Behind-the-Back Shot

June 24, 2013

Tip of the Week

Feet and Grip.

Exhaustion Times a Thousand and MDTTC Camps

That's how tired I seem to be most of the time, with the sudden increase in coaching hours due to the MDTTC camps. I normally coach or act as practice partner about 20 hours/week. Add six hours/day, Mon-Fri on top of that, and suddenly my legs feel like dried out sticks. Meanwhile, I've got a zillion things on the side I have to do - prepare for the U.S. Open next week, prepare for the ITTF coaching seminar I'm attending in August and the one I'm teaching in October, prepare for the writer's workshop I'm attending in late July, work on the planned rewrite of my Table Tennis Steps to Success book (tentatively retitled Table Tennis Fundamentals), promote the MDTTC junior program, set up the planned Maryland Junior League for the fall, plus the usual daily blog and Tips of the Week. Anyone got some sleep or extra hours each week for sale? (I think the Steps to Success rewrite will probably be the first casualty; I'll probably postpone that until the fall.)

I actually went to bed early last night with a headache, and woke up with a headache at 6:45AM. I went to my computer, and the first thing I wrote was, "I went to bed with a headache and woke up with a headache, so no blog today." Then I reconsidered, and did the blog after all. The headache's still there, but more of a background thing.

On Friday we finished the first week of our ten weeks of summer camps, each of them Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM. I gave short lectures on pushing and doubles. We did our usual Friday's "player's choice," where players chose what they wanted to work on in multiball, with the coaches ready with a suggestion if the player wasn't sure. In the afternoon we ran a practice tournament.

Over the weekend I coached about ten hours, which was less than during the camps, but still exhausting. In the Saturday group session, 4:30-6:30, where we play practice matches (I'm a practice partner for it), I was exhausted. So I played a very conservative blocking game, with a bunch of tricky serve and one-shot finals added in, and somehow won all my matches easily (mostly against 1900-2100 players). In the end, consistency is king. (That's true at all levels - it's just at the highest levels it's consistency in loop-killing winners that's king.)

This morning we start a new camp. As usual, I mostly run the morning sessions, with Cheng and Jack running the afternoon sessions. In the afternoon, I'll be working with the beginners. This week will be even more exhausting than last week. The camp hours are 10AM-1PM, 3-6PM, so there's a two-hour break in the middle where we eat lunch, I take the kids on the daily trek to 7-11 (five minute walk), and then rest. But this week I have a one-hour private coaching scheduled every day from 2-3PM.

I'm looking forward to the U.S. Open next week, where I'll finally get to "rest." After all, I'm only coaching three players, attending meetings, and playing in five events! (Only hardbat/sandpaper events - I may have to drop some if they conflict with coaching. I'm normally a sponge player.)

Japan Open

Who'd have thunk it? A chopper, a Japanese player ranked 188 in the world, wins Men's Singles at the Japan Open this weekend in Yokohama. Here's the ITTF home page for it, with articles, pictures, and results. Here's a video of the final (5:13, with time between points taken out), where Masato Shiono defeats China's Xu Chenahao 4-0. Here's more on the final from Table Tennis Daily. Here's a video (5:03) of the Top Ten Shots at the Japan Open. Here's video (50 sec) of a great doubles rally.

Ariel Hsing at Awards Ceremony

Here's video of Ariel at the Awards Ceremony after reaching the final of Under 18 Girls at the Egypt Junior and Cadet Open this past weekend. She was all gracious and professional despite losing a close final - she was up 10-9 match point in both the sixth and seventh games, and was up 6-0 in the seventh before losing to Doo Hoi Kem of Japan, 12-10 in the seventh. Here's the ITTF page for it, with articles, pictures, and results.

Timo Boll Defeats Zhang Jike

Here's the article, pictures, and video (3:55) of his great win at Chinese Super League just yesterday.

Behind-the-Back Shot of the Day

Here's the video (19 sec). And then he just nonchalantly walks away! It's the other guy who reacts.

Hermione Plays Table Tennis

Okay, it's really Emma Watson, who played Hermione in the Harry Potter Series. Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation. Here's what she tweeted: "I just got rid of my sofa and replaced it with a ping pong table. I think this is the best decision I have made in months.#gameon!"

Lady Antebellum at the Country Music Festival

Here's the article, pictures, and video links. That's Homer and Adam Brown playing two of the band members, with Michael Wetzel umpiring.

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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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