October 23, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Sixteen Reasons Players Don’t Improve.

Liebherr Men’s World Cup
It was held this past weekend in Liege, Belgium. As usual in table tennis, one country dominated, with another all- China German Final – wait a minute, what happened there!!! Yes, it was Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Timo Boll in the all-German final. So what happened to the Chinese? To be concise, they were Timoed. Ovtcharov won the final over Boll, but he really should share the prize as it was Timo who took out the Chinese. But only barely.

First, note that China was handicapped because at the World Cup, there’s a limit of two players per country, and so their great depth is not rewarded there. Instead of their usual lineup of world #1 Ma Long, world #2 Fan Zhendong, world #3 Xu Xin, world #6 Zhang Jike, and world #9 Lin Gaoyuan (not to mention world #12 Fang Bo and #17 Yan An), they sent only Ma and Lin. (Lin qualified by winning the Asian Cup.) These days, it’s obvious that Ma Long and Fan Zhendong are the two best in the world, and rarely lose to other players. Xu, their #3, is a bit shakier, as is Zhang these days – both occasionally lose to non-Chinese players, which is a no-no for the modern Chinese team. So perhaps China is looking to develop another big star with Lin? He has the game to do so. 

However, at the last Worlds, Lin was up 10-5 match point against teammate Xu and lost. This time? In the quarters, against Timo, he was up 10-4 match point in the seventh against Timo Boll . . . and lost. (He had another match point at 11-10. See link to the video below. Here’s the ITTF article.)

But nobody can beat Ma Long, right? And he did lead 3-1 in games against Timo in the semifinals, and then he too was Timoed, 12-10 in the seventh. (Here’s the ITTF article.)

And so the final was world #4 Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. world #5 Timo Boll, two Germans who practice regularly against each other. After all his heroics, you’d think Timo should win, but he was perhaps a bit exhausted from his two deuce in the seventh matches, and remember – this guy is 36, which is really old in table tennis. (Here’s the ITTF article.) And yet, this oldster knocked out the two Chinese, made the final of the World Cup, and after being #1 in the world back in 2002-2003, he’s climbed his way back to #5 – and after this World Cup, perhaps higher.

So . . . how did this happen to the invincible Chinese? At my club last night there was discussion of this, and there seems a universal belief that it’s very simple. Liu Guoliang was arguably the most successfully Chinese coach of all time, with China dominated perhaps more than ever in their history during his years as head coach. And then, for apparently political reasons, with the belief that China would dominate regardless, he was “promoted” out of his coaching position to become one of something like 17 vice presidents for the China Table Tennis Association. More than anyone else, he was the one who seemed to keep the Chinese not just on top, but dominating on top, but with his removal, there are now cracks developing. Or perhaps Ma was just recovering from injuries or having trouble adjusting to the ball? If so, why would he have been sent, instead of Fan Zhendong? (See his interview below.)

So what should or will the Chinese do with Lin? If they are smart, they will focus on sports psychology. If they do, Lin could develop to the same level as Ma Long and Fan Zhendong. However, it’s also likely that they will decide he’s too risky, and while he’ll stay on the Chinese team, he won’t be one of their “Big Guns.” At the World Championships, you play three players in the team event, and for the foreseeable future, Ma and Fan hold two of those spots. But there’s a huge battle for the third spot. Zhang Jike used to have a lock on one of the top three sports, but no more as Xu Xin has mostly passed him – but those two and Lin are the main competitors for that third spot. (Fang Bo is another possibility, if he raises his level just a bit.)

At the next Worlds, for the first time in a while, the Men’s Team competition might get interesting. China will face a Germany sending up their world #4 and #5 stars, along with one of Ruwen Filus (world #24), Bastian Steger (#29) or Ricardo Walther (#43). They will also face a Japan with Jun Mizutani (#7), Noki Niwa (#8), Kenta Matsudaira (#11), and of course the up-and-coming superstar, Tomokazu Harimoto, already world #18 at age 14 (and #13 in last month’s rankings). Maybe, just maybe, China might want to bring Liu Guoliang and begin the difficult task of once again going from best to dominating best?

Here are some links.

Between Points - Learn about the most under-developed part of table tennis
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

How to Improve Your Table Tennis Game in One Month
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty. This actually came out last week, while I was sick, and I somehow missed it.

Best Rubbers and Blades for Advanced Players
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Fifteen Unwritten Rules of Table Tennis
Here’s the article by EmRatThich – with three more added “with your comments,” so there are (at this writing) actually 18.

Table Tennis Tidbits #11
Here’s the article and video (54:50) by Robert Ho.

Backhand Counter Technique
Here’s the video (1:53) from ReSpin Table Tennis. More coaching videos are linked on the right.

Training with Kanak Jha and David Powell at the World Cup
Here’s the video (1:50).

Greatest Table Tennis Shot Ever – Revisited with Fire!
Remember this video (54) second of that crazy, incredible behind-the-back countersmash made by Kit Jeerapaet against “Bogeyhunter” (Sutanit Tangyingyong)? Here’s Bogeyhunter’s fiery revenge!

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Re: October 23, 2017

They sent Lin because he qualified by winning Asian Cup. In a same way USA 'sent' Kanak Jha.

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: October 23, 2017

You are correct - thanks for the correction. I changed the wording accordingly.