History of U.S. Table Tennis Vol. 13

February 18, 2013

Tip of the Week

Learn to Play Defense.

Why the High-Toss Serve Isn't as Popular as Before

I saw an online discussion of why the high-toss serve isn't as popular as before, and thought it would be a good topic for my blog. I've been high-toss serving since the 1970s, and it's still a major part of my serving game. Here's an article I wrote on the high-toss serve.

The higher toss allows extra spin on the serve. However, you lose some control as well as some deception. Here are the two main reasons why the serve isn't as popular as before.

First was the rise of the half-long serve (also called a tweeny serve) as the dominant serve at the advanced levels. These are serves where the second bounce, given the chance, is right about the end-line. Any longer, and they are easy to loop; any shorter, and they are easy to drop short or flip at wide angles. These are probably the most difficult serves to return effectively, which is why essentially every world-class player (and most advanced ones) focus on these serves. The problem is that the difference between an effective half-long serve and a weak one is only a few inches. So control is extremely important - and more difficult to do with a high-toss serve, where the ball is traveling much faster at contact.

Second is that you lose some deception with a high-toss serve. With a shorter toss, the ball is dropping more slowly, and so the server can do more deceptive motions around the contact point, and so it's harder for the receiver to pick up on where contact was actually made. With a higher toss, the ball is dropping faster, and so there's little time for that deceptive motion.

High-toss serves are still effective, but take a lot more practice to develop well than other serves. Most players who high-toss serve can't really control the depth, and so the ball almost always goes long, meaning the receiver knows he's going to get to loop as soon as he sees the high toss. To counteract this, many players hold back on the spin when high-toss serving so they can control the depth - thereby taking away the primary advantage of a high-toss serve, the extra spin.

I find the high-toss serve most effective as a variation to my other serves. I use the same motion for the serve - a forehand pendulum serve - but focus on extreme spins and less deception. Usually I'll serve it short but with either straight backspin or "heavy no-spin" (i.e. I fake backspin but serve without spin). However, I will throw other long serve variations at opponents if I think they start anticipating it will go short.

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

We did the last three chapters on Friday, finishing with 29 chapters, 448 pages, and 916 graphics which I painstakingly cleaned up in Photoshop, placed on the page, and captioned. (I also had to scan a lot of them, though thankfully Mal Anderson did most of the scanning for the book in advance.) Tim spent the weekend (and much time before that) proofing everything, and today we input all the changes. Then I do all the pre-press work. It's going to be a looong day.

Sales Update - Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

Here are the first week of sales, Feb. 11-18. (With Tim leaving tomorrow, I'll finally be able to focus on publicizing it, in various forums and web pages, as well as the upcoming ad in USATT Magazine.)

Personal Sales (mostly at club): 9
Amazon Print Sales: 40
Amazon Kindle Sales: 36
Total Sales: 85

U.S. Open in Las Vegas

It's official from USATT - here's a news item on the U.S. Open and Nationals both being in Las Vegas this year, and why.

Timo Boll and China

Here's an article on how Timo aims to continue to be the strongest opponent for China. Includes a 44-second video of Timo speaking in German.

Table Tennis Instead of Wrestling?

Here's an article in the Canton Daily Ledger where someone argues that table tennis should be dropped from the Olympics instead of wrestling. He writes, "Unless you really believe the ping pong movie 'Balls of Fury,' then I think you would agree that there is just a 'tiny' more amount of effort put into wrestling than table tennis." Sure, wrestling is also at the high end in terms of "effort" needed, but few sports take up as much as table tennis at the highest levels. Obviously this guy has never seen real table tennis or seen the training they undergo. That's why he writes for the Canton Daily Ledger instead of [write in your own favorite high-level media outlet].

Behind the Back Shot

Here's a video (34 sec) of one of the best behind-the-back shots I've ever seen, by Quentin Robinot of France (world #173) against Kiryl Barabanov of Belarus (world #581) at the Kuwait Open this past weekend. See it in both real time and slow motion.

Kang Dong Soo vs Fang Bo

Here's a video (9:25) of chopper/looper Kang Dong Soo of Korea defeating Chinese team member Fang Bo (world #24) at the Kuwait Open. Kang plays very similarly to the current Korean #1, Joo Se Hyuk, currently world #12 (#5 as recently as last March) and 2003 World Men's Singles Finalist). The chopping style, when combined with looping, is alive and well!

Google Ping-Pong

Some of you may remember that Google has three times had a table tennis graphic as their daily Google logo, once each for the last three Olympics: 2004 ("Greeks" in Athens), 2008 (the "dragon" in Beijing), and 2012 (the "White-Haired Woman" in London). Here's former U.S. Junior Champion Barbara Wei at Google Headquarters in New York City, standing in front of a large picture of the 2012 Olympic Table Tennis Logo.

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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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