Derek Nie

December 17, 2012

Last Blog Until January 2

This will be my last blog (and Tip of the Week) until Jan. 2, 2013. I leave in a few hours for the USA Nationals in Las Vegas (Dec. 18-22), then Christmas with family in Santa Barbara (Dec. 22-25), then I'll be coaching non-stop at the MDTTC Christmas Camp (Dec. 26-31). Then I'm going to sleep in on Jan. 1. See you in 2013!

Tip of the Week

Distance from Table.

Ratings - Crystal and Derek

Wow. Just wow. The North American Teams were processed, and two of our MDTTC juniors have mind-boggling ratings. Let me once again start off by reminding readers (and myself) that ratings are just indicators of level, and fluctuate up and down quite a bit. But there are times when they are a lot of fun.

We'll start with Crystal Wang, 10, who saw her rating go from 2245 to 2353. (I coached three of her matches, where she went 2-1.) This makes her the following:

  • The highest rated 10-year-old in U.S. history, boys or girls, breaking the record that had been set by Kanak Jha, who was 2265 as a 10-year-old two years ago. (The 2245 had already made her the highest rated 10-year-old girl ever and second highest overall.)
  • #1 Under 11 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 12 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 13 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 14 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 15 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 16 Girl in the U.S.
  • #2 Under 17 Girl in the U.S.
  • #4 Under 18 Girl in the U.S.
  • #9 Under 22 Girl in the U.S.

Here's her record at the Teams, where she went 23-3 in leading her team (which included Derek Nie, below, Bernard Lemal, and Heather Wang) to winning Division Two:

Wins
2347: 7,13,-7,9
2291: 7,5,-4,6
2287: -10,7,10,-7,3
2256: -11,9,6,-5,7
2223: 8,-2,5,-9,6
2199: 7,3,10
2194: 8,3,7
2183: 6,-8,6,10
2183: -10,7,8,3
2160: 7,9,-3-10
2156: 8,9,7
2152: 5,6,4
2149: 5,12,-4,-8,7
2123: 8,4,6
2119: 4,5,8
2113: 9,5,4
2097: 6,6,10
2092: 4,-7,7,7
2091: -9,5,7,-10,4
2064: 5,6,4
2064: -5,9,3,1
2014: 7,4,3
1902: 8,10,5
Losses
2369: 10,3,-18,7
2319: -5,6,7,6
2280: 9,10,6

Between Crystal and New Jersey's Amy Wang (2177, just turned 10), the east coast has a dynamic duo following in the footsteps of the west coast's Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang.

Meanwhile, Crystal's teammate, Derek Nie, 11, the U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Singles Champion, saw his rating go from 2139 to 2221 as he went 17-9 at the Teams. (He's been as high as 2170 recently. I coached about a dozen of his matches at the Teams.) While this "only" brings him up to #3 in Under 12 Boys in the U.S., it does something else. At only 65 pounds, he is almost for certain the best player in the U.S., pound for pound, and the lightest player ever to break 2200. We're talking 34.17 rating points per pound!!! (I come in at 11.67 points per pound. How about you?) Derek might be the shortest to break 2200 as well, at 4'5". (Mitch Seidenfeld, how tall are you?)

I must also point out that it was a crime against humanity that John Olsen, after training so hard with the goal of breaking 2000, came out of the Teams in Baltimore with a rating of 1999. The table tennis gods are laughing!

Nationals

I'll be coaching at the Nationals, primarily Tong Tong Gong and Derek Nie, and sometimes other MDTTC players. I usually play in the hardbat events, where I've won a bunch of titles, but this year I'm just coaching - just too busy to play. I'll also be attending some meetings, since I'm on several USATT advisory committees, plus the USATT Assembly (Tuesday 7:30 PM) and the Hall of Fame Banquet, assuming it doesn't interfere with my coaching duties (Thursday 6:30 PM).

This year's Nationals has a lot of players (781), and a lot of players in Men's Singles (160). There's no single standout player this year, with the top seed Mark Hazinski at 2621), followed by Timothy Wang (2601), Jim Butler (2583), Adam Hugh (2567), Stefan Manousoff (2560), Han Xiao (2536), Dan Seemiller (2521), Li Yu Xiang (2510), Zhang Yahao (2509), Razvan Cretu (2508), and Shao Yu (2503). In newer ratings after the Teams in Baltimore and Columbus and the ICC tournament last weekend, Hazinski is down to 2590, and Timothy Wang is down to 2585. In fact, in the newer ratings, Adam Hugh would be top seed at 2599. I'm pretty sure it's been literally decades since we had a Nationals where the top seed in Men's Singles was under 2600. (And this despite an apparent slow inflation of the rating system!) 

Who are my picks to win? In Men's Singles, I'm biased, so I'm picking the same two finalists from last year when we had the all-Maryland final with Peter Li winning over Han Xiao in the final. (But Peter, now in college, has dropped to 2475.) However, putting aside biases, I suggest viewers watch Jim Butler. The current top U.S. players simply don't know yet how to play the recently un-retired Butler, with his tricky serves and big backhand smash. Another to watch is Adam Hugh, who's been playing very well recently, now that he's out of college and (I'm told) coaching and playing full-time.

On the women's side, the top four seeds easily lap the other players: Jasna Rather (2588), Ariel Hsing (2538), Judy Hugh (2533), and Lily Zhang (2520). However, in new ratings, Judy is back out of the stratosphere with a 2394 rating, while Jasna has mostly been around 2400 for years until one tournament shot her up to 2588. Perhaps she's back to her former world-class level, but for now, I'd bet on an Ariel-Lily final for the third year in row. Who will win? One of them. I'll leave it at that.

World Junior Championships

USA's Lily Zhang made the quarterfinals of Under 18 Girls' Singles at the World Junior Championships, held in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 9-16. Here's the home page, with complete results, articles, and photos. This is probably the best showing of a U.S. junior at the World Junior Championships. (They didn't have them in the old days, when the U.S. was a power.) In reaching the quarterfinals, Lily knocked off the #5 seed (Bernadette Szocs of Romania) and #6 seed (Petrissa Solja of Germany), before losing to the #4 seed (Gu Rouchen of China).

Alas, the eight members of the U.S. Junior Team (which included Crystal Wang - see above - the youngest player at the tournament) will have to fly back and compete at the USA Nationals two days after finishing in India. They will face major problems with the time zone changes and jet lag. 

Prachi Jha

Here's an article from the ITTF that features USA's Prachi Jha and her performance in the team competition at the World Junior Championships.

The Backhand Push

Here's a 45-second video from U.S. Men's Singles Champion Peter Li explaining the basics of the backhand push.

Hitting a Forehand from Below Table Level

Here's a video from PingSkills (2:21) on returning a ball from below table level.

ITTF Development Funds

Here's an article on new funding from the ITTF for continental development. "A quite staggering sum of $1,000,000 is to be made available annually for continents affiliated to the International Table Tennis Federation for development in the next four years, the period from 2013 to 2016."

Look what Michael Found at the Supermarket!

Yes, it's a picture of Michael Landers on the Kelloggs Corn Flakes box! It breaks a 76-year cereal box drought for table tennis since George Hendry made the Wheaties box in 1936.

Santa Claus

In honor of Christmas, here are two pictures of Santa Claus playing table tennis. Here he is with rock star Alice Cooper on right, and here he is again with actress Ginger Rogers on right.

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November 27, 2012

Tip of the Week

Serving Short to Forehand and Long to Backhand.

JOOLA North American Teams

I spent the weekend mostly coaching at the Teams in Baltimore. Since my family lives on the west coast (Oregon and California), I spent my third straight Thanksgiving with Tong Tong Gong and his family - they served a vintage Thanksgiving meal with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry juice, an incredibly good bread that's a family recipe, and a number of other items, including a few Chinese dishes. (They also had 17 relatives over.) I ate more at that meal than I have at any meal in years - and I mean this literally. Since they live only 20 minutes from the playing hall, I stayed at their house for the weekend, as I did the last two years. (I live an hour away.)

The number of teams was down a bit, from last year's 196 to 158. Part of this is because of the new Butterfly Teams in Columbus - see segment below. Some have written that that tournament had no effect on the Teams in Baltimore, but that's absurd - I know of at least 10-12 teams that regularly play in Baltimore that went to Columbus this year, and that's just the ones I know. I'd guess they lost at least 20 or more teams to Columbus. At $800/team, that's at least $16,000 in lost revenue.

While I'm never happy playing on cement, as most matches at the Teams (both Baltimore and Columbus), Open, and Nationals are played on, there's not a lot that can be done about that. However, I was happy to see (yes, that's a pun) that the lighting was greatly improved this year, as part of a renovation at the Baltimore Convention Center. The tournament ran on time, with two tables assigned to every team match we played. They also had much better prizes this year, giving out nice crystal prizes to the division winners that the players seemed happy with.

Here's a picture of the Division One Champions, Atlanta Table Tennis Academy, holding the crystal prizes. (Picture is care of Tom Nguyen from North American Table Tennis.) L-R: Tournament President Richard Lee, Feng Yijun, Liu Jikang, Li Kewei, Coach Wang, Timothy Wang, Wang (Eugene) Zhen, and Referee Bill Walk.

However, this will be the last year it'll be in Baltimore. Next year it's moving to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at the National Harbor, just south of Washington D.C.

Because I was there primarily as a coach, I didn't see much of the finals - just the last match in fact. I played as a part-time player for the NOVA team, playing in three ties where I beat a couple of 2150 to 2200 players and several 1950 players, went five with a 2300+ player, and lost to a 2050 player who moved me around on the slippery cement and then smashed over and over. When I did win points, it was usually off my serves, which gave everyone fits and covered up for my growing lack of mobility. Alas, I don't practice any more (I'm just a coach), and at 52 I'm too stiff and slow to play the way I used to. In my mind, I'm still greased lightning, but once at the table....

It is a grueling tournament, designed for true table tennis warriors. Play began Friday at 9AM, with most teams playing team matches at 9AM, 11AM, 2PM and 4PM, with these matches deciding what division you would get into. (Most teams played two higher teams and two lower teams, though of course this was adjusted for the highest and lowest teams.) On Saturday teams played five more team matches (9AM, 11AM, 2PM, 4PM, and 7PM), and two more on Sunday (9AM and 11AM), with crossovers at 2PM and 4PM. This is a true players tournament.

Tong Tong, just turned 15, didn't start out well, and I'm not going to get into that. He played well on Saturday night, and if he plays like that he might be in the mix for the USA junior team trials coming up in three weeks. He's been on the cadet team the last two years - top four in country - but is now ineligible, but has three years to try out for the junior team. I coached him here, and will be coaching him and Derek Nie at Nationals. Derek, 11, will be trying out for the mini-cadet and cadet teams.

I coached Derek in a number of his matches, and he had a great tournament. He came in at 2139 (from a high of 2170 recently), and pretty much blitzed everyone. He beat about ten players between 2100 and 2200 with, I think, only one loss in that range. He beat three or four players in the 2250 range (one of them from down 5-10 in the fifth), and he beat a 2438 player. He, Crystal Wang, Heather Wang, and Bernard Lemal combined to win Division 3, going 7-0 in the round robin and then winning the crossover semifinals and final for a combined 9-0. (So Crystal won crystal!) I'm wondering if Derek is the first person ever under 70 pounds to beat a 2400+ player?

Derek's best mach might have been the win over the 2438 player, but his gutsiest took place in the Division 3 Final. He was up against I think a 2180 player who could attack from both wings as well as lob over and over, and who played very smart. Derek led most of the first game but lost 11-9. He led 9-8 in the second and was basically lobbed down three straight points. Between games we talked tactics, then I told him if he wanted to win this match, he'd have to win it here (I tapped his head) and here (I tapped his heart). He nodded, and I knew we were in for a long match. Derek won the next game somewhat close, and the fourth easily. In the fifth, the opponent made a diving, lobbing return on the edge, looped a winner, and then got a net dribbler to go up 3-0. After a timeout, Derek only gave up one more point as he won, 11-4.

Crystal, 10, also had an amazing tournament. (I coached a few of her matches.) She beat a 2500+ player, a number of 2250 players, and I don't think lost to anyone below her 2245, though I'm not sure of all her matches. I'll talk more about her when the ratings are processed - but almost for sure she'll achieve the highest rating ever for a 10-year-old, boys or girls, probably well over 2300. There's a chance she or Derek may be adjusted to an absurdly high rating - we'll see. I'm wondering if she's the youngest player ever to beat a 2500+ player?

One strange incident took place. Derek was in a battle with Ray Mack, a 2150 player, and led 10-8 in the fifth. He went for his towel and drink bottle and took a sip. An umpire who was walking by interrupted the match, telling Derek that it was not legal to drink during the towel break every six points! Many or most players regularly do this; I've been doing it for 36 years. While the rules do not specifically say you can take a drink during the break every six points, I've never seen an umpire forbid it. I checked with the tournament referee, Bill Walk, and he agreed that it was okay to take a brief drink during the towel break. It was a rather scary moment when the umpire interrupted the match as it could have disrupted Derek's focus. The umpire got into an argument with Derek's parents and teammates while Derek walked about, looking perplexed. As it was, he scored the next point. I don't think umpires are supposed to interrupt matches in progress to enforce perceived rules violations.

As noted, I didn't see much of the action taking place on the feature courts where the top players were playing. I saw bits and pieces, but not one entire match. I did see the last few games of the last match in the final, where chopper/looper Chen Weixing kept coming from behind before finally losing close in the fifth as Atlanta Table Tennis Academy defeated Team JOOLA, 3-1.

It was a fun but exhausting weekend, which culminated in my getting a mild cold yesterday, though it seems to have mostly gone away already. Maybe I was just tired, though I went through a bunch of Kleenex yesterday. Here are the final division results - playoff results are at the end.

Butterfly Teams in Columbus

While the JOOLA North American Teams were held in Baltimore, the Butterfly Teams were held in Columbus, Ohio. Here are the results, and here's a listing of the players on each team so you can match them with the teams in the results.

Ariel's Speech

Here's Ariel Hsing's acceptance speech as San Jose Female High School Athlete of the Year (3:11). Ariel, 17, has been the U.S. Women's Singles Champion the last two years, and is a 2012 Olympian.

Table Tennis Legends

Here's a video (54:27) of old-time legends playing in the English Table Tennis Association 70-year anniversary gala in 1994. Names include Istvan Jonyer, Gabor Gergely, Klampar Tibor, Milan Orlowski, Janos Takacs, Jacques Secretin, Vincent Purkart, Ferenc Sido, Janos Fahazy, Mihaly Bellak, Tibor Kreisz. Perhaps most interesting is 73-year-old Ferenc Sido (6'4", 240 lbs at his peak, yet still able to move around and chop!), the last hardbat player to win Men's Singles at the Worlds (in 1953, also making the final in 1959). He is shown from 0:52 to 4:54.

Time-Stopping Exhibition Video

This video (1:39) starts as a regular exhibition, with a behind-the-back return, etc., but watch what happens about 13 seconds in!

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November 13, 2012

Tip of the Week

Complex or Simple Tactics?

Crystal Wang

This past weekend 10-year-old Crystal Wang (from MDTTC) had a great tournament at the Potomac Open. You don't know who she is? Last year Crystal achieved a rating of 2150, the highest rating ever for a 9-year-old, boys or girls. She also made both the USA Mini-Cadet Girls' National Team (Under 12) and the USA Cadet Girls' Team (Under 15) at age 9, competing against girls much older. Unfortunately, this year she played three tournaments in a row where she struggled (including the U.S. Open), complaining her wrist hurt. They finally had it x-rayed, and discovered she had been playing with a fractured wrist from a fall! Her rating had dropped from 2166 to 2099, and she couldn't play for a couple months.

But now she's BACK! At the Potomac Open, at age 10, she beat players rated 2334, 2240, 2205, and 2149, while making the final of Under 2300. She didn't lose to anyone lower than 2200. I'm pretty sure she'll be adjusted well over 2200, which could definitely be the highest rating ever for a 10-year-old girl, and possibly for boys as well. (I'm pretty sure Kanak Jha is the only 10-year-old boy to break 2200.)

It's no fluke. In the MDTTC Elite League last week she knocked off two players over 2300 without losing to anyone below 2300. Even at 2099, she was the top rated girl in the U.S. in Under 11, Under 12, and Under 13.

Crystal plays a very modern two-winged looping game, hitting and looping on both sides. I've watched as she's gradually gone from basically hitting to looping from both wings, and her off-the-bounce backhand loop can now be a terror. She and Amy Wang (a year younger, rated 2069, from NJ) are essentially Ariel & Lily, Part II, east coast version - the new Dynamic Duo.

Potomac Open

Here are results, photos, and videos from the Potomac Open in Maryland this past weekend. Wang Qing Liang came back from down 0-3 to win against Sean Lonergan in the final. Sean upset Chen Bo Wen in the semifinals, also in seven games. Sean's been in China the last few years - not playing table tennis much - but started training recently to get ready for the North American Teams and the USA Nationals. You can see all of the final in the video page above, and many other big matches.

"He's the One" - Starring Derek Nie

Here's a funny music video (4:02) by the band E.D. Sedgwick that features U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Singles Champion Derek Nie. (Derek is from my club, MDTTC - I coached him in all his U.S. Open matches.) They had been planning this video for some time, and were originally going to use a regular actor to play the kid, and put the ball in via computer afterwards, but then they saw this Washington Post video (3:26) in August on the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which featured our juniors, including Derek - and thought he'd be perfect for the role. All the action scenes where you see one player playing I'm feeding multiball to the player, both to Derek and to the members of the band. It was great fun helping them put this together. It also taught us what I already knew but hadn't really experienced - that much of film-making is waiting around. Derek and I filled the time with lots of smashing and lobbing and various trick shots.

World Cadet Challenge

Here's an article on the USATT web page on the recent World Cadet Challenge, which included several USA cadets.

USATT Minutes

Last week the minutes to the April 19, 2012 USATT Board meeting finally went up. Now there's been a flurry of activity, and the minutes to the July 16 and Sept. 22 meetings have also gone up. Here are the USATT minutes dating back to 1999, including the new entries.

2012 World Fair Play Awards

Here's info on the awards. "If you had a fair play act within your association’s activity in 2012 or you consider a person or organization worth to be nominated for the Trophies, please submit your your application on the attached form before 1st December 2012."

Dancing Table Tennis

Here's a dance video tribute to table tennis (2:10).

OK Go Ping Pong Tips

Here's a humorous "how to" video on table tennis (4:34). It's from 2006, but I don't think I'd seen it before.

Non-Table Tennis - Update on U.S. Presidential Election

As I noted last week, I called all 50 states and the exact electoral count (332-206) in my blog last Tuesday morning. Now we have the essentially final popular vote. I predicted Obama over Romney, 50.5% to 48.5%. Final count was 50.6% to 47.9%. Not bad, considering everyone over at Fox News thought Romney was going to win, many predicting a landslide. (It's tricky predicting the vote turnout for third-party candidates, since many who say they will vote for one change their mind at the last minute rather than "waste" their vote. In this case I thought they'd get about 1% of the vote, but they got 1.5%, which is why I over-estimated Romney's final numbers.)

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September 17, 2012

Tip of the Week

Why Table Tennis Really Is Chess at Light Speed.

Table Tennis Music Video

On Saturday night the Edie Sedgwick music group came to the Maryland Table Tennis Center to do a table tennis music video. The gist of the video is the group shows up at a nightclub to play table tennis, and then, one by one, they get destroyed by a kid. Starring in the video is Derek Nie, 11, the U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Singles Champion. (Here he is warming up with me at the Open, and here he is in his full green wig and striped sunglasses outfit. And here he is at the Eastern Open last year!)

The band had been planning this video already, but were apparently going to just bring in some kid actor and fake the table tennis scenes. Then they saw Derek in the Washington Post video, and contacted me about hiring him.

The table tennis portion of the taping took four hours, from 7-11PM, though the band members came in around 5PM to start setting up. Also in attendance were Derek's parents and older brother, George (15, a 2050 player), and lots of pizza. In order, here's what happened:

  1. Taping of Derek and the band members arriving by limousine. Yes, they hired a white limousine for this part, and they actually picked Derek up at his school in the limo! (He said it was rather embarrassing explaining this to everyone there.) The chauffeur, Nas, a Pakistani immigrant, just last week drove Clint Eastwood, and has also driven Michael Douglas, Chris Tucker, Chris Rock, LL. Cool J, Erin Burnett, and Jon Huntsman.
  2. They rearranged the barriers at the club to create a long, diagonal entrance from the doorway to the playing area set up in the back of the club. Then they taped the four band members walking/sauntering in over and over. Then they did the same with Derek.
  3. Then came the table tennis scenes. They taped Derek mostly hitting and looping forehands while I blocked. Because of the extremely bright light they put behind Derek I couldn't see the ball when blocking forehands, but I made the fortuitous discover that I could block backhands from the forehand side without the light in my eyes. George Nie also joined in for some of the rallies. (George and I won't be in the video, we were just blocking for Derek.)
  4. Then they taped the band members playing. I fed them balls multi-ball style as they smacked shots all over the place, sometimes hitting the table. Two of the four were actually pretty decent. One could barely hit the ball, but after some practice we put on a decent show.
  5. Then each of them taped their "losing" scene. I'd hit a ball hard at them, they'd flail at it and miss, and then each had their own sore loser reaction - throwing paddle down (we used a cheap one for that!), kicking the wall (not too hard, I warned), looks of disgust, and each ending with the band member storming out of the club in some way. (So when you see them losing, remember that it was me who hit the winning shots, not Derek!!!)
  6. Then we filmed Derek's victory scenes, where he'd raise his arms in triumph, shadow practice forehands and backhands in celebration (sometimes left-handed), and other celebratory maneuvers. There was one very complex scene that Derek nailed in a few tries where he'd go through a series of these maneuvers (including his brother tossing him his striped sunglasses, and Derek cleanly snatching them in mid-air and putting them on) and going through a true actor's scene where he started out all happy, gradually realized he'd beaten everyone and was alone, looked crestfallen, and then tosses aside his paddle and sunglasses and runs off. Oscar scene!!!
  7. They also did several short scenes in front of a green screen. They will add in scenes from a night club later on. This saved Derek from having to go there, plus the night club they were going to use doesn't open until midnight (!), well past Derek's bedtime.
  8. We also had several humorous scenes of the band members preparing to play, including one member dressed in an all-white outfit who was constantly preening for the camera. In one scene, after he finished straightening his hair and clothes, we all threw ping-pong balls at him.
  9. Then we all had to spend some time putting the club back together, moving barriers and chairs back into position.

They said the taping for the video will complete next weekend (at the night club), and the video should be done in about a month. They have lots of video editing to do. I'll post when it's up.

Five Days Till the MDTTC September Open!

Have you entered yet? If you aren't there, we'll talk about you behind your back. We'll make Youtube videos about you. There will be rioting in the streets. It won't be pretty. So enter and stop the mayhem. (Tournament is at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, and I'm running it. I've run over 150 USATT tournaments, but this will be my first one in over ten years.)

Lily Zhang and Barack Obama

Here's a picture of Olympian Lily Zhang shaking hands with President Obama at the White House.

ITTF Coaching Program

Here's an article on the ITTF web page about the ITTF coaching program. It mentions USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee, who is currently running seminars in India.

Great Point at the Russian Open

Here's a great point by Xu Xin of China against Russia's Alexey Liventsov. (26 seconds.)

Ping-Pong Record Covers

Here are two:

Penguins Use What For Rackets?

Here's a penguin table tennis cartoon.

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July 25, 2012

MDTTC Camp

I won't bother giving you the week and day number (okay, yesterday was week six, day two), since they start to blend together when you are doing eleven straight weeks of camps.

This week we have about 30 players, mostly advanced, with only 4-5 "beginners." Since it's a more advanced group (and since I could work with the beginners separately), I decided not to bother my usual stroke lectures. So yesterday I gave a talk on ball placement - playing the corners and middle, when to go for the extreme wide angles (outside the corners), opening up the wide angles by playing the middle, taking away the forehand by playing to the forehand first (often short) and then going to the backhand, moving players in and out, etc. After the break I gave short talk on doubles strategy - what types of serves to use (mostly short and low backspin and no-spin) and where to place them (mostly toward the center of the table), how to receive (forehand or backhand, as long as you can loop the deep ball), where to place the ball, etc.

Last week a reporter from the Washington Post came in to do a feature on Derek Nie, the U.S. Open Boys' 11 and Under Champion. (It looks like they are featuring Nathan Hsu as well, and other MDTTC players.) He's coming back this morning, along with a photographer. Not sure yet when the story will run.

On top of that the Baltimore Sun is doing an interview with Derek this morning for a feature in this Sunday's paper. I don't think Derek even knows about this one yet. We also have a local TV station that arranged yesterday to come in and do a special on us on Aug. 16. Plus the local Gazette is doing a special on us, not sure when they are coming in. Plus there was that CCTV American special on us last week. So it's been a busy media week. Meanwhile, I'll be coaching at the Junior Olympics next week (Mon-Wed), and will send out a whole new slew of press releases afterwards.

On break I saw Derek, Allen Wang, John Hsu, and Leon Bi playing a winner-stay-on game where they started each game at deuce, and you didn't have to win by two. (In other words, first to win two points. Leon, who's about a thousand points lower, only had to win one point.) I joined in, and did surprisingly well, winning at least the first game all five times I went on the table, and winning three in a row one time. I had a nice counterlooping point with Derek, and won a point chopping against John.

Larry's Law

This has come up several times recently, so I'll give it again. "Larry's Law" is a law I came up with years ago. Often as a player trains and improves they start challenging stronger players, but still lose most of these matches close, though they'll occasionally win one. The reason is that while they may now be playing at the same level as the other player, the other player has more experience at that level, and so is tactically and mentally more prepared to win the close games. In other words, if you are challenging stronger players and keep training and playing matches against players at that level, it means that in six months or so you'll have the experience to consistently win at that level

Interview with Jerome Charyn

Here's an interview with Jerome Charyn, table tennis player and author of the table tennis book "Sizzling Chops and Devilish Spins: Ping Pong and the Art of Staying Alive" (2001). The book is "part memoir and part history," and "...bounces from Manhattan in the 1940s (where unheralded lions of the game, like Marty Reisman and Dick Miles, hustled their way through the ping-pong underworld) to China in the 1960s (when Nixon used ping pong as a tool of diplomacy) to present-day France (where Charyn, our faithful guide, battles his way through the lower-division tournaments)."

Table Tennis Center Sprouts Up in South Carolina Mall

Here's an article about a table tennis center that opened up Richland Mall in Columbia, South Carolina.

Jan-Ove Waldner Tribute

I don't think I've posted this Waldner Tribute Video (4:21), with lots of great points from the Master.

Table Tennis as It Should Be

On a makeshift wooden table balanced on barrels.

Uberpong: Table Tennis Paddles Artwork

Here's an article and video (3:52) on Uberpong's numerous table tennis paddle artworks.

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July 20, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Four

Yesterday's focus was the backhand loop. I again used Nathan Hsu as my demo partner, since he has an excellent backhand loop, far better than mine. (His backhand loop is now his greatest strength - few can stand up to it when he unleashes it.) I demonstrated a few where I'd serve backspin, he'd push, I'd backhand loop, he'd block, I'd chop, he'd push, and then I'd backhand loop again, and we'd continue in this way. Then I had him demo it, both against backspin (multiball fashion) and my block.

I also explained a bit on how the game has changed. When I was coming up, the general belief was "one gun is as good as two," and the dominant styles were very forehand oriented. And so I never really developed my backhand attack, and instead focused on forehand attack and a steady backhand. These days, however, most top players attack all-out from both sides.

During one multiball session one of the larger players in the camp smacked a ball that hit me smack on the forehead - and it actually dazed me for a moment! I don't think that's ever happened before. I'm glad I wear glasses to play table tennis; I think I'd be nervous otherwise about getting hit in the eye.

On Tuesday the younger kids had a blast with the adjustable height device, shown here in a high setting. They had fun with it again yesterday, but now the advanced players discovered it. Two were practicing their serves during break on the lowest setting.

Yesterday I blogged about Froggy, a large rubber frog about the size of a soccer ball that the kids took turns in team trying to hit. Here's Froggy! Here he is from a little further way, from the kids' point of view. After smacking the poor amphibian around for a bit, we ended the day with "Mountain Master," which is our version of "King of the Hill," where you have to win two points in a row from the "Master" to become the new Master. Since about half the players were girls, they rebelled at the name "King" of the Hill!

Washington Post at MDTTC

The Washington Post will be at MDTTC this morning at around 11AM to do a special. They will feature Derek Nie (U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Singles Champion, already rated 2170) and other players.

How can you get news coverage such as the Washington Post and CCTV (see below)? To start with, it is essential that you have a Ph.D in media relations, with many years of practical experience with a large media firm, and you must be trained in the intricacies of exactly how to write a press release in the exact format required or the press will laugh you off. You must also, of course, have the very best players in the country to have any chance of attracting any interest.

Yes, I'm kidding. To get press coverage, whenever you run a tournament or league or some other event, or a player at your club has good results, write a basic press release. (Just state what the event or results were, giving names, ages, and where they are from, etc.) Go online and Google local news media, primarily newspapers and TV, perhaps radio. Once you have the contact info, email the press release to them. Wait a few days, and resend or even call. Believe me, local media is always looking for local human interest stories, and it's not that hard to sell them on table tennis. Just make sure you have something that will interest readers and viewers. TV especially is always looking to feature people with charisma.

CCTV America Features MDTTC

Maryland Table Tennis Center was featured on CCTV American Wednesday night (3:05). While lots of players are shown training, those featured include Coach Cheng Yinghua and players John Hsu, Timmy La, Lisa Lin, and Derek Nie. (They interviewed lots of players and coaches, including me, but alas mine didn't make the cut this time, though you can see me in the background several times.) The video is also featured on the USATT home page this morning. (CCTV American is a Chinese station that broadcasts in the U.S. in English.) And, as noted above, the Washington Post is coming in this morning to do a feature!

There was actually a sort of behind-the-scenes spat about this. After seeing the video, a member of the USATT board emailed the rest of the board and staff, criticizing the video and Chinese immigrants for calling the sport "ping-pong." The letter was seen by members of our club, who were pretty unhappy about it. I responded with a lengthy email that basically said "Who cares as long as they are covering the sport, and covering it well," and pointed out all the more important things we should focus on in developing our sport rather than worrying about whether they call it table tennis or ping-pong. (I especially pointed out that it is these very Chinese immigrants who call it "ping-pong" that have developed the large majority of our top players and especially the current horde of top juniors and cadets.) The board member apologized and the matter was dropped.

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Champaign, IL

Here's an article from the ITTF on the ITTF Coaching Seminar that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running in Champaign, IL.

Justin Bieber Playing Table Tennis in Japan

Table Tennis Nation talks about and links to the video (14:47, with the table tennis starting at around 11:00). Bieber is actually decent - check out the topspin backhands he does at 12:27 and 13:47, and especially the behind the back serve he does at 13:54!!!

Lessons with Larry (Bavly)

Math professor Larry Bavly is at it again. A few months ago I linked to his video "Lesson One: The Ratings Game" (4:26), where he facetiously teaches the important things about table tennis to a little girl. Now he has come out with "Lesson Two: Mental Toughness" (2:32). I'm about 90% sure the girl is in on the joke. Okay, maybe only 70% sure.

Things You Won't See at the Olympics

PingSkills, which usually does serious training videos that teach serious skills, took a journey to the silly side in this "Will See Won't See Olympic Table Tennis - Invade London" video (4:12), where they play with a shoe, a big paddle, a little paddle, two balls at once, and use the hidden ball serve trick.

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July 19, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Three

Yesterday's focus was on the forehand loop. I gave my usual lecture and demo on the subject, with Nathan Hsu as my demo partner. To demonstrate the loop against backspin I alternately forehand looped and forehand chopped while Nathan blocked and pushed.

There were two new players in my multiball group who had just started out on Monday, so this was only their third day of playing. When the first one's turn came for multiball, a 9-year-old boy, right up until the last second I was thinking we should just focus on the basic forehand and backhand drives. Then, for some reason, I changed my mind and asked if he'd like to try looping. He said "Yes!" About two minutes later he'd picked it up and was doing it pretty consistently, still more of a roll, but with pretty good topspin! I was rather surprised.

So I did the same with the next beginner, a 12-year-old girl. Same result! (Many other beginners are not able to pick looping up this quickly.) As I told the two of them, either they are very talented or I'm a really good coach! (We jokingly argued over which it was all morning, with me taking the "very good coach" side.)

Looping and I have a long-term love-hate relationship. I was a late starter to table tennis, starting when I was 16, and right from the start I was a natural hitter. I found looping much more difficult, probably due to tight muscles (even then). However, I was determined to be a looper (just as many natural loopers were determined to be hitters before that style sort of died out at the higher levels), and practiced constantly. Eventually I developed a pretty efficient, if somewhat stiff forehand loop. When I play matches I loop and smash equally, but my hitting is definitely more natural - but I still focus on looping, because, gosh darn it, I wanna be a looper!!!

In the afternoon I introduced the Adjustable Height Device. I blogged about this back on July 20, 2011, when I first used it in camps last summer. It was created by a player I coach, John Olsen, and the kids love it. Here it is in its high and low settings. The challenge is to serve under the bar. The key is to ignore the bar and simply serve low. We also use it sometimes in regular rallies to see if the players can rally under the bar, which in rallies would be set a bit higher than for serves.

I also introduced Froggy (no pictures available, sorry), a large rubber frog, about the size of a soccer ball (but wider, not as tall). I put it on the table, divide players into two teams, and they take turns trying to hit it, two shots each. First team to hit it 20 times wins. I'll try to get a picture today.

Slurpee fever has stuck the camp. During lunch break each day I'm now taking two car trips to the local 7-11 where the kids load up on slurpees. (The kids were shocked to learn that both 7-11 and slurpees were around when I was their age 40 years ago, when I too used to get 7-11 slurpees, back when 7-11 opened at 7AM and closed at 11PM - hence the name. I just looked it up - 7-11 slurpees came out in 1967, when I was seven.) It's not like I'm not compensated for the taxi service; Allen Wang treats me to a Planters Peanut Bar each time. They are my favorite candy bar; if you want to be my friend, you will bring them to me.

Washington Post to MDTTC

The Washington Post will be at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on Friday at 11AM for a story on Derek Nie (U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Champion) and other MDTTC players. Locals, feel free to come in! Ironically, the player Derek defeated in the final, Gal Alguetti of New Jersey, is here this week for our training camp.

Wang Hao and a Short History of the Penhold Grip

Here's an interesting story on the ITTF web page about the modernization of the penhold grip, which at one point was dying out at the higher levels until the development of the reverse penhold backhand brought it back.

Kalinikos Kreanga vs. Michael Maze

Here are some great points from a video (2:53) of a match between these two from five years ago. Still great play - and notice how tactically they keep attacking the other's middle both to score points and to open up the wide angles?

The Way Table Tennis Should Be Played

Olympian Trick Shots

Lily Zhang and Erica Wu demonstrate their trick shots (1:19) - hilarious!

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July 6, 2012

U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30-July 4

I returned from the U.S. Open late on Wednesday night, took Thursday off, and now I'm back to blogging, coaching, and writing. How did I spend Thursday? Glad you asked! Saw both the new Spider-Man and Teddy movies. Both were very good. Teddy definitely deserved its R rating - most of my table tennis students aren't going to be seeing this for a while. (About thirty minutes into the movie a woman left the theatre with her roughly five-year-old son - what was she thinking? Probably thought "Teddy" sounded cute and didn't see the R.) I also read half the day ("Into the Out Of" by Alan Dean Foster), bought groceries, and watched "Little Fockers" on TV. Now on to the Open.

Before we go further, here are the complete U.S. Open Results and the complete ITTF Junior Pro Tour Results. (The latter was held in conjunction with the U.S. Open.)

I was there primarily as a coach, but I did enter one event - Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff. I'd won the event twelve times at the Open or Nationals, eight times with Ty. Make that thirteen times, nine with Ty! We eeked out a three-game victory in the final over Jeff Johnston and Jay Turberville, 20,-19,17. We were down 11-16 in the first game, and the third was close all the way until we pulled away near the end. Ty and I have a lot of experience together; our basic game plan is he attacks consistently while I end the point with forehands. My strength is my receive, where I attack pretty much every serve with quick, off-the-bounce hits to wide angles and to the opponent's middle. But I normally use sponge. I started using playing hardbat semi-seriously around 1990, and besides the doubles, have won Hardbat Singles twice and Over 40 Hardbat four times. Here's a picture of Ty and me in the final.

At the Open I was primarily coaching Derek Nie, as well George Nie (his older brother), Nathan Hsu, and a couple of times Lilly Lin. I usually coach Tong Tong Gong as well, but since he's on the USA National Cadet Team he was primarily coached this time by USA Cadet Coach Keith Evans. Since I was coaching almost the whole time I rarely got to see other matches.

Derek Nie, who recently turned 11, came in rated 2146, and at a little over 60 pounds, he may be, pound for pound, the highest rated player ever. He plays an aggressive game, looping and smashing from both sides, at a pace few opponents can keep up with, especially when he starts looping forehands. He had a great tournament, winning 11 and Under, with wins over two players around 2250 and a bunch of 2000 to 2100 players. He also went five games with two players over 2300, and in one of them, was up 2-1 in games and 8-5 in the fourth before losing 11-9 in the fifth. Perhaps most impressively he didn't lose to anyone rated under 2300 despite playing eight singles events.

Derek seemed to think a game that didn't go deuce was like a day without McDonalds - but he won most of those deuce games, including in the final of 11 & Under against Gal Alguetti, where Derek won at 16,10,11. (He was down game point all three games: five times in the first game, including twice at 8-10, and down 9-10 in both the second and third.) He also had to battle in the semifinals with a red-hot Michael Tran. Derek was up 10-8 match point in the fourth (and I think another match point in deuce) before losing that game and so went into the fifth before winning at 11,-6,7,-12,7. Afterwards Derek watched video of himself over and over missing the easiest backhand kill of all time up match point in the fourth; if he'd lost that match, missing that shot would have haunted him for a long time. We then switched to videos of his best matches as the last thing I wanted was for him to keep watching himself miss!

Against a 2240 player he won at 11,8,15,-7,10. Yes, he likes those deuce games. (But he beat the other 2250 player three straight without going deuce or even 9.) Here's a picture of me warming him up, and another coaching him. Later I hope to post the picture of him posing with a Ronald McDonald clown, but for now, here he is with green hair and striped glasses.

I've been pondering a timeout I almost called. In the 11 & Under final, Derek was up 2-0 in games and led 11-10 match point. I wanted to lock up the match, and decided to call a timeout. This is also what the Chinese National Team tends to do - they often call timeouts when their player is up match or game point so the player can focus on winning that last point. However, before I could call the timeout, the opponent's coach called a timeout instead. From their point of view, their player was down to his last point, and desperately needed the next point. From my point of view, I wanted to lock up the point and the match, and the timeout would have allowed Derek to really focus while we discuss tactics. If the opponent hadn't called the timeout, should I have? (I did make one "obvious" mistake - I should have anticipated they'd likely call a timeout, and should have waited to see if they were going to before I started to. As it was, they just beat me to it.)

In general, I'm hesitant to call timeouts with Derek. Why? Because he's very focused when he plays, plays smart tactics, and I think his opponents, facing this mini dynamo, need the break more than he does. I'm more likely to call a timeout to recommend a serve at a key point, but often he seems to serve exactly the serve I'm hoping he'll serve. He has a knack for going for the fast & deep serve at just the right time.

I also coached his brother George in many of his matches. He also had a very good tournament. He came in rated 1994, but had wins over players rated 2250 and 2080 and was up 9-8 in the fifth with a 2206 player. (I coached those three matches.) He also beat several other players rated around 2000.

I coached Nathan Hsu (now 16 years old, rated 2356) in three of his ITTF Junior Pro Tour matches. (Here's a picture of him winning a game.) All three of his opponents were in the 2350 range, with the first two a pair of lefty Canadians.

In the first one (in the preliminary Under 18 RR), he was down 1-2 in games but came back to win, 11,-6,-8,6,5. This was an interesting tactical match, especially the fifth game. Nathan had been receiving very aggressively, flipping most of the short serves, but at 2-2 in the fifth, the Canadian served two no-spin serves, Nathan flipped, and the Canadian anticipated both returns and ripped forehands. I could see that he was hanging back, waiting for the flip, and decided I was going to call a time-out before his next receive. It was a "controversial" time-out because Nathan tied it on his serve, 4-4, and so he had the "momentum" when I called the time out. I told him to start dropping the serve short - and it worked! He went back, executed perfectly, and scored four in a row and outscored his opponent 7-1 the rest of the way in winning the last game 11-5. (Once he started dropping the ball short, he was also able to flip the serves again, since the opponent wasn't sure what he was going to do.) Winning this match advanced him to the main draw.

Against the second lefty Canadian he was down 1-3 in games. He had been attacking hard with his backhand loop to all parts of the table - my advice - but missing too much. Starting in game five we agreed he should go nearly all crosscourt. Now the backhand loops became relentlessly strong and consistent, often taken very close to the table, and he came back to win, 9,-5,-8,-4,8,6,9. This advanced him to the second round.

Now he faced Kunal Chodri, who's about 2400. Again Nathan mostly went crosscourt with his backhand loop, and it worked - well, almost. He did dominate the backhand exchanges, and was up 2-1 in games. He led 10-9 in the fourth but just missed a backhand winner. In the seventh he was up 10-9 match point, and again missed a backhand winner. (He hadn't been missing many of these!) In the end, Kunal pulled it out, -10,7,-9,10,9,-7,11.

I told Nathan afterwards that if he focuses on developing his serve & receive, adds power to his forehand loop with better hip rotation (which is how you put your weight into a loop), and keeps improving his dominant backhand loop, he can ride that backhand loop to a very high level. 

A few other notes:

  • A man in his mid-60s literally got into a fight with his opponent and the opponent's wife, twisting the wife's arm so severely it left extensive bruises. (I saw them.) He also shoved the referee. He was kicked out of the tournament and probably faces suspensions and/or fines. When someone came by and told us about this, some of the kids started chanting "Old person fight! Old person fight! Old person fight!"
  • Wang Qing Liang, the 17-year-old chopper/looper from China who moved to Maryland a few months ago as a coach trainee, made the semifinals of Men's Singles and Under 21 and the final of Under 18. He beat Olympians Timothy Wang (4-0) and Pierre-Luc Hinse (of Canada) as well as Adam Hugh.
  • Coaching is 16.7 times as tiring as playing. I worked this out with actual math.
  • What does a coach actually do at major tournaments?
  • Tactical advice to players, before matches, between games, and during timeouts;
  • Strategic advice to players (i.e. explaining what they need to work on for the future);
  • Scouting (both live and video) - I keep a file on opponents;
  • Physical preparation, especially each morning;
  • Mental preparation before each match;
  • Training preparation (either as practice partner or by arranging one);
  • Advice on meals
  • Entertainment

Last Monday's Tip of the Week

Oops! I had a Tip of the Week written in advance to go last Monday while I was at the U.S. Open. But it completely slipped my mind. Alas, it'll go up on Monday.

48 seconds of Slow-Motion Table Tennis

The video is from the upcoming Topspin Documentary, and features Michael Landers, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu, and Barney J. Reed.

The Higgs Boson Explained

They explain it with ping-pong balls and sugar (1:53)!

Ping-Pong 3-D Game

If you want to go crazy, try beating this online ping-pong game! I don't think it's possible to win, but you can spend endless time trying.

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June 21, 2012

Day Three of MDTTC Camp - the Forehand Loop

Yesterday's focus was forehand looping. In my lecture I used 11-year-old Derek Nie (rated 2146) as my demo partner, and we had some nice rallies, including looping against backspin, against block, and counterlooping. It was new to a few players, and I took these players off to the side to teach the fundamentals while the other coaches fed multiball to the others.

Halfway through the morning session I gave a 20-minute lecture on return of serve, and then we went out on the table to practice serve and receive. (I gave a 30-minute lecture on serving yesterday.) It's great watching their serves improve. Earlier that morning before the camp started I'd done an impromptu challenge where I served and campers tried to return my serve. About fifteen formed a line, and if they missed my serve, they went to the end of the line. (The stronger players in the camp watched with amusement.) I think a couple managed to get two back, but the great majority missed the first one. I think this raised the interest level in the receive lecture, and even more in learning these serves. Some are still trying to figure out how I get topspin on my serve when I stroke downward with an open racket and hit the bottom of the ball. (The racket tip is moving down, but just before contact I flip the bottom of the racket sideways and up, and then continue down after contact. But it's probably something you have to see in person.)

Yesterday's "Big Game" at the end of the morning session was Around the World. I feed multiball while the kids hit one shot, and then circle the table. When they miss five, they are out. When they are down to two players, I put a target on the table (usually a box, but today I used my towel) and they take turns trying to hit it. When one hits it and the other misses, the one who hit it is the champion, and we start over. Later I fed more multiball and they had to knock cups off the table (28 of them in a pyramid), with the warning that the galaxy would explode if they didn't knock them all off in five minutes. They knocked the last one off with three seconds to spare, just barely saving the galaxy!

Later that day Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (a 2600 player) was drilling with a 2200 pips-out penholder. One of the players in the camp, Minh Nguyen, is an aspiring two-winged looper like Jeffrey, so I called him over and we watched Jeffrey as he completely dominated rallies with his backhand loop, which he could put anywhere on the table with power, control, and consistency, with textbook technique. Players can improve quite a bit just by watching the way he rotates his body and shoulders and then snaps his arm and wrist into the shot. (It's like throwing a Frisbee toward the ceiling.)

That night I did a one-hour private session with a father and son. The son had learned to forehand loop and was working on backhand looping some, though he prefers hitting on both sides. Looping was new to the father, so we spent much of the session on his forehand loop. It's always striking watching the difference in how people of different ages learn. Younger players learn the technique quickly, but can't control it. Older players have trouble with the technique, but have ball control.

Reminder - Sports Psychology Night at MDTTC

Tomorrow, on Friday, June 22, Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay will run a 40-minute sports psychology workshop at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. She runs the table tennis sports psychology page dorakurimay.com, and is the co-author of the book "Get Your Game Face On!" (Here's my review of the book on the USATT website.) The schedule for the night will be: 6:30-7:00PM - book signing; 7:00-7:40PM: Sports Psychology Seminar ($20, which includes a free copy of the book); after 7:40PM: Personalized Sport Psychology Consultation. Here is the flyer for the event. Come join us!

100th ITTF Certified Coach in the U.S.

Here's the story from the ITTF. I ran one of the ITTF coaching seminars in the U.S. last April, and certified fourteen of them. I'm running another in August at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Here's the flyer. If interested, email me. Come join us!

Historical Mistake on the Origins of Table Tennis

Yesterday I linked to a web page that supposedly gave a historical account about the origins of table tennis. Unfortunately I found out that afternoon that the info there was dated. (I've since deleted the link.) I should have known better since I'd read the book "Ping Pong Fever" by Steve Grant, which gave the newest info on the sports origin. (I plead training camp madness - we just started eleven weeks of training camps at MDTTC, so I was a little rushed in putting together the blog.) Here is the account from the ITTF Museum, which was updated to reflect Grant's discoveries, and Grant's own press release on the subject.

New USA International Umpires

Who are they? Here's the story!

Seniors Embrace Table Tennis

Here's the story from the Evanston Review/Sun Times.

Proper Table Tennis Training with Scott Gordon

In honor of the many summer training camps now being run around the country, here is the greatest table tennis training video ever made (2:31).

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June 8, 2012

Too tight when you play?

I'm one of the roughly way-too-many-to-count players who often struggle to get loose before playing, whether in matches or practice. But I have found a solution that works most of the time, and works for many players I coach.

When you start a session (practice or matches), have fun at the start. Let yourself go. If it's practice, start out with something you do really well (preferably something physical, like looping or smashing), and have fun doing it. If it's a match, take it lightly and have fun. The goal in both cases is to relax and loosen up. Once you feel loose - and this shouldn't take too long - then take deep breath, clear your mind, and focus.

When I say focus, this doesn't mean to get super-serious. You can have a clear mind and still smile on the inside. The best players may often look impassive on the outside, but on the inside they are having the time of their life. So lighten up at the start of your sessions, loosen up, then focus, and you may surprise yourself by how well you play.

At the Easterns last weekend, the kid I was coaching, Derek Nie, started the tournament off very nervous, and played horribly in his first match. Afterwards I took him to a back table where we did some counterlooping for a while, joked about, and then played challenge matches where we trash talked. ("I cannot be beaten!" I'd say whenever I win a point," which of course just spurred him on.) In his matches shortly afterwards, he played the best of his life. (See next item.)

Eastern Open Recap

Here's a nice video recap of the Eastern Open last weekend at Rutgers University (2:50). Alas, they somehow missed me, but at 2:25 you can see Derek Nie, the kid I was coaching, who won Under 13, beat players rated 2258 and 2142, and was up double match point on a 2233 player. Not bad for a 60-pounder! (We already have a list of things he needs to work on before the U.S. Open in a few weeks, and he's been training much of this week on them. Sorry, can't report on them here, there are rival coaches reading! Perhaps after the Open. But last night he had a great session with Jeffrey Xeng Xun, one of our 2600-rated coaches, and he seemed to be playing like he had at the Easterns.)

Waldner-Persson Exhibition Point

Here's another nice exhibition between Sweden greats Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson (1:53), with five-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller doing the commentary. (On Monday I'd linked to another exhibition they'd done.)

Why does Waldner come up so often when showing spectacular shots and exhibitions? Actually, today has three items pertaining to Sweden, so we'll belatedly declare today National Day of  Sweden, an national holiday in Sweden that was actual celebrated two days ago, on June 6.)

The Power of Sidespin

Here's a five-minute compilation of spectacular points that feature sidespin, mostly sidespin looping. Perhaps the best one is the one (shown in slow motion) of Sweden's Jan-Ove Waldner that starts right at the one minute mark.

Sweden #1 Denied Olympic Spot?

Matilda Ekholm of Sweden qualified for the Olympics, but the Swedish Olympic Association apparently didn't believe she was good enough or competitive to win an Olympic medal, and so denied her a spot on the Olympic team. She is ranked 51 in the world, the highest ranked Swedish woman. (The next best is Daniela Moskovits, #399 in the world.) For comparison, on the men's side, Sweden is sending, in singles, Par Gerell (world #80) and Jorgen Persson (#88, though of course World Men's Singles Champion in 1991, 21 years ago), and a men's team of Persson, Gerell, and Jens Lundqvist (#48). (Sweden didn't qualify for an Olympic Women's Team.)

There's been a huge outcry about this, culminating in these two letters yesterday to the Swedish Olympic Committee by ITTF President Adham Sharara and Vladimir Samsonov, chair of the ITTF Athlete's Commission (and former world #2 and current #14). There's a Facebook page devoted to her cause. And here's a discussion of the situation on the about.com table tennis forum.

Rapper Yelawolf Plays Table Tennis

Here's a three-minute video interview of rapper Yelawolf, which goes back and forth between him performing and the interview, which seems to take place as he's playing table tennis. You can see him actually playing at 1:09 and 2:20, but at other times he seems to be playing as he talks, though they only show his head (you can hear the ball bouncing back and forth in the background).

Fun with Robots

Here's 33 seconds of someone having fun with a robot at full speed, set to music. Reminded me of a sequence from Forrest Gump, but this wasn't computer generated.

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