July 17, 2018

Table Tennis Coaching Back Up Again - Sort Of
As you probably noticed, the site has been down since Friday morning, July 13. It literally went down minutes before I posted my Friday blog, which I wasn't able to post. My technical person wasn't able to resolve the issue until last night. What had happened was the "Access Log" went over 1 GB, causing an "overload of MySQL resources."

Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen side problem, the site almost immediately went down again. Hopefully it'll be up soon. Below is the Monday blog, where I took the Friday blog and added lots of new stuff. I was planning on blogs on Fri, Mon, Tue, and Wed (mostly covering the Nationals), but couldn't do them since the site was down. 

Last Blog Until August 1
Now the really bad news. I was out of town recently for 3.5 weeks (World Veterans and Nationals), and Thursday I'm going out of town again! I'll be away July 19-29, and so won't be blogging during that time. (I'm off to my annual science fiction writing workshop vacation in Manchester, NH.) After this I hopefully won't be missing any more days for a while.

Tip of the Week
Follow Through Back Into Position After Forehand Looping.

$10,000 Jim Butler - A.J. Carney Hardbat Challenge
Here's the video (91 min) of this challenge match that took place at the U.S. Nationals, on Saturday, July 7 at 1:30PM, with Adam Bobrow commentating. I'm sitting next to him, and occasionally comment to him. Initially the match was to be on one of the feature stadium tables, but with the tournament almost over tables were being taken down and moved into trucks, and the opening for the trucks meant that one side was looking into a glare. So they moved to another table. At 10:40 you can see the $10,000 cash. The match itself starts about 11 minutes in.

The challenge was initiated by A.J., and agreed to by Jim. The deal - best of seven to 21 - yes, you read that right! - with each putting up $5000 in cash. A.J. has dominated the U.S. hardbat world the last few years, while Jim dominated it for a number of years before that.

SPOILER ALERT! - Jim wins the match, 4-2: 15,-16,7,11,-15,19. There were two key turning points.

  • Jim goes up 3-1 in games, winning the last two games at 7 and 11, and is up 15-9 in the fifth, seemingly coasting toward an easy 4-1 win. They are having great points, with A.J. both counter-hitting and chopping, but with Jim winning most of the long points. But incredibly, A.J. scores 12 in a row (!) to win 21-15! Jim quite visibly was tired during this run - if A.J. can turn it into a physical fitness contest, he can win.
  • Jim is up 13-9 in the sixth, then he's down 14-15 - again, looking physical tired - and then is up 20-16 match point - yeah, lots of back and forth runs of points this match. A.J. scores three in a row before losing the final game, 21-19.

Here's my assessment of the two players. (Disclosure - A.J. and I are defending Hardbat Doubles Champions from the U.S. Open in December.)


  • Overall: He has very good serves that allow him to take control of the point, with the ball tossed behind his head like many world-class players, but hidden serves are rarely called these days. (To see this, watch the serve when Jim's on the far side of the table. Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, and others do the same thing.) He comes at you from both wings with relentless drives, rarely missing, with an occasional backhand smash. He almost never backs up or chops. Except when he tires, it's simply hard to find a way to score against his relentless consistency.
  • Strengths: Great serves, rarely misses except when tired, keeps coming at you from both wings with strong drives, the threat of the big backhand, experienced and cool under pressure.
  • Weaknesses: Lack of forehand finishing shot, not as dominant on backhand as expected, and at key times toward the end had stamina problems.


  • Overall: Equally comfortable countering or attacking, or chopping.
  • Strengths: All-around play, very physical, great footwork, and sometimes able to run off strings of points in a row.
  • Weaknesses: No real weaknesses, though like Jim often focuses on consistency and so doesn't end the point as well as he could with smashes - I thought he should have smashed more on the forehand side. Doesn't have a specific overwhelming strength (except perhaps his fast footwork), other than ability to do EVERYTHING well.

Thursday's Links
Last Thursday (July 12) was my first blog after being out of town for 3.5 weeks, and it was loaded with links to blogs and articles by some of our regular table tennis writers and videographers, including Samson Dubina, Tom Lodziak, Eli Baraty, Jon Gustavson, Shashin Shodhan, Emratthich, and PingSkills. Why not browse over some of the ones you didn't get to yet?

Maryland Table Tennis Center Featured!
Here are three new articles or videos that feature my club, MDTTC, or its players!

  • Spin to Win about MDTTC
    Here's the new video (2:56) featuring MDTTC! (One small mistake - 15 sec in it has me as "Coach and Owner." I sold my share many years ago, and have asked them to change this to "Coach and Co-Founder.")
  • Melton Table Tennis Newsletter Features MDTTC
    Here's the new July issue from this Australia club. They visited MDTTC recently and have a feature article on it on page 6, "Table Tennis American Style"! "Arriving at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on a Saturday night we met with Larry Hodges and watched some of the juniorsquad training, and I have to admit, I was very surprised by the depth of talent on display." (Here are their past issues.)
  • Don't Tell That to Mel
    Here's the article by Bill Draper that features 96-year-old Mel Ketchel - a regular player at MDTTC, World War 2 veteran, and with a PhD in Physiology, was a professor at Tufts.

Banana Flip
Here's the video (5:12) from PingSkills.

3 Tips to Improve Your Table Tennis Serve
Here's the video (4:15) from Eli Baraty.

Tuning Footwork from Backhand to Forehand
Here's the video (3:26). I think they mean "Turning."

Korea Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, July 19-22 in Daejeon, South Korea.

Pan Am Juniors and USATT News
The USA Junior Team won six of the seven gold medals! Here's the USATT news page, with lots of articles on this and other topics. Here's the ITTF Pan Am Juniors page, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Titles Defended, USA Triumph at Pan Am Junior Champs
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington on Team USA sweeping Girls' and Boys' Teams at the Pan Am Junior Championships. Here's the video (6:40) of them taking the podium. Here's the ITTF article, United States asserts authority, status justified. Singles and Doubles start next.

The Man Behind MH Table Tennis
Here's the video (9:39) featuring Matt Hetherington, who is also USATT's Media & Communications Director, and one of the hardest-working people in table tennis!

RIP: Dragutin Surbek
Here's the ITTF article, and another from the Croatia News. Reading this was sort of a "wow!" moment for me as Surbek was the first top international player I ever met - sort of. At the 1976 U.S. Open in Philadelphia, my first big tournament, I went out to lunch and sat at the counter at some diner. In walks the Yugoslavian stars, world #3 Surbek and Milivoj Karakasevic (father of future star Aleksandar). There were only two open seats - one on either side of me. So Surbek sits to my left, Milivoj to my right, and they spent the whole meal leaning back and talking to each other in one of the languages of Yugoslavia, while I sat frozen in awe. Surbek went on to win the tournament.

U.S. Nationals Ratings
They're up!

Comfortable with the Uncomfortable - Secret Table Tennis
Here's the article from Eli Baraty.

Jin Ueda's Backspin Touch is NEXT LEVEL!
Here's the video (17 sec). (Jin is world #26 from Japan.) Many players think that short pushes have little backspin, but world-class players put surprisingly amounts of backspin on the ball when they push short. It's that very grazing motion that creates the backspin that also gives them touch, since grazing the ball puts little forward motion on the ball, and that, along with the backspin, keep the ball short. 

Technique Tutorial - Backhand Topspin
Here's the video (6:02), in Chinese but the demos are good. 

Zhang Jike Forehand Topspin Loop
Here's the video (5:06).

Barrier-Blinding Footwork?
Here's the video (14 sec)! I presume the drill forces the player to react quickly to the incoming ball.

How Table Tennis Balls Are Made
Here's the video (8:25) showing how plastic balls are made.

Dhiren Narotam Profile
Here it is! Five new members of the USATT Hall of Fame were inducted at the Hall of Fame banquet during the U.S. Nationals. Each of them will eventually have their own Hall of Fame profile. Dhiren's was written by Paul Lewis, and is the first of the profiles not written by Tim Boggan.

Doru Gheorghe, Contribution Acknowledged, Inducted into United States Table Tennis Hall of Fame
Here's the ITTF article. Others inducted were Aili Elliott (Li Ai), Henan Li Ai, Dhiren Narotam, and Norman Bass Jr., plus the Lifetime Achievement Award to yours truly.

Minimising the Risk, Croatian Star to Focus Efforts on Recovery
Here's the ITTF article on the world #39, Andrej Gacina.

Mattias Karlsson | Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the video (6:21) by Adam Bobrow on the world #18 from Sweden.

Former Rock Publicist Took Up Table Tennis at 69, Now She's a Rising Star
Here's the article featuring Carol Klenfner.

Ian's 2020 Paralympic Journey
Here's the GoFundMe page for Ian Seidenfeld, who is trying to raise money to go to the 2020 Paralympics. Here's the start of his intro:

"Dear Friends and Family, I am honored to be a member of the U.S. Para Table Tennis Team with hopes of representing Team USA in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan. Many of you have supported my table tennis endeavors over the past several years and I hope you will continue your support throughout the remainder of the Paralympic Quadrennium. 

"My Paralympic journey started well before I began playing table tennis. l was born with pseudo-achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism characterized by shortness of limbs and orthopedic issues related to bone and joint development. As a result, I encounter severe pain in my knees and hips. But at the same time, it is my physical disability that allows me to pursue my ultimate goal of going to the Paralympics."

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 8
Here’s chapter 8 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Chapter 8 covers "1994 International Play." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Jason and Alex Piech at the Nationals
Here's the video (1:56)!

Water Pong
Here's the video (34 sec)!

Classroom Desk Pong
Here's the video (16 sec).

Hitler Reacts to ITTF's Game-Changing Announcement
Here's the video (4 min)!

Send us your own coaching news!