Weaker Players

September 11, 2013

Practicing with Weaker Players

Reader Allen Lin asks me how best to practice with lower-rated players. This comes up regularly at clubs. In a practice match, a lower-rated player cannot consistently push a stronger player. However, just because a player is lower rated doesn't mean everything they do is weaker. There are two ways to get the most out of playing or practicing with weaker players.

First, do practice drills where you play into the weaker player's strengths. Perhaps he can't loop, but can he block? Or perhaps he can't block, but he can loop? Or maybe he has a very good push to practice against. Or good serves. Examine his game and find the best of it, and that's what you can practice against. It's not all one-way, however - he wants practice as well, so take turns. In fact, if you look long turn, you can turn that "weaker" player into a peer that'll give you even more practice and competition. Even if he doesn't reach your level he'll get used to your shots, and at least when he plays you he'll be a good practice partner.

Second, play practice matches where you intentionally play into the weaker player's strengths. If he can't handle your best serves, hold back on them. (Unless, of course, he objects.) Find ways to play what you need to practice against his strengths.  You may risk losing this way, but this is practice. When I play weaker players I often just serve short backspin over and over, and when they push it, I go for a forehand loop on the next shot over and over. It's great footwork and looping practice for me, especially as the opponent realizes what I'm doing and begins to push quicker, wider, lower, heavier, and with last-second changes of direction. He doesn't have to be very good to learn to do this, and it makes me play my very best to get to all these pushes with my forehand. Or if your partner can't block or attack well but has a nice counter-hitting game, serve lots of topspin and go at it with him.

ITTF Level 2 Course

Here's the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 2 I took last week and blogged about yesterday. It includes the following: "Special congratulations to Larry Hodges who scored a rare perfect score of 20." (The article is also linked from the USATT web page.) In the classroom picture I'm on the very far side. The names in the group picture are, L-R, Richard McAfee, Simplice Sourou, Jeff Smart, Larry Hodges, Lily Yip, Nelson Gore, Barry Dattel, Sydney Christophe, Doon Wong, Roger Yuen, and Mieczyslaw "Matt" Suchy.

USA Sandpaper Team

Want to go to the $100,000 World Championships of Ping Pong in London in January, 2014? Here's the info page. "Dr. Mike Babuin, World Championship of Ping Pong USA Qualifier Director, announced today the format for USA players to qualify for the 2014 World Championship of Ping Pong to be played in London, England in January 2014. There are spots for two USA players."

Effective Service Practice

Here's a short article on Serving Practice from Table Tennis Master.

ITTF Trick Shot Showdown

Think you can do trick shots? Then enter the Stiga ITTF Trick Shot Competition! I'm toying with entering something...

Ola from New Zealand

A Piotr "Peter" Ratka from New Zealand is trying to raise money for his 15-year-old daughter Ola Ratka's training. (She is a member of the New Zealand National Women's Squad.) To do so he's created and is selling the Kiwi Ball Picker for picking up balls, with all profits going to her training.

She's also entered in the AMP "Do Your Thing" People's Choice Scholarship. Piotr is asking for your vote - so if you like table tennis and want to support her, go to Ola's Page and vote!

Ma Long is Chinese Men's Singles Champion

He defeats Fan Zhendong in the final, 7,-9,7,-9,-7,9,6. Here's the article, which includes a link to video of the final.

Three Futuristic Ping-Pong Tables

Here they are, from UBERPONG.

Insane Backhand

Here's video (32 sec) of an insane backhand!

History of U.S. Table Tennis

USATT has been running weekly excerpts from Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis. Up right now is Chapter 15 of Volume 13, the most recent one, from 1984. (About 2/3 through there's a long excerpt from an article I wrote back then on serving short and returning short serves. Yep, I was writing coaching articles way back then!)

Manga Ping Pong Comic Books

Here they are!

Non-Table Tennis on the 12th Anniversary of 9-11:
TUMBLING TOWERS IN THE DARKEST NIGHT

The jets soared down from high and bright,
Tumbling towers in the darkest night,
3000 died in this crazy blight,
Who brought forth this unspeakable sight?

Towers toppled from a monster’s spite,
Bodies crushed with no chance of flight,
What was, to a madman, the highest height,
For the rest brought forth just rage and fright.

The world exploded in a bigger fight.
We bombed and killed in a show of might.
We avenged the act because we were right.
But when will humanity see the light?
-Larry Hodges

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May 7, 2012

Tip of the Week

How to Play and Practice with Weaker Players.

Returning the tomahawk serve

This is the serve where you serve with the racket tip up, and contact the ball on the right side, so it curves to the left, and the spin makes the ball come to your right off the opponent's paddle. It's awkward for many to take a ball spinning away from them on the forehand side and aim to the right, especially if the ball is short - try it and you'll see why. Until you reach the advanced levels, nearly everyone returns this serve toward the forehand side, and often they miss by going off the side to the left, or they allow the opponent to camp out on the forehand side. (This is for two righties; lefties make the usual adjustments. Sorry.)

Now think about this. Have you ever missed returning this serve by returning off the right side? Probably not. So just take it down the line, to the (righty's) backhand, knowing the sidespin will keep you from going off the side. Contact the back of the ball, perhaps slightly on the left side, so that the ball goes to the right, down the line.

Keep the racket relatively high - don't lower it as you chase after it as it bounces and spins away from you, or you'll end up lifting the ball high or off the end. Better still, don't chase after it - anticipate the ball jumping away from you and be waiting for it, like a hunter ambushing his prey. It's often this last-second reaching for the ball that both loses control and forces the receiver to hit the ball on the right side, thereby making down-the-line returns impossible. (An expanded version of this might become a Tip of the Week.)

Learn to Pong Like a Champ

Here's Part 3  of 3 from 2011 USA National Men's Singles Champion Peter Li, covering 1) Making Your Service Count; 2) Ball Placement; and 3) Staying Low. It's given both in text form and video (2:05). (Here's Part 1 and Part 2.)

ITTF Global Junior Circuit

Here's info on the Global Junior Circuit Events to be held at the 2012 U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30 - July 4.

Ariel Hsing takes on Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill

To find out who won in the Olympian's match-ups against the two richest people in the world (depending on the date - the rankings change regularly but Gates and Buffet usually lead the list), see the article, which includes a video of them playing (1:18). Here are some pictures. And here's an article about it in Chinese!

U.S. Olympian Erica Wu

Here's an article and video (2:28) on new U.S. Olympian Erica Wu from a demonstration at her school. (Here's another article about it, which I posted on Friday.)

Tara Profitt and the Paralympics

Here's a Fox New Video of wheelchair player Tara Profitt (4:33), who will be playing the 2012 Paralympics.

Trek Stemp and baseball

He's not in the big leagues yet, but here's an article about the young phenom, which includes the following quote: "A big thing that helps playing infield — it may sound weird — pingpong," Stemp said. "Me and my friends play a lot of pingpong. A big part of pingpong is hand-eye coordination. That ball comes at you so fast."

The first table tennis political ad

Now they are using table tennis officiating to criticize political opponents! Now they've gone too far....

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