April 11, 2011

Control the receive

I was watching some beginning/intermediate players in a tournament yesterday and noticed a huge number of points decided by the receive. Either the receiver was way too aggressive (and so made mistake after mistake) or was way too passive (and kept pushing topspin and sidespin serves off the end or side). While it's usually best to learn to play aggressive, receive is all about control, about consistently taking the initiative away from the server. If you can force a neutral rally on the opponent's serve and win half the points, you should win the match when you serve.

How do you control the serve? At the beginning/intermediate level you should focus on one thing only: is the serve backspin or not backspin? If the serve has backspin (including sidespin backspin), then you mostly push it back, though you can also loop it. If it's not backspin (i.e. sidespin or topspin serves), then you use your regular topspin shots, i.e. backhand and forehand drives (or perhaps loops, if you can do that). No-spin serves you can handle either way.

At higher levels you might want to do more with the receive, but ultimately it's all about control, whether you are quick-pushing to an angle, dropping it short, flipping, or looping.

Baltimore Orioles and Ping-Pong

The secret to the Orioles hot start this season? Obviously it's ping-pong!

"Mr. Control Freak Manager [Buck Showalter] allowed a ping-pong table to be placed near one end. The players engage in spirited competitions before games. The coaches dress in their own locker room. Jones says that Showalter rarely is seen."

How Reisman and Satoh Went Batty
[This is just something I wrote this weekend and thought it was, well, at least mildly funny. Satoh was the player who introduced sponge table tennis to the world (which led to inverted sponge) by winning the 1952 World Championships with it, while the charismatic Reisman, whom Satoh beat in the semifinals - he was the only one to even get a game off him - is notorious for pushing hardbat (and recently sandpaper) table tennis.]

As children, Marty Reisman and Hiroje Satoh went to the zoo together. They had a
ball together as they toured the lion compound, the elephant yard, the monkey
house, and saw many other animals. Then they came upon the bat house.

"I like that one!" Satoh said, pointing at a bat hanging upside-down from the

"I like that one!" Reisman said, pointing at a dead bat lying on the ground.

Satoh nudged the dead bat with his foot. "It's stiff."

"I don't care," Reisman said. "I want it."

So Reisman grabbed the hard bat and Satoh the inverted bat, and the table tennis
world was changed forever.


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I love it.  Very nice.  But it must be strange how your brain works, Larry.