Mo Zhang

June 30, 2014

Last Blog Until Tuesday, July 8, and the U.S. Open

This morning I'm flying out to the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, along with a large group of other Maryland players. So no more blogs until after I return next week. I'm mostly coaching, though I'm entered in two hardbat doubles events (Open and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles, but I normally play with sponge). When I'm free I'll probably be watching matches or hanging out at the Butterfly booth - stop by and say hello! Better still, buy one of my books (likely on sale at the Butterfly and Paddle Palace booths), and I'll sign it. Prove to me that you read my blog by saying the secret password: "I'm a pushy pushover for power pushing pushers." (Better write that down!) 

Here's the U.S. Open press release, which went out on June 18. Here's the U.S. Open Program Booklet. And here's the U.S. Open Home page. Here's the player listing of the 705 players entered (click on their name and you can see what events they are entered in), the event listing (which shows who is entered in each event), and the results (which won't show results for this Open until events start coming in on Tuesday, though can see results of past Opens and Nationals there).

Tip of the Week

Forehand or Backhand Serve & Attack.

Tactics Coaching

I had my final tactics coaching session with Kaelin and Billy on Friday. We revisited the tactics of playing choppers to go over how to play chopper/loopers, which are a bit different than playing more passive choppers. (For one thing, you can't just topspin soft over and over or they'll attack.) Then we went over playing long pips blockers, and I pulled out one of my long pips rackets, the one with no sponge, and demonstrated what good long pips players can do if you don't play them smart - not just blocking back loops with heavy backspin, but also how they can push-block aggressively against backspin, essentially doing a drive with a pushing motion.

Next we covered the tactics of pushing. The thing I stressed most is that it's not enough to be very good at a few aspects of pushing; you have to be pretty good at all aspects. This means being able to push pretty quick off the bounce, with pretty good speed, pretty good backspin, pretty low to the net, pretty deep, pretty well angled, and be pretty good at last second changes of direction. If you do all of these things pretty well, you'll give even advanced players major fits. If you do four or five these things well, and perhaps even very well, but are weak at one or two of them, a top player will make you pay for it. We also went over pushing short, and how you can also change directions with them at the last second.

Then we covered the tactics of playing different styles - loopers (both one-winged and two-winged loopers); the "flat" styles (blockers, counter-hitters, and hitters); and playing fishers & lobbers. When you play a fisher or lobber, mostly smash at the wide backhand and middle. The goal isn't to win the point outright, though that'll often happen with a good smash. The goal is to get a lob that lands shorter on the table, which you can smash for a wide-angle winner, either inside-out with sidespin to the wide backhand, or a clean winner to the forehand. You don't want to challenge the forehand of most lobbers as they usually have more range and spin on that side, and can counter-attack much better there.

I'd given them an assignment the day before to come with an example of one player that they had trouble playing against so we could go over the tactics that might work there. By an amazing coincidence, they independently chose the same player, a top lefty from their club. So we went over how to play that player. Poor guy doesn't know what's about to hit him!

And so ended our five hours of tactics coaching. But it's all written down in Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!

Coach Chen Jian

The last few days before the U.S. Open we had some guests from China, who came to MDTTC to train before the U.S. Open. Heading the group was Coach Chen Jian. He's the former National Junior Coach for China, who coached Zhang Jike and Ma Long as juniors in international events. Now he's the head coach of the full-time Ni Rui club in Hang Zhou, China. Since I was busy coaching in our camp, I only barely noticed him the first few days. But on Friday, after the camp finished, I got to watch him do a session with one of our top players, Nathan Hsu. Nathan just turned 18, and is about to spend three months training in China, including at least a month under Coach Chen. The session was great to watch as he made some changes in Nathan's footwork and strokes. It was all in Chinese, but Ryan Dabbs gave a running translation for me, and Nathan told me about it afterwards.

MDTTC Camp

On Friday we finished Week Two of our ten weeks of summer camps. Because of the U.S. Open I'll be missing Week Three, but coaches Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang are staying home to run that, along with Raghu Nadmichettu and others.

During a short lecture and demo on forehand looping against heavy backspin, I demoed the stroke, and as I often do, held a ball in my playing hand as I did this, releasing it at the end of the stroke to show how the power is going both forward and up. Except this time the ball went up and got stuck in an air conditioning fixture! The kids found that very funny, and we're out another ball.

I also verified something I've always known: given a choice, younger kids seem to like scorekeeping with a scoreboard more than actually playing matches. We did an informal tournament on Friday, and I brought out a scoreboard, which some of them had never seen before. At least two kids were near tears when told they had to play matches, and so couldn't scorekeep. ("But I want to keep score!!!") They battled over control of the scoreboard, and most matches ended up with two or three kids simultaneously and together flipping the score each time.

As I've noted in past blogs, I spend most of these camps working with the beginners and younger players. It wasn't like this for most of our 22 years, but three years ago coaches Cheng and Jack asked if I'd do that during our summer camps. But on Friday I finally did a session with some of the advanced players, and had a great time. We focused on multiball training where I fed backspin followed by topspin, and the player had to loop the first, and either loop or smash the second (depending on their style and level of development).

Table Tennis Lawsuit

Here's a strange one. I received an email this weekend from a lawyer representing a woman who was injured while playing table tennis on a cruise, and was suing the cruise ship! They asked if I could be their table tennis advisor. I don't think that knowing about table tennis is going to help deciding whether the ship was liable for the woman's injuries. She apparently received her injury when she went to retrieve the ball and "struck her face on an unmarked stairwell railing immediately adjacent to the table where she was playing." I told them I didn't have much experience in the safety aspects of table tennis pertaining to this and didn't have time anyway, and gave them contact info for USATT. (Sorry, USATT!)

Dimitrij Ovtcharov's Physical Training

Here's the page with links to numerous videos - his trainer is creative!

Kanak Jha and Mo Zhang win North American Titles

Here's the ITTF article.

Photos from the North America Cup

Here they are

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirty-six down, 65 to go!

  • Day 64: The President’s Views on the Ban of Speed Glue, Part I
  • Day 65: Dr. Amen Questions: "Table tennis is the perfect brain exercise"
  • Day 66: Junior Commission Chair Dennis Davis

Zhang Jike Used Ma Long to Prove Something

Here's the article.

Thomas Weikert on Chinese Domination

Here's the interview with the incoming ITTF President. 

Table Tennis: Like a Fish and Water

Here's the article on junior star Michael Tran. 

Xu Xin Shows the Power of Lob

Here's the video (50 sec) as he lobs and counter-attacks against Ma Long.

Ariel Hsing - Photos from Princeton

Here are seven photos of our three-time National Women's Singles Champion in various poses, including some table tennis ones.

Justin Timberlake Plays Table Tennis!

Here's the picture

Miller Light Commercial

Here's video (31 sec) of a new Miller Light Commercial, with "water" table tennis four seconds in (but only for a second). 

Net-hugging Cat Playing Ping-Pong

It's been a while since I've posted a new video of a cat playing table tennis, so here's 27 seconds of a cat playing while hugging the net.

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June 27, 2014

Tactics Coaching

Yesterday I had my fourth one-hour tactics session with Kaelin and Billy, with one more session scheduled for today. (See blogs the last three days.) Today we started off by going over the tactics for playing lefties. The most important thing here, of course, is to play lefties so you get used to them. For most, the trickiest part is returning their serves effectively, especially pendulum serves that break away from a righty to his wide forehand. These serves can be deep, they can go off the side, or they can double bounce on the forehand side. There are a number of tricks to returning them. First, anticipate the break so you aren't lunging after the ball. Second, if you do reach for the ball, don't lower your racket as you do so as it'll end up too low, and you'll either have to return it soft, high, or off the end. Also, it's often easier to take these balls down the line, where it's like looping a block; if you go crosscourt, you have to battle the spin more, like looping a backspin, except you probably have more practice against backspin. Finally, since a lefty is often looking to follow this serve up with a big forehand, it's effective to fake as if you are taking it down the line to their forehand, so that they have to guard that side, and at the last second take it to their backhand, thereby taking their forehand out of the equation.

We then revisited doubles tactics, which we'd covered already. This time I wanted them to actually practice circling footwork, where the players circle around clockwise so they can approach the table with their forehands (i.e. from the backhand side). This takes lots of practice, but what they can learn quickly is an adjusted version, where they only circle after the first shot. Whoever is serving or receiving steps back and circles around his partner so he can approach from the backhand side. The complication is if the opponents return the ball to the wide backhand and your partner is over on the backhand side. In this case the server/receiver doesn't circle about and instead stays back and toward the forehand side until he can move in for his shot.

Both players have had trouble with choppers, so I pulled out my long pips racket and we spent about half an hour on playing choppers. There are four basic ways.

With "Asian style" you do long, steady rallies where you lightly topspin the ball (basically rolling it) over and over to the off surface (usually long pips), knowing that all they can do is chop it back with light backspin. This makes it easy for you to topspin over and over until you see an easy one to rip. Then you rip it, usually to the middle, or at a wide angle. If they chop it back effectively, you start over.

With "European style" you move the chopper in and out with short serves and pushes, followed by strong loops. The idea is to bring the chopper in so he doesn't have time to back up and chop your next shot. If he does back up too fast, you push short a second time, catching him going the wrong way.

With "Pick-hitting style," you push steadily until you see a ball to attack, and then go for it. If it's chopped back effectively, you start over. It takes a lot of patience and judgment to do this. The problem here is the chopper can also pick-hit if you push too much, plus a chopper is probably better at pushing.

With "Chiseling style," you simply push over and over, refusing to miss, and turn it into either a battle of patience and attrition, or force the chopper to attack. It usually goes to expedite, and then one player has to attack. I don't like this method.

I had the two of them practice these methods, especially Asian style, where they had to roll softly over and over and over, and finally rip one.

We also went over the penhold and Seemiller grip, long pips, pips-out, antispin, and hardbat. It's all covered in detail in Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.

North American Cup

The big winners were USA's just-turned-fourteen Kanak Jha and Canadian champion Mo Zhang. Kanak won the Men's final over Adam Hugh, 19,8,9,-6,4, while Mo won over Crystal Wang, 4,-8,11,4,7. Here are the results for Women's Singles and Men's Singles. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, where you can find results, articles, photos, and video. Here's a story from the ITTF about Kanak and Crystal reaching the final.

The schedule was rather strange. They had the Women's Final scheduled for 9:20 PM, and the Men's Final for 10PM. Why so late? Worse, this was Pacific Time; for me in Maryland, they were three hours later, at 12:20 AM and 1:00AM. I had to get up early to coach at our camp, so I didn't plan to stay up for either. However, at the last minute I was still awake, and so decided to watch Crystal's match, and went to bed right afterwards.

I don't think too many people expected a 12-year-old to be in the Women's Singles Final. At one point things looked pretty close, with the two splitting the first two games, and Crystal coming back from down 7-10 and 10-11 to deuce the third game. Who knows what would have happened if she'd pulled that one out? But it was not to be. My main thoughts on the match: Crystal is usually very good at attacking the opponent's middle, but Mo often stood a bit more centered than most players and so Crystal's shots to her middle were actually into her backhand, and so Mo made strong backhand counter-hits, and so they had a lot of straight backhand-to-backhand exchanges. Crystal also might have tried some heavy pushes to the wide forehand, forcing Mo to open with her short-pips forehand while drawing her out of position and vulnerable to a counter-attack to her backhand side. But this is easier said than done since it can be tricky playing pips-out when you are mostly used to playing inverted. (Crystal does get to play pips-out penholder Heather Wang at our club somewhat regularly, so she is experienced against pips.)

Spinny Loop in Slow Motion Tutorial

Here's a nice video (2:58) that shows a top player demonstrating a spinny loop, both in real time and slow motion, with explanations in English subtitles.

Liu Guoliang: Ma Long Is Likely To Achieve His Dreams in This Cycle

Here's the article, which includes links to two videos of Ma's matches.

Unbelievable Backhand by Ai Fukuhara

Here's the video (41 sec) from the Japan Open this past weekend. Note that Fukuhara of Japan (on the near side, world #10) did this shot at one-game each and down 9-10 game point against Li Fen of Sweden (world #16). However, Li Fen would go on to win the game 12-10 and the match 4-1 before losing in the semifinals to eventual winner Feng Tianwei of Singapore.

Ping-Pong Trick Shots

Here's the video (6:07) showing all sorts of trick shots with a ping-pong ball.

Pong-Ping - Why It Never Took Off

Here's the cartoon.

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June 7, 2012

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Here's a note about upcoming ITTF Coaching Seminars that was sent to all USATT Certified Coaches from the USATT Coaching Committee. (I'm a member.) If you are interested, see the info page. I'm running my second one at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on Aug 11-12, 18-19 (with possible Paralympic session on Aug. 25), so I hope to see you there! Here's the flyer for the one I'm running. 

Special Notice to All USATT Members, USATT Coaches, and USATT Clubs
From: Richard McAfee, Chairman, USATT National Coaching Advisory Committee

In the upcoming summer months, USATT Coaching is offering 5 regional ITTF-PPT Level 1 Coaching Courses.  USATT Coaching would like to urge anyone who is actively involved or has thought about becoming involved in coaching table tennis to plan to attend one of these courses.

Coaches completing all the course requirements of the ITTF-PPT Level 1 Course will become ITTF Certified and listed on the ITTF Coaches Registry.  In addition, coaches becoming ITTF Level 1 who are not currently USATT Certified (or certified at a “club” level) are eligible to become USATT “State” Level Coaches.  For current USATT Coaches, your ITTF Certification will be added to your name on the USATT Coaching Data-base.

Course Content:

The ITTF-PPT Level 1 Course focuses on preparing coaches to work with children and also on developing effective group coaching skills.  Topics include: how to conduct introductory programs for children, teaching in a school setting, how to teach all basic strokes, teaching serve and serve return, physical training, psychological skills, nutrition and energy systems, tournament organization, rules, and junior development planning.  In addition, the course includes a full day of instruction on working with Para athletes which includes: understanding the classification system, special equipment of the Para athletes, Para rules, and basic knowledge of Para techniques and tactics.

More Trained Coaches Needed:

Every USATT Club needs trained and motivated coaches if we are ever going to raise the standard of both our athletes and our clubs.  I would urge every USATT Club to look to recruit one or more persons who are interested in coaching and help sponsor them to attend one of these ITTF Courses.  The benefit back to your club of having more trained coaches will show itself for years to come.  The immediate benefit is the all coaches attending the ITTF Course must complete 30 hours of coaching at their local club of which 5 hours is supervised and graded.  This often results in many new coaching programs for the local club. 

More Advanced ITTF Courses Coming Soon:

While the ITTF-PPT Level 1 Course is an introductory coaching course it still covers a great amount of material that coaches of all levels will find interesting.  More importantly for the elite level coaches, the Level 1 Course sets the stage for the ITTF Level 2, ITTF Level 3, and ITTF High Performance Courses which will be coming to the USATT in the near future.  Regional Level 2 Courses will begin in 2013 and Level 3 in 2014. 

It is important to note that the ITTF does not “grandfather” anyone and every coach must start at Level 1 and work their way up.  Currently there are no USATT Coaches higher than Level 1 so now is the time to get in on the ground floor.  All coaches must be a Level 1 Coach for 1 year before they can apply for the Level 2 Course. 

Summer ITTF-PPT Level 1 Courses:

  • Fremont, CA – June 11-15, 2012
  • Champaign, IL – July 17-21, 2012
  • Pleasantville, NY - (8/4, 8/5, 8/11, 8/12, 8/18), 2012
  • Gaithersburg, MD - (8/11-12, 8/18-19, 8/25), 2012
  • Austin, TX (8/13 - 8/17, 2012)

For Complete Information, please see: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis/Coaching-and-Tips/Courses.aspx

Stuff I Did at Ledo Pizza Yesterday

As I do every few weeks, I spent an afternoon at Ledo Pizza yesterday getting work done. I did both table tennis and science fiction & fantasy stuff. What did I accomplish?

  • Reviewed printouts explaining the U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League to prepare for an online meeting, which took place last night at 8PM for about an hour;
  • Edited and rewrote chapter 20 of my Table Tennis Tactics book, "Mental Tactics," based on suggestions from table tennis sports psychologist Dora Kurimay;
  • Proofed several rewritten chapters of the Table Tennis Tactics book;
  • Proofed two new stories, "The Nature of Swords" and "Death, the Devil, and the President's Ghost," which I submitted to markets last night;
  • Proofed rewritten versions of two stories, "The Purple Rose of Retribution" and "Nanogod," and submitted both last night;
  • Ate pepperoni pizza.

Update on Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

It's currently around 99,000 words (over twice as many words as Table Tennis: Steps to Success, my best-selling previous work, which sold over 28,000 copies), as I constantly tinker with it. However, except for some more work I plan to do today on chapter 20 (the Mental Tactics chapter), the written part is done. I've also worked out an agreement with a top table tennis photographer for use of his photos, plus I've ransacked my own photo files, so I'm well into finding the roughly 70 photos that I plan to use to represent various chapters or sections. Then I'll start creating the pages. The plan is to be able to do both POD (Print on Demand) and ebooks. The only thing I'm not sure of at this point is the cover. I have several ideas I'm playing with.

"As One" the movie

Here's a website with info on the movie (about the unified Korean Women's Team winning the 1991 World Team Championships), linked to a video preview (1:48). Later, after I see the movie, I'll blog about it. I do know they have changed history to add drama, apparently having Korea win the doubles in dramatic fashion in the final match to win the championships, when in fact the doubles was the third of five matches played, and they lost that! I'm told that in the movie, an umpire kept faulting the Koreans, but if I remember correctly, that really did happen, though it's likely the movie exaggerated this. I'll get the movie on Netflix when it's available, since it's not playing my area (Maryland).

The Shakehands Serving Grip

Here's an article, and linked video (2:55), that examines the intricacies of the shakehands grip for serving. I think one of the keys here is whether to use the middle finger on the handle to add extra snap, or hold the racket only between thumb and index finger for extra flexibility. I do it both ways, depending on the serve, but generally using the middle finger for extra spin, and taking it off for quicker motions leading to more deception.

Ariel Hsing Wins North American Cup Again

Here's the story.

Princeton Table Tennis Video

Here are video interviews (3:40) with four members of the Princeton Table Tennis Club - Amaresh Sahu, Kevin Ma, Thomas An, and Gabriel Reder. (Amaresh and Kevin are both alumni from my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center.)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Takes on Olympian

He's no match for Mo Zhang. Here's the article, linked to the video (1:07).

A Table Tennis Birthday Cake

Yes, you can have your table tennis cake and eat it too.

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