need to develop a range of skills. We break these down into 7 building blocks. By understanding these you'll be able to ensure you work on skills that will help you evolve your game. After watching this module you should have a good understanding of the building blocks and then can watch all our other tutorials to build your skills.”

Beat the Injured Player: Learn some new tactics
Here’s the new article from Samson Dubina.

How to Do a Reverse Sidespin Serve
Here’s the article and video (6:13) from Tom Lodziak.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Fan Zhendong Reverse Pendulum Serve Practice 2017
Here’s the video (46 sec). (I won’t comment on how well hidden contact is.)

KoKi Niwa Forehand Technique
Here’s the video (7:08). It’s in Japanese, but you can learn by watching. Niwa of Japan, ranked #9 in the world, made the quarterfinals of Men’s Singles at the Worlds this past week, including a win over world #5 Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Jean-Michel Saive Re-Elected to National Olympic Committee
Here’s the ITTF article.

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

Spanish Junior Para Open in El Prat de Llobregat
Here are two ITTF articles that feature USA.

Unforgettable Experience for Isa Islam
Here’s the ITTF article about this Turkish coach’s experiences at the Worlds.

Ask a Pro Anything: Lily Zhang
Here’s the video (20:50) featuring the U.S. Women’s Champion with Adam Bobrow.

Hirano Miu - The Supergirl
Here’s the highlights video (4:47) of the world #8 woman from Japan, who made the semifinals of the Worlds this past week, including a win over world #4 Feng Tianwei.

2017 World Championships: Glorious Scenes
Here’s the video (2:08).

Table Tennis Postcards
Here’s the page.

Ma Long vs Zhang Jike Funny Training Lob
Here’s the video (1:58).

Bowling Pong
Here’s the video (37 sec).

Table Tennis Monster
Here’s the video (2:55) – not sure how I missed this from a year ago. It’s got table tennis, a dinosaur, and features Alex Piech (human) and Jason Piech (dinosaur) of Arkansas, brothers who have been to our training camps in Maryland. Both of them will be at the USA Nationals next month. They’ve had other videos, such as this one, 2016 USA Table Tennis National Championships (33 sec) and others – see links on right.

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