Gideon Teitel

March 5, 2013

Table Tennis Online

As ITTF Coach John Olsen recently pointed out to me, we live in the golden age of online table tennis. You can watch just about any major table tennis match online these days, both live and afterwards. Over the last few days (and below) I've given links for many of the major matches taking place at the Chinese World Team Trials. During major USA Table Tennis events (Nationals, Open, Team Trials), you can watch the matches live as well. And you can go to youtube and find just about anything - just put in "Table Tennis" and anything else you are looking for. Over the weekend John watched the live streaming of the Swedish Nationals, the English Championships, and the Norwegian Championships. (Note that some of the links here that gave the live streaming still have the videos online.)

The availability of videos of the top players is one of the biggest advantages this generation of players has over past ones - along with more coaches and better sponge. On the other hand, there's also a disadvantage to the easy availability of these videos - players tend to watch a video and then move on to the next, and so don't really learn all that's going on. In the old days, there were fewer videos around, and so players would watch the same ones over and Over and OVER - and would pretty much memorize every point, not to mention really learning what the players did from sheer viewing repetition. I remember back in the late 1970s (when I was learning to play) having trouble with pips-out penholders. Then I got a copy of the famous Stellan Bengtsson vs. Mitsuro Kohno tape from the quarterfinals of the 1977 Worlds, and watched it endlessly, and my level against that style went up dramatically. (Pips-out penholder Kohno won, 19 in the fifth, in what many considered the "real" Men's Singles final as it was likely the best match of the tournament. Kohno went on to win the title.)  

Jim Butler on Serves

Here are some nice quotes from four-time U.S. Men's Champion Jim Butler on serving, which he posted yesterday on the about.com table tennis forum. He used to have the best serves in the country, and now, at age 42, he's made a comeback - and he may once again have the best serves in the country.

"I've decided to put a lot of time into practicing my serves.  Improvement there takes the least physical energy.  I have the motion and understanding already down.  To have great serves, they must be practiced daily in order to make them a weapon."

"I'm working on the forehand pendulum right now.  I want to have a good chop and topspin mix like that young Chinese kid in Westchester.  His serves destroyed me, and I'd like to have those.  Easiest way to be competitive in Table Tennis is to have dominating serves."

The Amazing Tomahawk Serve of Kenta Matsudaira

Here's the video (1:09). Note how he can break it both ways - and see the side-by-side slow motion of the two versions. The real question for all you serious table tennis players: Why haven't you developed equally good serves? It's just a matter of technique and practice! If you don't have the technique, see a coach or watch videos and learn. (You don't need to match Kenta's serves - there are many other good serving techniques.) If you don't practice . . . well, then you'll never have the serve of Kenta Matsudaira, and you'll never be as good as you could have been. (This type of serve has been around for a long time. Dean Doyle specialized in this serve when he made the U.S. Pan Am Team over 30 years ago.)

Remembering Zhuang Zedong and Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's the article.

ITTF President Election

ITTF President Adham Sharara is running for re-election - but he's unopposed so far. The election will take place during the upcoming World Championships in Paris, May 13-20, 2013.

Hunter Pence and Ping-Pong

Here's an article about how the Hunter Pence, an outfielder with the LA Dodgers, builds confidence with ping-pong.

The Terminator vs. Scottie

Here's a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger and table tennis exhibition star Scott Preiss just after their game ended in a "3-3 tie" at the Arnold Sports Classic in Columbus, OH this past week.

Chinese World Team Trials

Here are some nice matches, with time between points removed so it's non-stop action.

Swedish Men's Singles Final

Here's the video (6:53, with time between points removed) as Fabian Akerström upsets Jens Lundquist in the final. Akerström plays with long pips on the backhand - but he's so forehand aggressive it's sometimes difficult to notice.

More TT Videotapes

Here's a Facebook page devoted to collecting table tennis videos.

The Dirty Dozen Throwdown

It's on, this Friday at 9PM: Gideon "The Pigeon" Teitel (17-year-old 150-lb lobber) vs. Sam "the Rock" Rockwell (13-year-old 81-lb attacker). Between them they've had three and a half years of intense training, all leading to this moment.

Monsters University

Monsters University, the upcoming sequel to Monsters Inc. from 2001, will be the greatest movie of all time. How do we know? Here's an animated scene from the movie showing the characters playing table tennis!

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November 8, 2012

End-game Surprise Tactics

Last week, due to Hurricane Sandy and Halloween, I didn't coach or play table tennis for four days, and spent the entire time at my computer or reading while eating more junk food than I had in the previous two months combined. It was a great time.

Afterwards, however, I paid the price. When I showed up at the club as a practice partner for our elite junior session, I was stiff, tight, slow, and could barely play. After getting shellacked in a couple matches that I'd normally win, and losing the first game against one of our top juniors (who'd I'd been beating over and over), I switched to chopping. I'm almost as good chopping (inverted both sides) as attacking, but it's usually as a last resort.

I won the second game. Coach Cheng Yinghua was watching and said something to the junior in Chinese. I said, "Cheng, coach him." So the rest of the match Cheng coached the kid between games. In the third, playing much smarter, the kid took the lead, but I tied it up at 9-all, with my serve coming up. I'd been serving all backspin until now, but now I went back to my attack game, served a pair of short side-top serves, ripped two winners against a surprised opponent, and won the game. In the fifth game, again at 9-all, I did it again to win the match.

A chopper attacking at the very end of a close game is a classic example of an end-game surprise tactic. It's hard to guard against it since, in this example, you never know for sure when it's coming, and so can neither prepare for it nor can you get used to it. The difficulty, of course, is that the chopper hasn't been attacking and so has to do something he might not have grooved. But it's a common way for choppers, blockers, and other players who play defensive (or any style centered around steadiness) to win at the end of a close game.

But this type of tactic isn't just for choppers. Some players have a knack for playing multiple styles, and can switch styles under pressure to mess an opponent up. Cheng Yinghua, before he became just a coach, was the best player in the U.S. for ten years. He could play three styles of play equally well - two-winged looping, all-out forehand looping, and a blocking game. Against U.S. players, rather than let them get used to his two-winged looping game, he'd often just push and block, mixing in forehand loops for winners, unless (rarely) it got close. And then he'd bring out the backhand loop, one of the steadiest and spinniest in the world (circa 1980s and 1990s), and dominate the end of any close game.

Another similar case would be someone like Jim McQueen of North Carolina, whose rating seems to bounce back and forth between 2000 and 2150, mostly because he dominates against players who aren't used to him while losing to those who play him more often. He plays a somewhat simple-seeming push and block game. His serves are somewhat simple, usually backspin so he can get into his push and block game. But when it's close, watch out! That's when he pulls out this devastatingly effective backhand sidespin serve that looks like backspin. Few can handle the serve the first few times they see it, and so Jim wins lots of close games by pulling this serve out as an end-game tactic. Others have similar go-to serves at the end of a match - I have a number of them - but the difference is most players use these serves throughout the match, not mostly just at the end of a close game.

It's important to figure out during a match what your "go-to" tactics will be when you badly need a point. Usually you'll use these tactics on and off throughout the match, and go to them when it's close. What are yours?

USATT Minutes

The minutes for the April 19, 2012 USATT board meeting finally went up. (USATT bylaws require they go up within 30 days, but alas.) Here are the USATT minutes, dating back to 1999 when a certain USATT webmaster started putting them online. (Hey, that was me! 1997-2007.)

The New Plastic Ball

Here's a web page and online petition about the proposed introduction of plastic balls in place of celluloid.

Gideon's Ping-Pong Battle in Brooklyn

Here's a video (14:19) featuring Gideon Teitel taking on table tennis challengers. (Warning - starts with some bad language.) Gideon came to one of our training camps at MDTTC this past summer. Here's an early quote: "There are many unsolved crimes in this world. Bird flu, O.J. Simpson. One of them happens to be my backhand."

Robo-Boy Versus Robo-Friend in Robo-Pong

Here's an animated video (2:39) where a trash-talking Robo-Boy challenges his Robo-Friend to a Ping-Pong Showdown. Here's another video (2:53) starring Robo-Boy where he talks more about his Robo-Pong. (There's no actual table tennis in either video, but the dialogue is funny, especially in the first one.)

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