Tactical Matches

February 13, 2013

Tactical Matches

Over the past year I've sort of been the nemesis of one of our top juniors. Since I also sometimes coach this player, I know his game well. Until recently I had a simple way to take his game apart - relentlessly going short to his forehand. I'd serve short to the forehand with varied spins. If he served short, I dropped the ball short to the forehand (usually faking to the backhand first). The only way to stop my going short there was to serve long, and then I'd loop. Plus, because I knew the player so well, I was able to read his serves and tell early in his motion if he was serving long.

Alas, it is no more. Or should that Thank God it is no more? He's finally figured things out. When I serve short to the forehand, he's finally developed a competent flip. He can also drop it short. Or he reaches over and flips with his backhand, often using a banana flip. The more I go wide to his short forehand to get away from his backhand, the wider the angle he gets to my wide forehand. When he flips there, I have to go so wide that I'm open on the backhand on the next shot.

When he serves, he's giving more variations, so it's not as easy to drop the ball short. And just as with my short serves, he's gotten better when I do drop it short, flipping both forehand and backhand. He's also disguising his long serves better so I can't see them coming so easily.

So after at one point beating him 14 times in a row, I am sad - I mean glad! - to say he's won our last two. In fact, I've had to completely revamp my tactics against him, since the relentlessly-go-after-the-short-forehand tactics doesn't work so well anymore. However, this has led to some good news - for me. It's forced me to get more aggressive against his serves, bringing out my own inner backhand banana flip. So I'm now mixing in short receives and flips, and my flips are getting better and better. Unlike many of our past matches, which (because of my tactics) were often sloppy-seeming ones with few good rallies, now we're having really good rallies, and I'm battling with him, shot for shot. He may have won, but he may have awoken a sleeping giant. Or so I hope!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

***Get your copy of Table Tennis for Thinkers Now! ***

The price right now is $17.95, but it likely will go up to $19.95 sometime soon, when dealers start to distribute it. Dealers would prefer the higher price, and they probably know the business better than I do. Most likely I'll also raise the Kindle price (currently at $9.99 for the text-only version) to about $11.95 when I have time to create and upload the version with pictures (hopefully within a few weeks). As noted previously, if I make "substantial changes" to the original version (and going from text only to adding 90 photos certainly qualifies), then they'll give a free download of the new version to those who downloaded the earlier version.

Update - Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13

So far we've done 20 chapters, 319 pages, 662 graphics. Projections: 29 chapters, 461 pages, 947 graphics. We expect to finish first draft Friday, and finish making corrections on Monday. Then it goes to the printer, and I sleep for a week. Or at least for an hour. (Note - besides the regular chapters, there are seven pages of covers, inside covers, acknowledgements, etc., which also include graphics, which is why the projections don't match up exactly to the ratio of the current 20 chapters to the planned 29.)

Ding Ning - Slow Motion Studies

Here's a video (1:57) that shows world #1 woman Ding Ning's technique in slow motion.

Samsonov over Ovtcharov in Swiss Open

Here's the article.

Ping Pong and Songs

It's for charity! "Lady Antebellum's charity initiative LadyAID™ Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee was created to bring awareness to and generate support for children in need locally, nationally, and globally through partners Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanerbilt, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Children's Miracle Network, myLIFEspeaks, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)."

Adam Bobrow's Valentine's Birthday Party

It's this Friday in LA. It's 3000 miles from me, so I better start driving!!! Here's what he wrote about it: "I haven't thrown a birthday party in AGES! I figure it will be a great way to get to see lots of my friends... old and new and bring some great people together for a fun night. There will be a DJ, a menu will delicious food and drinks and of course... many ping pong tables and awesome people to hit on. 8>) Come hang out, say hi, have a conversation with me, my friends or introduce me to your friends or just hang come play. It's FREE and it will be a blast! Parking is up to you... and dress however you want! (21 and over... dress that way)"

Table Tennis Street Art

An outdoor Christmas decoration?

Awesome Table Tennis Tricks

Here's a video (2:29) showing lots of incredible (though staged) table tennis shots, including replays in slow motion. Some great stuff!

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February 5, 2013

Tim Boggan Arrives

This morning at 9:30 AM Tim Boggan will arrive for a 10-14 day stay. I'll be doing the page layouts (500+) and photo work (800+) for his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13 (as I've done for the past ones). Here's Tim's page (which I created and maintain for him), where you can buy the previous volumes.

Since we'll be working all day, Mon-Fri, until it's done, and since I'll be mostly coaching nights and weekends, I won't have much free time the next two weeks. (I'll be doing most of the blog late at night instead of early in the morning, since Tim will be up and waiting to get started early each morning.) If anyone is dreaming of asking me to do a time-wasting favor for them, well, here's what I have to say about that.

Tactical Matches

Here are more examples of tactics used this past weekend in practice matches.

In one I played a player with a really nice forehand smash. Just about anything that went there he'd smash (even my pushes if I weren't careful), and if I put the ball slow to his backhand, he'd step around and smash that as well. What to do? I took most short serves right off the bounce to his wide backhand with banana flips, which kept his forehand out of play. If the serve went long, I looped, again always wide to the backhand. I varied my serve, following them up with attack - you guessed it - into his wide backhand. His backhand blocking wasn't nearly as strong, and he almost never got a chance to smash. This was a case where he was literally waiting for me to go to this forehand so he could smash, so I almost never did, not unless he wandered toward his backhand side.

In another match I played an extremely fast junior who could pound the ball from both sides to all parts of the table, and was much quicker than me. There's no way I could really cover the whole table in a rally against him. Since he was using standard placement tactics - every ball to the wide corners or at my elbow - I employed a tactic I've blogged about before. I stood in a slight forehand stance, but toward my backhand side. I covered the wide backhand and middle with my backhand, using his own pace to rebound the ball back, countering the balls back wide to his backhand to keep his forehand out of play. I could barely keep up the pace he was setting, but eventually he'd change directions and go to my forehand. The instant I saw the change, I would step to the wide forehand and counter-attack. The two keys to that forehand counter-attack were 1) I was already standing with my feet in a forehand position so I'd be ready, and 2) I didn't look to see where the ball would go on my forehand side - I anticipated it would go wide. Essentially this moves my middle toward my forehand side. If his shot went a foot inside the forehand corner, I'd have been stuck (like a player caught with a ball hit at their elbow), but that's not how players are trained - and so I won.

Other tactics used in this match - lots of receive variation to throw him off, with flips, loops, and short and long pushes. When I attacked (mostly by looping except in fast rallies), I went after his forehand, which took his angle into my backhand away so I was able to follow with another forehand.

In another match against a big-looping junior with a passive receive I served lots of varied short serves. He'd push them, even chopping down on the side-top serves so he could push them low. But the key was that he was predictable, as well as vulnerable to varied amounts of backspin, sidespin, and topspin, since he was trying to push or chop-block them all back. So I could anticipate slow backspin returns every time, and since I didn't have to guard against a flip, I could go for a forehand loop every time. (Whenever it got close, I'd throw a fast, deep serve at him for a free point - he was rarely ready for it.) On his serve (almost all short) I mostly flipped to his wide backhand or dropped it short. Sometimes he'd wind up and rip a backhand loop; when he did that, I knew he was anticipating it, and on the next receive I'd aim to his backhand, and at the last second flip to his wide forehand. It got him every time.

British Rock Band Challenges Justin Bieber

The band Lawson has challenged Justin Bieber at table tennis. Who will win?

Chico Table Tennis Club

Here's an article about the Chico TTC in Durham, CA.

Kong Linghui on the Women's Trials

Here's an article about Kong Linghui, the Chinese Women's Coach. "The Squad Trials is getting much harder!"

New World Rankings

Here's an article on the new world rankings. Zhang Jike drops to third! Here are the new rankings.

Lunar Cup Matches and an Exhibition

The 2013 Lunar New Year Cup Challenge Match was held in China, with the top six Chinese players competing: Xu Xin, Zhang Jike, and Ma Long against Chen Qi, Wang Liqin, and Wang Hao. (Actual matches are Xu vs. Chen; Zhang vs. Wang Liqin; and Ma Long vs. Wang Hao.) Also featured is an exhibition by former superstars Guo Yuehua and Chen Xinhua. Here's where you can watch the videos.

The Best of Samsonov, Schlager, Boll, Kreanga, and Primorac

Here's a highlights video (7:53) featuring many of the best European players.

1946 U.S. National Ping-Pong Championships

Here's vintage video footage (1:06) from the 1946 U.S. Open. It features several clips of Laszlo Bellak clowning around for the camera, including blowing the ball sideways (hey, that's my trick!), rallying by kicking the ball back, and other tricks.

Air Gun Fires Ping-Pong Balls at 900 MPH

See what happens when a ping-pong ball traveling Mach 1.2 strikes a ping-pong paddle!

Table Tennis Cookies

Mmmmmmm...

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February 4, 2013

Tip of the Week

Super Spinny Slow Loops.

Tactical Matches

Here are two examples of tactics used in matches this past weekend.

Last Thursday I wrote about a chopper who had spent much of the last year learning to forehand loop, going from an almost exclusively defensive chopper to having a very aggressive forehand. This weekend it paid dividends for him - well, almost. I usually eat choppers alive, but he wasn't really a "chopper" this match, as he kept attacking. The score went to 9-all in the fifth before I won the last two points. The key to what made him so difficult to play wasn't just his attacking; it was the threat of attacking. Besides his usually defensive play, he won points with his attack three ways:

  1. Directly by attacking;
  2. By my playing overly aggressive to avoid his attack;
  3. By my overplaying into his backhand chop to avoid his forehand counterloop, thereby letting him almost camp out on the backhand side and chop everything back with ease.

The problem I had with his forehand counterloop is that it would catch me close to the table, and so I'd almost always block it. (I tried looping into his middle and wide forehand, but he ran them all down to counterloop over and over.) Then he'd swoop in and keep looping, and I'd usually end up fishing and lobbing. At 9-all in the fifth, he suddenly counterlooped - and I counterlooped off the bounce for a winner, a shot I used to be good at, but that I don't do nearly as often anymore. I may have to go for that shot more against him. Or I might work on dead-blocking the ball. I also probably need to go after his middle more in my first loop, where he's not as ready to counterloop. As it was, I was somewhat lucky to pull off that shot at 9-all, and could easily have lost this match.

In another match I played a really good two-winged hitter who, until now, simply couldn't return my serves. However, we've played a lot recently, and for the first time ever he did a decent job of returning my serves, and once in a rally, could hit really well. At this point I'd been at the club coaching and playing for eight hours, and I found myself unable to go through him with my attack, nor could I outlast him in rallies since I was too soft against his strong hitting due to exhaustion. (I had just finished playing the extremely tiring 11-9 in the fifth match against the chopper - see above.) After losing the first game - the first game I'd ever lost to him - I went to a simple strategy of pushing or chopping his serves back as heavy as I could. He had a nice hitting game, and could loop against normal backspins, but against these ginzo backspins, he fell apart. When he did manage to lift one up, it was too soft and usually short, so even exhausted I could smash them or block them hard to his middle. I won the next three games. The key was to commit to the heavy backspins so I knew in advance I would be doing them, and so could really load them up and control them.

More tactical examples coming tomorrow.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - Kindle Situation

Two notes:

  1. As noted previously, and in the Amazon.com Kindle description of the book, the current version is text only. In a month or so I plan to put together a Kindle version with all 90 photos that'll be in the print version. (Unlike the print version, these photos will be in full color.) I checked with Amazon on whether those who had already bought and downloaded the text-only version could get the new version, and they wrote back: "If the changes made to your content are considered critical, we’ll send an email to all customers who own the book to notify them of the update and improvements made. These customers will be able to choose to opt in to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com." I'm fairly certain going from a text-only version to adding 90 color pictures would be considered "critical," though of course I can't guarantee that.
  2. I wrote that the Kindle edition cost $9.99. However, I've since learned that that is only in the U.S. For "International wireless delivery" the cost is higher - I'm told in one location outside the U.S. the cost was $14.39.

I should have the proof version of the print version tomorrow. I'm already planning a few changes, so after I check to make sure everything's coming out (I already wrote that I'm worried about the photo resolution), I'll upload the "final" version. It should be available a few days after that.

USA Team Trials

They start in three days, Thur-Sun, Feb. 7-10, at the Top Spin Club in San Jose, CA. They had a press conference on Saturday. Here are pictures and other info on the Trials. And here is the USATT's info page on the Trials.

Bojan Tokic Interview

Here's an interview with Bojan Tokic of Slovenia, world #25. Includes video.

The Awesomeness in Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (8:40).

Wang Liqin vs. Xu Xin

Here's video (3:59) of for world #1 Wang Liqin's incredible comeback from down 0-8 and 3-10 against world #1 Xu Xin at the 2013 Chinese team trials.

Table Tennis in Lagos

Here's two kids in Lagos playing table tennis using an old door balanced on stools as their table. Remember this next time you complain about your playing conditions!

The Table Tennis Collector

Here's issue #67 of The Table Tennis Collector. Here's what Editor and ITTF Museum Curator Chuck Hoey says about it:

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce the publication of issue number 67 in the Table Tennis Collector series. This is the 20th year of publication, beginning with 16 pages in black & white, and evolving to a 50-page issue in full color, free to all.

Many interesting articles in this issue, and a special report on missing World Championship scores that are needed to complete the historical record - please help!

Special thanks to our many contributors for sharing their research, including Alan Duke, Steve Grant, Fabio Marcotulli, Jorge Arango and John Ruderham, and our dedicated phiatelic collectors, Hans-Peter Trautmann, Winfried Engelbrecht, Tang Ganxian and Marc Templereau.

The pdf download is 10MB in size, so please allow extra time for the download to complete. This is a direct link: http://www.ittf.com/museum/TTC67.pdf

This issue, along with the entire series, can be accessed via my website: www.ittf.com/museum
Click the TT Collector icon and then select an issue to view.

Hope you enjoy the new issue. As always, constructive feedback is welcome.
Best wishes from Switzerland.

Chuck Hoey
Curator, ITTF Museum

Xu Xin Multiball

Here's video (37 sec) of world #1 Xu Xin doing multiball. See if you can match him!

Xu Xin and Ma Long Fooling Around

Here video (41 sec) of the current #1 and #3 players in the world goofing off. See if you can match their tricks! (Xu is the penholder, who starts out on the near side.)

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