Dynamic Table Tennis

October 5, 2012

Value of the Backhand Loop

If I could go back 36 years and tell myself one thing as I was developing my game, I'd tell myself to develop my backhand loop.

Sponges weren't nearly as good back then as modern ones, and so it was much harder to backhand loop with great power without backing well off the table to give yourself time for a bigger swing. The thinking for many was that if you develop your footwork and forehand, you don't need as much of a backhand attack - i.e., "one gun is as good as two." And backhand loop? It was a nice shot, but not really necessary.

And so I didn't really develop a backhand loop until I'd played many years. The result is it's not natural or particularly strong, can be erratic, and is not a particularly instinctive part of my game.

With modern sponges you can loop just about anything, even balls that land short over the table (especially with the backhand, where you can wrist-loop it), and so players pick up the backhand loop early as a dangerous weapon. A good backhand loop gets you out of those pushing rallies (including pushing back deep serves to the backhand) that put you at the mercy of the opponent's loop. Meanwhile, I still struggle to get myself to backhand loop against deep serves (I can't step around and loop forehand every time), and against quick, angled pushes to my backhand, especially after a short serve to my forehand. You don't have to rip these backhand loops; consistency, depth, and spin are key. (You can often get away with a weak loop if it consistently goes deep.)

Just as difficult is backhand looping in a rally. These days many of our up-and-coming juniors backhand loop (often off the bounce) just about everything - or at least topspin their backhands to the point where, compared to backhands of yesteryear, they are backhand loops. This turns players like me into blockers, and not in a good way. 

Not everyone has the athleticism to backhand loop over and over, though most people can if they spend enough time both practicing and (just as important) doing physical training. But just about anyone trained properly can turn their backhand loop into a dangerous weapon against pushes, deep serves to the backhand, and against low but soft blocks. Yes, I mean you, the person reading these words.

So develop that shot, and don't make the mistake I made so many years ago.

More on Backhand Looping

And since we're on the topic of the backhand loop, here's a new video out, "Backhand Loop Training" (6:41) from Dynamic Table Tennis (that's Brian Pace). It shows Brian demonstrating and explaining the backhand loop. Note near the start how he's backhand looping against block almost off the bounce, something few players did when I was starting out (except perhaps for Hungarian great Tibor Klampar).

Here's a tutorial (4:02) on the backhand loop against topspin by ttEdge.

Here's a tutorial (4:12) on the backhand loop against backspin by PingSkills.

Here's a video (1:08) from a year ago of Chinese Coach Liu Guoliang feeding multiball to Ma Long, who is backhand looping against backspin. I don't recommend most of you try to loop with as much speed as Ma, but note that his loops aren't just speed - they have great topspin as well pulling that ball down.

Zhang Jike vs. Timo Boll

Here's a match from the 2012 World Team Championships between world #1 Zhang Jike of China versus the European #1 (and world #1 for three months last year) Timo Boll of Germany, with the time between points removed so it's nine minutes of non-stop action.

Behind the Back Save Against Saive

Here's a video (55 sec) of Marc Closset making a behind-the-back return to win a point at the 2012 Belgian Championships against Jean-Michel Saive. Make sure to watch the slow motion.

How to Win a Key Point

This player has taken his high-toss serve to a new level (0:20).

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June 1, 2012

Easterns

I'm off for the Eastern Open this afternoon, where I'll primarily be coaching Derek Nie, one of the top 11 and under players in the U.S. with a rating of 2136. If you are there, stop by and say hello! 

Adventures of the Ping-Pong Diplomats by Fred Danner

Review by Larry Hodges

If you're a history buff, and enjoy reading the behind-the-scenes happenings in Ping-Pong Diplomacy; war (Chinese Civil War, Korean War, Vietnam War); China, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.; table tennis in the U.S., and even the aerospace industry during the Apollo era, then you'll find this book fascinating. The book is really four short books in one.

Chapters 1-3 (pages 1-86) covers the history that led up to, and the actual events of, the 1971 Ping-Pong Diplomacy trip to China. The three chapters are titled "Setting the Stage for Ping-Pong Diplomacy," "The 1971 World Team's China Trip," and "Who Won the Nobel Peace Prize for Ping-Pong Diplomacy?" These chapters include fascinating background on the Chinese Civil War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and all the political infighting taking place in these countries, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.  The three wars were related in numerous ways, and all led to the eventual Ping-Pong Diplomacy of 1971-72. We also learn how it could have happened in 1961, but the U.S. blew it. The answer to the question posed in the last chapter is nobody won the Novel Peace Prize for any of this, but it goes over the possible recipients and explains why nobody ever did win for it. And here's a hilarious quote from Chairman Mao: "Regard a ping-pong ball as the head of your capitalist enemy. Hit it with your socialist bat, and you have won the point for the fatherland."

Chapters 4 and 6 (pages 89-125 and 162-170, "The Growth of Long Island Table Tennis" and "Table Tennis Becomes a Family Affair") cover the growth of Long Island Table Tennis, as well as how it became a family affair for the Danners. Slowly but inexorably Fred found himself running more and bigger events in Long Island (clubs, leagues, and tournaments) and for USTTA (now USATT), until it led to the U.S. Open (he was Operations Director) and the Long Island stop for Ping-Pong Diplomacy in 1972. He also begins to travel to tournaments with his son Carl, now a prominent player and coach in the bay area in California. Did you know that the 1972 U.S. Open in Long Island, forty years ago, had 725 entries? (A few years later these numbers would break a thousand in Houston and Oklahoma City.) For perspective, last year's U.S. Open in Milwaukee had 607. Fred also shows how the world has changed since those days, explaining how USTTA kept records in those non-computer days: "Each membership application required writing or typing the player's name and address nine times."

Chapter 5 (pages 126-161, "Life in the Long Island Aerospace Industry") is about life in the Long Island Aerospace Industry in the '60s, where Fred worked during the many years he was also working with Long Island Table Tennis. In some ways this seemed a bit off-topic, but it was related in various ways to Fred's continuing table tennis endeavors, in particular since all the corporate infighting both interfered with and somewhat mirrored what was going on in the world of table tennis, both in Long Island and the political intrigues in the background of Ping-Pong Diplomacy in the various wars and countries involved. Much of the chapter was about infighting and politics at Grumman Aviation, including their fights with GE and other companies as they bid for various aspects of the Apollo 11 trip to the moon. We also learn about the theft of atom bomb designs by the Soviets, how we could have avoided the Korean War, and how we outwitted the Soviets by helping to bring table tennis and China into the Olympics.

Chapter 7 (pages 171-204, "LITTA's Big Year: The U.S.-China Matches") is about the Chinese National Team's U.S. trip, covering primarily their stop in Long Island, and how that came to be, rather than it being in the New York City's Madison Square Garden, as New York City Mayor John Lindsey wanted. (He doesn't come off very well in the book.)

Now who is Fred Danner? He's not only one of the 134 members of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame (inducted as a contributor in 1993), but he's also one of the 14 recipients of the Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award (2010). Fred has a long career promoting table tennis both in Long Island and with USATT. He was instrumental in getting table tennis in the Olympics. He was president of the Long Island Table Tennis Association, founded the National Junior Table Tennis Foundation, wrote the National School Table Tennis Guide, and was at various times USTTA's Junior Development Chair, Membership Chair, Treasurer, Corresponding Secretary, and Vice President. He also got USTTA its tax exempt status.

You'll note this is Volume 1. Volume 2 will cover what Fred calls "$7,000,000 worth of favorable publicity" as a result of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, and the various contrasting ideas on how USTTA should proceed, and the resulting successes and failures. (A third volume is also planned.)

The book has a catchy cover, with USA's D-J Lee (6-time U.S. Men's Champion) serving to a Chinese opponent against a background made up of the U.S. and Chinese flags and the earth as seen from space. It is available at amazon.com for $29.59 (hardcover), $13.22 (soft cover), and $3.99 (ebook). 

This is the third book I know of in English that covers Ping-Pong Diplomacy, at least from the table tennis angle. The other two are "History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 5," by Tim Boggan, $40, which covers the Ping-Pong Diplomacy Years, 1971-72, available at timboggantabletennis.com (along with his other eleven books on U.S. Table Tennis History); and "The Origin of Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Forgotten Architect of Sino-U.S. Rapprochement" by Shigeo Itoh (1969 World Men's Champion from Japan), available at amazon.com for $90 or $65 used.

Backhand Loop

Here's a new video from Coach Brian Pace from Dynamic Table Tennis on Setting up the Backhand Loop in Competition (8:38).

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Returning a Drop Shot (1:41)

Celebrating 40 Years of U.S.-China Exchanges

Here's a video that highlights 40 years of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" (2:36).

Erica Wu in LA Times

Here's an article in yesterday's LA Times on U.S. Table Tennis Olympian Erica Wu.

Spelling Bee Ping-Pong Champion

Table Tennis Nation explains why Nicholas Rushlow, ping-pong player, will win the National Spelling Bee. (He didn't.)

Non-Table Tennis - How to Kill a Dragon

My fantasy story "In the Belly of the Beast" (6600 words) went up on Electric Spec yesterday. A sorcerer with a unique method for slaying dragons is swallowed by his dragon prey. While in the dragon's stomach, he uses a force field to protect himself, his daughter, and others, all of whom have also been swallowed. He abandoned his daughter when she was a child to go to sorcery school, and she doesn't recognize him. To her, there is the inept sorcerer in the dragon's stomach; the father who abandoned her; and the famous dragonslayer on the way to rescue them. She doesn't know that all three are the same. Most of the story takes place in the stomach of the dragon, which features the only battle between a wizard and a warrior in the belly of a dragon in history.

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