December 7, 2011

USATT Coaching Newsletter

The fourth USATT Coaching Newsletter just came out, produced by coaching chair Richard McAfee. And here are the first three.

Short side-top serves to the forehand

I'll never figure out why so few players develop this serve. Sure, it gives the opponent an angle into your forehand. (Is your forehand that weak?) Sure, it's easier to flip short sidespin and topspin serves than backspin ones. (But it almost goes to your forehand - isn't that what most players want?) Sure, it takes some practice to learn to serve sidespin-topspin serves and keep them short, especially down the line to the opponent's forehand side, where you have less table. (Okay, this is probably what stops most players from developing these serves - they'd have to practice.) But it's such an effective serve in setting up a third-ball attack, and a great variation from the constant serves most players do into the backhand. Learn it!

Personally, I do it three different ways. I do both a regular forehand pendulum and a reverse pendulum serve from my backhand corner down the line. These two are the more difficult ones, since I have less table to use, since there's only 4.5 feet from the net to the end of the table - it just takes practice. (Hint - contact the ball very low, graze the finely, and have first bounce near the net.) I also do a forehand tomahawk serve from the forehand side short to the forehand, which is easier since I have about 5.15 feet*** from the middle of the net to the opponent's forehand corner, almost eight inches more than when serving down the line. I also have a backhand sidespin serve I can do down the line to the opponent's forehand, but I stopped using that in tournaments decades ago because it hurts an old arm injury when I practice it or use it too much, and so the serve isn't as good as the other ones.

***That's [(4.5)^2 + (2.5)^2]^(1/2) = 5.14781507 for you math nerds like me.

Men's Singles at the Nationals

Men's Singles at this year's USA Nationals (Dec. 13-17, Virginia Beach) may be the most wide open field in decades. The days of the annual battle of former top Chinese players (Cheng Yinghua, David Zhuang) and Loopy (Ilija Lupulesku from Yugoslavia) are over. From 1994-2008, David won six times, and Cheng and Loopy four times each, with U.S.-born Eric Owens the only breaking up their show when he rudely won in 2001. The streak ended in 2009, when six of the eight quarterfinalists - including Cheng, David, and Loopy - defaulted in protest of the low prize money, and last year Cheng didn't play while the "favorites" David and Loopy both lost, as did Fan Yiyong, the newest former top Chinese star.

This year, Cheng, Fan, and Loopy aren't playing, so the last of the "old guard" is David - who once again is seeded #1. However, while David's still a formidable threat to win, any of the top ten seeds are threats this year. In the past, anyone seeded outside the top three or four were cannon fodder. This year they are all cannon.

Here is the list of players (I believe they will be using more recent ratings for the draws), and below are the top ten seeds (also using the older ratings). But the ratings are deceptive. Han Xiao, seeded tenth at "only" 2506, was rated 2596 just a little over a year ago and was over 2600 most of the two years before that. Barney Reed, seeded ninth at 2509, had six different ratings over 2590 this year. Michael Landers, seeded seventh at 2566, won two years ago. Peter Li, seeded sixth at 2566, made the final last year after taking out Loopy in the semifinals. Plus there's Timothy Wang, who won last year, and yet is seeded only fifth at 2577. Others include the wild cards - Jeff Huang and Stefan Manousoff - and the "new" old guard of Mark Hazinski and Adam Hugh (along with Han and Barney). Come watch, cheer, and bring popcorn. It's gonna be a big shootout at the ping-pong corral.  

  1. Zhuang, David (2657)
  2. Hazinski, Mark (2609)
  3. Manousoff, Stefan John (2590)
  4. Hugh, Adam (2581)
  5. Wang, Timothy (2577)
  6. Li, Peter (2566)
  7. Landers, Michael (2547)
  8. Huang, Jeff Lin (2517)
  9. Reed, Barney J. (2509)
  10. Xiao, Han (2506)

Military training for the Chinese National Team

Yes, they're in the army now! (Or were, for a week.) Here's Ma Lin's take on it

Toby Kutler in China and MDTTC

Here's an article in the Diamondback, the University of Maryland newspaper, which features Toby (including his training in China this past summer) and the University table tennis team. Toby's been my twice-a-week practice partner at MDTTC since I decided to get in shape a few months ago, as I've blogged about previously. (Practice, weight training, and stretching, and now I can actually move a little bit.)

Greatest rally ever

Never in the course of human history have two table tennis players, with the help of a little computer animation, had such a 25-second rally.


Send us your own coaching news!