Adoni Maropis

April 7, 2014

Tip of the Week

Attacking the Middle.

Attack the Middle or Lose

Coincidental to this week's Tip of the Week, I watched two top players play this past weekend at the MDTTC Open. (See segment below.) I was coaching on a back table for much of the tournament, though I did get to coach a few matches of students of mine. One match in particular caught my eye, between what should have been two evenly matched top players whose names I won't mention.

One of the players is basically a blocker, though he can attack as well with a very orthodox game. The other was a vicious two-winged attacker who rarely backs off the table. (That describes a lot of top players.) What stuck out was how the two-winged attacker kept attacking at wide angles, and the blocker kept blocking back at wide angles. This put the attacker out of position while the blocker controlled the points. Result? The blocker won three straight.

There's a simple dynamic here that many don't understand. While loopers dominate against blockers at the higher levels, in a battle between a looper and blocker where the two go just corner to corner, the blocker is completely at home. He has little time to react to the looper's shots, but if the shots keep coming to just his forehand or backhand, he can react to those with quick blocks. But if the looper goes to the middle as well, that's too much, and the blocker just can't react. When he does, he has to move out of position or contort his body for the shot, and his blocks are weaker and the corners open up. Suddenly, instead of the blocker moving the looper around like a marionette, it's the other way around, except the blocker is more like a Raggedy Ann as he struggles to react to these loops to his middle and wide angles that jump like grasshoppers as they hit the table.

Since I've coached the looper before, I wanted to go out and tell him to attack the middle, but I was in my own coaching session, and could only watch some of the points as he played to the blocker's strength over and over. I'll be talking to him at some point about this.

Busy Pong Day

This morning I have the Tip of the Week and this blog to write. Then I try to finalize the new MDTTC April Newsletter. Then I leave to coach at the club for two hours, 12:30-2:30PM. Then I leave to pick up two kids from schools for our afterschool program. Then I do a session with one of them, plus help with homework. Then I teach my beginning/intermediate class from 6:30-8:00PM. Along the way I need to respond to a zillion emails. Meanwhile, I'm working with someone on a French translation of my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book, and working on setting up my new tabletennisbooks.com page, where I'll sell TT books and videos. Somewhere in there I'll breathe.

USA College Nationals

The College Nationals were this past weekend, Fri-Sun, in Monroeville, PA. Here's their home page, with results, video, and more. Congrats to the following champions:

Coed Team - Texas Wesleyan University
Women's Team - Princeton University
Men's Singles - Cheng Li, Mississippi College
Women's Singles - Ariel Hsing, Princeton University
Men's Doubles - Razvan Cretu & Zhedi Bai, Texas Wesleyan University
Women's Doubles - Vivien Zhou & Xixi Guo, University of Toronto

MDTTC Open

Here are complete results of the MDTTC Open held this past weekend at my club, care of Omnipong. New MDTTC coach/practice partner Chen Ruichao ("Alex") dominated the Open, defeating fellow MDTTC coach/practice partner Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen") in the final, 8,12,-8,9,3, visiting New Jersey junior star Allen Wang in the semifinals, 6,8,6,5, and Maryland junior star Roy Ke in the quarterfinals after a first-game scare, -11,7,5,3. There are still raging debates on what Alex's actual level is since it seems to go and down, but it's somewhere in the 2600-2700 range, depending on how "on" his vicious third-ball attack is, which might be the best in the U.S. when it is on.

Who's Been #1 Since 2001?

Here's the listing of the eight men and six women who have held the #1 ranking since 2001. Wang Liqin runs away with it for the men with streaks of 24 months, 6 months, 21 months, and 1 month, for a total of 52 months, while Zhang Yining is even more dominant on the women' side with 70, with streaks of 3, 9, and 58.

Here are the overall totals for men:

  1. Wang Liqin: 52
  2. Ma Long: 30
  3. Wang Hao: 24
  4. Ma Lin: 17
  5. Timo Boll: 10
  6. Zhang Jike: 7
  7. Xu Xin: 6
  8. Werner Schlager: 1

Here's the overall totals for women:

  1. Zhang Yining: 70
  2. Wang Nan: 23
  3. Ding Ning: 22
  4. Liu Shiwen: 17
  5. Li Xiaoxia: 9
  6. Guo Yan: 6

Kai Zhang vs. Eugene Wang Point

The two played in the final of the Westchester Open in February. Here's the entire match (35:46). However, you might want to skip to 29:35, where they have the point of the tournament. (Eugene, who won the match at -11,10,3,8, has been the #1 player in North American for the last few years, is on the far side. Kai is only fifteen.)

MBC Table Tennis

Here's a new video (1:51) of a junior program run in Pennsylvania by Rich Burnside, John Wetzler, and Pastor Eric.

Adoni Maropis vs. Timo Boll

Here's a video (7:45) of the two in a mini-paddle challenge match. (The paddles have pimples on one side, I think hardbat, and sponge on the other.) Timo is the former #1 player in the world; Maropis is the hardbat champion and actor who played Abu Fayed in "24" (and nuked Valencia, CA). They also almost had an arm wrestling contest. (Adoni offers his right arm, but Timo is a lefty and offers his left.)

Robot vs. Robot

We've had videos of players playing robots. Here's a new one of robot vs. robot (3:06). Expedite!!!

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April 25, 2012

Set-up serves versus point-winning serves

I was teaching serves to a new student recently, and started to launch into my usual speech about the purpose of serves. Before I could finish, he interrupted and said, "I don't want to focus on serves that opponents miss. I want serves that set me up to do my best shots." He then explained how he wouldn't feel comfortable if he tried to win points on the serve outright, since if the serve did come back it likely wouldn't be setting up his strengths. Instead, he wanted serves that allowed him to use his relatively strong backhand. He also wanted to use serves to help set up his developing forehand and backhand, since the practice he'd get from using these serves and following up with a loop would make his attack stronger. 

I was stunned - this was exactly what I was about to explain, and this relative beginner already understood this. (Okay, he later admitted he'd read some articles of mine on the subject, such as this one, and in past blogs.) But that meant he'd done his research before signing up for lessons with me, which is always a good thing.) The key point is that while your serves should put pressure on an opponent (and thereby win many points outright), they should primarily be used to set up your best shot, or to help develop your attacking shots (which then become your best shots).

Because of his strong backhand, I showed the player how to serve various sidespin and topspin serves, both short and long, and with placements that would primarily favor returns to his backhand. (I also gave him the example of Dave Sakai, a USATT Hall of Fame player with a similar style of play that favored the backhand, and explained how Dave served to force opponents into backhand exchanges, often with short side-top serves to the backhand.) We also worked on short backspin serves that would set up his forehand and backhand loops, often placing these shots so as to force returns to his backhand. By mixing up these type of serves he'll develop a strong set of tactical weapons to use against anybody.

But we didn't completely leave out "trick" serves - as I explained (and he'd already read), you are handicapping yourself if you don't develop some trick serves that are designed to win points outright. Such trick serves tend to either win points outright or give opponents a ball to attack, so if they are over-used they lose their value. But used here and there, they not only win points, they give the opponent one more thing to watch for, thereby making your other serves even better.

Tim Boggan seeing red

Poor Tim Boggan. He was quite comfortable in the typewriter age, and then the world had to go and invent the computer. He uses one for his writing now (using Microsoft Word), along with that Internet thing (for email), but he and the computer have an adversarial relationship. Yesterday all of the text of the article he was writing turned red. In a state of hysteria, he called me and pleaded for help. (He called my cell phone, another device that continually amazes him. Keep in mind that he gave me permission to make fun of him in return for my help.) I was in the middle of a coaching session, but I called him back later that day. At first thinking he had actually turned the text red, I explained how to change font colors. However, that didn't work. I finally figured out that he'd somehow gotten into "Track Changes" mode, and the red was how Word kept track of changes, i.e. new text. I painstakingly explained what was happening and how to fix it, which is similar to explaining calculus to my dog Sheeba. Fortunately, Sheeba is very smart, and Tim is as well (well, in non-technical matters), and we finally got the text back to normal. But I fear it won't be the last time he will see red in his interactions with that confounded computer thing.

ICC's Three Olympians

There are zillions of articles on the USA Olympic Trials and the four Americans who qualified. Here's a good one that features the three that trained at the ICC club.

Koki Niwa upsets Ma Long

Here's the video of Koki Niwa of Japan, world #19, upsetting world #1 Ma Long of China (8:00) 4-2 (-8, 4, 8, 10, -5, 9) at the Asian Olympic Qualification, Apr. 19-22, with the time between points removed.

The most nonchalant point-winning block ever made

Watch this 28-second video and see Waldner basically stroll over and block a forehand winner against Timo Boll!

Adoni Maropis being silly

Yes, this is Adoni Maropis, the guy who nuked Valencia, California (on "24," season six) and is the reigning National Hardbat Champ. Click on the pictures and you'll see two more of Adoni, and if you keep clicking, you'll find a bunch more, including a number of table tennis action shots.

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July 8, 2011

USA Nationals entry form

The long national wait is over; the USA Nationals entry form is online! (Just kidding; the U.S. Open just finished a few days ago.) Here's the USA Nationals page. (Strangely, you have search around to find the dates, and even the location is in small print. Shouldn't that be in a large headline?) For once I get to drive to the tournament, about three hours away; there's going to be a massive Maryland caravan going there. See you in Virginia Beach, VA, Dec. 13-17!

Top Ten Reasons Why Coaches Fail

Here's an interesting Top Ten List of why coaches fail. I don't necessarily agree with all of them. For example, #1 says not to compromise. But sometimes you must listen to your athletes and learn, i.e. compromise. For example, I told a player recently to use his backhand serve short to the forehand, since I knew the opponent had trouble with that serve. The player looked unhappy so I asked why. He said he hadn't used his backhand serve in a while, and didn't have confidence in using it. So we compromised - I had the player use the backhand serve sparingly, so the opponent would have to think about it, which made the other serves more effective. (I also told the player to start using the backhand serve again so it'd be ready when needed.)

I also disagree with #3, about not copying other coaches. I'd say you should copy what works, and expand on it to make it even more successful. To use a classic example, when the Europeans began dominating the Chinese in table tennis in the early 1990s, the Chinese copied their two-winged looping game, expanded on it, and have pretty much dominated the game since. If they hadn't done so, where would they be now? Still playing with pips-out?

I'm also slightly skeptical of #6, which says not to use the same programs over and over and over. It's partially right, but what works before often will work again, in the same situation, as long as you understand why the program worked before, and make any needed adjustments. For example, many pro athletes have very specific habits that prepare them to play their best. There's no reason to not use the same program over and over and over - if it works. At the same time, as the situation changes you might have to make adjustments; for example, older athletes might need more stretching to avoid injury as their muscles tend to be tighter.

The Absolute Last Adoni Maropis Segment (until later)

Adoni still didn't like the pictures I put up of him two days ago, and when an actor from "24," Hidalgo," "Troy," and "Mortal Kombat: Conquest" talks, we sometimes vaguely listen when not hitting ping-pong balls. Yesterday he emailed me, writing "I thought I would include a pic where I didn't look pregnant and/or feminine in any way." He sent me this one and that one. Now we get the real Fayed Abu sinister look!

We also discussed the idea of a "Celebrity Team" at the North American Teams in November, perhaps made up of Adoni (2110 in hardbat ratings, with an 1881 USATT rating from a while back), Frank Caliendo (comedian, about 1900 level now), Will Shortz (puzzlist, about 1800), Julian Waters (about 1900-1950, famed calligrapher), and Judah Friedlander (comedian/actor, and the runt of the lot at about 1500 level, though he still wears those "World Champion" shirts). Maybe they'll even consider Delaware Governor Jack Markell, currently rated 1223 - or is that too low? And there's also Susan Sarandon, co-owner of the Spin NY team - but she's about 800. Will they put together a Fab Five (or Four) team? If they do, remember you heard about it here first! (They are all pictured, along with 700+ other celebrities, at the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page.)

Jan-Ove Waldner - coordinated?

Here's all-time great Waldner showing his ball-bouncing abilities! (0:32) His opponent is Jorgen Persson (1991 Men's Singles World Champion); the second announcer speaking is five-times U.S. Champion Dan Seemiller.

171

Yes, that's what I weighed this morning. On Dec. 26, 2010, I weighed 196. Despite all my fame and fortune, my goal of becoming a nobody is rapidly becoming a reality. This should strike fear in all my opponents who used to move me around, especially all the kids at the club (many of whom I coach) who used to think it was funny to move me side to side. Try it now! On to 165.

Nibble on my Novel (non-table tennis)

YesterdayI got a major "nibble" on my YA humorous fantasy novel, "The Giant Face in the Sky." The agent - from one of the large NY agencies - wrote: "Well, this is a weird one, but the mere prospect of a buddy comedy where one of the buddies is a meteor is cracking me up, and you’ve got great comic timing, to boot…would you send me the full manuscript when you get the chance? Much obliged!"

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July 7, 2011

Adoni Responds

In my July 5 blog entry, I linked to several pictures of actor and table tennis player Adoni Maropis. In one, he was wearing rather prominent kneepads, so I jokingly wrote, "Yes, he has knee problems." Adoni responded via email, saying that he wears kneepads to dive for balls - and as someone who has battled with him on the table a number of times, I can verify that he is constantly diving for balls. He's sort of like the mountain goat of table tennis. (Oh boy, am I going to hear from him now!) He also wrote how he hates the photo I linked to about him "terrorizing the hardbat community," saying "I hate that pic...it looks like I have bad everything and either a huge beer gut or pregnant... or a woman... and oh so old." I'd comment on this, but when dealing with a guy who's blown up half the west coast and (when he's not diving on elephant-sized kneepads) kills every chance he can (at the table), I'll shut my mouth.

40th Anniversary Ping-Pong Diplomacy Celebration - SF Edition

Here's an article on the San Francisco ceremony, with lots of pictures. Pictured are former Chinese stars Cai Zhenhua and Liang Geliang, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, former Secretary of State George Schultz, and former USA star Judy Hoarfrost.

Tutoring and Table Tennis

I've been discussing with club members the idea of starting a tutoring service at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. We have so many kids coming in for lessons each day, so why not turn MDTTC into an all-service table tennis and tutoring center? They could bring their homework, and we'd find someone at the club who could be available for tutoring. Oh, that latter would be me!!! (I'm qualified to tutor math, English, and a few other subjects.) While I've tutored before, I've never done it in a formal setting, so I'm not sure of the best setup. Do I do it one-on-one on a case-by-case basis? In a group setting at scheduled times, such as Mon-Thu 4-6PM? How much to charge? If anyone has experience in these matters, let me know, either by commenting below or emailing me. Thanks!

Calories burned in table tennis

You thought you were just having fun, and it turns out you've been out for a walk!

Celebrities with USATT Ratings

Did I miss anyone? I'm sure there's someone obvious I left out. (See the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page for pictures of over 700 celebrities playing table tennis, including the below.)

The Celebrity Rankings!

Ranking

Celebrity

Occupation

Current Rating

Highest Rating

Last Played

1

Julian Waters

 

Calligrapher

1898

2067

June, 2011

(Played in U.S. Open in July)

2

Adoni Maropis

 

Actor

1881

(Has a 2110 hardbat rating)

1881

March, 2011

(played in U.S. Open in July)

3

Will Shortz

 

Puzzlist

1799

1845

Feb, 2011

4

Tom McEvoy

1983 World Series of Poker Champion

1711

?

Pre-1994

5

Frank Caliendo

 

Comedian

1670

1670

March, 2011

(Played in U.S. Open in July)

6 Judah Friedlander Actor, Comedian 1509 1510 Oct., 2010

7

Jack Markell

Governor of Delaware

1223

1223

Apr, 2010

8?

Susan Sarandon

Actress

Why isn't she rated? She plays at and co-owns the Spin Club in NY!

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July 5, 2011

U.S. Open Ratings Champions - No Fear!

When I looked over the rating champions at the U.S. Open, what jumped out to me was that, for once, most of the champions were actually players that were seeded very high in the event. Often players like that avoid playing in such events in order to protect their ratings (sigh...), leaving the event to lower-rated "ringers." Not so much this time! Here's a rundown of these champions - congrats to all these fearless champions! (Note that in three cases, a player is actually rated over the cutoff, but that's because the ratings used for eligibility purposes is well in advance of the U.S. Open; otherwise, players wouldn't know until the last minute what events they were eligible for.)

  • Under 2600: Gao YanJun (2607) over Adam Hugh (2570). Over by 7 and under by 30 points.
  • Under 2400: Raghu Nadmichettu (2390) over Mark Croitoroo (2319). Under by 10 and 81 points.
  • Under 2250: Klement Yeung (2239) over James Therriault (2206). Under by 11 and 44 points.
  • Under 1950: Cameron Siou (1930) over Jeremy Hazin (1631). Under by 20 and (gulp) 319 points.
  • Under 1800: Marina Leitman (1811) over Edmundo J. Lozada Salazar (1759). Over by 11 and 41 points.
  • Under 1650: Natasha Carr-Harris (1535) over Alex Bu (1530). Under by 115 and 120 points.
  • Under 1500: Edward Guo (1328) over Rohan Mannem (1283). Under by 172 and 217 points. Mannem didn't win here, so he got his revenge in...
  • Under 1350: Rohan Mannem (1283) over Paul Scobey (1267). Under by 67 and 83 points.
  • Under 1200: David Stone (1167) over Wilson Chen (1209). Under by 33 and over by 9 points.
  • Under 1000: Anton Berman (641) over Michael Gustafson (798). Under by 359 and 202 points. Someone's a bit under-rated? And just for the record, the fearless Gustafson, with the 798 rating, also played Under 800 but didn't reach the final - but he did get revenge on the girl who took him out of Under 800, beating her in Under 1200.
  • Under 800: Anton Berman (641) over Wang Yee (756). Under by 159 and 44 points.

The Evil Fayed: Nuking U.S. Cities and Terrorizing Hardbat

Here's Abu Fayed discussing the destruction of America on "24." Here's Adoni Maropis (at the U.S. Open) terrorizing the hardbat community, where he's achieved a 2110 hardbat rating. He reached the semifinals of Over 40 Hardbat at the U.S. Open. (He made the final at the Nationals in December.) Yes, he has knee problems, and is a little soft on the backhand, but he has that look that says I will tear out your liver and feed it to your children. So try to catch him in a good mood. (Table tennis pictures are by Steve Hopkins.)

Hidden Serves - not always noticed

I wrote yesterday about some of the problems with hidden serves. One irony I didn't mention is that often a player doesn't even notice when an opponent hides his serve. Like all other shots in table tennis (at least for a well-trained player), you don't consciously react to shots. Your subconscious reflexively reacts to the various incoming spins. So when returning a serve, it's the subconscious that's actually reacting. When the serve is hidden, the subconscious doesn't see contact, and so often misreads the spin - but the conscious mind doesn't always notice since you don't normally consciously react to the contact. A well-trained player learns to blank out his conscious mind while playing, and so doesn't consciously see contact unless he makes an effort to look for it. Of course this doesn't change the fact that at the higher levels, many players hide their serve and most umpires don't call it, so for now, players will just have to learn to read hidden serves by watching the ball, as players used to do before hidden serves became illegal.

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