January 2, 2018

Tip of the Week
Elbow Drill.

U.S. Open
It seems like ancient history now, but the US Open ended only eleven days ago. A lot happened there, and a lot’s happened since! In case you missed them, here are the complete results.

I flew to Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 14. We had USATT board meetings all day Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15-16. I blogged about the agenda on Dec. 13. The minutes for the meeting will go up later, but the list of Actions and Notices is already up. They don’t really give a proper reflection of all that went on – the minutes will do a better job of that. I’ll likely blog more about the meeting when they go up. (Note – I’m on the USATT Board of Directors, and chair the USATT Coaching Committee.)

I also had a long, productive meeting with USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio on USATT Coaching Education and Certification. I’m flying to Colorado Springs on Jan. 8-9 (USATT and USOC headquarters) to meet with him and USOC officials on creating a USATT Coaching Education Program.

I also attended the USATT Assembly on Tuesday night. It was shorter than usual and sparsely attended. In advance of the meeting one USATT member – who happens to be a lawyer and a former USATT committee chair – had circulated a notice making numerous accusations against USATT. He’d been doing this via email for many months, and I’ve now spent over 70 hours dealing with his issues, nearly all of which I’ve found to be non-issues. Since he said he was going to speak up at the meeting, I spent three hours on Monday night reviewing his emails and preparing notes so I’d be ready to respond. That was a fun night. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) And then, at the meeting, when he was given the chance to speak out, he said he had nothing to say at this time. Great!!! There went another three hours for nothing. Ironically, he later had a big issue with the tournament referee, and tried to recruit my support in the matter. I referred him to the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. He’s wasted 70+ hours of my time (that’s all unpaid, volunteer work), and he’s way past his lifetime quota.

The US Open itself was Dec. 17-22. My time was mostly split between coaching and playing. We had a rather small turnout of MDTTC players at the Open, since it’s 3000 miles away and takes place during a school week. (We’ll have a much bigger turnout for the Nationals, which is in July.)

Though I’m primarily a sponge player and coach, at national tournaments like this I generally only enter the hardbat events, where I win a lot of titles. I was in four events: Hardbat Mixed Doubles, Hardbat Doubles, Over 40 Hardbat Singles, and Hardbat Singles.

I won Hardbat Mixed Doubles with Estee Ackerman. It’s a relatively new event, started just a few years ago, and this was the first time I played in it. In the final round robin we actually lost our first match when I made a strategic mistake. Against a team that had an attacker and a defender, I decided to play more passive in the first game when the attacker hit to me. Tactically, it made sense, since his partner, the defender, didn’t attack my passive shots. But strategically, it cost us, as it took me out of my normal game, which is aggressive forehand attacking, and so I played poorly. Meanwhile, the other team stuck to what they did well – the attacker mostly attacked, the defender mostly defended, and so they played well Estee also played well (she would later win Hardbat Women’s Singles), but my lack of attack hurt us, and we lost in three games. Fortunately, I regained my senses in the next match and went back to all-out attacking, and when the team that we had lost to lost to that team, we won in a tie-breaker.

I won Hardbat Doubles with A.J. Carney. He played really well, and would also go on to win Hardbat Singles, as well as Sandpaper Singles and Sandpaper Liha Singles. It would have been easy for me to go back to playing passive and rely on his attack, but that would have been the same mistake I’d made in Mixed Doubles. So I stuck to my all-out attack, only playing defense when forced, and we won all our matches. In the final, A.J. pulled out a brilliant tactic when he started chop-blocking serves back short, which stopped the opponent’s attack and set up mine over and over. (This was the 14th time I’ve won hardbat doubles – nine times with Ty Hoff, four times with Steve Berger, and now with A.J.)

The 800-pound gorilla at the table this whole time were my ongoing shoulder problems. I was having trouble reaching in for short balls or extending my arm to reach for balls to my forehand. We’d covered for this partly in doubles by my partners favoring shots off to the right (a righty’s backhand), so opponents couldn’t angle into my forehand, where I was having trouble with the shoulder. But now I was in singles. I won my three round robin matches in Over 40 Hardbat, and was in the quarterfinals against Ken Pinili. I’ve won this event five times, and was the defending champion from the U.S. Nationals in July.

In the first game, two things happened – he played great, and he exposed my shoulder problems with a steady barrage of short balls and attacks to my wide forehand. I lost badly, 21-8. Ken was playing really well, but so could I – but not if I kept holding back because of my shoulder. So I made a fatal decision to simply let loose, ignoring any shoulder problems. It was my only chance to win. In the second point of the second game, he attacked my wide forehand. I went for it, reaching out and making a strong counter-hit – but as I did so, I could actually feel the shoulder muscle tearing. I dropped the racket as I yelled, “Ow! Ow! Ow!” And that was the end of my tournament.

I’ve emailed my students I’ll be out until at least Jan. 13. We’ll see how the arm is at that time. I was supposed to set up a rehab appointment last week, but stomach flu got in the way. (See previous blog.) I’ll be setting up an appointment later today.

I didn’t get to see many of the top matches since I was busy in meetings, coaching, and playing. However, one great match I saw the final of the Boy’s Youth Olympic Qualifier, Kanak Jha vs. Jeremy Hazen (17:35). I’ll likely blog about this later, probably tomorrow – it was a great example of a seemingly simple tactic implemented brilliantly by Kanak. Can you see the tactic?

Had a memorable night when the one of my students, Todd, and his family treated me to the legendary “The Beatles Love: Legendary Musical at Cirque du Soleil.” My best description of it is that it’s indescribable!

After the Open I flew to San Francisco on Dec. 22 to spend Christmas with family, then flew home on Dec. 27. Then, on Friday, Dec. 29, I came down with stomach flu – see previous blog.

New ITTF World Rankings
The new rankings are out for Men and Women, with the new system – and they are controversial!!! I’ll blog about this later.

I’ve been away a while, so there’s been a lot of new items on their news pages – so why not browse them? USATT has lots of coverage of the US Open, the USATT SuperCamp, and the MegaCamp in Ohio with Samson Dubina. Samson also covers the MegaCamp on his news page.

Other News
While I’ve been away there has obviously been a lot of other new items on numerous other table tennis pages. Rather than compile all of it in one batch today, I’m sort of doing half today, half tomorrow. So there’ll be a lot of other stuff coming tomorrow.

New from PingSkills
Here are three new videos.

Training with New World #1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Here are two new videos from Arnaud Scheen, both from the 2017 World Cup.

New from Coach Jon
Here are two new ones.

Kickstarter for SpinBlock Table Tennis Center
Here’s the page. They are trying to raise funds for a full-time table tennis center in Indianapolis.

On Ping Pong and Other Addictions
Here’s the new table tennis novel by Bill Rees, kindle only. I just bought it and will read and perhaps review it sometime soon. It’s a “satirical work by an author who seems destined to end his days in some therapeutic centre for ping pong obsessives.” You can read full description on the page.

The Coolest Ping-Pong Table?
Here’s the video (49 sec)!

Sound Ping-Pong
Here’s the video (1:48)!

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