May 10, 2021

Tip of the Week
How to Play a Player Who Attacks With Long Pips.

Eastern Regionals in New Jersey
I coached at the Eastern Regional Qualifier this past Saturday at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center in Dunellen, New Jersey. As usual, Judy Hugh ran a great tournament, with everything on time in a very nice facility. I've been there many times before, including coaching at a two-week USATT Elite Camp, for a week-long ITTF Coaches Camp, and a number of tournaments.

I went up with Manager/Driver/Dad Ron Klinger (3.5 hour drive), along with Todd Klinger and Christian Funderberg. While there I had a tricky balancing act as I was coaching Todd and Christian, as well as Rachel and Jeremy Ku. One little problem I also faced is that the LYTTC has two floors. This is fine for players, who go to the floor where they play and play their RR. But since I was continuously jumping from match to match, it meant I was going up and down the stairs quite a bit! I ended up hurting my right knee, though it's not too bad. But I was limping a bit on Sunday.

As usual, I could write a book on the tactical and mental aspects of the tournament, but here are some interesting ones. In two matches against opponents with very good forehands the main tactic was simple - return every serve to the extremely wide backhand - or, as I kept reminding the player, WIDER!!! This mostly took out the server's forehand. The key to another match was big breaking serves into the wide backhand. In another, it was deep, dead serves. In another, against a player with long pips, it was patience until you find the right shot. In another, it was to stay at the table. I regularly remind the players never to start a point until they are completely ready. A key part of many matches was deciding the best place to attack, and there are generally seven possibilities:

  1. Go after middle
  2. Go after wide forehand
  3. Go after wide backhand
  4. Go after middle and wide forehand
  5. Go after middle and wide backhand
  6. Go after extreme corners
  7. Go after all three spots - wide forehand, wide backhand, middle

Todd, a bit underrated at 1816, had some crazy results. In the Under 2000 round robin, he played players rated about 1860, 1650, and 1600. In all three he won the first two games, often easily. In all three he lost the next two games. He won all three matches in five. He likes to make things exciting. I think this is a first - in 45 years of table tennis, I don't think I've ever seen someone win the first two in all three matches in a preliminary and end up winning all three in five.

Christian learned the value of fighting for every game. In his Under 2000 group, he only lost one match - but he lost it 0-3. When that player lost to another player, it became a three-way tie, and he came in third, with two advancing. That's painful! (Okay, not as painful as a player in a tournament I once ran, who literally lost by, if I remember correctly, 1/65th of a point. He was in a three-way tie that went to points, and he came in third, with two advancing. As I worked out mathematically and showed him, he would have advanced if he'd scored one more point in any of the two key matches - and, in fact, really only needed 1/65th of a point to advance!!! Yeah, every point counts.)

Todd's results weren't my only first. The Klingers took me to a place called Peruvian restaurant and introduced me to Peruvian Chicken and Inca Kola. Both are delicious. I'm now addicted to Inca Kola. (It tastes like a cross between Dr Pepper and Coke, with a touch of some fruity flavor.)

Just before the tournament, Jeremy, age eight, had ten days of fame. He had played his first tournament two weeks before, also run by Judy Hugh. His playing level was probably about 1000 to 1200, and his results showed about that level. However, due to some rating mistake, he came out listed as 1601!!! Result - for ten days, he was #1 in the US in Under Nine and #2 in Under Ten! For the rest of his life he can claim he was the top ranked eight-year-old in the US. Alas, a few days before the tournament his rating was adjusted to a more realistic 1200. But he'll be back to 1601 within a year - just watch!

Weekend Coaching
I returned from coaching at the Eastern Regionals a few minutes after midnight on Saturday night (so technically Sunday morning). Then I was back at the club on Sunday from 11AM to 7:30PM.

First was the Group Three session of our junior program, 90 minutes, with 11 kids, which I run with Lidney Castro. I spent the first third rotating the kids around, where I'd hit with one (footwork drills), another one would be on the robot, and another picking up balls. The second third was similar, but now we went into multiball, mostly working on looping. The last third was up-down tables, where they played games with various rules, such as only serve to the backhand or only serve backspin. This allows them to hone their skills in rallies that start this way, both for the server and receiver.

Next up was a one-hour session with Navin Kumar. He'd has to miss several sessions recently for various medical reasons.

Next up was a 50-minute sports psychology and serving session with Kurtus & Stanley Hsu. This was our second meeting. We went over some of what we'd covered previously, and some of their matches at their recent tournaments. Then we went into various other techniques.

Next up was the Group Two session of our junior program, 90 minutes. I acted as a practice partner for much of this session, blocking for others in various drills. I also did some roving coaching.

Last session was the Group Four session of our junior program, 90 minutes. This one has five girls, all ages 7-8, and all intensely improving at table tennis and all intensively insane. We always have a lot of fun in this session. We started with a number of ball-bouncing drills - I keep challenging them to more advanced versions - and then we went to serve practice. Then we did a couple of circuits where they rotate between me, the robot, and ball pickup. As usual at the end, they do not run, they sprint to where we keep the plastic cups so they can create large walls and pyramids, and then knock them down as I feed multiball. I've been having them do it with their forehands; next week I'm going to challenge them to do it with their backhands.  

USATT Coaches Meeting
As usual, we had our Friday Zoom meeting at noon eastern time. Here's the video (59 min). Alas, I had to leave at 12:25 to go coach at the Eastern Regional Championships in New Jersey, so only made the first half. The primary discussion this week was the use of table tennis robots in coaching.

I pointed out that many years ago I wrote about the three Holy Grails of table tennis robots: 1) Robots that could allow you to do standard table tennis drills, such as side-to-side footwork; 2) Robots that could mimic standard rallies, such as a backspin ball followed by perhaps two quick topspins, to pre-set or random locations; and 3) Robots that hit the ball out to you with an actual table tennis racket, mimicking real table tennis strokes, so that you could practice reacting to a ball hit as it is actually done in a game. Modern smart robots now do the first two. There are robots I think in China that can do the third, though in a somewhat primitive way, but they are not yet on the market that I know of, at least in the US or at an affordable price.

The other problem with modern table tennis robots is that you seem to have two choices. You can get an inexpensive one that basically hits the ball to you with topspin or backspin to one spot (or perhaps can move side to side, shooting out balls to essentially random locations), but have very simple controls; or you can get a modern smart robot that can do almost anything, but takes a while to learn. When we got the latter at my club, we found ourselves spending way too much time explaining how to use it for new players. The simple ones are limited, but you can explain their use in about 30 seconds. What's needed is a hybrid that is a smart robot, but with a "Beginner" mode that you can switch to can be explained in at most 60 seconds. The latter would only hit to one spot with one spin, with hopefully at least one built-in side-to-side drill.

US Hall of Famer Errol Resek Loses Cancer Battle
Here's the USATT article. He was both a Hall of Famer and one of the last surviving members of the 1971 US Ping-Pong Diplomacy Team that went to China. I didn't really know him that well. However, I had a memorable first meeting with him. I think it was in 1977, when I was 17 and rated only about 1700, that I first met him when I had to play him at the New Jersey Open at Westfield. In the very first point of the match, I served short to his forehand. He reached in to flip crosscourt, and I moved to cover my wide forehand. Just before he hit the ball, he tilted his wrist back and flipped it down the line to my backhand instead, acing me with just a medium-speed shot. I was practically open-mouthed - I'd never seen that shot before. I lost the match (of course), but immediately began working on that shot, with the result that I developed a really good forehand flip - either aggressively crosscourt, or deceptively down the line, as he had done. (It also taught me the value of deception and placement.) That one shot of his practically changed my table tennis career, both in sponge and in hardbat, where I'd later use that shot to win lots of titles, especially doubles where I could flip in winner after winner. All because of that one memorable shot he did in the first point we ever played.

New from Samson Dubina

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from Eli Baraty

New from Ti Long

Seth Pech vs Sid Naresh $10,000 Invitational
Here's the video (6:15) with Seth's excellent point-by-point analysis.

7 Tips to Get Back into Your Table Tennis Groove
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

The Backhand Loop Against Underspin
Here's the video (72 sec), from Pingispågarna, in Swedish but with English subtitles.

How to Be Fast in Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:36). "You want to be faster at the table? Take a listen to Marie Migot from France. She is one of the fastest players on the world tour!"

Getting All Your Table Tennis Ducks In A Row
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Chinese Olympic Trials
Here are videos of all the big matches, from ttlondon2012. Here's coverage by Edges and Nets.

Champion of the 2021 Chinese Trials! | BEST OF ZHOU Qihao
Here's the video (10:18).

Ma Long and Hou Yingchao Interview After Facing Each Other
Here's the video (1:22), in Chinese but with English subtitles. Here's video (5:34) of their match at the Chinese Olympic Trials. Ma is the reigning world champion; Hou is just another of hordes of unranked Chinese super-players.

Automated Table Tennis Video Editing
Here's "This service allows you to automatically edit your TT videos to cut the time between points. You upload video of a table tennis match and it will create a video with all the time between points taken out (you can choose how many seconds before and after the serve). The AI works very well already and is able to handle many types of angles, play levels and video quality. WTT and some of the most prominent YouTubers are already using it. This can be an invaluable tool for coaching, as it can help you and your coach analyze matches a lot more efficiently. It's currently a free service anyone can use it and the more it's used the better it gets."

Ping-Pong Playing Robot Proves AI-Driven Machines Can Sense Human Emotion
Here's the article from TechRepublic. "Today on BMF we are checking out some Table Tennis Oculus Quest gameplay with Eleven Table Tennis VR on the Oculus Quest."

How a Ping-Pong Game Helped End the Cold War
Here's the article from

New from Steve Hopkins

New from USA Table Tennis

New from the ITTF

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

World Championship Videos from the 1950s
Günther Angenendt put up links to a number of them all last week on his Facebook page. They are in German, but you might find them interesting if you are of the historically-minded.

365 Days of Training
Here's the video (14 sec) from Kanak Jha about the upcoming Olympics and Stupa Analytics.

Now THIS Is Table Tennis On The Oculus Quest | Eleven Table Tennis VR
Here's the video (10:40)!

Ping Pong Paddle Used by Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump Sells for More Than $25,000
Here's the article and video (38 sec). But now, due to my investigative journalism, the truth is coming out - Forrest Gump is a Cheater!!! The article has a picture of the racket. Here is a closeup. Notice that the label at the bottom of the sponge has been cut off? Yes, Forrest Cheats!!! From the ITTF Handbook: Any ordinary pimpled rubber or sandwich rubber covering the racket shall be currently authorised by the ITTF and shall be attached to the blade so that the ITTF logo, the ITTF number (when present), the supplier and brand names are clearly visible nearest the handle.

Table Tennis Rollercoaster | Ping Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (5:20) from XOLAY!

Pongfinity Extras
Here's the video (2:40)!

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