Primorac

February 5, 2013

Tim Boggan Arrives

This morning at 9:30 AM Tim Boggan will arrive for a 10-14 day stay. I'll be doing the page layouts (500+) and photo work (800+) for his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13 (as I've done for the past ones). Here's Tim's page (which I created and maintain for him), where you can buy the previous volumes.

Since we'll be working all day, Mon-Fri, until it's done, and since I'll be mostly coaching nights and weekends, I won't have much free time the next two weeks. (I'll be doing most of the blog late at night instead of early in the morning, since Tim will be up and waiting to get started early each morning.) If anyone is dreaming of asking me to do a time-wasting favor for them, well, here's what I have to say about that.

Tactical Matches

Here are more examples of tactics used this past weekend in practice matches.

In one I played a player with a really nice forehand smash. Just about anything that went there he'd smash (even my pushes if I weren't careful), and if I put the ball slow to his backhand, he'd step around and smash that as well. What to do? I took most short serves right off the bounce to his wide backhand with banana flips, which kept his forehand out of play. If the serve went long, I looped, again always wide to the backhand. I varied my serve, following them up with attack - you guessed it - into his wide backhand. His backhand blocking wasn't nearly as strong, and he almost never got a chance to smash. This was a case where he was literally waiting for me to go to this forehand so he could smash, so I almost never did, not unless he wandered toward his backhand side.

In another match I played an extremely fast junior who could pound the ball from both sides to all parts of the table, and was much quicker than me. There's no way I could really cover the whole table in a rally against him. Since he was using standard placement tactics - every ball to the wide corners or at my elbow - I employed a tactic I've blogged about before. I stood in a slight forehand stance, but toward my backhand side. I covered the wide backhand and middle with my backhand, using his own pace to rebound the ball back, countering the balls back wide to his backhand to keep his forehand out of play. I could barely keep up the pace he was setting, but eventually he'd change directions and go to my forehand. The instant I saw the change, I would step to the wide forehand and counter-attack. The two keys to that forehand counter-attack were 1) I was already standing with my feet in a forehand position so I'd be ready, and 2) I didn't look to see where the ball would go on my forehand side - I anticipated it would go wide. Essentially this moves my middle toward my forehand side. If his shot went a foot inside the forehand corner, I'd have been stuck (like a player caught with a ball hit at their elbow), but that's not how players are trained - and so I won.

Other tactics used in this match - lots of receive variation to throw him off, with flips, loops, and short and long pushes. When I attacked (mostly by looping except in fast rallies), I went after his forehand, which took his angle into my backhand away so I was able to follow with another forehand.

In another match against a big-looping junior with a passive receive I served lots of varied short serves. He'd push them, even chopping down on the side-top serves so he could push them low. But the key was that he was predictable, as well as vulnerable to varied amounts of backspin, sidespin, and topspin, since he was trying to push or chop-block them all back. So I could anticipate slow backspin returns every time, and since I didn't have to guard against a flip, I could go for a forehand loop every time. (Whenever it got close, I'd throw a fast, deep serve at him for a free point - he was rarely ready for it.) On his serve (almost all short) I mostly flipped to his wide backhand or dropped it short. Sometimes he'd wind up and rip a backhand loop; when he did that, I knew he was anticipating it, and on the next receive I'd aim to his backhand, and at the last second flip to his wide forehand. It got him every time.

British Rock Band Challenges Justin Bieber

The band Lawson has challenged Justin Bieber at table tennis. Who will win?

Chico Table Tennis Club

Here's an article about the Chico TTC in Durham, CA.

Kong Linghui on the Women's Trials

Here's an article about Kong Linghui, the Chinese Women's Coach. "The Squad Trials is getting much harder!"

New World Rankings

Here's an article on the new world rankings. Zhang Jike drops to third! Here are the new rankings.

Lunar Cup Matches and an Exhibition

The 2013 Lunar New Year Cup Challenge Match was held in China, with the top six Chinese players competing: Xu Xin, Zhang Jike, and Ma Long against Chen Qi, Wang Liqin, and Wang Hao. (Actual matches are Xu vs. Chen; Zhang vs. Wang Liqin; and Ma Long vs. Wang Hao.) Also featured is an exhibition by former superstars Guo Yuehua and Chen Xinhua. Here's where you can watch the videos.

The Best of Samsonov, Schlager, Boll, Kreanga, and Primorac

Here's a highlights video (7:53) featuring many of the best European players.

1946 U.S. National Ping-Pong Championships

Here's vintage video footage (1:06) from the 1946 U.S. Open. It features several clips of Laszlo Bellak clowning around for the camera, including blowing the ball sideways (hey, that's my trick!), rallying by kicking the ball back, and other tricks.

Air Gun Fires Ping-Pong Balls at 900 MPH

See what happens when a ping-pong ball traveling Mach 1.2 strikes a ping-pong paddle!

Table Tennis Cookies

Mmmmmmm...

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November 28, 2012

Serving to Backhand

I am always amazed at how many players do the same type of serve over and Over and OVER - a serve from the backhand side crosscourt to the receiver's backhand. Watching this it also becomes obvious that receivers are so used to this type of serve that they have little trouble returning it. Why don't servers challenge the receiver with more variations?

First, there are good reasons to serve from the backhand side to the receiver's backhand. Here are a few:

  1. By serving from the backhand side, it allows the server to follow-up against a weak return with his forehand.
  2. Many players can't serve short effectively, and if they serve to the forehand, the serve will likely be looped. Most players loop better on the forehand than on the backhand.
  3.  If they serve short to the forehand, they have to guard against a wide forehand angled receive, which leaves them open on the backhand side to a down-the-line receive.
  4. Players have less reach on the backhand, and a breaking serve to the backhand can make them reach for the ball.

These are good reasons. However, they forget the most important goal of serving - to mess the opponent up. And you don't do that by giving him what he's used to over and over. Variation is key. You can serve crosscourt to the backhand with varying spin, but that's just one type of variation. Serving from and to different parts of the table are other ways of varying the serve to mess up an opponent.

Perhaps most important of all, most players have great difficulty returning short serves to the forehand effectively, and many have the same trouble with deep ones. Why not develop these serves and take advantage of this? Every opponent is different, so go in there armed with whatever might be needed.

I once played a player who could attack any of my serves with his backhand, and loop any deep serve with his forehand. When I served down the line short to the forehand, he reached over and flipped with his backhand. The solution? I stepped over to my forehand side and served nearly every ball from there the rest of the match, where I had an angle to his forehand side that forced him to use his weak forehand receive. I won.

This past weekend at the Teams I played a few matches, and struggled to move on the cement floors. So I adopted the tactic of simply throwing every serve I had at each opponent, with huge variations - what I call "cycling" my serves. It worked well, with opponents struggling to get any of my serves back. One opponent began backhand flipping in my short serves with his backhand. So like the example given above, I began serving half the time from the forehand side into his short forehand.

I once played a blocker where I varied my serves, and lost the first game. When I served to his backhand, he won most of the points. When I served to his forehand, whether long or short, I won most of the points. I threw conventional tactics and most variation out the window and served to his forehand exclusively the rest of the match and won easily.

I've played opponents that could loop any deep serve and flip any short sidespin or topspin serve. So I'd focus on short backspin and no-spin combinations. Amazingly, after a steady diet of those serves, sudden deep serves or short sidespin or topspin serves suddenly became effective.

Every opponent is different. When serving to different opponents, you should be different as well. (See also this week's Tip of the Week, Serving Short to Forehand and Long to Backhand, where I talk about making the receiver cover seven feet of diagonal table while turning him into a pretzel.)

Ian (and Mitch) Seidenfeld

Here's an ITTF article on Ian Seidenfeld, 11, the youngest competitor at the Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament, a Paralympian tournament in San Diego, Nov. 29 - Dec. 1.

Primorac vs. Maze Point

Here's a 59-second video of "Primorac's Greatest Point," where he's ripping ball after ball against a lobbing, fishing, and counterlooping Michael Maze.

Auburn University Campus Table Tennis

Here's their outdoor ping-pong center!

Kid vs. Cat - the Showdown!

Here's a 35-second video of a kid and a cat playing table tennis - really! Sort of.

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April 16, 2012

Tip of the Week

Where to Place Your Spin Serves.

Modern juniors

I blogged on last Wednesday (April 11) about how modern sponges make looping so much easier. Even younger kids in the U.S. are playing looping games that would have been almost unimaginable 5-10 years ago. While the sponge makes much of this possible, much of this is because there are far more full-time training centers now than before, and so far more full-time junior programs, and so far more juniors training regularly at a high level. The level and depth of cadets and junior players is now stronger than ever in our history. (I blogged about this on Jan. 4, 2012).

The down side is that, at any given level, while the looping is spectacular, the table game is probably a bit weaker, especially return of serve. For example, I think previous generations of juniors were more sophisticated in their receive, since they couldn't rely on all-out attack and counterlooping as much, plus their sponge wasn't as bouncy, so they had more touch. This is especially true on short serves to the forehand, where many modern junior players in the U.S. seem weak. I think previous generations could push short better, while the modern generation can attack short serves better.

I'm tempted to say blocking is not as good among modern juniors, but that's not quite true - there's so much looping going on that this generation of juniors is probably as good blocking as previous ones, at least on the backhand. However, on the forehand, where everyone's mostly counterlooping, the somewhat infrequent blocks aren't as good.

College Championships results

The National Collegiate Championships were held this past weekend - and here are the results!

Michael Landers Wheaties box

Following the footsteps of George Hendry (who appeared on the back of a Wheaties box in 1936 at age 15, before they started putting athletes on the cover), 17-year-old Michael Landers will be on the cover of an upcoming Wheaties box - and here's the picture!

Ma Long Multiball

Here's a video (1:08) of China's world #1 Ma Long doing backhand loop multiball with China's men's head coach Liu Guoliang. Look at the power of those shots!

Primorac vs. Maze

Here's a TV news report (1:06) from 2008 of a great point played at match point between Zoran Primorac of Croatia and Michael Maze of Denmark.

AAAA

At our recent Spring Break Camp, we had three inseparable girls, all about age 9, and all named Emily. (I blogged about this.) Now I'm teaching a small group of four beginners, and their names are Ava, Anton, Ambo, Anmo. Forget Triple A; we've got Quadruple A!

Top Ten Signs Your Table Tennis Club is Too Big

The following was inspired by watching a bunch of kids actually playing hide and seek at the newly expanded Maryland Table Tennis Center. The place is huge, and full of prime hiding spots.

  1. The kids play hide and seek on break. The hiders usually win.
  2. Opponents can't hear you call the score because of the echo.
  3. If they raise the Titanic, they plan to store it at your club.
  4. Lewis and Clark are exploring the club.
  5. The club has its own zip code, its own area code, its own flag, and in the morning kids at school put their hands over their hearts and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Club.
  6. From the front you can't see the tables in the back because of the Earth's curvature.
  7. Lobbers James Therriault and Nison Aronov have enough room to play.
  8. White balls aren't allowed because when you play a lobber you can't see them against the cumulus clouds in the rafters.
  9. There's a football stadium in the lobby.
  10.  You can fit about 90 million ping-pong balls in the club, according to Kepler's Conjecture. (Assuming 10,000 square feet, 15' ceiling, 74% packing efficiency, and the volume of a ball at 2.14 square inches.)

Ultrabook Table Tennis Tournament

Here's a hilarious video (4:59) of the Toshiba Intel Ultrabook Challenge - a tournament where players used these super-thin laptop computers are rackets!

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