November 9, 2020

Tip of the Week
Think Tactics, Then Let the Shots Happen.

Major Topics This Issue

Women's World Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event in Weihai, China, Nov. 8-10, with preliminary group results, single elimination results, news articles, and video (including Lily Zhang and Wu Yue matches). USA's Lily Zhang (world #27) made the quarterfinals, upsetting world #9 (and #5 seed) Feng Tianwei of Singapore in the round of 16. She was down 4-8 and 8-10 in the last game! Here's the ITTF article on the match, First round upset, Lily Zhang comes of age. Alas, she lost in the quarterfinals to world #1 Chen Meng of China. Here are her complete results. She was in a three-way tie in the preliminary RR with Diaz and Pesotska, with all three 2-1 in matches, and all three 6-6 in games among themselves! It went to points, with Lily advancing in first, Diaz second. (Lily was coached in her matches by Jeffrey Zeng Xun, a former co-coach of mine at MDTTC!)

Here are Lily's results:

  • RR#1: Lost to Margaryta Pesotska (UKR, world #34), 13,6,5,-7,-3,10
  • RR#2: Defeated Adriana Diaz (PUR, world  #19), -11,-7,9,9,10,5
  • RR#3: Defeated Mo Zhang (CAN, world #34), 9,-9,10,-9,8,-7,11
  • Round of 16: Defeats Feng Tianwei (SIN, world #9, seeded #5), 7,8,9,-8,-8, 11 (down 4-8 and 8-10 in the last game!)
  • Quarterfinals: Loses to Chen Meng (CHN, world #1), 8,6,3,9

USA's Wue Yu (world #32) also advanced out of her group of three, making it to the Final Sixteen. Here are her results:

  • RR#1: Defeated Petrissa Solja (GER, world #20), 5,4,7,-9,-8,-3,9 - she was up 3-0 before pulling it out, 11-9 in the seventh!
  • RR#2: Lost to Chen Szu-Yu (TPE, World #26), 5,-3,4,4,-9,-9,11 - yes, from down 1-3, she lost deuce in the seventh.
  • Round of 16: Lost to Cheng I-Ching (TPE, world #8), 5,4,4,3

In the semifinals it will be Chen Meng (CHN, world #1) vs. Han Ming (GER, world #25), and Sun Yingsha (CHN, world #3) vs. Mima Ito (JPN, world #2).

Here is Steve Hopkins coverage of the Women's World Cup. (If you want to read it in order, then read from bottom to top.)

Here's USATT coverage

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday I had my regular session with Navin Kumar. We're really doing a lot of work on his forehand smashing and aggressive blocking. However, we're also doing a lot of work on his backhand blocking, which is his strength. Why so much time on something he already does well? Because you can't beat "stronger" players unless you have something that threatens them, and that means developing overpowering strengths. And so we are trying to turn that into an overpowering strength.

I had a recent discussion with the father of one of the top players in the US, who is striving to improve. I pointed out that if he trains like most players, that means he'll work at all aspects of his game roughly equally - so in each session he might spend 15 minutes on one thing, 15 on another, and so on. If you train that way, your overall level should improve, but you probably won't develop any overpowering strengths that can threaten the best players. To do that, you need to really focus on developing that strength (or strengths), which means, for many months or even years, spending perhaps half of your session completely on that technique and things that set it up. I gave a whole bunch of examples, from Istvan Jonyer (backhand loop) to Todd Sweeris (receive).

On Sunday, we had an odd number of players in our junior group session. So I volunteered to be a practice partner while Coach Wang ran the session. I got a lot of exercise!!! I only fed multiball a few times, did 90% live play, mostly the usual stroking & footwork drills. I did introduce one kid to something she hadn't done much - attacking forehands down the line (to my backhand). She was so used to going crosscourt that at first her "down-the-line" shots kept going to my middle, so I finally put a box on the table to force her to put the ball right down the line to my backhand. (This also involved turning the shoulders back more.) After a few minutes she was smacking the shots!

Chop and Smash by Virginia Sung, and Unanimous Consent
USATT CEO Virginia Sung has started a new USATT blog, "Chop & Smash by Virginia Sung." Most of the first one covers her side in the National Team Selection arguments that have been going on. I was fine with most of it, even parts I disagreed with.

However, in the last paragraph, she defends taking down the minutes of the last two High Performance Committee meetings. (I went over this in my November 2 blog last week.) It says, "In addition, there is no such thing as 'unanimous consent' to approve minutes under our Bylaws or corporate law in the way the HPC acted." (Italics mine.) This is an example of argument by assertion, similar to the assertions made in the USATT Statement that I pointed out in my blog last week. Robert's Rules of Order makes it clear that "unanimous consent" is the standard way to approve minutes, saying, "The correction and approval of minutes is an example of business that is normally handled by unanimous consent." So, if one is going to argue against what is explicitly stated in Robert's Rules, then you have to give a reason WHY. This was not done.

I emailed Virginia last Wednesday, Nov. 4, explaining the above and writing, "May I respectfully request that you cite the bylaw or corporate law that makes the HPC's use of Unanimous Consent improper?" She chose not to answer. I guess I'm now persona non grata. :) 

I am not Virginia's or USATT's enemy, but anyone who knows me knows I can't let something like this go. Tim Boggan, in his Hall of Fame profile about me, wrote that I was "compulsive about truth and accuracy, can’t stand what he thinks is an injustice," and "argues his views rationally and persistently, rationally and persistently, rationally and per—for god’s sake, Larry, Enough!"

Imagine if I were to make similar vague accusations against USATT or someone else, claiming their actions were improper, but didn't specify why they were improper. I'd lose credibility pretty fast. Similarly, if the USATT CEO is going to order the minutes of the High Performance Committee taken down and justify it by saying they used "unanimous consent" and claim that is improper, when that's contradicted by Robert's Rules, then she needs to specifically say what was improper about it, not just make the vague claim. 

Reflections on Excellence by Michel Gadal
I just read the "excellent" table tennis book, Reflections on Excellence by Michel Gadal. It is only available in digital format - and it's definitely worth it! 

Gadal was the long-time national coach for France and Canada, the Director for Performance for England, and the National Technical Director for France. Most famously, he was the coach of 1993 World Men's Singles Champion Jean-Philippe Gatien. He is also the author of the 1997 book, "Train to Win," which was almost a table tennis bible to many.

I'm going to start off by quoting something from the very back of the book, in the Conclusion: "The search for excellence is a passion that has guided me since my beginnings as a coach…" The book is basically an incredible expansion of that passion.

It starts off with a foreword by Gatien, who Gadal coached since he was a kid. Much of Gatien's technique was ground-breaking at the time, such as his close-to-the-table looping.

Then comes a section on what defines excellence. For example, "In terms of results, the definition [of excellence] is quite simple: it is about winning medals in major competitions, Olympics Games, World Championships." But then it goes on and defines it in more ways. There's an entire chapter on The Three Fundamentals of Excellence. They are: 1) How easy it looks [i.e. how easy top players make the game seem, their "fluidity of movements" - there goes my changes!]; 2) Sustainability [repeat performances]; and 3) Agility [which is really Mental Agility, the ability to adapt]. 

He covers the Four Pillars of Excellence: Passion, Patience, Perseverance, Project. ("Project" means "Winning should not be a dream but a project.") Under passion, he asked three-time world women's singles champion Deng Yaping (who also won 4 Olympic golds, 2 singles, 2 doubles), what she thought of the girls she had observed in training, expecting a technical answer. Instead, she answered with a question: "Do they love table tennis? If not, it will be very difficult because repeating the same gestures, the same exercises can be a pleasure or a nightmare." And that pretty much explains how anyone gets to be the best!

He covered Four Areas to Connect for Success. They are Vision, Strategy, Tactics, Technical, and then he explained them and their connection. As an example of vision, he remembered suggesting to the junior Gatien that he learn to take the ball earlier, as the Chinese did, at a time when most European coaches taught players to take the ball later (for consistency and to produce more topspin). Gatien jumped on the idea and made it his own vision, developed a style around it (looping from close to the table), and became the best in the world. (And ironically, most modern players have adopted much of what he and Gadal developed.)

He also wrote about The Three Criteria For Quality Training: Volume + Focus + Feedback. Here he talked about the idea you may have heard about the 10,000 hours (and ten years) it takes to achieve excellence, but makes clear that you can't just put in the hours, it has to be "deliberate practice," where the player is the "actor of his training" and not just executing instructions given by the coach. There were charts showing what age many top players started, and how many hours per week they trained at various ages - the book is worth it just to see that! (The charts are based on a questionnaire given out to 28 of the "greats" of our sport, including the best of the Chinese, Swedes, and so on.) He also discussed concentration (focus) and how to achieve it, and how to give good feedback.

Under Coaching to Win, he wrote about things good coaches do, including: Take a step back; Be patient; Be flexible; Anticipate (the future of your player and sport); Enjoy taking on new challenges; Knowing one's strengths and weaknesses; Be passionate; Be a Leader; Form a team around you; Create a network; and Coaching is not only teaching. (He expands on each of these.)

There was also:

  • The Four Meta-Skills: Looseness (oops, once again I'm out…), Rhythm, Skill Zone, and Use of the Hand.
  • The Five Parameters: Effect, Placement, Direction, Speed, Height.
  • The Four Pillars of Learning: Active Engagement, Attention, Feedback, and Consolidation. The Four Pillars of Competitive Play: Self-knowledge, Self-confidence, Intuition, and Creativity (such as the development of the backhand banana flip).
  • Managing Towards Excellence

I could go over each of these, but that would turn this review into a book itself, and so why not just read the book and find out?

Business and Table Tennis
I was interviewed on the phone on Friday for over an hour by someone who is doing a book on business lessons you can learn from table tennis. We went over a number of them, many of them situations from my book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, which he'd read - he's a serious player.

I don't want to give too much away, but here are some examples we went over:

  • Misleading a rival. In the book I went over a match where my opponent was equally good attacking or chopping. As an attacker, he could challenge me, but he had little chance playing defense - I used to be very good against choppers. So what did I do? When he played defense, I pretended to struggle, often grunting and groaning as I "struggled" to lift his chops, missing shots on purpose, and basically putting on an academy award performance. He stuck with chopping, and never realized I could have eaten him alive if I'd wanted to. In business, apparently you also want to mislead rivals!
  • Thinking outside the box. The table tennis lesson is from two matches I played where everyone was losing to a pair of junior stars from Canada. When I played them, I did a simple thing - when serving, I took two steps to my right and served forehand pendulum serves from my forehand side, which almost nobody does. This didn't put me in a good position to follow with my forehand (which I wanted to do), but they had so much trouble with this that it didn't matter. The business lesson is that sometimes you have to think outside the box.
  • Finding something that threatens an opponent. If you don't have something that stands out as a threat to an opponent, he has nothing to fear. Similarly, a business needs to have something that stands out, something they do better than others, so people have a reason to come to them.

USATT Election
The USATT election began Oct. 29 and continues until Dec. 13. (I'm not sure why they needed six and a half weeks for an email election, but that's the way it's set up. I think there's some other election happening tomorrow.) I wrote about this in my Oct. 26 blog, where I strongly endorsed Khoa Nguyen and Thomas Hu, and also endorsed Will Shortz for Club Rep, though both candidates for that spot were good, the other being Mike Babuin. One big piece of news - Susan Sarandon, actress (Academy Award Winner, five nominations) and founder of SPiN Table Tennis has endorsed Thomas Hu! He now has 46 testimonials on the Thomas Hu for USATT Board of Directions Facebook page.

USOPC Opens Ethics Investigation of Former USATT Chair
Here's the news item about former USATT board chair Anne Cribbs. Yikes! I'm glad I got off the board when I did - a lot of bad stuff seems to have happened afterwards. We'll see how this turns out. And try to remember - innocent until proven guilty. (This was in last week's blog but went up a day late.)


  • USATT Announces Cancellation of the US Hopes 2020 National Finals. This was understandable but disappointing. The event was for the best 12 and under players in the country, and my club (MDTTC) is strongest right now in this age group for boys. I (and Coach Wang Qingliang) were going up with six players, who would have been seeded #1,4,6,7,9,11,12. (The one's seeded 6&7 are actually both ten, with two more years of eligibility!)
  • Kanak Jha v. Kirill Gerassimenko (5:34) - a big German league match! Gerassimenko from Kazakhstan is world #46; USA's Jha is world #27.

New from Samson Dubina

How To Reverse Pendulum Serve With Ojo Onaolapo
Here's the video (1:36).

Ma Long Serve (and Follows) at Three Speeds
Here's the video (6:49) from TableTennis BelgiumTV.

Timo Boll Serve (and Follows) at Three Speeds
Here's the video (8:15) from TableTennis BelgiumTV.

How Loose Should the Grip Be?
Here's the video (2:07) from Jun Feng.

How To Do A Backhand Topspin In Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:03) from ProSpin95.

Is It Too Late?
Here's the video (56:02) from PingSkills.

Training a Chopper/Attacker
Here's the video (54 sec) with Coach Samson Dubina and student Chester Taylor.

Table Tennis Serve Disguise - Different Contact Point
Here's the video (20 sec) from eBatt.

Interview with Nandan Naresh
Here's the video (42:20) from Kevin Table Tennis.

Best Table Tennis Shots of October 2020
Here's the video (13:49).

Adam vs. World #8 Female
Here's the video (11:39) from Adam Bobrow. "This is the 3rd and final video from my 3-part with Cheng I-Ching and her coach Jiaqi."

New from Steve Hopkins
(See also his articles in the Women's World Cup segment above.)

Opening Pandora’s Box of Table Tennis Accessories
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

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

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

Table Tennis Training Part I . . . Rocky!
Here's the video (1:26) from Mods Ullah.

Toddler's Table Tennis Game Takes Internet by Storm
Here's the video (66 sec) . . . from CNN! Note the platform on the far side that the three-year-old kid is standing on. (The table is pushed up against the edge of the platform.) We need this type of thing in the US so we can start players out younger.

Insane Table Tennis Touch by Xu Xin
Here's the video (7 sec) of the world #2 from China!

Waldner Shows Off Soccer Skills
Here's the video (21 sec) - let's see Ma Long do this! (There's also video of Waldner doing the trick Xu Xin demonstrates above, but I can't find it.)

Fun with Mr. Falck and Mr. Persson!
Here's the video (29 sec) as Swedish stars Jorgen Persson (1991 Men's Singles World Champion, on right at start) and Mattias Falck (2019 Men's Singles World Championships Finalist and current world #9) play an exhibition point. Note that Falck has short pips on the forehand.

Banana Practice
Here's the video (34 sec) - literally!

The Craziest Table Tennis Jump Shot You Will Ever See
Here's the video (43 sec)!

Does Wind Affect Ping Pong?
Here's the video (8:01) from Pongfinity!

T-Rex Playing Table Tennis
Here's a picture of me wearing my T-Rex playing table tennis baseball cap, taken at ITTF headquarters last September in Lausanne, Switzerland. It's normally on sale at Amazon, but it's currently unavailable, though you can get the "Christmas" version (see below). But you can also get one of the following! (I have no financial interest here, I just like the idea of a T-Rex playing table tennis - it sort of combines my TT and SF interests.)

Non-Table Tennis - "The Untold Christmas Carol"
My fantasy story, "The Untold Christmas Carol," just came out at Galaxy's Edge. This tells the REAL story of Tiny Tim, Uncle Scrooge, Benedict Arnold (you didn't know he was involved?) . . . and Satan, the "protagonist." It's my 17th story in Galaxy's Edge. I'm proud to share a TOC with such greats as Mike Resnick (RIP), Joe Haldeman, Jack McDevitt, Gregory Benford, Michael Swanwick, and Nancy Kress! (If you are a science fiction/fantasy reader, then those names are like reading names out of the world's top twenty ranking list in table tennis!) Here's the cover with all those big names . . . and me!

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