Pongcast 21

December 14, 2012

Warm-up Partners

With the Nationals coming up, perhaps I should mention the importance of a good warm-up at the start of a tournament? Many players just show up and hope they find someone to hit with. I always tell my students to arrange in advance who they'll hit with and when. (At big tournaments in big arenas, add "where.") You want someone who's reliable, with solid, consistent shots. This is NOT the time to practice against weird styles and surfaces - sorry! (The time for that is regularly at your club, and before a match with someone like this, if you can get someone similar to warm up with. If there are two long-pips blockers at a tournament, for example, they both become in demand - by whoever is playing the other one.)

You want to get your game warmed up. The best way to do that is to use the same routine you warm up with at your club. What, you don't have a warm-up routine at your club? Better fix that! With experience, you'll know what you need to do to warm up all the shots you'll be using, as well as your feet, serves, and receive.

Now I'm going to tell you about "Black Sunday." (This is my Black Sunday; there are others.) One year at the Teams in Detroit (before it moved to Baltimore in 1998), I had what should have been the tournament of my life. I went in rated just over 2270. On Friday and Saturday I beat just about every one in sight. Playing in the "B" division (where the ratings ranged mostly from about 2200 to 2400), I had only one loss, to a 2500 player. I beat a whole bunch of players from 2250 to 2400, and I think three over 2400. I later calculated that if I had stopped playing after Saturday, I would have been over 2500, which would have been my highest rating ever.

I had arranged with my teammates to meet at the playing hall about an hour before play began. They were late. I sat around waiting for them as time ticked by, getting more and more ticked off myself. Finally, about twenty minutes before play was to begin, I began looking for someone else to warm up with - but couldn't find anyone good. I finally found a 1700 player with long pips (no sponge) to warm up with. He flipped his racket throughout the warm-up and swatted balls all over the table and off it, often with weird sidespins. Five minutes before play began, my teammates showed up, all smiles as I glowered at them.

After destroying everyone the first two days, I went 0-6 on Sunday. Worse, all six players were rated lower than me. Worse still, three of them were over 100 points lower than me. When the ratings came out, despite Black Sunday, I came out almost exactly even for the tournament.

Moral: Get a good and reliable warm-up partner.

2013 Cadet and Junior Team Selection

At long last, here they are! (They are linked from this page.) Unfortunately, I see four possible problems in them.

1) Have they forgotten about the Mini-Cadet Trials? The Selection Procedures only reference the Junior and Cadet Trials. [ADDENDUM: I've since learned that the procedures for the Mini-Cadet Trials are on the USA Nationals entry form. For some reason they differentiate them from the Junior and Cadet Trials.]

2) In 2-b it says that if a player is unable to finish all matches in the second stage, then all of his or her matches do not count. Do they realize what this means? A player could "clinch" his spot on the team, but then, in the last round, a player he beat (but who beat someone else) could decide not to play, canceling all his previous matches in one shot, and by doing so dramatically change the results of the Trials. In other words, in the last round, there will likely be at least one player who has the power to change who makes the team simply by choosing not to play.

This is why the standard (especially overseas) is that all matches count if you have played over half of them, and none count if you don't play a match before you have played half of them. To allow all of the matches to suddenly not count because someone chooses not to play in the last round is a disaster waiting to happen. (I won't even get into the blackmail/bribery possibilities here.)

3) They refer to players "unable to finish all matches." Which means a player can simply say he is able to finish all matches, but chooses not to. "Unable" and "unwilling" have different meanings.

4) I'd also recommend that they allow the referee to adjust the Second Stage schedule for geographical purposes. Otherwise there likely will be cases where a player who cannot make the team plays someone from his club (or even a relative) who cannot, and has incentive to dump or at least not try hard. In the past, they often required players from the same club, or who were related, to play early. With all the players from a few top training centers, this is likely to happen. (This is standard in China, and most Chinese coaches, and likely other coaches, would ask the player to dump for the benefit of his teammate. Let's not put them in that situation if it can be avoided.)

How to Return Ma Lin's Backspin Serve

Here's a video from PingSkills (2:18) on returning Ma Lin's heavy backspin serve, the ones that would bounce back into the net if given the chance.

Pongcast Episode 21

Here's the latest Pongcast (16:58). "In this episode: The 2012 ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals, plus the life and times of Marty Reisman, who just recently passed away; accompanied by music by Dave Brubeck, which seemed fitting. May they both RIP."

Crazy Like Table Tennis

Here's another highlights video (4:04)!

One-Point Knockout Event

This is kind of interesting - a one-point single elimination tournament! Here's the video (8:55). Pete May used to run something similar in his tournaments down south - 3-point games, which he called the "Parade of Champions." I copied that from him and have run a few of these "Parades." Perhaps I'll try the one-point version next time?

Spin Standard LA

Here's an article about the new Spin Standard LA club, with an interesting picture. I count 25 ping-pong balls, one Robert Redford, and one Paul Newman.

What Really Happens at Big Tournaments

What the heck is going on? L-R: USATT President Sheri Pittman, Chen Xinhua, Cheng Yinghua, at the USA Nationals or Open, circa late 1990s. (Photo by Mal Anderson.)

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