July 17, 2023

BREAKING NEWS - Major League Table Tennis to Debut on ESPN2
Here's the MLTT news item. The ESPN2 showing (on "The Ocho") is on Friday, Aug. 4, at 5PM.
(This was added on Wed, Aug. 2.) 

NEXT BLOG – Monday, Aug. 7
I’ll be out of town July 21-29 at TNEO – see segment below, at end. Perhaps also see the note about joining the Zoom story reading! Also see the segment on Table Tennis Doubles for Champions – have a good doubles picture? Send it, and if used, you’ll get paid and a signed copy of the book!

Tip of the Week
Five-Minute Rule.

Richard Hicks: RIP - November 28, 1937 - July 12, 2023
Alas, the great champion died last Wednesday. I’d known him for many decades, though not as well as many others. I watched him win Men’s 80-84 Singles at the 2018 World Veterans Championships in Las Vegas, where I was doing coverage, and interviewed him afterwards – see my article about it below.

Surprisingly, through the 47 years I’ve played, starting in 1976 (and far longer for him!), we only played twice. But those two matches tell a story. Richard is a chopper with long pips on the backhand, and it so happens that during my peak years, I ate choppers for breakfast. During a 25-year span, I beat five choppers rated over 2450 (and hordes below that) and didn’t lose to any under 2500. So when I played Richard the first time, it was breakfast, and I won easily. (We were both around 2250 at the time.) A few years later, we played again – and as I verified afterwards, he remembered that match, and had researched me. This time he chopped maybe one-third of the time, enough to keep me looking for his defense, but the rest of the time he attacked over and over. He kept hitting in my serves with his backhand, in particular, putting me on the defensive, and when he did chop, I was caught off guard. So he won the second match, not by chopping, but by adjusting to his opponent. That’s smart table tennis.

Here are some links.

Here’s is the complete text to that last article, where I wrote about him winning Men’s 80-84 Singles at the 2018 World Veterans Championships.

Men's 80-84 Singles
The two USA players won against German players in the semifinals, setting up the only all-USA final in the tournament. The showdown: Tay Chong Keng, rated 2188, who'd already won Over 80 Men's Doubles, a long-pips penhold blocker who rarely attacked, just blocks and Blocks and BLOCKS!; versus USATT Hall of Famer Richard Hicks, rated 2003, who's won dozens of national age titles in the U.S., a chopper with long pips on the backhand. Tay was a former banker who started playing table tennis at age 40, and so has now been playing for 40 years, half his life.

The rallies involved lots of maneuvering, yet the essence was the same - Hicks chopped, Tay push-blocked, meaning he took the chops right off the bounce with his long pips. The pips "reversed" the spin, so his shots came out with topspin - which Hicks would chop, and so on. Hicks had more variation, throwing chops, no-spins, topspin rolls, and sudden pick-hits. Tay was a wall, moving the ball all over the table. The rallies went on and On and ON! But Tay won the first two, 11-8 and then 11-2, and with his 185-point rating advantage, he seemed on the verge of his second gold here.

But Hicks wins the third, 11-7. In the fourth, Hicks goes up 8-7 and they have a rally that, well, goes on, and On and ON - and Hicks wins it to lead 9-7. But two missed chops and it's 9-all. Hicks goes up 10-9, but suddenly Tay, for I think the first time, winds up and smashes a forehand - deuce! But Hicks catches him off guard with a backhand from the forehand side, smacked crosscourt to Tay's suddenly open forehand, 11-10 - and Hicks wins the game, 12-10.

At this point all the other matches have finished, and so this is the last match of the tournament - and the crowd is going crazy on every point, incredulous that they could keep it in play so long. They were not patting the ball back and forth; Tay's push-blocks are somewhat aggressive, and he kept Hicks constantly moving.

In the fifth, it's 6-6 - and then, five long rallies later, Hicks has won the last five points in a row and the gold, -8,-2,7,10,6!

Afterwards I asked him, "Richard, he was killing you. What did you do?" He said, "I had to be more forceful with my pushes and chops, and look for more balls to hit." And it's true that while the rallies were incredibly long, probably half of them ended with a sudden Hicks hit, forehand or backhand. He also said, "I just had to tough it out. I never quit."

The match itself took about 70 minutes. You are allowed one minute between games, but let's say they spent 2.5 minutes between games. That's ten minutes between games. That means the five games themselves took 60 minutes, or 12 minutes per game. Any time a game takes more than ten minutes the Expedite Rule is supposed to be called, but apparently nobody was timing it. My guess is that expedite would have favored Hicks, since he had a slightly better attack. I'm fairly sure all but game two took longer than ten minutes.

Gold: Richard Hicks (USA)
Silver: Tay Chong Keng (USA)
Bronze: Klaus Kruger (GER) and Dieter Lippelt (GER)

Table Tennis Doubles for Champions – and a Doubles Picture CONTEST
I can go public now – my next book will be Table Tennis Doubles for Champions. It should be out sometime this fall, definitely before the US Open in December. Much of the “how to” and other technical stuff is written, including chapters on doubles serves, receives, rallies (both technique and tactical), footwork, what makes a great team, and other topics. I plan to add a historical chapter on some of the great doubles teams of the past. Here is the chapter heading:

  1. Introduction to Doubles
  2. Weird Doubles Facts
  3. Great Partnerships
  4. The Start of a Doubles Match
  5. Doubles Tactics
  6. Serving
  7. Receiving
  8. Rallying
  9. Footwork
  10. Doubles History and All-Time Great Teams
  11. Doubles Rules

The most difficult part is finding good pictures to go with it. I need both a great cover picture, and at least one picture to go with each chapter. Some can be generic; others need to be more specific, such as someone serving in doubles for the chapter on Serving. So I’m going to have a contest.

For the cover, I’m looking for something that’s really eye-catching and sharp at 300 dpi. Ideally, it might be a vertical picture that covers the front cover (9 inches tall, six inches wide, or perhaps just over 12 inches wide, so it wraps around the spine and back cover), or it can be horizontal (six inches wide). It would be in full color. Ideally, it would be of top, well-known stars, but not necessarily – the most important aspect is that it’s eye-catching. The internal pictures would be black and white for the print version (I can convert from color), but full color for the kindle version. Most would be action shots, but they could be non-action ones, such as coaches coaching them between games. Pictures can “genuine” or staged. (Special thanks to Grant Bergmann, who’s already sent me a bunch.)

So, email me your best table tennis doubles pictures! Deadline: Aug. 15.

  • For the cover picture chosen, I’ll pay $100, a signed copy of the book, and full attribution and copyright.
  • For pictures used on the inside, I’ll pay $20, a signed copy of the book, and full attribution and copyright. (If I use multiple pictures from one person, then only one signed copy, unless you really badly want two.)

Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips
It has come to my attention that you – yes, I’m talking to YOU, the one reading these words right now – have not yet bought a copy of Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips. It’s fourth in the Tips series, but each is independent, so you don’t need to read them in sequence. (And they go great with my best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!) Alas, Amazon doesn’t allow for a discount for buying entire set - I tried - and there are no boxed sets.

Hardbat, Sandpaper, and Wood, Oh My! Three Huge All-Classic Tournaments Coming Soon
Here’s the USATT version of the article I wrote about them. I will be at all three, both competing and doing coverage at the Nationals and World’s. (There are also lots of hardbat and sandpaper events at the regular US Nationals in July.)

Pong You Later, Alligator
Two days ago I had the weirdest dream. I literally was in a river playing table tennis with an alligator! It started on the surface, with the table floating, then we and the table went underwater, and we kept smacking the ball back and forth. Apparently we had a ping-pong ball that didn’t float and I could breath underwater. The alligator held the paddle in his front right leg, or arm, or whatever. Not sure who won.

National Senior Games (USA)
They were held in Pittsburgh, July 7-18, with table tennis events July 12-18. Here are complete results.

Peak Performance Table Tennis Routine
Here’s the article and videos from Kevin Finn/Peak Performance Table Tennis. “This is a table tennis specific workout routine that I am putting out for the table tennis community free of charge.” You might also want to get a copy of Kevin’s book, Peak Performance Table Tennis.

New from Samson Dubina

Common Mistakes and Four Keys to Returning Serves
Here’s the video (2:39) from Damien Provost/PongSpace.

Problems With Your Footwork? Start With Your Eyes.
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich
46 new videos in the past week!!!

Bojan Besinger's class about MENTALITY
Here’s the video (28:02).

New from Performance Biomechanics Academy

New from Ti Long

In & Out Movement for Choppers
Here’s the video (2:49) from Derek May.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

My Unforgettable Experience at the 2023 US Nationals Table Tennis Championship
Here’s the article by Kef Noorani. Here’s the related article by Stephanie Sun, Kef Noorani Wins Three U13 National Champions at US Nationals Championships.

Tashiya and Tiana’s Remarkable Journey in 2023 US National Table Tennis Championship
Here’s the article by Thilina Piyadasa

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly



2023 China Super League
Here are three great matches.

Greatest Table Tennis Hits of All Time - Vol. 1
Here’s the video (9:46) from World Table Tennis.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of videos here.

Syed Radio Series Focuses on Ping Pong Diplomacy and Rise of China
Here’s the article, and here are links to Sideways BBC podcasts on this and other table tennis topics. Here are direct links to the ones on China and Ping Pong Diplomacy.

Electromyographic Evaluation of Upper Extremity Muscles During Forehand and Backhand Table Tennis Drives
Here’s the technical journal article from JPES, the Journal of Physical Education and Sport. Don’t let me scare you, but here’s an excerpt:

“The selected upper extremity muscles based on reviews were flexor carpi radialis (FCR), extensor carpi radials (ECR), biceps brachii (BB), pectoralis major (PM), anterior deltoid (AD) and stomach oblique (SO). The EMG signals data was collected through Wireless surface electromyography having eight channels. A fixed window of 100 ms was used to calculate the RMS (root mean square) value of the signals. One-way ANOVA was used as a statistical technique for comparison and a separate post-hoc test was conducted for pairwise comparison. The study concludes that Pectoralis Major and Anterior Deltoid muscles are important factors for forehand and backhand topspin drive.”

Funny Table Tennis Stuff from Etsy
Here’s the page!

Table Tennis Nut
Here’s where you can buy the picture!

New from Pongfinity

Mostly Non-TT: TNEO – The Never-Ending Odyssey
I’ll be out of town July 21-29 at The Never-Ending Odyssey in Manchester, NH, as I’ve done this time of year nearly every year since 2006, including the last fourteen years in a row. That’s me in the group picture, back row, third from left. If you page down, you’ll see quotes from attendees – mine is the first one: “There’s a reason some of us come back, year after year, always striving to improve our writing. We could spend the time at the beach or camping or at Disneyworld, but we’ve discovered a much more fulfilling learning experience at TNEO, a week with other writers where we are fully immersed in just the craft of writing.”

It’s a science fiction writing workshop run by graduates of the six-week Odyssey science fiction writing workshop. (I went in 2006.) The last three years have been on Zoom, but we’re back to meeting in person at Saint Anselm’s College. We’ll spend nine days critiquing each other’s work, running “master” classes on writing, doing readings, and other SF writing-related activities. This year there will be 19 participants. (My world is divided about 50-50 between table tennis and science fiction. Is there anything more? Both are fun and both pay. I just sold a short SF story for $750.)

I did manage to work in a table tennis reference in one of my stories, “Connoisseur of Cambrian Cooking,” about a scientist who time travels back 538 million years to the Cambrian Explosion, where it says, “The closest she ever came to sports was occasional ping-pong, where she'd mindlessly rally with her grad students while pondering the secrets of time and the universe.” The time machine’s battery blows up and she’s stuck there, and the early Cambrian life turns out to be poisonous – so how will she survive and return to the present? You’ll just have to read the story someday when it comes out! (Or privately ask me if you are really curious.)

Technically, I’ll be back on Monday, July 31, but I’ll have so much work piled up from being away, plus major rewrites on my stories critiqued a TNEO, that I need that week off to catch up, so no blog that week.

===>SPECIAL NOTE – on Wednesday, July 26, from 7-9 PM, we’ll be having the annual TNEO SLAM, where participants do five-minute readings. I’ll be reading, “The AI Went Down to the Submissions Page,” a humorous take on AI writing. The readings will be on ZOOM. We are allowed to invite up to four people to join the session where you’ll see and hear lots of short science fiction/fantasy stories. If you are interested in joining us, email me.

Send us your own coaching news!