February 1, 2021

Tip of the Week
Play the Middle Against Tall Players, Wide Angles Against Short Players.

$3000 Nittaku Ohio Open
I had a great time this weekend coaching at the Ohio Open  - as always, they run nice events at the Samson Dubina TTA. The tournament staff was Steve Graber Josh Graber, Sam Dubina, Mike Boyd, Blake Cottrell, and of course Samson Dubina (who also acted as referee). Here are complete results, with Gal Alguetti over Sharon Alguetti in the Open final. Here's video (21:53) of Sharon Alguetti's five-game win over Yahao Zhang in the Under 2650 final. All the expected Covid precautions were taken, with everyone's temperature taken on the way in, social distancing, and masks required except when actually at the table playing. (As a precaution, I'll get Covid testing in the next day or so.) And they had free lunch and dinner for everyone on Saturday!!!

I was there coaching Stanley Hsu (12, 2286, #1 in 12 and Under in US) and Ryan Lin (11, 2038, #2 in US in 11 and Under). Between them, I coached an even 40 matches (including four where I coached about half the match), though I had to miss a few when they played at the same time. (Stanley played 23 matches in three events, Ryan played 25 in four events, with groups of 6-8 in each event, with four advancing to playoffs.) Due to the pandemic, they faced the same problem that many others faced - there have been few tournaments this past year, and so "tournament toughness" is an issue. What does that mean? It means the ability to adapt to the different playing styles and pressures of playing in a tournament.

Stanley had a nice tournament, making the semifinals of Under 2400 and quarterfinals of Under 2650, beating one player over 2300 and generally dominating against all "normal" (i.e. modern inverted styles) rated lower than him. He did have trouble adapting after all this time to some weirder styles, but that'll come back. It started out scary for him - in his first match back, he played a long pips blocker rated much lower, one that should have been easy for him. Instead, after game four, Stanley walks over, smiling in amazement at how poorly he's playing as they prepare to play the fifth, and I try to hide how nervous I am as we go over tactics for the last game. Then he goes up 9-0 in the fifth, wins 11-1. Ryan also had a struggling start, also having to go five with a much lower rated player - and up 10-6 in the fifth, he lost four in a row! But he managed to pull it out in deuce. Here's a Facebook album of Stanley at the tournament. (Here are two non-Facebook version - Me with Stanley ("The Masked Duo"), and a nice action one against Seth Pech.)

Did I mention they had free lunch and dinner on Saturday? Lunch was your choice of chicken or vegetarian fried rice; dinner was a selection of sandwiches.

There were lots of tactical and mental battles at the table, and I could write a book on it. Here's one interesting coaching decision that came up. Ryan started out poorly against a much weaker player, and barely won the first game at deuce after being down game point. When I spoke to him between games, should my focus be on tactics to win the match, or getting him to play well? Since he won the first game, I decided to focus on him playing well, and so focused on certain tactics that would simplify things so he could get back into rhythm. But if he had lost that first game, then I had a different series of tactics he should use, since after losing the first game in a best of five to eleven, you can't risk losing the second game just to get your rhythm back. In both cases I focused on the mental game as well, though that would have been even more important if he had lost that first game. In this case, things worked out and he played much better in winning the next two games easily.

Several times between games, when Stanley or Ryan were winning easily against weaker players, I'd wave my arms about and mimic serves and other dramatics while telling them, "This is where I pretend to be saying something really important and you just nod your head like I'm saying something really profound." Table tennis can be fun. Of course, you have to adjust your between-games coaching to the player. Joking may work with one player, but could be distracting for another.

I went up with Ryan and his dad, Hung. He hired a driver so he could work during the five-hour drive from Maryland. Due to a miscommunication, I left my bags in the car on Friday, not realizing the driver was immediately leaving for another driving job - in New Jersey! So that night I discovered that, other than my playing bag, all my stuff was gone - my bags, laptop computer, even my kindle! I had to make do that night, but survived. I even had to borrow a spare comb from Samson!!! The driver returned to pick us up at the end of the tournament, with my stuff still in his trunk. (Ryan finished first, and since Stanley had several more matches to play since he'd advanced in Under 2400, Ryan and his dad were able to leave and I went back later that night with Stanley and his dad, Steve.)

These days I don't coach at tournaments as part of a paying job - I'm basically retired and don't need the money. So it's more fun going as a volunteer as I did this time and will in the future. I've already put together a few items Stanley and Ryan should work on as they continue to improve.

I had a fun discussion with Stanley about what would happen if I were to play him when I was at my peak. As I explained to him, much of his game would be challenging to play, but none of it would scare me - except one thing, which wasn't common back in my day - his off-the-bounce backhand loops, both in rallies and in returning serves ("banana flips"). My whole game plan against him would be about avoiding those shots when possible - not an easy task. The rest of his game (especially his off-the-bounce forehand loops) is very strong and would be difficult to handle, but nothing I wasn't used to. I also pointed out the various ways his physical training has helped his game.  

Did I mention how good the chicken fried rice was?

USATT Online Board Meeting Monday Night
Here is the USATT Agenda and Notices page, with a link to the info page for the USATT board meeting tonight, Monday, Feb. 1, at 8PM Eastern Time, on Uberconference. Anyone is allowed to attend as an observer (plus you can use the chat box), though you cannot speak in the meeting unless recognized by the chair. (I believe you can ask to speak via the chat box, though I'm guessing they limit that.) The agenda is not yet included on the page, but the note says it will go up before the meeting. This will be the first board meeting for new board members Will Shortz, Thomas Hu, and Dan Reynolds. There might be some explosive discussion about possible bylaw changes and board makeup involving adding a third player rep (with the USOPC requiring 33% athlete representation), as well as the status of the National Collegiate TTA National Organization position (which I blogged about on January 18). I'll be there - see you in the chat box!

Seeking Info for Past US Open and Nationals Results History
Here's the note from Vince Mioduszewski, who has created USTableTennisResults.com, a compilation of results for every event in every US Open and Nationals, with the Opens going back to 1931.

I'm seeking information to complete the U.S. Open & Nationals tournament results history website. Looking for any of the old Table Tennis Topics magazines from 1989 and older that would have the U.S. Open results and U.S. Nationals results. The Nationals results would normally be in the Jan/Feb issue of Topics (for the following year) and the U.S. Open results (years 1976 and up) would normally be in the July/Aug or Sept/Oct issue. For U.S Opens 1975 and older the results would be anywhere from April to June possibly July issues. All I need is a good picture of the results that you can email to me, or if you have a collection of them that you no longer want, you can mail them to me, and I’ll reimburse the shipping cost. Also interested in any of the old Open and Nationals programs that are given out at the tournament. If you can help out, please email me.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Joey Cochran

The Backhand Serve
Here's the article by Wang Qingliang.

7 Backhand Flicks That Will Surprise Opponent
Here's the video (12:31) from Ti Long.

Table Tennis "Highest IQ" Moments
Here's the video (3:05) from Table Tennis Central.

USATT Updates Coaching Excellence Certification Program
Here's the USATT article by Mark Thompson. As a member of the USATT coaching committee, I helped out with some of this.

New from USATT

New from Steve Hopkins


Alas, there's been a rash of ITTF obituaries:

Think Americans Wouldn’t Wager on Russian Table Tennis?
Here's the NY Times article.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Ripping Backhands Against Stephan Fegerl
Here's the video (23 sec) of Ovtcharov (GER, World #12, #1 in 2018) vs. Fegerl (AUT, world #87, #19 in 2017)

The Evolution of Ibrahim
Here's the video (2:47) - showing video from beginner to advanced.

Best and Funniest Points of Male Table Tennis Players
Here's the video (8:10).

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

NCTTA Pongcast Poetry
Here's the NCTTA poetry!

CalTTC - Hella Pong (A Hello Parody)
Here's the music video (4 min).

Sidewalk Prophets - Table Tennis with a Smile
Here's the video (3:31) that all about smiling . . . and table tennis. (The table tennis aspect increases as the video goes on.)

World's Craziest Tournament - Win £1000!!!
Here's the video (16:57) from Table Tennis Daily! "In today’s episode the TTD Team compete in a straight knockout competition using random objects as table tennis bats."

Air Pong?
Here's the video (37 sec)! I often introduce this to the kids in my beginning classes, though we usually play it along the short side of the table, so there's often two games going on, one on each side of the net. (No, we don't do it during class, it's for after class.)

Funny Table Tennis Tricks
Here's the video (49 sec, but the table tennis is in the first half)!

French Table Tennis Cartoon
Here's the cartoon - I can't read the words, but the pictures tell the story!

Table Tennis Defeats the Corona Virus
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) But I think I did it first - here's my own Why the Coronavirus Hates Table Tennis cartoon, as well as my Help Wanted: Table Tennis Coronavirus Smackers cartoon.

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