Forehand Topspin

June 27, 2012

MDTTC Camp - Week Two, Day Two

Yesterday was Day Two of the second week of our summer camps. The focus was on the backhand. After the break I gave a talk on return of serve, and then the players practiced serve and receive.

There was a lot of interest in the fast serves I demonstrated. This has always been a strength of mine, but for some reason my fast serves yesterday seemed amped up a bit, and were going out like guided missiles. During break I told the story of the time I opened a match against 1986 U.S. National Champion Hank Teekaveerakit with three aces down the line, one of my proudest moments. He was a penhold forehand looper who tried to loop all deep serves with his forehand. My fast down-the-line serve always looks like it's going crosscourt, and so he got caught going the wrong way three times in a row. After the third, he looked at me, and said (and this was how he always pronounced my name), "Lally, Lally, nobody serves down the line three times in a row!" The rest of the game he received with his backhand, and he came back to win the game. In game two, he went back to trying to loop all my serves, and we had a great time playing sort of cat and mouse as I threw fast serves both down the line and crosscourt, and he tried (and mostly succeeded) in forehand looping them all. He won, and said it was a great practice session. 

Three Days until the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids

Are you shadow practicing your strokes?

PingSkills Videos

Here are three more PingSkills coaching videos:

Jim Butler on Scorekeepers

Here's an article by three-time U.S. Men's National Champion and two-time Olympian Jim Butler on scorekeepers.

Jeffrey Wins JOOLA Open in Newport News

Fellow MDTTC coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun won the JOOLA Open in Newport News this past weekend. Here's the article!

Topspin, the Documentary

Here's the latest on this video project, including a video (3:33).

Pings and Pongs

I'm putting all my books in ebook and POD (print on demand) formats so I can sell them directly on line. For "practice," I started with "Pings and Pongs," an anthology of my 30 best science fiction & fantasy stories, all previously sold stories to various markets. (It includes "Ping-Pong Ambition," a fantasy table tennis story, and a few other stories have table tennis references.) Since it has few pictures, it was relatively easy to do as a test. Here's the page - make sure to buy a few dozen copies! Later on all my other books will be sold in these formats: Table Tennis: Steps to Success; Table Tennis Tales & Techniques; Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis; Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook; and the upcoming Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide. (I'm creating the pages myself in both formats, but it's a slow process since we're also in the middle of the summer camps season at MDTTC.)

Exhibition Picture from 1990s

Here's a picture from an exhibition at the USA Nationals, I believe in the late 1990s, between Chen Xinhua (standing on table) and Cheng Yinghua (sitting on table), with USATT President Sheri Pittman also joining in. As Jim Butler points out above, with no scorekeeper we have no idea what's going on here . . . right?

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April 3, 2012

Wang Liqin didn't show up

Alas, Wang Liqin didn't show up at the airport yesterday. (See my blog yesterday about this.) Neither did I, since it was of course an April Fool's Joke. I couldn't actually do it on April 1, since that was a Sunday and I blog Mon-Fri, so I started the blog off by writing, "As reported yesterday..." The story spread through the Internet like wildfire. Several players at our Spring Break camp heard about it and thought it might be true. I received dozens of emails. This despite my talking about his nine-year-old superstar son Tongtong (Tong Tong Gong is the top rated cadet in Maryland), about his science fiction writing career (including "a story he wrote of a boy growing up playing table tennis in a futuristic world where players were more technicians than athletes with futuristic paddles covered with dials and buttons" - I'm a SF writer, not him!), and so on.

Strangest and weirdest shots in table tennis

I would rarely, if ever, do these shots in a serious match - but in practice? Why not. I do all of these sometimes, especially near the end of practice matches against lower players, especially kids, who often enjoy the variation from the norm.

  • Backspin lobs. Not against smashes - I do these against serves and pushes. The goal is to make the ball land as short as possible, and to bounce backwards. Then either the opponent is caught off guard and can't even touch it as it bounces backwards, or they go to the side of the table and cream it. In the latter case, however, they often hit downward so much that there's little forward motion, and so all I have to do is run to where the ball will drop and either lob against or perhaps counter-attack. I do this shot against most of the kids in practice matches, usually the last point or two.
  • Forehand tomahawk lobs. If some smashes to your wide forehand, why not do one of these? With the racket tip up, sidespin lob the ball back so that when it hits the opponent's side, it bounces nearly sideways to the left (away from a right-handed opponent). It's almost impossible for most players to smash this ball anywhere except cross-court - especially since they often make a last-second lunge at the unexpected sideways jump - and so they keep smashing to the wide forehand, allowing you to keep tomahawking your lobs. (Interesting note - James Therriault, the premier U.S. lobber from the late 80's and 90's, lobbed like this on his forehand rather than the conventional way, with the tip down.)
  • Backspin comeback serves. You serve the ball high, but with so much backspin it bounces back. (Sort of like the backspin lob described above.) If done properly, the ball bounces back over the net. If the opponent doesn't come around to the side, he gets aced. Even if he goes to the side of the table he's often late and can't make a strong shot. But if he does get there in time, it's an easy kill for him at wide angles. Of course if you serve it really high, then it's like a chop lob, and if the opponent mistakenly smashes straight down, you may be able to run it down.
  • Fifty-foot serve. If you have fifty feet between tables (or even if you don't), why not try this serve? It's great for exhibitions. Serve from about fifty feet away, directly from the side of the table. You can do it either forehand tomahawk (racket tip up, so it curves to the left for a righty) or forehand pendulum (racket tip down, so it curves right for a righty) style, though you can probably get more distance tomahawk style. Serve high into the air well behind the table, and let it curve back, and bounce on both sides of the table. If you actually practice this serve, you'll find it easier than it looks, assuming you can put good spin on your serves. Once you land one the others become easier.
  • Underhand counter-smash. When lobbing, if the opponent smashes to your middle but not too hard, why do a conventional return? Counter-smash underhanded. I saw Jan-Ove Waldner do this in a match once, and have added it to my annual repertoire of shots. (Annual as in I land one about once a year. I did one in a tournament one time and won the point.)
  • Forehand pendulum return. If you have a good forehand pendulum serve, and you get a ball hit at your middle, why not return it with the forehand pendulum motion? I've done this a few times even in serious matches. I first saw this shot in the late 1970s by Charles Butler, a two-winged looper rated about 2300, who was about 6'4" with very long arms. He had a huge middle, and sometimes used this shot to cover for it.
  • Scissors-kick smash. Against a lob, why not jump in the air and do a mid-air scissors kick as you smash the ball? Dan Seemiller is very good at this - it's how he smashes most lobs. And it looks great in exhibitions. It's actually a serious shot, as it allows you to hit the ball from a higher point than normal, and the scissors kick adds power.
  • Blowing the ball back. This should be the standard way to return high, no-spin balls. My record is 33 in a row.

150th five-day camp

I believe the Spring Break Camp I'm running this week at the MDTTC (along with my co-coaches, with 30+ players) is the 150th five-day camp I've run. It's possible I forgot a few from the 1990s, in which case I've done more than 150. That's 750 days of running training camps, or over two years of my life. Not to mention yesterday, today, and the next three days, with six hours of coaching in the camp per day, plus private coaching.

This summer we'll be running camps all summer long, Mon-Fri, starting June 18 and ending Aug. 24 - that's eleven straight camps. Co-coaches are Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. See you there!

A faster forehand topspin

Here's a video from PingSkills on developing a faster forehand topspin (2:15).

Keith Pech to College Nationals

And here's the article!

Martina Navratilova playing table tennis

Here's a 32-second video of the tennis great playing table tennis - and check out her smash five seconds in!

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