Beauty of Table Tennis

May 2, 2013

Fundamentals and 1000 Forehands in a Row

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. These are the three things that make up the foundation of your game. If you want to be good, you develop them until they are so ingrained you can do them in your sleep while tap dancing on a hot air balloon Here is my article, Develop the Fundamentals: Strokes and Footwork, from the May/June 2005 USATT Magazine.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because a student of mine, 11-year-old Sameer Shaikh, is rapidly developing the fundamentals - and had a huge breakthrough yesterday. We started the session by seeing how many forehands he could hit in a row. In the first rally he missed after 38 in a row. The second rally went on and On and ON - until I caught the ball after he'd hit 1000 in a row!! Not bad for a kid with a rating of 804. (It'll be a bit higher after his last tournament is processed.) I remember five-time U.S. Champion Sean O'Neill once said that his coach, Chutchai Chan, often made him hit 1000 in a row before they'd move on to other things. (It takes about 20 minutes - if you don't miss.)

It's a matter of muscle memory. When you practice a technique the right way enough times, it becomes so ingrained that it repeats over and over whenever you need it. All you have to do is blank your mind out and let the subconscious take over, and the shot will be there for you when you need it. (Muscle memory doesn't come from the muscles; it comes from the subconscious part of your brain that controls your muscles when you let it do so.)

This doesn't mean you have to do 1000 in a row every session. It's more a mental thing. If you do that 1000 in a row one time, then you pretty much have confidence you can do it anytime. Plus it's great mental training to have the focus to hit 1000 in a row. Once the shot becomes ingrained, you should move on to more advanced practice where you combine strokes with footwork.

I was coaching another kid yesterday, age 10, who had just started. He had a developed a pretty good forehand from hitting with his father (who's also a developing player at the 1000+ level), but he had a few small technique problems, such as a habit of leaning forward as he stroked the ball. He was fine with multiball, but as soon as we went live (i.e. forehand to forehand) he'd fall back in his bad habits. So I used a trick I've used to cure this habit - I had him stand by the table, throw the ball up himself, and smack in a forehand. Since he's no longer chasing after an incoming ball, he stopped leaning forward, and instead stroked with his body going in a circle, as if rotating on a pole stuck through his head, as you want to do. At first he struggled with this, but then it came together. When we went back to forehand to forehand, he'd adopted the change and no longer leaned forward as he stroked the ball. Boom, another fundamental down!

The father had pretty good fundamentals, and is working hard to master looping. He has nice technique on the backhand side (just needs practice to use it in games). On the forehand, he tends to fall back as he's looping the ball against backspin. Why? Because he stands too far from the table, and so has to reach forward to reach the ball. To compensate for this, he falls back with his left foot. Once he moved closer to the table and took the ball from the side instead of in front, the problem was solved. Boom, another fundamental down!

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. The three foundations of your game. Have you got your fundamentals down?

The Table Tennis Collector and the ITTF Museum Newsletter

Here's the May issue of The Table Tennis Collector (#68). Here are links to all 68 issues. And here are links to all 31 issues of the ITTF Museum Newsletter. If you are a table tennis history buff, this should keep you happy for a few millenniums. (Still want more? Than order copies of Tim Boggan's 13 volumes - so far - of History of U.S. Table Tennis.)  

New World Rankings

The new world rankings from the ITTF are out. The big change - Xu Xin passed Ma Long for #1 in the men's. Here are the top ten for men and women. (Vladimir Samsonov of BLR just missed the men's top ten at #11.)

MEN

  1. Xu Xin, CHN
  2. MA Long, CHN
  3. WANG Hao, CHN
  4. ZHANG Jike, CHN
  5. BOLL Timo, GER
  6. CHUANG Chih-Yuan
  7. OVTCHAROV Dimitrij, GER
  8. MA Lin, CHN
  9. WANG Liqin, CHN
  10. MIZUTANI Jun, JPN

WOMEN

  1. DING Ning, CHN
  2. LIU Shiwen, CHN
  3. LI Xiaoxia, CHN
  4. FENG Tianwei, SIN
  5. GUO Yan, CHN
  6. ZHU Yuling, CHN
  7. SHEN Yanfei, ESP
  8. ISHIKAWA Kasumi, JPN
  9. WU Yang, CHN
  10. KIM Kyungah, KOR

Beauty of Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (5:34) set to music.

Westchester Open Final

There was a great final recently on April 28 at the Westchester Open, between Damien Provost and Zhen Wang. Below are links to all five games. Don't have time to watch them all? Then just check out game five, which ends in a 13-11 victory for...
Game1 (7:50)
Game2 (12:04)
Game3 (9:02)
Game4 (5:05)
Game5 (11:26)

LATE ADDITION: Here's the entire match (45:25)

Stockholm Open Poster

Here's a great promotional poster for the Stockholm Open in May - with Jan-Ove Waldner and Mikael Appelgren with tuxedoes and rackets, looking like a pair of gangsters!

Juwooowww!

Here's a Facebook video (10 sec) of 10-year-old Boris Pavlotsky, a student of Brian Pace, looping forehands, winning the point, and his celebratory exclamation. I don't think you need to be on Facebook to see it.

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January 14, 2013

Tip of the Week

Learning to Counterloop.

USA Nationals and Open Entries

The return to Las Vegas for last year's Nationals in December led to a 48% increase in entries, from a modern low of 502 in 2011 in Virginia Beach to 743 in 2012, the most since 2006's 837. (The data used here only includes those who played in USATT rated events, and does not include players who only competed in doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper events.) The online ratings database gives the number of entries for every year back to 1994, with the event held in Las Vegas every year except 2011.

Here's a graph of the Entries at the USA Nationals, 1994-2012. Here's one for the U.S. Open. And here's a chart showing the location of every USA Nationals and U.S. Open ever. (While others watch Honey Boo Boo in their free time, I coach and compile lists.) 

From 1994 to 2002, USA Nationals entries were somewhat stagnant, ranging from 592 to 686. Then began a slow increase from 2002-2006, with 678, 707, 755, 829, and 837. Then it dropped to 730, then 604 and 597. After a jump back to 686 in 2010, there was the huge decline in Virginia Beach to 502, followed by the 743 in Las Vegas in December.

What do these numbers tell us? The obvious answer is that you get more entries at the Nationals if you run it in an obvious "vacation" place, such as Las Vegas. USATT had similar experiences with the U.S. Open, getting relatively large numbers when it's run in Ft. Lauderdale (785 in 1997, the most since 1994) or Las Vegas (769 in 2007, second most), with considerable drops when it was run in Charlotte in 2006 (only 455, a modern low) and somewhat surprisingly, only 524 in 1998 when they ran it in Houston. Of course, how they promote the tournaments make a big difference. There were over 1000 entries at the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens in Oklahoma City and Houston, with master promoter Ron Shirley in charge. Similarly, they did a pretty good job of promoting the Open in 2010 in Grand Rapids, leading to a decent 645 entries, probably a hundred more than would be expected in a city not known as a vacation destination.

I had mixed feelings about the Nationals in Virginia Beach. It was nicely run, and it's only three hours from my club. With the reduced traveling time and playing in the same time zone, our players did much better than they often do in Las Vegas, 3000 miles away, where they usually fly in the night before. However, it's hard to argue with 743 entries to 502.

We're still waiting to see where the 2013 U.S. Open will be, but I've been told it's either Las Vegas or Ft. Lauderdale - announcement coming soon - and so either way it'll be a vacationland. (If it's in Ft. Lauderdale, I'm going to arrange a mass trip to Disneyworld - anyone can join us. I've been there once, way back in 1987.)

Marty Reisman Burial and Memorial

Marty Reisman was buried yesterday (Sunday) at Mount Richmond Cemetery on Staten Island. There will be a memorial tribute to him this Friday (Jan. 18) at SPIN New York at 7:30 PM. Info is here.

FASTT Table Tennis

Here's a release from FASTT (Federal Association of Sandpaper Table Tennis) on the sandpaper events at the recent USA Nationals.

How to Handle Drop Shots

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:49) on how to handle drop shots off lobs from under the table by giving a "wobbly" return.

The Beauty of Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (8:04) that just came out from ThePerfectionisTT.

Venus & Serena Williams

Table Tennis Nation brings us pictures of the Williams sisters playing table tennis at the Australian Open. As noted in last Thursday's blog, the two were also recently featured playing table tennis in an iPhone 5 commercial.

Table Tennis for the Masses

Is this Quadruples or Octuples?

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