Xu Xin

November 27, 2013

Last Blog Until After the Teams

This will be my last blog until Monday. Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, so I’m taking the day off, and Fri-Sun I’ll be coaching at the North American Teams in Washington DC. I’ll have lots to write about when I return! Here’s a picture of the facility as they are about to set up the tables.

Preparing for the Teams

This week I’m preparing players for the Teams. Compared to normal, that means fewer rote drills, and more random drills. I do a lot of multiball training, but the focus now is on random shots and simulating match play.  We’re also doing a lot of game-type drills, such as where the student serves backspin, I push back anywhere, he loops, and we play out the point. I’m also making sure they are ready to do the “little” things, such as pushing, blocking, and serving. And we play more games at the end of each session. There’s also the psychological aspect. I keep reminding the players that they need to go into the tournament with their minds clear and ready to play. I also want to keep the sessions fun – I don’t want the players too stressed out over getting ready for three days of almost non-stop competition. I want to see determination, but not grim determination.

USATT Magazine and Membership Rates

I blogged yesterday about the problem with USATT likely moving USATT Magazine in-house. A separate question that comes up periodically is whether it should continue as a print magazine or just go online. There’s an easy solution: go online, with a print option. The editor simply does the magazine as if it’s going to print, which means a PDF version. Then he puts the PDF version online, perhaps with a password required so only members can access it. Those who want a print version, such as myself, would pay extra – and with “print on demand” publishing, it’s easy to send the PDF to the printer and print out only as many copies as needed. This is an obvious solution I’ve pointed out over the years.

The real question is whether current members who are already paying $49/year (too much) should pay still more for the print version, or whether those choosing not to receive the print version should get a discount. I’m for the latter. We keep raising our membership rates and keep wondering why membership stays stagnant; gee, I wonder why? I remember a while back when USATT raised the annual rate in one year from $25 to $40 – and they budgeted as if membership would stay constant! At the time membership had reached 8800. I got into a heated debate with the entire room – all 13 board members – both on the silliness of constantly raising the rates while simultaneously trying to find ways to increase membership, and on the even further silliness of expecting membership to stay constant. All 13 believed raising the rate would have little effect on membership numbers, with one of them explaining to me, “If they’re willing to pay $25, they’re willing to pay $40.” I pointed out that based on that logic, every item in a store that costs $25 should cost $40 (and the logic really applies to all items), but I was told I was wrong. I’m just a coach and a writer, so what do I know about business?

One year later membership had dropped to 7000, and the USATT board spent a marathon session cutting everything since they had budgeted for 8800 members. I was in the room snickering as they did this. And you wonder why I can never convince USATT to do the obvious stuff, not to mention the more difficult things? Maybe if I’d worn a tie at that meeting instead of a warm-up suit I could have been more convincing. (I’m told that, after a decade of slowly recovering, membership is again now close to 9000 or so, though I haven’t seen any membership reports anywhere. I’m guessing at any time the rates will go up again, and we’ll see another big drop. Alas.)

USATT Tips of the Day

Below are the USATT Tips of the Day since last Friday. These are from the 171 Tips of the Week I did for them from 1999-2003 as “Dr. Ping-Pong.” (Click on link for complete tip.)

Nov 26, 2013 Tip of the Day - Inside-Out Forehand Floppy Wrist Flip
When an opponent serves short to the forehand, many players reach in and return it with a nearly stiff wrist, and invariably go crosscourt with a forehand flip.

Nov 25, 2013 Tip of the Day - Back Up Slightly When Opponent Backs Up
Suppose you’ve hit a quick, hard shot, and your opponent has moved five feet back to return the ball with a counterdrive or soft topspin. 

Nov 24, 2013 Tip of the Day - Aim One Way, Go the Other
Many players develop strong rally shots. However, they are often very, very predictable. An opponent can anticipate where each ball is going early in your stroke, and so always has lots of time to get to the ball.

Nov 23, 2013 Tip of the Day - Go Down the Line From Wide Forehand
When an opponent goes to your wide forehand, they give you an extreme angle into their wide forehand.

ITTF Coaching Course in Singapore

Here’s the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 Course that was just taught in Singapore by USA’s Richard McAfee. (I linked to the photos yesterday.)

Best of the Chinese Super League

Here's the video (7:31).

Xu Xin on the Mini-Table (and an Interview)

Here’s the video (4:18) of world #1 Xu Xin of China versus TableTennisDaily’s Dan, on a mini-table with over-sized rackets! (And yes, Xu the penholder is playing shakehands here.) And for the more serious-minded, here’s Dan’s interview with Xu.

Little Girl Phenom

Here’s video (21 sec) of a girl, maybe five years old, drilling at a rather high level – watch out China! I believe she’s from the Mideast; can anyone translate what the comments say?

Ma Long’s Amazing Shots

Here’s the video (42 sec), with four Chinese players all counterlooping crosscourt, including Ma Long (near right) with Wang Liqin. Watch what happens right after 30 sec. First, Ma Long does a rather interesting forehand sidespin chop-block. Then he switches hands and counterloops the other two player’s ball.

Ping-Pong Trick Shots

Here’s the video (1:57) of someone with a series of great trick shots! I especially like the very last one, where he’s rallying with a girl with two balls, but catching each of her returns and quickly feeding it to continue. I may try that out in my coaching sessions today.

Happy First Birthday to Uberpong

Here’s their birthday cake!

How to Make a Ping-Pong Ball Turkey

Here’s the article!

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October 28, 2013

No Blog or Tip Today

I returned from the South Shore Open in Indiana at 1:30 AM this morning, and because I had to take care of some things I didn't get to bed until after 4AM. So no blog today, and the Tip of the Week will go up tomorrow. But for diehards who need something, here's video (1:05) of the rally of the tournament at the Men's World Cup, with Vladimir Samsonov lobbing down Xu Xin.

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August 19, 2013

Tip of the Week

Height of Service Toss.

How to Promote Major Tournaments

Over the years there have been numerous discussions on how to promote the U.S. Open and Nationals so as to bring in more players, more spectators, more press, and make it a better experience for all. There are many good ideas out there, and I read some excellent ones in a threat at about.com over the last few days.

But all of these excellent posters are missing the point - ideas don't get the job done. If you want to improve on these things, don't start by pushing ideas, no matter how good they are. Start by pushing to have someone officially in charge of implementing improvements. For example, if you think we need to present matches at the Open and National better, perhaps with more scorekeepers or better communication, don't press for more scorekeepers or better communication; press for someone to be in charge of presentation. Then there is an official person in charge of this, and he can officially push for these things, and they are far more likely to happen.

Want to increase the number of entries at the Open or Nationals? Have someone officially in charge of increasing entries. Want to have more spectators? Have someone officially in charge of bringing in spectators. Want more press coverage? Have someone officially in charge of media coverage.

You won't find success this way every time since not everyone officially in charge of something will do the job well. If they don't, then thank them for their services and put someone else in charge.

How do you find these people with a limited budget? You ask for volunteers. This is one of the most untapped areas for USATT. For example, I'm a member of Science Fiction Writers of America. They have about 1500 members, less than 1/5 the USATT membership. And yet they have an elaborate web page, run huge conventions (far larger than anything in table tennis - we're talking 5000 people in the biggest ones), have a fancy magazine, and do all sorts of membership services, far more than USATT - and they have exactly one part-time employee. It's essentially all volunteer run. (Why do they only have 1500 members? Because they have very exclusive and difficult membership requirements - to join, you have to sell a SF or fantasy novel to a select group of "professional" publishers - i.e. the highest-paying ones - or sell three short stories to a select group of "professional" magazines - i.e. the highest-paying ones.)

Coaching and Playing Idiosyncrasies

Every player and coach has his major idiosyncrasies. What are yours? Here are some of mine.

  1. I rarely have a coaching session where I don't blow the ball back at least one time. (I do this less with long-established players - it gets old after a while - but new students beware!)
  2. I rarely have a coaching session where I don't throw up at least one backspin lob that comes back to my side of the table.
  3. I entertain the kids by blowing a ball in the air so it floats in the air over my head and to the side. (By using spin I can make it balance sideways.)
  4. When telling a student how to hit the ball, I regularly say "bang" at the point where they contact the ball.
  5. With beginners I often hum in rhythm to the ball going back and forth. It helps their timing.
  6. I end many group sessions with the kids trying to smack a bottle as I feed multiball. If they hit it, I have to drink what's in the bottle - and it's never just Gatorade or water; it's always worm juice, beetle juice, dog saliva, etc.
  7. I end most multiball segments with a high ball for players to smash.
  8. As a player, when I'm serving I always start by rolling up my right sleeve slightly with my left arm, then swing my right arm underneath me one time (to loosen it up), then I come to a stop for a moment as I visualize my serve, and then I serve.

Learning the Side-Swipe Serve Return

Here's a video (10:24) of Chen Weixing showing his infamous side-swipe serve return with long pips.

New USATT Feature - Video of the Day

USATT's webpage has a new feature: Video of the Day. Today's Video is Getting Down to Basics (Tips from U.S. Olympic Coach Doru Gheorghe). Yesterday's was Top 10 Hand Switch Shots.

Video Review of Table Tennis: Steps to Success

Here's a video review (49 sec) of one my first book, Table Tennis: Steps to Success. The book first came out in 1993, with a new version in 2006. This video came on July 2, 2012, but this is the first time I'd heard of it. I'm working on a new version, which hopefully will be out by early next year. For now, if you are looking for a table tennis book, try Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!

Great Lobbing Point

Here's a video (25 sec) of Xu Xin and Ma Long lobbing in doubles at the Harmony China Open. Did Ma Long make that sudden counter-smash at the end? I can't tell.

The Perfect Swimming Pool

Here it is.

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August 2, 2013

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was the backhand loop. Most of the players in the camp were ready for this, including two of the five beginners I was mostly working with. The harder part for most was doing a backhand loop against backspin and then and a backhand drive against topspin consecutively, fed multiball style. Inevitably, when they first try this, they'd either shorten the backswing on the backhand loop (and go into net), or swing up on the drive (and go off the end). Some of the more advanced players backhand looped against both backspin and topspin, but being more advanced, they had little trouble making the adjustment.

I gave a private lesson to a player roughly in his late 40s (not sure), where I introduced him to forehand looping. This was where the power of the subconscious became a problem. He quickly developed a pretty good forehand loop technique, except his racket was always too closed. And so when I fed him backspin with multiball, over and over he went into the net. Even when I told him to spin the ball way, way off the end, his subconscious took over as soon as he began his stroke, and the balls kept going into the net. This happens all the time when the loop is first introduced to older players. The key is you have to really, Really, REALLY convince yourself to aim to loop way off the end, so that your subconscious gets the message, and so it aims there - with the result that the ball probably hits the table. After doing that a few times, the subconscious has the feedback to aim better, and then it can loop off the end. Then you tell it to aim for the table, and kazzam, you can aim for the table and the ball hits the table.  

It was a long day at the club. Due to the camp, private coaching, meetings, and other TT issues, I was at the club continuously (except for a lunchtime walk over to 7-11 with a bunch of the kids) from 8:30 AM to 9PM.

Here's an interesting note I'll put out for you psychology majors. When the younger kids line up for various target practice games (where I'm feeding multiball), the boys all want to go first, and so I often have them do rock-paper-scissors to see who goes first. But the two girls in my group yesterday kept telling the other she could go first, and I finally had them do rock-paper-scissors just to see who could let the other one go first!

Junior Olympic Results

Here they are! They were held in Detroit this past Mon-Wed.

Zhang Jike vs Xu Xin

Here's the video that just went up (3:32, with time between points removed) of their recent match in the Chinese Super League. Zhang is the righty and the reigning World and Olympic Men's Singles Champion. Xu is world #2. (Ironically, despite his recently repeating as world champion, Zhang lost in other tournaments and dropped to #4 in the world in new rankings, with Ma Long #1, Wang Hao #3. Here are the world rankings.)

Desmond Douglas, age 58

He can still play - here's a video (1:12). I remember watching him in the semifinals of the 1976 U.S. Open in Philadelphia, where he lost deuce in the fifth to eventual winner Dragutin Surbek, in my first major tournament and third overall. "See the video below for a 130+ rally between Desmond Douglas, Former World Number 7, and Tim Yarnall former England number 4. Both show that they do not want to miss a shot with balance, technique and placement on every ball. Can you say the same about your game or players? How important is the mentality to not miss a ball in table tennis?"

Amazing Ping-Pong Ball in Cup Tricks

Here's the video (2:41). "Identical twin brothers Austin and Luke Morrel are two regular high schoolers who directed and filmed this extreme ping pong trick video." Note that this is actually their third such video - you can see others by them and other trick shot videos in the video listings to the right.

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March 28, 2013

Spring Break Camp

This week I'm mostly blogging about the Spring Break Camp since that's what I'm doing for eight hours each day this week, Mon-Fri. I almost put up a note saying no blog today as I was so tired last night that I wanted to collapse into bed, knowing full well that I'd be unlikely to have the energy to do it in the morning before leaving for camp. Then I sat down at my computer at around 9:30 PM and it just came together, as it always does.

Yesterday we focused on forehand looping. As I often do I brought out 12-year-old Derek Nie to demonstrate, as he has nice technique to go with his 2234 rating. He demoed against my block, then I demoed it against backspin, where I served backspin, Derek pushed, I looped, he blocked, I chopped, he pushed, and we started over again. Then I gave a short lecture on it, and then it was off to the tables to practice.

Most memorable moment for me yesterday was dealing with a kid who was trying to serve backhand sidespin, but kept throwing the ball into his racket rather than tossing it up six inches or more and contacting it on the drop. I kept trying to show him how to do it legally, but he kept saying over and over (without letting me show him how), "I can't. I can't. I can't." Finally, in disgust (but trying to be nice about it), I told him I didn't want to hear it any more unless he changed it to "I can't yet," or better still, "I will." Several others around seemed to take this to heart, but the kid didn't get it, and actually sort of threw a tantrum and began smacking balls all over the place on purpose. I finally had to give him a "time out," the first one I'd given for the camp. Afterwards, when he'd calmed down, I told him I'd work with him on the serve tomorrow. I really, really hope it works out better today.

The beginning kids I'm working with are now progressing rather well, including the ones who had trouble at the start. Today I introduced them to pushing, and all of them picked up on this far more quickly than I expected. I wish I had a video of their expressions the first few times they pushed with enough backspin so the ball came to a stop and bounced or rolled backwards! The best news is the kid who's been resisting fixing his grip is finally holding the racket properly. I hope I never again see that awkward claw grip he was using.

At lunch I played a practical joke on everyone. We have Chinese food delivered for lunch each day - I had Chicken Lo Mein. I'd been jokingly grumbling about how my fortune cookies always predict disasters for me - that I'd be hit by a car, by lightning, or mauled by a bear or something. On Tuesday I brought home my fortune cookie to eat that night. While eating it I had a brainstorm. It took me about five minutes to create my own fortune, with the same size and type of font, the same blue color, and the same blue design along the sides, with the message, "A meteor will kill you in five minutes." I printed it out, carefully cut it out to match the exact size of the sample fortune, and brought it to the club. At lunch yesterday, I once again complained about my fortunes I get, and then, while several watched, I opened the cookie, and let the fortune drop down out. I did this so that it fell behind the plastic food box holding my food, where I'd hidden the fake fortune. I picked the fake one up, and read it aloud, while carefully tossing the real one under the table. When no one believed me, I let them read it. They went crazy in disbelief! Most of the camp gathered around trying to figure it out. (I'm also a part-time SF & fantasy writer, and one of the stories published in my anthology "Pings and Pongs: the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges" is a story titled "A Meteor Will Kill You In Five Minutes." About ten of the kids in the camp have read that story, adding to the consternation.) Finally, when five minutes were up, I stood up, looked up at the ceiling, and tossed a ping-pong ball up, which hit me in the head. I then told them what had happened. I'll save the fortune for future camps with new players.

It would be a crime not to mention that I'm spending our breaks taking on challenges with my clipboard as a racket. So far I'm about 30-0 in games to 11, including several wins over 1900+ players. The higher-rated ones are shying away in stark terror.

Ma Long's Coaching

Here are five coaching videos from Ma Long of China, who recently regained his crown as #1 in the world. It's all in Chinese, but even if you don't understand Chinese you can learn from just watching.

World Team Classic

The event is being held right now in Guangzhou, China, March 28-31. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Interview with Bastien Steger

Here's a video interview (2:17) with Germany's Bastian Steger, who speaks to itTV after securing victory against Thiago Monteiro to give Germany a 3-2 win over Brazil at the Times Property 2013 World Team Classic.

Ryan Giggs Plays Table Tennis

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on how Manchester United player Ryan Giggs used table tennis to improve his soccer game. (That's football outside of USA.)

Zhang Jike and Xu Xin

Here's 21 seconds of these two practicing before the World Team Classic in Guangzhou, China. It starts out as regular counterlooping before they get creative.

Smart Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (8:28) from PerfectionisTT

Table Tennis Cartoon

Here's an interesting table tennis cartoon - but it has no caption. Why not come up with your own? Here are three of mine:

  • "Never stare in open-mouthed admiration of your opponent's shot."
  • "The secret to Mr. Specs' game was ball placement."
  • "It was an inadvertent ping-pong accident that led to his revolutionary discovery of the ping-pong diet- filling yet few calories."

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March 27, 2013

Spring Break Camp

We had 47 players in camp yesterday, all at the same time. How did we accommodate them all with 18 tables? In the morning session, we had 7 coaches feeding multiball, leaving 11 free tables. With 22 players on those 11 tables, that meant we had 25 players at any given time on the 7 multiball tables, rotating around between doing multiball, picking up balls, or practicing on the free tables. In the afternoon session the advanced players did more live play (two to a table), while younger beginners were grouped on a few tables for multiball and various games - such as hitting a bottle supposedly filled with my dog's saliva, where I had to drink it if they hit it. (I'm working with the beginners mostly this camp.)

The coaches are myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"); Chen Jie ("James"); and Raghu Nadmichettu. Jack Huang used to be Huang Tong Sheng ("Jack"), but he's been Jack so long we no longer use his Chinese name.

While most of the players are local from Maryland or Virginia (since Spring Break Camp coincides with spring break in local schools), we have a bunch from out of town. There's a nine-year-old from Japan who's about 1900; four members of the University of Missouri team; and several from New Jersey and New York.

One of the beginners who was having so much trouble yesterday did a bit better today. However, he's still got a ways to go - every now and then he'll do a series of proper strokes, and then he'll fall back into bad habits. The other also showed some signs of learning, but doesn't seem too motivated to learn. Surprisingly, the latter one picked up serving pretty well, while the first one is struggling with that.

I gave lectures on the backhand, on serving, and on doubles tactics. However, since most of the players are local juniors, I kept the lectures short. I had a problem with a few overly excited kids who kept talking among themselves during the doubles lecture, which took place right after we got off break.

I got to talk some with the University of Missouri team for a bit. Their best player is about 2100, the other three somewhere in the 1700-1800 range or so. One (I think the 2100 player) was having trouble covering the table after stepping around his backhand to do a forehand penhold loop. Many players have this trouble because they don't position themselves properly so that they'll follow through in a balanced position, which is what allows a player to recover quickly. Players often follow through with their weight going off to the side, which means they waste precious time recovering. Instead, players should position themselves so their weight is moving more toward the table as they loop, putting themselves right back into position to cover even a block to the wide forehand. I can still do this at age 53 (well, against most blocks!), not because of foot speed, but because of proper footwork technique.

I'm getting a bit banged up. (This is me.) Here's a roll call:

  • Sore throat and hoarse voice from lecturing and coaching.
  • Slight limp from an injured right toe. I can't really put any weight on it. It feels like I've fractured it at the base (though it's probably something less serious), but I have no idea when or how. If it persists, I'll have it x-rayed after the camp.
  • Slight limp from pulled upper front left thigh muscle, which I originally injured at Cary Cup on March 15, and keep aggravating. (See my blog from March 22.)
  • Major infection from that cut on left index finger I got during the exhibitions last Thursday. (See my blog from March 22.)
  • Jammed middle finger on my right (playing) hand. This has been bothering me for months, and I don't know how I hurt it originally, though I know I aggravated it recently giving someone a high-five, where we missed and I rejammed it against his hand. I can't make a fist with my right hand - the middle finger won't bend all the way. (Insert appropriate middle-finger joke here.) If it were any of the other four fingers (including the thumb), this would affect my playing, but this one doesn't.
  • Growing upper back problems from being too busy to do my regular back stretching. This one's my own fault.
  • Exhaustion from my dog getting me up at 4AM to go out (see yesterday's blog), while trying to coach all day at our camp, do various paperwork and other stuff at night, and still do the daily blog.

Returning Serve: Part One

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master. I'll post part two and others as they come up.

ITTF Level 2 Course in New Jersey

Richard McAfee will be running an ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course at the Lily Yip TTC in Dunellen, NJ, Aug. 26-31. Here's a listing of all upcoming ITTF coaching seminars in the U.S.

Ariel Hsing Article

Here's a feature article on her from the ITTF.

Table Tennista

Here are four new articles on China Table Tennis.

Multiball Training in Hungary

Here's a new video (3:18) featuring multiball training with members of the Hungarian Woman National Team and with some young players in the Hungarian Table Tennis Centre in Budapest. This is roughly what I do all day long at our MDTTC training camps.

Multiball Training in China

Here's a video (7:09) showing multiball training in China. There are many styles of multiball feeding; I was fascinated to see that the man in red feeding multiball uses almost the exact technique I do, i.e. first bounce on the table. Even the drills he does are about the same as the ones I do.

The Correct Way to Finish a Point

Here's a six-second video where Richard Lee demonstrates your basic serve and zillion mile per hour loop kill. Do not try this in your basement; he's a professional.

Best of Xu Xin vs. Ma Long

Here's a video (8:29) of the best rallies between these two Chinese superstars. Many of these points are truly impressive - are we reaching the pinnacle of human performance in table tennis? (I'm sure someone will quote this back to me someday when someone makes these two look like amateurs.)

Artistic Table Tennis Pictures

Here's an interesting and artistic table tennis picture. And here's an artistic table - it's like playing bumper ping-pong.

Staged Shot-Making

Here are 13 spectacularly staged trick shots.

One
Two
Three
Four
Five
Six
Seven
Eight
Nine
Ten
Eleven
Twelve
Thirteen

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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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October 16, 2012

Tidbits

  • The MDTTC October Open is this weekend, and once again I'm running it. Enter now, or at least by 5PM Thursday, the deadline. (Though I'll take entries at least until 7PM on Friday, and probably on Saturday until 6PM for Sunday events.) You can enter via email to me, and pay upon arrival - but if you don't cancel by 5PM Thursday, you are responsible for payment even if you don't show. If you don't enter, we will talk about you - we'll mock you and your personality, and discuss tactics on beating you.
  • As promised in a blog a few weeks ago, as soon as the Baltimore Orioles baseball team were out of the playoffs, I'd start weight training again. I did my first session yesterday since early this year. This is both to keep my back from acting up again and also to get my playing level back. When you get older, without weight training it gets harder and harder to race around the court making crazy shots.
  • When local juniors have birthdays, I've started the tradition of giving them "Get Out of Lecture Free" cards, applicable one time when they find themselves cornered and unable to escape as I lecture on the errors of their table tennis ways.
  • Sometime soon a well-known actor will wear an MDTTC shirt on a highly-rated TV show watched by six million people each week.
  • Someone's coming to MDTTC this Saturday and Sunday night to do a video special on us. More on this later.
  • In "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," the argument is made that the single most important item to have around is a towel. However, to a table tennis coach, the most important thing to have around is a box. It gives you something to hold balls when you feed multiball; a target for beginners to hit with their drives and serves; something to put in the middle of the table so students can learn to hit the ball to the corners (i.e. avoid hitting the box); something to pick up balls with; a way to narrow down the table so you can have backhand-to-backhand or forehand-to-forehand games with students; and, in a crunch, they make a nifty blocking and chopping racket.
  • Yesterday a player told me he was going to the Nationals in Las Vegas, and mentioned that he usually goes to the Nationals when it's in Las Vegas (2400 miles away) but avoids going when it's in Virginia Beach (226 miles away) because "Virginia Beach is impossible to get to." (He was referring to the lack of flights there - it's much easier getting a direct flight to Las Vegas.) This year it's in Las Vegas, but I've heard through the grapevine that it'll be back in Virginia Beach next year. I don't know for sure, however.
  • Am I the only coach who keeps a large rubber frog around ("Froggy") as an on-table target for kids in the 5-8 age range? Or a stack of paper cups to make pyramids out of that the kids can knock over as I feed multiball, including one specific cup named Scar with a mark on it that everyone goes for? (He's a nasty cup, I explain, always picking on me.) Note that I only pull Froggy and Scar out at the end of a session; if you start kidding around early in a session, not much gets done that session.
  • "Hodges" is an anagram for "He's God." "USA Table Tennis" is an anagram for "Satan But Senile." Coincidence?

Volkswagen 2012 China VS World Team Challenge

Here's the poster. The tournament is Nov. 24-25, 2012, in Shanghai, China. Here's the ITTF home page.

Incredible Counterlooping Duel

Here's a great counterlooping point between Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece and Bojan Tokic of Slovenia.

2012 China National Championships Xu Xin - Ma Long

Here's a great match from the Chinese Nationals Men's Team Final, with the time between points taken out so it's only 8:14 long. (Xu Xin is the lefty.)

Ping-Pong Wedding, Part 2

Yesterday I linked to a picture of Dana Hadacova at her "ping-pong wedding," which showed her hitting with her groom with wooden bats on a mini-table. However, I didn't know who the husband was, or why Dana seemed to have two names - Hadacova, and Cechova (the latter is how she is listed in the ITTF world rankings). However, super-sleuth Aaron Avery found out that the husband is Roman Cech, hence the new last name - Cechova. (Actually, it's Čechová, but I'm not sure if the tilda and accents will come through properly on all browsers.) There's no evidence he's a ping-pong player (she lists him as a "physical coach," but he's like this hockey player. Here's a picture.

New Penhold Blade?

Interesting grip - when you hold it in front of you, you stand behind the eight-disk?

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September 17, 2012

Tip of the Week

Why Table Tennis Really Is Chess at Light Speed.

Table Tennis Music Video

On Saturday night the Edie Sedgwick music group came to the Maryland Table Tennis Center to do a table tennis music video. The gist of the video is the group shows up at a nightclub to play table tennis, and then, one by one, they get destroyed by a kid. Starring in the video is Derek Nie, 11, the U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Singles Champion. (Here he is warming up with me at the Open, and here he is in his full green wig and striped sunglasses outfit. And here he is at the Eastern Open last year!)

The band had been planning this video already, but were apparently going to just bring in some kid actor and fake the table tennis scenes. Then they saw Derek in the Washington Post video, and contacted me about hiring him.

The table tennis portion of the taping took four hours, from 7-11PM, though the band members came in around 5PM to start setting up. Also in attendance were Derek's parents and older brother, George (15, a 2050 player), and lots of pizza. In order, here's what happened:

  1. Taping of Derek and the band members arriving by limousine. Yes, they hired a white limousine for this part, and they actually picked Derek up at his school in the limo! (He said it was rather embarrassing explaining this to everyone there.) The chauffeur, Nas, a Pakistani immigrant, just last week drove Clint Eastwood, and has also driven Michael Douglas, Chris Tucker, Chris Rock, LL. Cool J, Erin Burnett, and Jon Huntsman.
  2. They rearranged the barriers at the club to create a long, diagonal entrance from the doorway to the playing area set up in the back of the club. Then they taped the four band members walking/sauntering in over and over. Then they did the same with Derek.
  3. Then came the table tennis scenes. They taped Derek mostly hitting and looping forehands while I blocked. Because of the extremely bright light they put behind Derek I couldn't see the ball when blocking forehands, but I made the fortuitous discover that I could block backhands from the forehand side without the light in my eyes. George Nie also joined in for some of the rallies. (George and I won't be in the video, we were just blocking for Derek.)
  4. Then they taped the band members playing. I fed them balls multi-ball style as they smacked shots all over the place, sometimes hitting the table. Two of the four were actually pretty decent. One could barely hit the ball, but after some practice we put on a decent show.
  5. Then each of them taped their "losing" scene. I'd hit a ball hard at them, they'd flail at it and miss, and then each had their own sore loser reaction - throwing paddle down (we used a cheap one for that!), kicking the wall (not too hard, I warned), looks of disgust, and each ending with the band member storming out of the club in some way. (So when you see them losing, remember that it was me who hit the winning shots, not Derek!!!)
  6. Then we filmed Derek's victory scenes, where he'd raise his arms in triumph, shadow practice forehands and backhands in celebration (sometimes left-handed), and other celebratory maneuvers. There was one very complex scene that Derek nailed in a few tries where he'd go through a series of these maneuvers (including his brother tossing him his striped sunglasses, and Derek cleanly snatching them in mid-air and putting them on) and going through a true actor's scene where he started out all happy, gradually realized he'd beaten everyone and was alone, looked crestfallen, and then tosses aside his paddle and sunglasses and runs off. Oscar scene!!!
  7. They also did several short scenes in front of a green screen. They will add in scenes from a night club later on. This saved Derek from having to go there, plus the night club they were going to use doesn't open until midnight (!), well past Derek's bedtime.
  8. We also had several humorous scenes of the band members preparing to play, including one member dressed in an all-white outfit who was constantly preening for the camera. In one scene, after he finished straightening his hair and clothes, we all threw ping-pong balls at him.
  9. Then we all had to spend some time putting the club back together, moving barriers and chairs back into position.

They said the taping for the video will complete next weekend (at the night club), and the video should be done in about a month. They have lots of video editing to do. I'll post when it's up.

Five Days Till the MDTTC September Open!

Have you entered yet? If you aren't there, we'll talk about you behind your back. We'll make Youtube videos about you. There will be rioting in the streets. It won't be pretty. So enter and stop the mayhem. (Tournament is at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, and I'm running it. I've run over 150 USATT tournaments, but this will be my first one in over ten years.)

Lily Zhang and Barack Obama

Here's a picture of Olympian Lily Zhang shaking hands with President Obama at the White House.

ITTF Coaching Program

Here's an article on the ITTF web page about the ITTF coaching program. It mentions USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee, who is currently running seminars in India.

Great Point at the Russian Open

Here's a great point by Xu Xin of China against Russia's Alexey Liventsov. (26 seconds.)

Ping-Pong Record Covers

Here are two:

Penguins Use What For Rackets?

Here's a penguin table tennis cartoon.

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July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

Yes, it's Friday the 13th - and in honor of that, here's an extremely acrobatic black cat at the net (2:01). It's hilarious, and set to music. 

How Eric Messed Players Up

Yesterday I blogged about Eric Boggan's national and international record, and mentioned how some of the things he did are basically dying arts. Here is his Hall of Fame profile, written by father and fellow Hall of Famer Tim Boggan.

First, let's clear up one myth. Some believe Eric was only effective because he used inverted and anti, with the same color, so opponents couldn't see which side he used. The two-color rule came about in 1983, when Eric was 19 and not yet at his peak. He had his best results and highest world rankings after the color rule, where he reached #18 in the world. In fact, Eric went to two colors at least six months in advance, figuring he might as well get used to it, since two colors were the future. If not for the two-color rule, he likely would have reached top ten in the world. (But we'll never know.)

What exactly did he do that made his game so effective?

He had either the best, or close to the best, backhand block and overall blocking in the world. His Seemiller grip allowed him to jab block from all parts of the table at wide angles. The grip meant there was no middle weakness, which by itself put him above other blockers who had to guard the wide angles as well as the middle. Plus he regularly would flip his racket and dead block with the antispin side. His anti blocks sometimes double-bounced, and opponents who stepped off the table to loop against regular blocks were left thrashing about trying to react to blocks that died over the table or barely came off. And if they did topspin those ones, they were then stuck too close to the table to react to Eric's next shot, would either be another aggressive block or a smash. (While his loop wasn't great, he had a very nice smash from both sides.)

He also messed up opponents when receiving. Against short serves he'd usually use the antispin side and either drop it short or flip - and he'd hide which until the last second. Then he'd flip to the inverted side and start attacking or aggressive blocking. You haven't faced sheer terror until you face an Eric anti flip and try to loop it. (If you set up for it, he drops the ball short instead.)

His biggest strengths were exactly what were most players' weaknesses. Your typical world-class player liked to serve short and then attack to the middle or backhand. They also liked to return serves short. These tactics were often suicide against Eric - he was at his best against short serves and receives, and his blocking from the middle and backhand were just too good. Thinking players quickly realized they had to serve more long balls and attack his forehand, and to push long against his serves. (Few world-class players were in the habit of letting the opponent loop first, which is exactly what you often had to do against Eric.) Many players, such as Dan Seemiller, found success by chopping to get out of a losing rally since few could withstand his side-to-side jab blocks and anti dead blocks. Many found these tactics too different, and fell back on their old habits - often to their great regret.

Sandpaper News - $2000 Sandpaper Event at Nationals

You read that right - the top eight players will receive $2000 in total prize money, with $1000 going to the winner. Here's the press release, which reads:

July 12, 2012 Colorado Springs, CO and Palm Harbor, FL - Michael Cavanaugh, USATT CEO and Ty Hoff of FASTT announced the co-sanctioning of the Sandpaper event at the 2012 US Nationals in Las Vegas, NV December 18-22, 2012. The event will be the 2012 USATT/FASTT Sandpaper National Championships and will feature $2,000 in prize money for the top eight finishers with a top prize of $1,000.  

The USATT is the national governing body for the Olympic sport of Table Tennis.  FASTT is a national organization promoting the sport of Sandpaper Table Tennis.  These two organizations have come together to expand the base of players in the United States through this cooperative effort. 

Players interested in the Olympic sport of Table Tennis are encouraged to visit http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis.aspx.  Players interested in the sport of Sandpaper Table Tennis are encouraged to visit http://www.ttprotour.com/.  

The Backhand Topspin

Pingskills brings you this new video on the Backhand Topspin (1:38). (Yes, this is the backhand loop, but these days the dividing line between a backhand drive and a backhand loop is less clear than before as more and more players play topspinny backhands, which is made much easier by modern sponges.) 

USA Olympians Highlighted in Bay Area

The four (Timothy Wang, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu) are highlighted in the San Francisco TV Station and web page KTSF. "This is a twelve-day series introducing twelve Chinese-American athletes in various sports who will represent US to compete in the 2012 London Olympics. KTSF chooses table tennis as its first four episodes. Timothy's was aired yesterday, Ariel's on July 12, Lily's on July 13, and Erica's on July 14. Once aired, the video clips will be also available from KTSF's website. Tune in at channel 26, cable 8 in the Bay Area."

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Table Tennis on TV

Their University Team, which won lots of hardware at the College Nationals, is featured in this video (1:53).

Which Olympic sport is the hardest? Fourth-Place Medal ranks all 32

They put table tennis at #27!!! They obviously don't know our sport. But then put Equestrian - riding horses - as the hardest sport. I don't think they know sports, period. (Earth Fourth-Place Medal - the horse is doing most of the work!!!)

Crazy Sidespin

Here's an extreme sidespin by Xu Xin versus Ma Long (0.36).

Ariel Hsing on Nickelodeon

They try to figure out what she does - Olympic Table Tennis Player! (4:20)

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