Vikash Sahu

December 11, 2012

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Update

The page layouts are done! Well, mostly. I still don't have the front and back covers, and I need to do a lot of proofing of the layouts. The book is 240 pages, with 76 photos/illustrations, and 99,425 words. Due to the upcoming Nationals (I leave for Las Vegas on Monday), I probably won't get much more done this week - lots of coaching activities over the next six days. If all goes well, the book will be out by the end of January.

I did the final three segments in the book yesterday, giving more examples of tactics used in actual matches. They include:

  • A player fell behind 0-2 in games because the opponent looped his deep serves, and either dropped short or quick-pushed at an angle his short backspin serves to the forehand or backhand. The solution? Short no-spin serves to the middle, which take away most of the angles and are difficult to push short.
  • A match won by simplifying a strong but erratic backhand loop by deciding to go relentlessly crosscourt, even though shots to the middle and forehand gave the opponent trouble, as well as a late-match change to short receive, which hadn't worked earlier, but did now for reasons explained in the text;
  • Turning a crosscourt 2500 monster into a down-the line 2200 mouse (and focusing on looping any slightly long serve, mostly down the line) leads to upsetting the top seed and making the U.S. National Cadet Team.
  • A player spends a week working on a specific doubles serve, which leads to winning a doubles title.
  • When paired with a two-winged ripper, a player learns to play control to set up his partner and win a major doubles title.

Note that none of these are complicated tactics. Tactics isn’t about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent; tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work

Regarding the cover, I'm running into a problem in that I need to get permission from a top player to use his image. I decided I would use Cheng Yinghua, my fellow MDTTC coach and former top player, and created this cover. However, Cheng surprised me by being embarrassed about it, and didn't want to be on the cover. I may try to talk him into it. Otherwise, I'm back at square one - any suggestions? (The back cover is tentatively a picture of me coaching Todd Sweeris at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials. He made the team. I have to check with him on this - if he sees this, Hi Todd!)

Maybe I should just put myself on the cover. I don't want a cover that just shows a coach talking to a player; I want something that says table tennis, i.e. a table tennis shot. The head shot of "The Thinker" at the top signifies the thinking aspect. (Someone here suggested that - who was that? Comment here and take credit!!!)

Late Starters - Embrace It!

To become truly great at table tennis you need to start very young (and lots of other things as well). Most players start late, often well after their juniors years. (I didn't start until I was 16, alas.) You can still become very good, but you probably won't be world champion.

On the other hand, there's a huge advantage to starting late. Players who start very young peak (often at a very high level) by their 20s, and by age 30 can at best hold their level. They may continue to learn new things, but this only postpones the inevitable physical decline that comes with age. Late starters may never reach the heights of those who start early, but they can improve their level for nearly their entire lives. It may be a slow progression, but I know lots of players who started as non-juniors, played for many years, and got better well into their 50s and even 60s. It's a different perspective, of course. The steady improvement from beginner at age 20 to 2000 player at age 50 can be long and slow, and seemingly not as exciting as a journey starting at age 8 that leads to 2600 at age 20, but if the journey is the destination, then both journeys are exciting - one just lasts longer.

Playing in Less Than Ideal Conditions

Here's a short article by former top junior Vikash Sahu on the topic.

Angry Moments in Table Tennis

Here's a video (7:04) that showcases seven minutes of unhappy players. I don't think I've linked to this one before, though in June I linked to the "Top Ten Angry Moments in Table Tennis" (4:41).

Table Tennis Then and Now

This is a great video (10:48), showing table tennis as it evolved from the hardbat era to now. It's also inspirational, and will help calm you down after the preceding video on "Angry Moments."

This is Why They Call it Sandwich Rubber

But it's good to snack while you play!

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July 18, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Two

The schedule yesterday was similar to the day before, except that the morning's focus was on the backhand, and my lecture after the break was on return of serve.

I did a lot of coaching on serves, where the focus was on creating spin. One thing I introduced was a way to practice spin with just the racket and ball. You toss the ball into the air and try to sidespin it straight into the air, catch it, and repeat. It's a simple exercise any player can learn to do, and it's a great way to practice your spin contact as well as control (since you have to hit the ball straight up).

One serve especially has gained interest - the reverse forehand pendulum serve, especially short to the forehand. I've explained that this is probably the most effective serves against junior players (because of their shorter reach, making it hard both to handle the serve or to return it anywhere except crosscourt to a righty's forehand), and this seems to have sparked interest. Here's a video (1:22) that features Men's Singles World Champion Zhang Jike doing the serve, with slow motion. Normally I'd recommend the serve to go wider to the forehand, but at the advanced levels that gives the receiver a very wide angle into the forehand, so at that level it is often done more to the middle. Learn the serve and experiment on what works best in your matches against different opponents.

Things weren't all lovey-dovey in the camp; we had our first real fight of the season. One kid wanted to share a chair with another (both about 9), for some reason didn't want to use the open chair five feet away. I had to pull them apart. Amazing how such little things can escalate at that age level. (I previously blogged about a fight over paper cups, I think about who got to stack them for knocking down with ping-pong balls.) But an hour later they were happily taking turns on the robot together, and later were teammates in Brazilian Teams, cheering for each other. I wish my memory were that short.

In the ongoing clipboard challenge matches during break, I haven't yet lost to anyone rated under 2200, and am now 5-0 against players rated between 2000 and 2200. However, I believe players are now conspiring together by studying videos late into the night, comparing notes, consulting with coaches, and doing early morning training, all for the express purpose of beating me and my clipboard.

Fundraising for Topspin the Movie

To do the documentary on Michael Landers, Ariel Hsing, and Lily Zhang, they need to raise $75,000. As of this writing, 405 people have donated a total of $44,771. It's all or nothing - so they need you to donate! Here's the movie webpage, here's the fundraising site, and here's a link to the 48-hour Top Spinnathon they started Tuesday at 3:30 PM.

Ariel Hsing on CNN

Here's an article with a link to a two-minute video that ran on CNN yesterday. The person hitting with Ariel in the video is coach and practice partner Anol Kashyap.

Timothy Wang in the News

Here's an article on USA Olympian Timothy Wang.

What Vikash Learned at the U.S. Open

Vikash Sahu blogs about what he learned at the U.S. Open, in particular about attacking, playing different styles, and physical conditioning.

History of U.S. Table Tennis

Chapter 14 of Volume 12 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis was featured yesterday on the USATT web page. The heading: "1983: New USTTA Editor Tom Wintrich Replaces 50-Year-Old 'Table Tennis Topics' with 'SPIN.' 1983: Boggan's Fury at President Schiff's Public Explanation as to Why Tim was Fired as 'Topics' Editor. 1983: Boggan Immediately Begins Renegade 'Timmy’s North American World of Table Tennis.'  1983: Initial Responses to SPIN and 'Timmy's' from readers."

Why not buy a copy of this volume and/or the preceding eleven? Perhaps pick and choose the years you are most interested in. Here's Tim Boggan's table tennis page, where you can buy the books or just read about Tim. Here's his Hall of Fame profile.

Wheel of Fortune

Table tennis was on Wheel of Fortune yesterday, as related online by "jj4tt" at the about.com table tennis forum. As he narrates about "Round 2 - Same Letter" (and I presume Wheel of Fortune aficionados can make sense of this?):

Sarah instantly duds out w/ T while Karla goes BANKRUPT. Jed picks up that MDW with three N's. That's followed by $7,000 worth of L's, but he blows it with the C. Back to Sarah who finds the SL of four P's; that allows her to pick up a 1/2 KIA. She narrows the puzzle down to this...
P R O _ E S S I O N A L
P I N _ - P O N _
P L A _ E R
She solves PROFESSIONAL PING-PONG PLAYER for $2,500. Jed left a total of $8,300 on the table in this round.  ...

A Table at Spin NY

I think it's a drowning woman - the table top seems to be blocking her from surfacing. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be posting about Murder at Spin NY.

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