Ariel Hsing

May 5, 2014

Tip of the Week

Returning Smashes and Loop Kills.

World Championships

The World Championships finished today, and by today I mean Tokyo time, meaning it's already over. And guess what? It's hard to believe, but once again China came out of NOWHERE to sweep everything . . . again. Okay, that's sarcasm; I figured there was about a 90% chance they'd sweep it all. It would have taken an earthquake to stop them - and there was an earthquake in Tokyo just yesterday, just not enough to stop the unstoppable from being unstoppable.

On the men's side, Germany gave them a good battle in the final, but Ma Long proved to be the Chinese hero. Ma started things off by defeating Timo Boll at 6,9,9. Timo actually led all three games but Ma came back each time. In the second match things got interesting as Dimitrij Ovtcharov upset reigning men's world champion Zhang Jike at 11,8,6. Then Xu Xin dispatched the German #3, Patrick Franziska, at 5,2,8. Then it was Dimitrij against Ma, with the German hoping to find lightning a second time and send things into the fifth and final set - but Ma was way too much, winning at 10,5,2.

Here are videos of the men's matches:

  1. Ma Long d. Timo Boll, 6,9,9 (4:07);
  2. Dimitrij Ovtcharov d. Zhang Jike, 11,8,6 (5:01);
  3. Xu Xin d. Patrick Franziska, 5,2,8 (3:33);
  4. Ma Long d. Dimitrij Ovtcharov, 10,5,2 (4:21).

The women's final between China and Japan was taking place as I write this, and I plan on posting this as soon as it's done. In the first match Ding Ning of China defeated Yuka Ishigaki at 5,-8,2,5. In the second match it was Li Xiaoxia over Kasumi Ishikawa, 8,7,7. In the third and final match (which just finished as I write this), it was Liu Shiwen over Sayaka Hirano at 4,2,5.

I'll post video of the women's final tomorrow - it doesn't seem to be up yet at TTCountenance. (I prefer to use them because they take the time out between points. It's possible others do this as well, but I'm not sure.)

China has now won Men's Teams at the Worlds seven consecutive times, and nine of the last ten. Due to a blip in 2010 where they were upset by Singapore, China has won Women's Teams "only" two consecutive times (ending a streak of eight consecutive wins) - but they've won it all but twice since 1975, including ten of the last eleven and 18 of the last 20.

You can get complete results and articles at the ITTF World Championship Page. You can find videos of all the great action at the tt-news page. (TTCountenance has also been putting the videos up, with time between points removed.) Here are Daily Video Reviews. And here are the daily World Championship Newsletters, with one more to come.

  • April 28
  • April 29
  • April 30
  • May 1
  • May 2
  • May 3
  • May 4
  • May 5 (this one is not yet up, but I know the address it'll have when ready, so you can keep checking on it until it goes up. It should be the final one, with news on the Men's and Women's Team Final.)

And speaking of Chinese domination…

ITTF Introduces Changes. Are They to Reduce Chinese Domination?

Here's the ITTF Press Release. And  here's an article on it. 

USA at the Worlds

You can get coverage of the USA Team at the USA at the Worlds Page. (The men finished tied for 49th, the women tied for 21st.) Here's a slideshow tribute to Team USA.

Bruce Liu did daily rundowns on the USA Team. Here they are:

  1. Day 1: Men and Women
  2. Day 2: Women Men
  3. Day 3: Women Men
  4. Day 4: Women Men
  5. Day 5: Men and Women

Lily Zhang was the women's team star. She went in with a world ranking of #109 from March (but off the list in April due to inactivity), and compiled the following 7-2 record (with special thanks to compiler John Olsen):

WINS:

  • Viktoria Pavlovich, world #11
  • Georgina Pota, world #35
  • Szandra Pergel, world #90
  • Ana-Maria Erdelji, world #101
  • Alexandra Privalova, world #102
  • Andrea Todorovic, world #157
  • Miao Miao, world #224 in February

LOSSES:

  • Yuka Ishigaki, world #38
  • Chen Szu-Yu, world #54

Day 7 Shot of the Day at the Worlds

Here's video (52 sec, shown twice from different angles) of an incredible rally in the Men's Semifinals between Japan's Jun Mizutani and Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Here are other Shots and Moments of the Day from the Worlds.

$16,000 Butterfly St. Louis Open

Want more of a USA table tennis fix? Here are all of Barbara Wei's articles on the $16,000 Butterfly St. Louis Open, held this weekend. I linked to the early ones on Friday, but here are all eight articles.

Robots vs. Multiball

Here's the article and video (3:45) from PingSkills.

Meet Penn State's Own Marcus "Pingpong" Jackson

Here's the article on this former MDTTC prodigy!

Ariel Hsing vs. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett

As they do every year, at an annual gathering of gadzillionaires, they brought in Ariel Hsing to play the two she calls "Uncle Bill" and "Uncle Warren." (I think she won.) Here is video (after an irritating 30 sec commercial), and here are ten photos (click on photo to see the next one).

Phoenix - Trying To Be Cool

Here's video of this music video. The link should take you directly to 2:25, where there's several seconds of rather intense table tennis action!

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April 22, 2014

Genetics and Table Tennis

The question sometimes comes up whether some people have a genetic advantage in table tennis. A troll raised this question in the mytabletennis.com forum, and while he was likely just trolling (you should see his postings in other threads!), it is an interesting question. (The thread has since been closed.) 

The troll argued that the Chinese have a genetic advantage that gives them faster reflexes, and that's why the Chinese dominate. It's nonsense. One could just as easily claim the Swedes have a genetic advantage since their country of nine million people dominated or played even with the Chinese (over one billion people) for many years. But anyone with a knowledge of the game understands the reality.

The Chinese are the best in the world right now because they have more players, more top coaches, and train harder than any other country in the world. It is a national sport there, and taken more seriously there than anywhere else in the world. Most European players train six days a week, with much of summer off. The Chinese often train seven days a week, and train all summer.

And yet even the mighty Chinese can fall behind smaller upstarts such as Sweden, and before them, Hungary. Why? For technical reasons. The Swedes and the rest of Europe began to dominate against the Chinese in the late 1980s/early 1990s because they were playing a modern two-winged looping game, while the Chinese were still trying to win with pips-out hitters. It wasn't until China fell behind much of Europe in the early 1990s (finishing seventh at the 1991 Worlds) that they completely changed course and not only developed modern two-winged loopers, but developed them at a higher level than the Europeans. And now they dominate with numbers, technique, and training. Before the Swedes it was the Hungarians, who beat or played even with the Chinese for roughly a decade (mid-1970s to mid-1980s) with Jonyer, Klampar, and Gergeley, with their two-winged looping (a precursor to the modern game) and (surprisingly) their forehand flips, which put the Chinese on the defensive even when they served.

And yet Germany is hot on their heels with Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #4) and Timo Boll (#9, but formerly #1). They also have Patrick Baum (#21), Bastian Steger (#27), Patrick Franziska (#37), Steffen Mengel (#49), Ruwen Filus (#62), and Christian Suss (#65). However, while their top two can match up almost even with the best Chinese, their #2 lags far behind China, who has world #1, 2, 3, 5, 6,and 7. Is it because of genetics? As a percentage of their population, Germany (population 82 million) is probably stronger than China - but no, I don't think Germany has a genetic advantage!!!

Actually, comparing whatever current country is challenging China isn't a fair comparison. It's one thing to choose a country at random and compare it to China. But when you pick the best out of all the European countries and compare to China, that's cherry-picking. I don't think Hungary, Sweden, or Germany have a genetic advantage in challenging the Chinese.

And yet genetics does help. Fast-twitch muscle is an advantage in table tennis, where speed is so important. At first glance, you'd think that the best sprinters and jumpers in the world would be great table tennis players, and China isn't very good in these events. The top eight fastest sprinters in history (100 meters) include five Jamaicans and three USA, with the next two spots Canadian - and yet Jamaica, USA, and Canada don't exactly dominate in table tennis. (Here's the top ten.) So perhaps the Chinese are overcoming a genetic disadvantage?

Liu Shiwen Injured

Here's the article. Will she be ready for the Worlds? Liu is ranked #1 in the world, has won three World Cups, and made the finals of the last Worlds, and the semifinals of the two before that.

Michelle Wie Hosts Charity Ping-Pong Event

Here's the article. She is currently ranked #10 in the world - for golf that is!

Ping Pong for Charity Tournament

Here's the home page (they raise money for brain fitness and mental health), and here's a Facebook posting where Dr. Scott Sautter says: "Current neuroscience says the best activity for the brain is probably aerobic exercise, and the easiest aerobic exercise is brisk walking a few times a week. However, I then say ping pong is far more fun, socially interactive and great for the mind, body and spirit! It's been said that ping pong is like aerobic chess requiring strategy, eye hand coordination, balance, stamina and a cool demeanor so that you remain calm even if you lost a point." 

Persson vs. Gatien

Here's a recent match (10:53, much of it exhibition) between 1991 and 1993 World Men's Singles Champions Jorgen Persson and Jean-Philippe Gatien (the lefty). Gatien looks older, but is actually only 45 (46 on Oct. 16), while Persson turned 48 today. Happy Birthday Jorgen!

Ariel Hsing for Class of 2017 Social Chair

Here's the video (2:01)! After the dancing start, Ariel talks starting about 52 seconds in.

Extreme Double-High Table Tennis

Here's the video (1:06), with the table top about eye level!

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April 18, 2014

The Next USATT CEO

I'm somewhat surprised that there still isn't any "help wanted" note from USA Table Tennis for the next CEO. Previous CEO Mike Cavanaugh announced his resignation on March 26. Presumably someone is working on this.  

I just hope the USATT Board doesn't fall into the same ongoing trap we've been ensnared in since our beginning in 1933, and try to sell a "broken" product. I put "broken" in quotes because there's really nothing wrong with the sport (which is why it is so successful overseas in Europe and Asia), but with the way it is developed and promoted in the USA. And I should put "developed" in quotes as well since there's no serious effort to develop the sport from USATT.

There's this belief that the solution to our problems is to raise money. That's like saying the solution to being rich is to be rich, which sounds great except it doesn't explain how to get rich. Raising large sums of money for USATT is an extremely difficult job at the moment (and in our past) because we are a status quo organization. Sponsors want to get in on the ground floor of a growing sport, not the attic of a small one that's satisfied with the status quo. (And when I say satisfied, I'm referring to actions, not words.) Raising money has been a priority of nearly all our past CEO's, it just isn't publicized much because none were successful at doing it. 

I've blogged about this before, and I'll undoubtedly blog about it again, but what's needed is a CEO who is a table tennis person, whose primary focus is to develop the sport. That means developing a growing network of regional leagues; the recruitment and training of professional coaches and those who wish to run junior programs; a professional league or circuit; setting up regional associations that focus on developing their own regions; developing the U.S. Open and/or Nationals into truly premier events; and similar projects. (Some of these are being developed independently, and USATT could help tremendously by making them top priority items.) We don't need these programs to be highly successful to attract sponsors; we need them to show promise, and that's when sponsors will jump in to be on the ground floor of our growing sport.

USATT needs to hire a CEO from inside the sport committed to developing the sport from within so as to better sell it outside. It's a lot better to fix the product and then sell it then to try and sell a faulty product. That's the point of my Ping-Pong Apartments essay. Any amount of money we can raise now will pale in comparison to what we could raise if we first create a more saleable product. 

We need a five-year plan. There are two types of five-year plans: those that are made for political purposes (for show), and those made to actually accomplish something. The latter is what is needed. And then we raise money and take the sport to the next level. But alas, we'll likely try to skip the development step, just as we have done in the past. It doesn't take great money to get started on this process, but it is the process to develop the sport that will attract the sponsors and money needed to take it to that next level.

We have the opportunity to start fresh. We rarely have this opportunity - the last time was at the 2009 Strategic Meeting, where we had a brand new group of board members. But a few people at the meeting were able to convince them to stick to the same old stuff while convincing them it was new, and the opportunity was lost. Alas, it's not hard for a few people to do this. All they have to do is look convincing and argue for the same great-sounding non-specific general stuff that never works. Specific programs are needed to develop the sport, not just general proclamations to develop something or other.

Who will be the next CEO? It probably won't be me. To be blunt, I don't look good in a suit. (For the too-literal minded, that's a metaphor, meaning I don't look like a "conventional" CEO.) So who will it be? I don't know, though I keep hearing rumors. Whoever it is won't be successful unless he has great table tennis experience, vision, energy, and gets complete buy-in and support from the USATT board.

Training Camp in China

Want to train in China for three weeks this summer? Here's info! There are camps all over the U.S. and the world this summer, including my club, MDTTC.

Table Tennis Tutorial, Beginning to Advanced

Here's the video (58:58). Alas, it's in Chinese, no English sub-titles.

2014 Highlights "Special Moments and Great Plays"

Here's another great video (9:00) from Jim Butler for USATT, showcasing many of the most memorable rallies and moments over the past year.

Elderly and Disabled Encouraged to Play Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Ariel Hsing is Running for Class of 2017 Social Chair

Here's her campaign page! Amazingly, her "About Me" page doesn't mention table tennis - you have to go to her "Events" page to find that. (Though there are a few small photos at the bottom of the home page.) But we do find out she's allergic to bananas!

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April 8, 2014

Great Spin on Serve

In my beginning/intermediate class last night the players were rather impressed by how much spin I could put on the ball when I serve with seemingly little effort. The spin comes from three things: smooth acceleration into the ball; wrist snap; and grazing with a grippy surface. Beginners lose spin because they tend to start with the racket right behind the ball rather than from the side. Intermediate players lose spin because they tend to think in terms of racket speed instead of acceleration.

I can't explain the physics, but it is acceleration that leads to great spin. It could involve the rubber surface grabbing the ball and, since it is accelerating at contact, it grabs the ball like a slingshot and practically spins it out of orbit. Or perhaps this acceleration leads to high velocity that you can control, but the smooth acceleration makes the racket appear to be moving slower than it actually is going. If you instead think in terms of velocity and try to snap the racket into the ball all-out rather than with this smooth acceleration might get more racket speed (not sure), but they can't control it and so lose the control needed for a fine grazing contact - and so lose spin.

But regardless of the reason, it is this smooth acceleration that leads to the great spin. However, there's a conflict here - for deception, you want sudden changes of racket direction. So top servers learn to smoothly accelerate into the ball with sudden changes of direction, essentially whipping the racket around the ball in very quick arcs.

Of course it's not all about spin. If you fake spin but serve no-spin, it's just as effective as a spin serve if the opponent thinks there is spin. So many serves do simple backspin-like serves, but sometimes it's backspin, other times they change the contact so there's no spin. (You do this by contacting the ball closer to the handle, and by changing contact from a grazing motion to sort of patting the ball while faking a grazing motion, often with an exaggerated follow through.)

So . . . have you practiced your serves this week?

Forehand Flip

Here's a tutorial video (5:10) on the forehand flip (usually called a flick in Europe) against short backspin by Coach Yang Guang, a former Chinese team member. He's explaining in Chinese, but several times the key points are subtitled in English. Plus you can learn just by watching. Note that when he does the demos, he's being fed slightly high balls, and so is flip killing. Against a lower ball you might want to slow it down and put a little topspin on the flip.

Why Don't Top Players Serve More Topspin?

Here's the video (2:17) from PingSkills. Ironically this very topic was covered in my beginning/intermediate class. I was teaching how to do fast serves, and explained why they are good as a variation, but how top players would attack them. They wanted a demo, so I had my assistant coach, the 2600 player Coach Jeffrey (Zeng Xun), demonstrate what he could do with my fast serves when he knew they were coming. It wasn't pretty! I have pretty good fast serves, but they have to be used sparingly against top players.

I once aced 1986 U.S. Men's Singles Champion Hank Teekaveerakit three times in a row with my fast down-the-line serve. He was a penholder who tried to loop everything with his forehand, and this happened the first three points of the match as he looked to loop my serves from the backhand corner. After the third ace, he broke up laughing, and said, "Larry, nobody serves fast down the line three times in a row!" He then began returning my serves to his backhand with his backhand, and caught up and won somewhat easily. Late in the match he went back to trying to loop all my serves with his forehand, and I obligingly played cat and mouse, serving fast and deep to all parts of the table, and abandoning my short serves, not for tactical reasons but just for the fun of challenging him to return all my fast ones with his forehand. Once he got used to my service motion, he was able to do so.

Crystal Wang in Sports Illustrated

She's featured in the Faces in the Crowd section. It came out in print last Wednesday. (While there, see the photo credits underneath and note the name of the Professional Photographer that took her picture.)

Deputy Referee Report, German Open

Here's the report from USA's Kagin Lee.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 14

Chapter one is up. This volume covers the years 1985-1985. Want to see more?

Great Rally at the College Nationals

Here's video (29 sec) of a great point between Ariel Hsing (near side) against Maria Castillo in the women's singles quarterfinals. Ariel went on to win the title.

Marcos Freitas

Here's a highlights video (3:29) featuring Marcos Freitas of Portugal doing numerous trick shots. He recently shot up to #12 in the world.

The Sayings of Coach Larry

A while back I jokingly posted a few of my favorite sayings when I coach. One of my students (who wishes to remain anonymous) quoted to me many more of my favorite statements, and I dutifully jotted them down. Here's the more comprehensive listing of my favorite quips.

  1. "Pick up the balls." (Spoken with the same tone as the infamous "Bring out your dead" scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)
  2. "You are going up against the most powerful forehand in the world." (Spoken with the same tone as the quote from Dirty Harry, "…the most powerful handgun in the world.")
  3. "There's something you don't know. I'm really left-handed." (A paraphrasing of the quote from The Princess Bride. At the start of the scene, both swordfighters are fighting left-handed. Watch the video to see what happens.)
  4. "Time to get serious." (When I'm losing a game, usually against a student where I've spotted points.)
  5. "Time to take my watch off." (Meaning time to get serious.)
  6. "Balls in boxes!" (Told to students at the end of playing sessions, with balls scattered all over.)
  7. "I never miss that shot."
  8. "I cannot be defeated."
  9. "Time to pull out the unreturnable serves."
  10. "This serve cannot be returned."
  11. "No one can get through my block. No one!"
  12. "The most powerful forehand block in the world."
  13. "He cheats, he scores!" (When opponent wins a point on a net or edge.)
  14. "I cannot be scored upon." (Told to students repeatedly as a challenge.)
  15. "Don't think about it. Let the subconscious take over. It's better than you."
  16. "Even [insert name of top player within hearing distance] can make that shot!"
  17. "When I get angry…" (Followed by a short but detailed description of whatever I do the next point.)
  18. "This is for the world championship of the galactic universe."
  19. "Just because the point is over doesn't mean the point is over." (Said when my student hits a ball off the end, but I play it off the floor and the rally continues.)
  20. "Here comes a pop-up. You're going to flub it. Prove me wrong." (Usually said near the end of a multiball session with a beginning student.)
  21. "I'm too good to miss that shot!" (Said by me roughly whenever I miss a shot.)
  22. "I haven't missed that shot since 1987!" (Also said by me roughly whenever I miss a shot.)
  23. "Ten years ago I would have got that."
  24. "There's a probability greater than zero that I won't lose another point this match."
  25. "No coaching in coaching camps!" (When someone coaches against me in a practice match during a camp.)
  26. "Coaches from all over the world come here to study my [whatever shot I happen to be doing]." (I usually say this when blocking forehands, and often tell stories about how the top Chinese coaches journey to American to study my forehand block.)

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February 12, 2014

Here Comes the Snow (again)

We've had several snowstorms already this year here in Maryland and much of the east coast. Tonight and tomorrow we're supposed to get another 5-12 inches. Plus it's 18 degrees out, and was 12 when I got up this morning. I stocked up with supplies at the supermarket last night, and have several great books ready, as well as work to do on my upcoming book, "Table Tennis Tips." Bring it on!!!

Quips and Quotes

My favorite quips while playing:

  1. "Just because the point is over doesn't mean the point is over." (Said when my student hits a ball off the end, but I play it off the floor and the rally continues.)
  2. "Here comes a pop-up. You're going to flub it. Prove me wrong." (Usually said near the end of a multiball session with a beginning student.)
  3. "I'm too good to miss that shot." (Said by me roughly whenever I miss a shot.)
  4. "I haven't missed that shot since 1987." (Also said by me roughly whenever I miss a shot.)
  5. "Ten years ago I would have got that."
  6. "There's a probability greater than zero that I won't lose another point this match."
  7. "There's something you don't know. I'm really left-handed."
  8. "I cannot be defeated."
  9. "Time to pull out the unreturnable serves."
  10. "Coaches from all over the world come here to study my [whatever shot I happen to be doing]." (I usually say this when blocking forehands, and often tell stories about how the top Chinese coaches journey to American to study my forehand block.)
  11. "Balls in boxes!" (Told to students at the end of playing sessions, with balls scattered all over.)
  12. "The most powerful loop in the world." (With a Dirty Harry accent).

Inspiring table tennis quotes from:

Things I constantly say or harp on with my students:

  • Fix your grip. Balance. Wider stance. Relax the shoulders. Free hand. Rotate the shoulders. Topspin (or backspin) the ball. Remember the feel of the good shots, forget the bad ones. Place your shots. Don't think, just do. Step, don't lean. First move has to be the right move. More spin! Vary your serves. 

Three more quotes on playing. (I should have kept a running log of such quotes over the years, in which case I'd have dozens of these.)

  • "If you focus on playing well, you probably will; if you focus on winning, you probably won't."
  • "If you can't write a book about your own game, then you either don't have a game, or don't know your game."
  • "Let go, have fun." (Stolen from Ariel Hsing, who used to write this on her arm before playing.)

Here's a page where I keep my favorite non-TT quotes (including three by me).

Here's an article I sold to Science Fiction Writers of America for their web page, "Fifty Writing Quotes." I came up with all fifty of these in one long feverish night.

Shirley Temple RIP

Shirley Temple Black died Monday. Here are five pictures of the famous child actress playing table tennis.

International Table Tennis

Here's where you can get a daily fix of international table tennis.

22 Great Table Tennis GIFs

Here they are! (A few of the links don't seem to be valid, but most are there.) 

Non-Table Tennis: Redcoats

Yesterday I sold my 70th short story (all science fiction or fantasy), with the sale of "Redcoats" to Abyss & Apex. (The story parodies Christmas in the 1790s, with alien conquerors in red coats coming down the chimney every Christmas to get tribute left out for them, and how a boy defeats the aliens.) It's also my 1498th published or sold article or story - I'll hit 1500 shortly. (Here's a listing of my complete published works.)

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January 31, 2014

TT Arena

Here's a new page that's devoted to connecting coaches, players, and clubs. For example, here's a club in the U.S. looking for a coach. (The club appears to be in Coffeyville, Kansas, from the accompanying map.)

A number of years ago when I was a USATT webmaster, I tried something similar, creating a USATT page devoted to connecting coaches and clubs, with two main pages: Clubs Looking for Coaches, and Coaches Looking for Clubs. Alas, it didn't take off - there just weren't enough full-time clubs at the time, less than ten in the U.S., while there are now about 70 and more popping up seemingly every week. So now might be the perfect time, as more and more full-time clubs open up, each needing minimally 3-4 full-time professional coaches. Plus, the availability of coaches would encourage more entrepreneurs to open up such clubs.

Along with leagues, I've long held that setting up table tennis centers with junior programs is the key to developing table tennis in the U.S. and any country. I even wrote Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook for that reason. (Believe me, I didn't write it for the money! I'm practically selling it for cost.)

One of my long-term plans is to develop a program to solicit and train professional coaches. But that's on the backburner along with dozens of other major projects on my long-term todo list.

Side note - above I mentioned that each of these full-time centers would need minimally 3-4 full-time coaches. Yes, that's minimal. The key to all the successful centers opening up around the country are the professional coaches that bring in players. The basic recipe is simple, as pioneered by my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, which opened in 1992. You bring in a number of full-time coaches, with the basic deal being they help solicit and bring in students, and work long hours, and in return they keep most of the money they earn - i.e. they work hard, but they get wealthy. The coaches bring in lots of students who in turn pay for memberships, clinics, leagues, tournaments, equipment, refreshments, etc. The result is an active and financially healthy full-time club.

13th ITTF Sports Science Congress

It was held in Paris last year during the World Championships. A total of 37 table tennis related papers were presented. They are all online in the International Journal of Table Tennis Sciences, Volume 8. (It's mistakenly listed at the top as Volume 7, the previous volume. You can find links to past volumes here.)  Included in the papers are two by U.S. writers/coaches:

Wang Liqin's Backswing

Yesterday I blogged about how most top players, especially the Chinese, brought their arms in during their backswing on the forehand, which allows a quicker backswing, and then extended their arms on the forward swing, which increases the power. Someone posted the following video of Wang Liqin (3-time World Men's Singles Champion) at the mytabletennis.com forum, which illustrates this very well. Here's the video; go 42 seconds in, and see Wang as he loops over and over.

The Athlete Kitchen

Table tennis player and coach Brian Pace has a web page, The Athlete Kitchen, devoted to athletes eating, including a number of eBooks such as Juicing for Athletes and related topics. Brian's not only a former 2600 player and professional coach, he's also a championships cyclist. Brian, who's quite the entrepreneur, also creates table tennis instructional videos at Dynamic Table Tennis.

Princeton Freshman Ariel Hsing

Here's an article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly that features Ariel Hsing.

Interview with World Sandpaper Champion Maxim Shmyrev

Here's the interview.

Amazing Maze on a Robot

Here's video (25 sec) of Michael Maze training with a robot at the Werner Schlager Academy.

World Ping-Pong Federation

Here's the cartoon!

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January 27, 2014

Tip of the Week

Practicing Serves the Productive Way. (This is an article I did for USATT Magazine a few years ago. I'd like to get a few of these old ones up as Tips.)

Coaching Happenings

It's been an eventful weekend of coaching, as always. Here are highlights.

  • An 11-year-old Islamic girl came to my junior table tennis class for the first time on Saturday morning. She was dressed in full Islamic garb, with nothing showing except her face and hands. I've coached Islamic kids before, including girls, so it was no big deal - I thought. Since she was new, I worked with her right at the start, and guided her through a correct forehand. Then her father came over, and politely asked if he could talk to me. We went to the sidelines, and he explained, "We are Muslim. No touching." I apologized, and from there on I only coached her by demonstrating and explaining.
  • I watched one of our junior players play matches in the Friday night league, and saw some problems to work on. One is that he doesn't cover the wide backhand well in rallies, and when he does move that way, he often rotates his body to the left (and so faces left) rather than stepping there. (He's right-handed.) I've been doing multiball random drills with him where he does cover this, but realized we hadn't been doing many live random drills. So from now on (starting with a session on Sunday) we're going to be doing a lot of that. He also has a tendency to drop his non-playing arm during rallies, which costs him balance and stability, as well as making it easier to spin the body to the left to cover his backhand rather than step there as he should. (It's like an ice skater spinning - when the skater pulls her arms in, she rotates faster; puts the arms out, she rotates slower.) He also tends to stand too much to his right in rallies, leaving the backhand open. It's generally better to crowd the backhand corner, where you generally take the ball quicker and in front of the body and so are more rushed. You have a bigger forehand hitting zone, and can generally take it later and still be effective, so you can leave the forehand side more open and still have to move to cover it.
  • In the Sunday afternoon junior session I had five girls in my group. All started in the last two months. Amazingly, all have pretty nice and consistent forehand and backhand strokes now. (Well, one has some problems with the backhand, but we're working on that.) I introduced them all to the 2-1 drill, which is a three-shot sequence: a backhand from the backhand side; a forehand from the backhand side; a forehand from the forehand side; then repeat. It's one of the best drills, as you do the three most common moves in table tennis: cover the wide backhand, step around forehand from backhand side, and cover the wide forehand. They all found this drill to be rather exciting. (Who knew?)
  • I watched one of our top juniors in a big league match, and gave him some analysis afterwards. He's playing really well, but his placement isn't so good, going to the wide corners way too often. At nearly all levels the default place to attack is the middle, which is almost always the hardest place to defend. (The middle is the roughly the playing elbow, the transition point between forehand and backhand. For backhand oriented players, it's a bit more toward the forehand side, and vice versa.) By going to the middle, you get free points, weak returns, and/or draw the opponent out of position, thereby opening up those corners.
  • Two 12-year-old students of mine made the switch to Tenergy 05 FX on the forehand this weekend, which is what I use. Both are reaching the state where they can essentially loop everything on the forehand. Both tried out regular Tenergy 05 as well as Tenergy 64, but preferred the 05 FX. (They're both pushing 1500 level.)
  • Recently I've run a number of table tennis birthday parties at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, including two this weekend, one on Saturday, one on Sunday. Each was from 2-4 PM, with 14-21 kids in the 6-10 age group. The format I've adopted is pretty simple. The first half hour they are on their own as the kids hit around. Then I call them together and do a demo, usually with a top player or junior I recruit. Then the kids line up, and I have them shadow-stroke forehands. Then I take them two at a time and teach the forehand, spending about one minute with each pair. (Nothing extensive here.) Then we do the same with the backhand. Then we do it one more time with serves. Then we go to games, usually starting with the cup game, where the kids build pyramids of paper cups on one side of the table, and then take turns trying to knock them down as I feed multiball (3 shots per turn). After that we play the bottle game, where I convince them that the bottle of Gatorade on the table is full of squeezed worm juice, and the bottle of water on the table is dog saliva. I put the next to each other, and they again line up, 3 shots per turn, and try to hit it - and if they do, I have to drink it. I mock them as they hit each shot, so when one of them does hit one of the bottles they erupt in cheers, and I do mock protests before I finally drink it.
  • We've had freezing cold weather here in Maryland for the last two weeks. On Thursday the heating at MDTTC went down, and for three days we played with temperatures in the high fifties. You got used to it once you started playing, but I there were times where I complained I was in the final stages of hypothermia.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 14

We should finish it today. I'm crossing my fingers. We've actually finished all the pages but one, but that page has complications. The main job today is inputting corrections, and Tim has a lot, ranging from fixing or changing captions to fixing up photos to anything else he finds. The book is 465 pages with 962 photos, a new record for him. Here's info on all of these books, which will soon be updated when Volume 14 becomes available in a couple weeks. It's been an exhausting two weeks - we started on Monday, Jan. 13, and have been putting in looooong hours. This past weekend I kept driving back and forth between home and the club as I alternated coaching and working with Tim.

USA's Ariel Hsing Featured at ITTF Page

Here's the article.

Review of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World" by Nicholas Griffin

Here's the review in the Washington Post on Sunday. Here's a video (51:40) of the author talking about the book.

Guo Yue Dismissed from Chinese National Team

Here's the article. Guo, 25, was the 2007 World Women's Singles Champion and was ranked #1 in the world in 2008. She's also two-time World Mixed Doubles Champion with Wang Liqin. Her current ranking is #11 in the world.

Will Shortz on Table Tennis and How the US Can Become a Power

Here's the video (2:04) from Business Insider.

Coach Willy - an ITTF Documentary

Here's the video (3:42).

Cape Fear Open XI Highlights

Here's the video (7:33).

Angle Table Tennis

Here's the video (7:42) - this is what happens when you slant one side of the table sideways! A little over two minutes in they angle the other side as well for some really crazy ping-pong.

Panda Pong

Here's a picture of little Asian kids dressed as pandas playing table tennis with a picture of a penholder panda bear. I don't know what's going on, and perhaps it's best we just don't. (While we're on the subject of pandas, here's a panda ping-pong shirt!)

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January 14, 2014

Tip of the Week

Maximum Power and Control.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis and Other Stuff

Once again we're at it, for the 14th year in a row. (Disclosure, I only helped a little on the first volume.) Yesterday morning USATT Historian Tim Boggan (now an experienced 83 years young) moved into my house so he could direct as I do layouts and photo work (with great help from photographer and USATT Hall of Famer Mal Anderson) on his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 14. Yes, you read that right; we're into the 14th volume, which covers the years 1985-86. Here's TimBogganTableTennis.com, where you can learn about and order the books.

It's not going to be a fun two weeks. Basically it means being at my desk at 7AM every day and working most of the day, until it's time for my coaching hours. If I get back early enough, we work on it again that night. Then he goes to sleep, and I sit down and stare at my computer, completely exhausted, and debate whether to do the next morning's blog then (as well as the weekly Tip of the Week), or get up extra early and do it in the morning. (I'm typing this a little after 11PM at night, and still have the Tip to write. I already put together all the short segments below, though I'll likely add more in the morning.)

As I noted in my last blog, I was away at my nephew's wedding and a family gathering in New Orleans Wed-Sun, returning around midnight on Sunday night. I had three hours of work that night that I had to take care of, and then I got a good four hours of sleep before starting work. Technically Tim didn't come in until 9:30 AM (driving down from New York), but I had a lot of stuff to do to prepare for him, from cleaning the house a bit to preparing the documents we'd be working on.

On an exhaustion scale of 1 to 10, I'm at 17 right now. And we've only done one day. And my coaching gets busier as the week goes on.

I actually had little coaching yesterday or today. Instead, I'm picking up kids at schools, taking them to the club, and watching over them as they do homework for our new Afterschool Program. Starting Wednesday my coaching picks up, with three hours that night. I don't even want to talk about the weekend!

While in New Orleans I mostly was busy with family and wedding stuff. (It's been something like 20 years since I was last at a wedding, and eight years since I last wore a suit and tie.) I did get one afternoon off where I spent four hours at the World War II Museum. I also put together (with help from other family members) a 550-piece The Hobbit jigsaw puzzle.

USA Grand Tour Finals

The USA Grand Tour Finals were this past weekend. Here's where you can find results, photos, video, etc. On a side note, ten copies of my book Table Tennis Tales & Techniques were given out as raffle prizes!

SafeSport

USATT Coaches, listen closely: ALL USATT certified coaches need to go online and complete the background check process now required by the USOC. Here's the USATT info page on this.

USATT Athletes of the Month - Dec. 2013

Here's the article on Ariel Hsing (female), Kanak Jha (male), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic).

USATT and Leagues

At the about.com table tennis forum there's a discussion of the Atlanta Tennis Leagues (tennis, not table tennis), and how they are ten times bigger than USATT. Jay wrote about this; here's my short response. And here's USATT National and ITTF Coach Donn Olsen's response to me.

Morrisville, NC Might Get Full-time Training Center

Here's the article in yesterday's The Cary News.

Introduction to Multiball

Here's a new video (2:46) from PingSkills that teaches how to do multiball training.

Using Pivot Forehand to Your Advantage

Here's the article from TableTennisMaster - and the two common errors.

"Speed Gluing was Harmless" (Waldner didn't say this)

That's the headline and quote in this article that came out yesterday. However, what Jan-Ove Waldner really said in the article is, "Speedgluing should have been allowed to continue providing it was harmless." That's a very different statement than the headline. But the article does have some interesting stuff about Waldner's views on various rules topics.

How Wealthy is World's Men's Singles Champion Zhang Jike?

Here's an article on it!

Tahl Leibovitz Highlights Video

Here's the video (4:31)! Due to disabilities, he uses a somewhat unique grip, holding the racket very low so the handle is almost in his palm. And he's a shot-maker!

Star Rally Shot of the Year

Here's the video (23 sec) of the shot at the 2013 World Championships by Timo Boll, who just won the TMS International contest.

2013 Ping Pong Dubai Male and Female Table Tennis Stars

Here's their videos of winners Zhang Jike (male, 23sec) and Li Xiaoxia (female, 24 sec). And here's video of the male nominees (1:09) and female nominees (1:09).

Triples

Here's a video (2:38) from the BBC on the newest TT fad - triples!

Ghostly Table Tennis

Or is this Death playing table tennis? You decide; it's the latest table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan.

Non-Table Tennis - After Death Anthology

The After Death fantasy horror anthology came out last year, with my story "The Devil's Backbone." Here's a review of the anthology that came out yesterday - and read what they wrote about my story!

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January 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Three Parts to a Swing.

New Seamless Plastic Poly Balls

I blogged about these on Dec. 26 (see second segment). There's been a lot of discussion online of these non-celluloid balls and how they'd change our sport. Here's my take.

First, a caveat. When I tested the newest poly ball at the Nationals, I was having arm problems at the time and so couldn't loop at full power, so perhaps my judgment on that is suspect. On the other hand, the top juniors who tried the ball out (four of them, all around 2300) thought it played pretty much the same as a regular ball. I wish I had a copy of the ball now so I could try it out again (with my arm mostly okay), along with others at my club. 

At least one other person has tested the ball and posted he believes the ball (even the newest version) has less spin and speed. I'm suspicious that it's substantially different. I know the ball was the same size as a Nittaku, and had the same speed when I bounced them side by side, and seemed substantially the same when I hit with it, including the same weight, grippiness, etc. Serious question: what physical property would cause it to have less spin, and in particular, substantially less spin? Comments are welcome below.  

But let's assume that the new ball does have less speed and spin, as some think. This might be true if, for example, the ball were bigger. (Though the slightly bigger ball I tested previously was actually faster than the current ball, though less spinny.)

If there is less spin with the new ball, I'm pretty sure that'll hurt choppers, even if the ball were slower. Choppers need spin to work with to mess up attackers, so even if they are more consistent with a slower ball, they would be less effective overall. (It'd sort of be like sandpaper matches, where it's easy to chop over and over, but hard to win points that way against the best sandpaper attackers.) However, if the ball were slower, that should help topspin defenders (fishers and lobbers). 

As to hitters, going from 38mm to 40mm balls hurt hitters, and going to a ball with even less speed would do the same - less ball speed gives loopers more time to loop, and hitters (and aggressive blockers) rely on rushing loopers into missing, making weak loops, or backing too much off the table. The same is true of blockers. Inverted and pips-out blockers need to rush loopers, and a slower ball makes that more difficult. Long pips blockers need spin to work with (like choppers), and a less spinny ball gives them less to work with - thereby putting them more at the mercy of smart but powerful loopers. Without those heavy backspin returns of loops, they'll have great difficulty messing loopers up.

The hard-to-call case is the modern defender, who chops and loops. A slower, less spinny ball would make their chops more consistent but less deceptive (and overall chopping alone would be less effective), but the slower ball would allow them to get into position to rip forehand winners. Most likely the change wouldn't affect their level, but it would tilt them toward more aggressive play. 

The surprising truth is that a ball with less spin and speed would likely favor powerful loopers who can still produce great spin and speed. I think it'd move the sport even more in the direction of pure looping, just as the increase from 38mm to 40mm did. It might favor all-out forehand loopers to a degree, since they will have more time to get into position for their powerful forehand loops. If you want to bring back choppers, blockers, and hitters, go back to a smaller, faster, spinnier ball. 

Addendum added later: with less spin and speed, these pure topspin rallies would likely be better than current ones as players relentlessly counterloop back and forth with fewer errors. Some will love this; some will find it repetitively boring. I'm on the fence here. I really miss the greater diversity of styles in the past. If you want to see the future, look at the juniors of today; overwhelmingly they are two-winged loopers, which is what I mostly coach and coach against. There are subtle differences, but in general they play much more similar to each other than players in the past. And yet, with a slower, less spinny ball the given topsin rallies would be better, and there'll fewer errors in returning serves, with the lower amount of spin. But I sure would like to see a bit more variation. 

Baltimore Sun

Yesterday the Baltimore Sun sent a reporter to Maryland Table Tennis Center to do a feature on Crystal Wang, 11, who recently became the youngest player ever to win Under 22 Women's Singles at the USA Nationals. (I'd sent out press releases everywhere afterwards. Here's a short article on this that was already in the Baltimore Sun - with two errors from the original press release, which were my fault: Crystal's actually a 6th grader now in the magnet program at Roberto Clemente Middle School.) The reporter spoke to Crystal and a number of players and coaches, and interviewed me for half an hour. I was able to give her lots of background, explain how she developed, and give details on her modern playing style (close to table looping from both wings).

$100,000 World Championships of Ping Pong

They just completed the third annual World Championships of Ping Pong, which is a sandpaper event - with $100,000 in prize money! Yes, you read that right. For the third year in a row it was won by Russia's Maxim Shmyrev, this time defeating USA's Ilija Lupulesku in the final at 8, 7, 12. (Strangely, games are to 15 in the sandpaper format.) Here's video of the final (24:04). Alas, both players are attacking all out - little chopping in this match.

2014 USA Team Trials

Here's info on the upcoming USA National Team Trials (Men's and Women's), to be held at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth Texas, March 7-9.

Message from ITTF President

Here's the end-of-the-year message from ITTF President Adham Sharara.

Ariel Hsing's Website

Here's the new website for our 18-year-old three-time USA Women's Singles Champion!

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's a review in the New York Times on the book "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" by Nicholas Griffin.

Search for Professional Players, Clubs, and Coaches Around the World

Here's a new website that does this. I haven't really tested it out yet, but it looks interesting.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast

Here's the December 2013 issue (11:44).

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's a video (3:31) of the Chinese National Team doing physical training and then table training. With Chinese narration.

Bernoulli's Ping Pong Ball Launcher

Here's the video (60 sec) - it's both table tennis and science!

Jean-Michel Saive vs. Chuang Chih-Yuan

Here are two videos of these two stars doing exhibitions. Tape one (1:35) and tape two (4:10).

Real or Fake?

If this is real (15 sec), then it might be the greatest table tennis trick shot ever.

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December 3, 2013

Tip of the Week

Use a Wider Stance.

North American Teams

It was a LOOOOONG weekend of playing (for 858 players and 213 teams) and coaching (for me and many others). I’m still recovering!!!

Here are the results. This should take you to the Summary page. You can use the second dropdown menu to see more detailed results of the Preliminaries on Friday and Division play on Saturday and Sunday.

I was primarily coaching Derek Nie, though I also coached seven other players at various times, including Derek’s teammates (Crystal Wang, Chen Jie, and Tony Qu). I can’t really discuss most of the coaching itself since they will likely play these players again. But there’s still a bunch of stuff I can write about. None of it is about the players in Division One (i.e. the Championships Division) since Derek’s team was in Division Two, where the average rating was a little over 2300 or so. I was so busy coaching that I never saw a single Divisions One match.

Derek had a strange tournament. He started out Friday by beating a 2300 player in five games, after being down 0-2. But then he lost five consecutive five-gamers over Fri & Sat, against players ranging from about 2280 to 2490. But on Sunday he was 2-0 in five-gamers against a pair of 2300+ players.

I called an interesting timeout in one of his matches, one which might have been a head-scratcher to observers. Derek had lost the first game badly, and was down 4-8 in the second and about to serve. (I generally like to call timeouts when my player is serving so we can discuss what serve to use while not letting the opposing coach tell the opponent what serve to use, and so didn’t call one at 4-6. Alas the opponent won both points on his serve.) Normally a timeout then is kind of a waste – he’s probably going to lose that game, so it’s better to save the timeout for later, right? The problem is I saw two ways of playing this player, and didn’t want to have Derek have to experiment at the start of the third game when he’d already be down 0-2. So I called the timeout so Derek could try out one of the new strategies. The timeout also had value in that if the new strategy worked, he might actually win the game before the opponent adjusted. If the strategy worked, then we’d not only have it ready for the next game, but it would give Derek confidence even if he lost the second game because of the 4-8 deficit. As it turned out, the strategy worked, and Derek quickly won two points. But the opponent played well and managed to win that game (I think at deuce). In the third, the new strategy almost paid off, but the opponent won 11-9.

I saw two of the strangest shots in two of his matches. There was a point where Derek got a net-edge off to the right, with the ball hitting the side edge near the net and jumping sideways. The opponent lunged for the shot, but completely mis-hit it off the edge of his racket – and the ball went around the net at table level, and just rolled unreturnably across the table. In his very next match, no more than ten minutes later, Derek mis-hit a ball that popped up, hit the top of the net, bounced up a foot, then dropped right back on the net again and rolled over for an unreturnable winner.

I also was able to watch and coach a few matches of “Larry’s Loopers,” which was named after me! Two of the players, Sameer Shaikh and Matt Stepanov (both 12), are students of mine, and they were teamed with Darwin Ma (13, who chops and loops, and only lost two matches on Sat & Sun). All three had great tournaments as they won Division 12, going 7-0 in their side of the Division, and then barely edging out TeamRacket (Ryan Dabbs, Patrick Chen, Spencer Chen, Michael Li, and Ronald Chen) 5-4 in an all-MDTTC junior final. John Hsu coached most of their matches. Here’s a picture of the three with their trophies (L-R Matt, Darwin, Sameer). Here’s another picture that includes John Hsu and me – as I indicate with my arms, what’s going on here? Here’s a picture of TeamRacket.

The final of Division 12 was one of the craziest and most entertaining I’ve ever seen. Since it was between MDTTC players, all kids ages 10-13 or so, the coaches and parents only watched while the kids coached themselves. It was great watching them as the players on both teams coached each other between games. I’ve learned that while kids sometimes aren’t tactically aware while at the table, they are surprisingly aware when watching, and can pick out what is and isn’t working. I could see their tactics change after each of these coaching consultations between games and timeouts, and almost always for the better.

In the first match, Sameer was down 0-2, then he was up 10-5 match point in the fifth – but lost six straight! The killer was at 10-9, when he absolutely ripped what should have been a winner, but somehow it came back, an unreturnable block. Down match point twice, he managed to win, I think 14-12 in the fifth! In another match, Darwin lost the first two games and was down 3-7 in the third. He’d been playing almost completely defensively. After a timeout, he went back and attacked, and won that game 11-8 (an 8-1 run), and the fourth. In the fifth he went back to pure defense, both chopping and lobbing, and was down 9-10 match point – but pulled it out, deuce in the fifth! In another match, Matt lost the first game and was down 7-10 in the next two games – but won both of them and the fourth game to win the match! In the end, Larry’s Loopers edged out TeamRacket, 5-4. Congrats to both teams!

USATT Pins Program

Here’s the new USATT Pins page. Make sure to click on “Eligibility Rules” and “USATT Merit Pins” so you can read about the program. I’ll likely blog about this sometime soon. Here’s their promo: “You’ve worked hard to get where you are. All these hours of practice, all the hard-fought matches – Let everyone know how far you’ve made it!” (I think it’s a great idea – but one thing that leaps out to me: the pins are color coded for each rating level. Wouldn’t it be better if they gave the rating number for each rating level attained, since that’s the whole point of it?)

Two Surprising Ways Your Brain Stops You from Winning

Here’s the article, which talks about lacking “skill experience,” and about how the brain sabotages you when you’re on the brink of victory. (I’m quoted in the article, including a link to “Larry’s Six-Month Law.”)

Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee

Here’s the report for Aug-Oct, from HPC Chair Carl Danner.

ITTF Training Camp at Lily Yip Center

Here’s the ITTF Article on the camp, held Nov. 23-28.

World Junior Championships

Here’s a write-up of it so far by Bruce Liu. Here’s the official website with results, articles, pictures, and videos. The event is taking place in Rabat, Morocco, Dec. 1-8. USA players are Kunal Chodri, Kanak Jha, Allen Wang, Theodore Tran, Ariel Hsing, Erica Wu, Prachi Jha, and Tina Lin.

The Health Benefits of Table Tennis

Here’s the article. Sections include: Great physical exercise yet gentle on the body; Improved reflexes, balance, and coordination; Table tennis is the world’s best brain sport; Social bonding and fun at any age or level; and Fight obesity.

Last World Junior Championships for Ariel Hsing

Here’s the ITTF article.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter

Here’s the November issue.

Interview with Ulf “Tickan” Carlsson

Here’s the ITTF video interview (13:58) with the former World Doubles and Team Champion, where he talks about his career, coaching, and talent identification.

Fan Zhendong Forehand Training

Here’s the video (1:55). Watch how he moves his feet.

Saive and the Pope

Here’s a picture of Belgium star Jean-Michel Saive shaking hands with Pope Francis in Vatican City.

Indians and Pilgrims Paddle

In honor of Thanksgiving last week, here’s a paddle that commemorates the first Thanksgiving. Hopefully this led to centuries of good will between these two peoples.

Xu Xin Between Legs Shot

Here’s the video (15 sec).

World’s Most Incredible Trick Shots

Here’s the video (4:05). It’s a compilation of all the trick shots from the ITTF Trick Shot Competition (plus a few failed attempts).

Action-Packed Blindfold Table Tennis!

This video is hilarious. It’s blindfold table tennis at its best, including under legs and behind-the-back shots, all in rapid sequence. The video repeats after about ten seconds or so. This is how table tennis should be played - and of course it’s all real!

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