May 4, 2018

Unified Korean Team vs. Japan
They played out the Women's Semifinals at the Worlds this morning (starting at 10AM their time, 5AM Eastern Standard Time), and as expected, Japan won relatively easily, though match #2 was 16-14 in the fifth! (Here's video from 8-all on in the fifth - Kim had three match points, but also had a pair of edges after deuce.) Here are the results - and I'm using the ITTF designation "COR" to designate the Unified Korean Team:

  • Mima Ito (JPN) d. Jeon Jihee (COR), 2,8,9
  • Kasumi Ishikawa (JPN) d. Kim Song I (COR), 4,-6,8,-11,14
  • Miu Hirano (JPN) d. Yang Haeun (COR), 4,5,-9,6

And so Japan moves into the final where they will play China . . . I mean, the winner between China and Hong Kong, which is being played right now. (So yeah, they'll play China.)

Yesterday a top player emailed me pointing out something about the unified Korean team issue that I should have addressed in my blog yesterday. (He asked to stay anonymous.) We're all thinking what a wonderful thing this was, Korea unifying as one team, as they did in 1991 when they last won Women's Teams at the Worlds (over China). But let's take a closer look.

Here are two teams, Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea (and I'm going to start referring to them as North and South Korea from here on) who entered as two teams, went through the preliminaries, and made it all the way to the quarterfinals - and then, rather than play, in mid-tournament they decide to become one country, one team!!! Thank about this. It meant:

  • The Korean team(s) got to move one round further without playing, when normally half of all teams lose in each round.
  • While other teams were playing - and it's exhausting at that level - they got to rest.
  • Japan suddenly has to face a stronger team than they were supposed to.

Was this fair to Japan?

However, some strange things went on. First, you'll note that South Korea has a much stronger team, and it's likely that the best unified North & South Korean Team is the top three South Koreans. Here are the top players from both countries and their world rankings:

Republic of Korea (South Korea)

  • Suh Hyowon (#12)
  • Yang Haeun (#27)
  • Jeon Jihee (#35)
  • Choi Hyojoo (#47)

Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea)

  • Kim Song I (#49)
  • Ri Mi Gyong ($106)
  • Cha Hyo Sim (#161)

Now the ITTF rankings are not as accurate as they were before, since they now take participation into mind, so it's not clear that the #1 North Korean, Kim Song I, ranked #49, is really that level - she might be better. I really don't know. However, it would have been politically tough to take a unified team and play only South Korean players. And so in the final, Kim did play - and she's the one who lost 16-14 in the fifth to Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa, world #3! So she's probably better than her #49 ranking would indicate. Those rascally ITTF rankings!

But the even stranger thing is that the apparent #1 player from the unified Korean team would seem to be Suh Hyowon, world #12 - but she didn't play in the final. Instead, the Unified Korean team was made up of:

  • Yang Haeun (#27) (South Korea)
  • Jeon Jihee (#35) (South Korea)
  • Kim Song I (#49) (South Korea)

So why didn't they play Suh Hyowon, easily the top ranked Korean player? Imagine if Kim Sing I had pulled off that win, and perhaps one other, and Korea played world #12 Suh Hyowon, and she won a match - then Korea would have defeated Japan and gone into the final. I'm sure Japan would have been fine with that, right?

Conspiracy theorists might say there was some deal with the Japanese whereby if they didn't complain about the Koreas united against them, in return the unified Korean team would sit out their #1 player. They also played the North Korean #1, #49 in the world, instead of the South Korean #4, Choi Hyojoo, who is #47 - but of course results did show that Kim Song I was much better than her #49 ranking. But again, why didn't they play world #12 Suh Hyowon? Unless she was injured, was it right and fair (to her as well) to sit her out?

But Japan is strong enough that they likely would have won no matter who the Korea played, unless they unified with China. Here are the Japanese top three, who they played:


  • Kasumi Ishikawa (#3)
  • Miu Hirano (#6)
  • Mimi Ito (#7)
  • Japan also has players ranked #13, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 34, 41, 44, 66, , 79, 81, and another eight players between 100 and 200. Next to China, they have the most depth of any women's team in the world.

So what are Japan's chances in the Women's Final against China tomorrow? Here are the best Chinese players:


  • Chen Meng (#1)
  • Zhu Yuling (#2)
  • Wang Manyu (#5)
  • Chen Xingtong (#9)
  • Liu Shiwen (#10)
  • Ding Ning (#11)
  • Sun Yingsha (#15)
  • Five other players in top 100

Seriously, Liu Shiwen #10 and Ding Ning #11? China simply has the best players - probably. And yet, Japan's team is younger and perhaps hungrier, and there's no telling - until they play tomorrow - just how good they might be. Suffice to say China will likely have their hands full. Meanwhile, now that we've set the precedent that two teams can in mid-tournament, after playing into the quarterfinals, can combine as one team, can we field a unified China/USA team in the Men's and Women's Finals? Think of the headlines THAT would generate!

World Team Championships
The World Team Championships continue in Halmstad, Sweden, April 29 - May 6, finishing this Sunday. You should be able to follow the action there with news, results, photos, and live and archived video. You can get the latest news on the ITTF Worlds News page. Make sure to check out the Point of the Day and the Daily Review! Here are some links, most but not all USA-centered.

Korea Unites to Play Japan!
Here's the ITTF video (45 sec).

New World's Videos from EmRatThich
Over the last few days he's put up several dozen new videos from the Worlds, many with commentary, including five more yesterday.

World Team Championships - the Volunteers
Here's the video (6:19) - let's thank the ones who do the work! And it's to the tune of the Star Wars Cantina scene!

Go Fund Me Pages for Junior Programs
I just received the following email regarding the South Bend Table Tennis Center juniors (coached by Dan Seemiller) - perhaps you can help out?

Dear SBTTC Board,
Thanks for your support of our juniors!  We've got $230 and the word just went out.
Please forward this GoFundMe appeal by e-mail or share by Facebook.  Here are links to the appeal:

Or you can forward this e-mail.
If we can get momentum going this first day, I think it will really help.  I've sent this to our SBTTC active list, folks at Kern Road Mennonite Church, Ms. Dooley at Dion's school last year, and Marty's extended family. 

Meanwhile, HW Global is still raising funds for the junior program they run at MDTTC - they have now raised $13,825 of the $15,500 needed. Here's their funding page. (I may be volunteering to run a 90-minute Serve & Receive Tactics clinic at the club to raise funds.)

How to Smash High Balls
Here's the video (5:39) from Tom Lodziak. "Attacking high balls should be easy. The ball is way up in the air. You have a big margin to get the ball over the net. How can you possibly miss? Easy peasy" "In this video I show you how to smash high balls consistently. The technique I show in the video isn’t the only smashing technique you can use, but I think it’s the easiest technique to start with."

Best Table Tennis Serves Tutorial
Here's a three-part serving tutorial from Tomorrow Table Tennis. I'd linked to parts 1 &2 previously, but part 3 came out just last week.

Challenge the Call?
Here's the Facebook poll created by Samson Dubina. "I think that ITTF should allow 1 challenge (similar to NFL) per match during international play? Many matches are won or lost from a serve fault or lack of a serve fault or an edge ball vs side ball, etc... What do you think? Would this be a cool feature for international matches? Vote NOW."

Table Tennis Specific Weight Training
Here's the video (29 sec) from Matt Hetherington. "A lot of people ask if there are any exercises they can do in the gym specific to table tennis muscle groups. Here is a good example of one which engages weight transfer from your toe, through legs, hips and core into a follow through with the arm! Happy gyming!"

Robot Pong - Our Future Lords and Masters are Getting Good!
Here's the video (71 sec). The robot is surprisingly good, as is his opponent. They are playing hardbat, so there's less spin. The final frontier for such robot play is dealing with spin - and I think they are a long way from that. I'm guessing the robot isn't going to return many of my serves, pushes, chops, or loops, not to mention high, spinny lobs. But I'd love to take it on in a straight hardbat hitting contest. But even there, if I get in trouble, I'm guessing I could throw in some chops and it'd miss.

Would Roger Federer Have Dominated in Table Tennis?
Here's the video Roger Federer's table tennis skills heavily praised by a competitive player (1:36) - Long-time USA player/coach/robot expert Larry Thoman is quoted. Here's the article from Business Insider, with Thoman quoted again: "It is universally accepted that the best place for developing into a world-class table tennis athlete is in China. The training environment there is regarded as several steps above what is available anywhere else in the world." Here's Shashin Shodhan's commentary.

WAB Club Feature: Lily Yip Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Triangle April Open
Here's the article.

Today is Star Wars Day
As in May 4, "May the Force [be with you]." Here's what you get when you Google "Star Wars Table Tennis."

Metallic Gold Ping-Pong Balls
Here they are!

Taxidermy Ping Pong Playing Mice
Here's the picture - um, yuck!

Bodybuilder VS Thumbtack STING PONG Challenge | Crazy Table Tennis\Ping Pong Ball Damage Test
Here's the video (8:50)! Note the Disclaimer Warning at the start!

Funny Japan TV Shows - Table Tennis Battle
Here's the video (24:06)!