October 5, 2020

Tip of the Week
Exaggerate Serving Follow-Through in "Wrong" Direction.

This is B.E.S.T. Week - Buy Every Seemiller Tome!
Here's the new Dan Seemiller page, where you can buy both of the books by USA's greatest modern player. (It's a relatively simple page I put together.) One teaches you how to play table tennis; the other is about his table tennis life.

Here's Dan's very short resume:

  • Dan Seemiller's USATT Hall of Fame Profile (by Tim Boggan)
  • 5-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion: 1976, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983
  • 12-time U.S. Men's Doubles Champion: 1976-1983, 1990-1991, 1994, 2009
  • 7-time U.S. Mixed Doubles Champion: 1976-1978, 1981-1983, 1988
  • U.S. Men's National Team Coach, 1999-2009
  • U.S. Men's Olympic Coach, 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens
  • 3-time USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis
  • South Bend Table Tennis Club Head Coach 1996-present
  • President of USA Table Tennis, 1990-1995
  • Hall of Fame Inductee, 1995, Lifetime Achievement Award 2008 (youngest ever, at 58)
  • A major driving force in bringing the World Veterans to the US, which led to us getting the Worlds in 2021 - well, maybe...

This is what I wrote about Dan on the page:

I first met Dan Seemiller at one of his Pittsburgh camps in 1977, my second year of play. Let's just say that I was in awe as he and his brothers (Ricky and Randy, plus Perry Schwartzberg) demonstrated and explained the various techniques. I went to another of his camps in 1978. The day before he badly sprained his ankle, and he showed up with the leg in a full cast so he could still move about to coach – and in a challenge match, hobbling about mostly on one leg, he still managed to win a challenge match against the U.S. #1 junior player, Rutledge Barry! Those Seemiller camps formed the basis both for my own game, and for my future professional coaching career. Little did I know that, one day, I'd be assisting Dan at his Pittsburgh camps in the early 1990s, and learning how to run my own camps. I'd also be his coaching chair during his USATT presidency. (And now I'm editing and doing the photo work and page layouts for his autobiography – wow!)

Dan is considered by most the greatest modern U.S. player, going back to the 1950s. He's done it all at the highest levels – player, coach, tournament director, club president, and president of USA Table Tennis. He even has a grip named after him – the "Seemiller grip." There's a reason he was the youngest person ever awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2012 at the age of 58. Even now, as I write this, he's still actively playing – easily the best over 60 player in the U.S. – while coaching at South Bend and helping USA Table Tennis run training camps for their top juniors. Plus, he was instrumental to bringing the World Veteran Games to the U.S. in 2018, something he's very excited about – setting it up, running it, and playing in it.

Dan's been putting up on his Facebook page daily photos and news clippings from his past, along with daily tips. If you are on Facebook, why not friend him so you can see these daily nuggets? Here are the recent tips:

  • Always go for the shot. Many times scrambling to win a point can make all the difference.
  • In the photo, this is a late loop which I will spin heavily. If I had the time to step forward, then that would be a drive loop. Knowing that there is more than one timing position for every stroke - is a very important lesson to learn that increases one's range and improves decision making.
  • When blocking one 1st needs to assess the quality of the attack for their response. If there is plenty of energy there- just redirect it. If it lands short or is weak then block aggressively or counterattack.
  • When you lose focus, everyone does at some point, the key is to recognize it and recover as quickly as possible. Think of strategy and get your mind active again.
  • To make comebacks takes never giving up and not focusing on the score. Nothing more satisfying in sports than turning what could be a loss into a win.
  • Use your free arm to help create balance and power.
  • Develop quality serves and be unique whenever possible- racket speed is essential. Use the body to create momentum.

And now, the books, which you must buy or you will be cursed for life by the table tennis demons! (Note - some think that Dan teaches the "Seemiller grip" when he coaches. Nope, he coaches mostly regular shakehands or penhold grip, which is what's he's coached during his 45+ years coaching - I know, I went to his camps, first as a player, then as his assistant coach. The key thing isn't your grip, it's understanding the game - which is why Liu Guoliang is probably the greatest Chinese coach, even though he was a penholder mostly coaching shakehanders.)

=>Winning Table Tennis (168 pages)
Whether you're a competitive tournament player or a serious recreational player, Winning Table Tennis: Skills, Drills, and Strategies will help you improve your game. Dan Seemiller, 5-time U.S. singles and 12-time doubles champion, shows you all the shots and strategies for top level play. This book features 19 drills for better shot-making, plus Seemiller's own grip and shot innovations that will give you an edge over the competition. Featuring the most effective table tennis techniques and strategies Winning Table Tennis: shows you how to:

  • choose the right equipment,
  • serve and return serves,
  • use proper footwork and get into position,
  • practice more efficiently,
  • prepare for competitions
  • make effective strategy decisions in singles and doubles play, and
  • condition your body for optimal performance.

=>Revelations of a Ping-Pong Player (218 pages)
"If you are in the sport of table tennis, then you know Danny Seemiller, USA's greatest modern champion. In 'Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion,' the five-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion takes you through his 50 years in the sport, from the early days of training, the breakthroughs, the agonizing defeats and the great triumphs. You'll learn why the three-sport star - baseball, basketball, and football - changed his focus to table tennis. You'll experience his trips around the world, from being marched at gunpoint to achieving his boyhood dream of defeating the Chinese. But playing is only half his story. Danny, a long-time coach first in Pittsburgh and then in South Bend, Indiana, was the U.S. Olympic and World Team Coach for ten years, and was named the USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis three times. He served five years as president of USA Table Tennis, ran dozens of major tournaments through the years, and was instrumental in bringing the 2018 World Veterans Games to the United States. He is a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and in 2012 became the youngest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. This is his story."

USATT Thursday Night Live: Sun Seals Series Win for Team Butterfly
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins, as Team Butterfly (captained by Dave Sakai) defeats Team Nittaku (captained by Patty Martinez), 6-3. Here's video of the final match (47:25, starts with pre-game show by Sean O'Neill and Mark Thompson, with match beginning at 21:21), between Aziz Zarehbin (14, 2388, #2 in Cadet Boys) vs. Rachel Sung (16, 2406, #3 in Junior Girls, and 2019 US Nationals Women's Singles Finalist). Here's an interview with the players (16:04, starts about one minute in) before the match. Here's my tactical analysis and play by play:

Tactically, Rachel often pins Aziz on the backhand, dominating with her relentless backhand topspins, while Aziz looks for chances to counter-attack with the backhand, and to get his forehand into play. (This is often true for matches between men/boys vs women/girls.) Rachel rarely wins with one-shot winners, instead often taking several shots to force a winner, or forcing Aziz into mistakes. Aziz more often goes for big winners - and often wins or loses streaks of points, depending on whether they are hitting. Aziz often attacks Rachel's wide forehand, dominating the points when he found chances to attack that way. Rachel often serves short to the forehand, with Aziz sometimes receiving forehand, sometimes reaching over with his backhand. Rachel often serves with a semi-penhold grip - I had to watch it closely a few times to verify this. (She'd quickly return to shakehands grip afterwards.) She varies her serving motion more than Aziz, but Aziz varied his service depth more, going both short and long to the backhand, looking to counter attack when Rachel backhand loops off the long serves weren't strong enough. Rachel has a very strong forehand flip that often gave her the initiative.

The lefty Rachel completely dominated the first game, winning 11-3. She often would pin Aziz on the backhand side, and Aziz would often miss backhand counter-attacks, and wasn't able to get his stronger forehand into play enough, and was erratic when he did. Rachel was consistently aggressive, and her backhand loop forced mistakes.

The second continues like the first, with Rachel going up 10-4 - to this point she's on a 21-7 start. Until now, it's Rachel on the consistent attack, and Aziz erratic on the counter-attack, especially on the backhand. And then, suddenly, improbably, it's 10-10! Aziz is on the attack now, from both wings, and his shots are hitting. He plays a shot-making style, and often goes for difficult shots - but when they start hitting, watch out! He deuces it with a backhand kill. In the rules for Thursday Night Live there is no regular deuce, where you have to win by two points, so next point wins. Aziz serves short, Rachel pushes short, and Aziz, seemingly caught off guard (looking for a longer ball), reaches in and pushes in the net, so it's 11-10 for Rachel.

In the third, Aziz continues his strong play, and goes up 7-2 and (with a nice lobbing and then counter-attacking point), 9-6. But now it's Rachel's turn to pull off a run of five in a row to win, 11-9.  

Aziz takes another lead in the fourth, 5-1, but Rachel quickly ties it up, 6-6, then 7-7, 8-8. Aziz steps around and absolutely creams a forehand from the backhand side - but Rachel somehow quick-blocks a clean winner to the open forehand court to go up 10-8 match point, and she wins the game and match, 3,10,9,9.

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday, as usual I worked with Navin Kumar for an hour. We've spent a lot of time working on his smash, both in rallies and against lobs (which have given him some trouble). A good portion of this session I worked on his transition from backhand blocking to forehand smash. For about fifteen minutes I'd backhand topspin over and over to his backhand and middle, and he'd block with his long pips, and then I'd suddenly go to his forehand, and he'd smash, and then we'd play the point out. About halfway through, I started throwing pushes against his pushes (against his long pips, my topspins come back as backspin), he's do a quick "bump" shot with the pips (which gives me a light topspin), and then I'd counter-hit that to his forehand  for him to attack. Here's video (35 sec) of one lobbing point where I caught him on his backhand, but he somehow pulled off his own long-pips backspin lob, which landed short and didn't bounce out, catching me off guard. ("Doesn't count, can't play that one," I said to the camera.) As I've mentioned, I'm retired from private coaching, but made an exception with Navin.

I was recently contacted by Sports Illustrated about a feature they are planning on table tennis and diversity. I thought about the questions for a few days, and finally decided I was the wrong person for them to interview - and turned them over to Navin, a more appropriate choice for this type of thing. I believe he will be one of the people featured in the article. 

In the advanced junior program, I worked with group 3, and spent much of the session on basics, plus a lot of footwork and serve practice. Focus on serves was speed - the kids liked that, especially when I challenged them to knock over bottles where you had to serve fast or the ball would just bounce off. We finished with the "ten-cup challenge," where I stack ten cups and they each get ten shots to see how many then can knock down.

JOOLA Teams Cancelled; Teams in Westchester, NY
The annual JOOLA Teams in Maryland has been cancelled because of that pesky virus. However, the Westchester TTC in New York decided to schedule a two-person team tournament that weekend, with $8000 in prizes. Here's the info page. (I've been to the Teams 44 years in a row; would this count as #45? I'll likely be there coaching a team.)

How to Improve Your Backhand Loop – with Ferenc Horvath
Here's the video (9:57) from Tom Lodziak.

8 Advanced Table Tennis Drills
Here's the video (15:17) from Panda Pong.

Weekly Training Lessons - The Serve
Here's the ITTF video (4:21).

Learn the Core Forehand Drive Technique- Beginners Table Tennis Tutorial
Here's the video (5:01) from Jin Jeon Ping Pong.

New from Samson Dubina

Motion Analysis for Coaches
Here's the table tennis info page, with video (1:55).

How Much Should A Table Tennis Lesson Cost?
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Serious Robot Training
Here's the video (15 sec) - can't wait to see this in the US. The key is these robots hit the ball at you with an actual paddle, so players learn to react to a ball coming off a paddle. It's still not completely the same, as in real table tennis you also learn to react to the opponent's backswing and forward swing before he hits the ball (which is a bit different than the robot's swing), but it's still very good training.

New from Steve Hopkins

September Westchester Little Open Recap
Here's the article by Will Shortz. Here's video of the Open Final, Sharon Alguetti vs Mishel Levinski (17:18).

$3000 Nittaku Ohio Open Recap
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Glory for Guangdong and Hebei at 2020 China National Championships
Here's the ITTF article as these two provinces win Men's and Women's Team Events at the Chinese Nationals. Here is the Men's Team Final (3 hours) and the Women's Team Final (2 hours).

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Crazy Table Tennis Rallies
Here's the highlights video (4:22).

Best Table Tennis Shots of September 2020
Here's the video (13:23).

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Better Penhold?!
Here's the video (3:11) from Table Tennis Daily of the German star playing penhold - he's really good!

Top Five Penholders in Table Tennis Right Now
Here's the video (6:16).

Our Table Tennis Anthem
Here's the video (4 min) from Leo Hsu. "In a time when the sport was not allowed to be played, I followed 6 players to document the impact of the virus only to discover a unified voice (almost a song) of passion and love towards the sport." (Adam Hugh is one of the players featured.)

The Dominating Force of China National Team
Here's the video (18:37).

Japanese Men vs. Women: Brazilian Teams
Here are links to two versions, a highlights version (6:19) and the full version (16:03). The Japanese men spot the women four points in a game to eleven. Each team member goes to the table and plays a point. If they win the point, they stay; if they lose the point, they go to the end of their team's line and the next player is up. Lots of lefties!

The Mozart of Table Tennis - My RODE Reel 2020
Here's the video (3 min) from Ramon Bannister. "This is a short documentary about my life-long mentor and table tennis coach, Mozart Francois. This film is being entered into the My Rode Reel 2020 competition."

International Table Tennis Federation is Feeling Nostalgic
Here's the video (56 sec).

Jumping Jack Pong
Here's the video (9 sec) from the semifinals of the Spin & Smash Fall Open in Ohio, between Sarah Jalli and Sharon Alguetti. (Mixed in there is that great backhand loop from the barriers by Sharon, and Sarah's great block.) I sometimes do the "distraction jump" that Sharon does here - and sometimes it works! Many, many years ago I was playing USATT Hall of Famer Yvonne Kronlage and I popped a ball up. As she was about to smash, I jumped in the air as Sharon does here, waving my arms about - and Yvonne missed. She got very angry with me. I've always debated whether this is a legitimate response (which is where I tend to believe, as long as you do it silently) or poor sportsmanship, as some believe.

Ping-Pong Ninja Shirt
Here's where you can get one! (Or a mug, phone case, towel, etc, with other TT designs as well.)

Table Tennis Trick Shots
Here's the video (4:18) from 2018.

Storming the Table
Here's the video (39 sec) as Adam Bobrow's opponent takes things to a higher level.

Car Table Tennis
Here's the video (5:14).

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