Table Tennis Game

December 6, 2011

Sun Ting joins MDTTC Coaching Staff

Sun Ting, a recently retired lefty player from China with a 2716 rating - soon to be higher, after going undefeated at the North American Teams Championships last weekend - has joined the coaching staff at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. He'd coached there much of the past summer, but now is back permanently. He is famous for his serves, and had a win over Ma Lin in the Chinese Super League. He was probably much better than 2716 at his best, considering he got his first USATT rating of 2675 from the Teams in 1998 at age 14! The following year, at age 15, he increased it to 2730. Now 27, he's semi-retired, but he's maintained his 2700+ rating in four tournaments this year, his first U.S. tournaments since 1999. He joins the MDTTC coaching staff of Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, and Larry Hodges (me). As posted previously, Donn Olsen is also joining the staff soon. (In January, MDTTC doubles in size from its current 5500 square feet and 12 tables to 11,000 and 20 or so tables with larger courts and all-red rubber flooring.)

Back-up attack

This past weekend I had a nice match with a fast penhold blocker. I started the match out forehand looping every chance, along with steady backhands. He was unable to stop me from looping after my serve, and on his serve I'd be looping after a shot or two. However, he soon got used to my looping, and began blocking side to side more and more aggressively. He was soon so tuned into my loop that he rarely missed. I battled on, but at 51 I wasn't as fast as I used to be, and the rallies were just getting too fast for me to have time to run down ball after ball to loop. So I made a simple tactical change - and went to just hitting on the forehand, a shorter, quicker stroke. The first time I smashed off his block, he had this look of surprise, since I'd been looping all his blocks until then. After a few more, he began grumbling in Chinese. He had no answer and I ended up winning in a rout. (He did switch to blocking almost exclusively to my backhand, but after a few of those I started quick-blocking to his middle and forehand to set up my forehand again. Also, since the blocks to my backhand became predictable, I began smashing backhands and stepping around to smash forehands.)

If I hadn't had a backup to my looping attack, things might have been quite different. Moral - do you have a backup game if your primary game isn't working? This doesn't necessarily mean dropping your primary game; it means finding other ways to win when necessary.

Side note - you can't normally cover as much of the table with your forehand if you focus on smashing instead of looping, and the timing makes smashing riskier, assuming you have time to loop. That's why looping tends to dominate at the higher levels instead of hitting - but not in this match. 

This also reminded me that at the upcoming Nationals next week, when I'm not coaching, I'm playing in the hardbat events. Since my hardbat game is centered on all-out forehand hitting, I'm going to focus on all-out hitting with my sponge racket in practice matches this next week.

Adham Sharara and the Celluloid Ban

Here's an interesting posting at the OOAK forum from someone who emailed with ITTF President Adham Sharara, along with discussion. Sharara states, "There is no upcoming world-wide ban of celluloid, this was a simplification of the current status and the status on the use of celluloid for many years past. Their is also no health issue with the finished product. The issue is in the manufacturing of the celluloid sheets that are used to make the ping pong balls." [You can read the rest of his long posting at the link above.]

Table Tennis, It's Not for the Slow of Wrist

Here's a short article on table tennis from craveonline.com by James LeBeau. Here's an excerpt: "Where reflexes are your primary friend in being a good TT player, you also have to have a good head for strategy as the game isn't so cut and dried as the above description would have you believe. A skilled opponent can take a ball and send it at you in a number of different ways, from pure power to the subtleties of a slight flick and they can, and will, try their hardest to put a spin on the ball that will have it flying off your racket in a number of unpredictable ways."

Before the Frost

Tim Boggan emailed me to let me know about a table tennis passage from the novel Before the Frost by Swedish mystery writer Henning Mankell. It's one of eleven novels in the Kurt Wallander series, written in Swedish and translated into English. The character references Swedish star Jan-Ove Waldner, arguably the greatest table tennis player ever. Here's the excerpt:

"He's worried [Inspector Wallander is]. First, the report about the swans, and then a calf named Apple is burned alive."

"Apple," he said. "That's an unusual name for an animal."

"I played table tennis when I was younger. I often name my animals after great Swedish champions. I have an ox called Waldner."

Free online table tennis game

Here's a new online table tennis game someone emailed me about.

Smacking the umpire

Angry at the umpire? Tired of bad calls? Here's a 22-second video that ends with a player inadvertently (we think) smacking the umpire with the ball.

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June 28, 2011

U.S. Open

I leave for the U.S. Open tomorrow morning. Since my flight out of BWI is at 7AM I'll be leaving around 4:30 AM - it's an hour away. (Guess I have to get up really early tomorrow to do my blog.) I'll try to blog about tournament while I'm there, though between coaching and playing in hardbat events, I'm not sure how many of the "big" matches I'll get to see. I'm also going to attend some USATT meetings.

If you are at the Open, come by and say hello. And before you go there, make sure to get lots of sleep, eat well, and PRACTICE YOUR SERVES! Service practice and match play are the two most important table tennis things you can do just before a tournament. On the other hand, I may have to play or coach against you, so stay up late, eat potato chips, and watch plenty of TV.

U.S. Open Table Tennis Dream

About an hour ago I woke from the strangest table tennis dream possible. I grabbed a notebook and wrote it down.

I was at the U.S. Open Table Tennis Championships, which starts in two days in Milwaukee. I was coaching Tong Tong Gong, a member of the U.S. cadet team who I'll be coaching there. His opponent complained about his racket, pointing out that Tong Tong was using a book as a racket. The referee, an extremely old man with a white beard that dragged on the floor, examined the book, and declared it illegal, saying the racket needed to be made of wood. He handed it back to Tong Tong, who started to cry. (Sorry Tong Tong, I'm just reporting the facts!) I argued that paper comes from wood, but the referee just smiled and then dissolved into nothing. Then Arnold Schwarzenegger, wearing a black raincoat and dark sunglasses, walked over, followed by eight others. The eight also wore black raincoats and carried black umbrellas, though it wasn't raining. Right about now I realized that we were outdoors, with hundreds of table tennis tables set up on railroad tracks. Arnold snatched the book out of Tong Tong's hand, and then leaped into the air and flew away like superman. The other eight black raincoat-clad umbrella-waving men flew after him. I leaped into the air and flew after them, holding a ping-pong paddle. I landed next to a railroad car, and looked inside, and found Arnold and the eight there. They came out and attacked me with their umbrellas on the railroad tracks. I knocked each one out with my paddle with a forehand or backhand stroke. Each time I knocked one out I said, "Happy birthday." I knocked out Arnold with a backhand and grabbed the book from his hands. Then I saw Tong Tong lighting fire to an old jeep that was apparently Arnold's. We pushed it down a road that paralleled the railroad tracks, and it slammed into a cliff and exploded. Then I woke up.

The Grip

Here's a nice article on the shakehands grip by German National Coach Richard Prause.

Ping-pong without a partner or a ball.

The Japanese have developed a table-tennis game that you play by ear. Make sure to play the two-minute video demo. And to think it all started with a simple video game called "Pong"!

Milwaukee Brewers versus the Chinese National Women's Table Tennis Team

Guess who won? (Former Chinese team member and all-time great Zhang Yining also "competed.")

Allstar Challenge

Here are the results, pictures, and other info on the International Table Tennis All-Star Challenge held this past weekend in Markham, Ontario, Canada. The winner was a blast from the past - Zoran Primorac, who defeated Wang Xi in the final. Here are the (somewhat convoluted?) results.

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