2013 Korean Open

April 8, 2013

Tip of the Week

Covering and Recovering From the Middle.

Stellangie Camp

Who/what is "Stellangie"? That's the combination of Stellan and Angie Bengtsson's first names. Who are they? Stellan is the 1971 World Men's Singles Champion and hugely famous coach from Sweden. (I went to one of his camps for two weeks, and can verify it's well deserved.) Angie's a U.S. Hall of Fame player (formerly known as Angelita Rosal) who married Stellan and moved to Sweden for many years. Now both are coaching in San Diego. ITTF Coach John Olsen went to their camp last week, and here's his report, which he wrote for this blog.

I want to give people some idea of what a great table tennis camp is like. I recently attended the Stellan/Angie Bengtsson Training Camp at the Willamette Table Tennis Club, Salem Oregon from March 27-31, 2013. If you ever get the chance to attend one of these camps I highly recommend it.

There were 14 player slots for the camp. The camp had 2 sessions a day, 3 hours each session with a 2 hour break for lunch. A 3 hour session contained 5-6 drills. Most drills had multiple components, such as initially hitting cross court and then down the line. Each player did the drill, Stellan and Angie would tell you when to switch.

At certain times one or two people (depending on whether the camp had an odd or even number) would be taken over to do multiball drills. Angie did multiball in the morning and Stellan did the afternoon sessions. During these multiball sessions you worked on specific things you had asked to improve (in my case return of serve).

Each day followed a similar pattern:

  • 10 minutes of warm-up stretching
  • Find a hitting partner, warm up forehand (FH) for 5 minutes, then backhand (BH) for 5 minutes. Stellan stressed that you should be using the shots you use in a match during warm-ups and drills. It’s OK to hit FH drives for a bit to find your rhythm, but don’t continue to use a drive if you are a looper, go ahead and loop. Players alternated looping and blocking during warm-ups so both partners got practice. At the end of warm-up the players would gather together as Stellan and Angie talk and give us the next drill and explain where it fits into the overall parts of the game.
  • Do 2-3 drills
  • Halfway through a 3 hour session take a 5 minute break and switch hitting partners
  • Do 2-3 drills
  • Do 10 minutes of cool-down stretching at the end of the 3 hour session (different  from the warm-up stretches)
  • 2 hour break for lunch
  • 10 minutes of stretching
  • Find a new hitting partner, warm up FH 5 minutes, BH 5 minutes
  • Do 2-3 drills
  • 5 minute break, switch hitting partners
  • Do 2-3 drills
  • 10 minutes of cool-down stretching

So on any day you would hit with 4 different players. On most drills the level of your partner was not that important. I never had an issue with doing these drills correctly, whether the player was above or below my level. Certain drills, like serve/receive Stellan and Angie would make sure that you were paired with someone close to your own level. Stellan or Angie would circulate during the drills correcting technique, answering questions and make suggestions. Angie would also record you with an iPad and be able to instantly show you what she was talking about regarding your technique.

Every drill related to some aspect of match play. Stellan would explain not only how to do the drill, but what specific skill that drill was designed to help you improve. He would also tell us what bad habits to watch out for so that we were doing the drills correctly and getting the most benefit from them.  I have to say that I have never experienced this kind of detailed information about training drills before.

At times Stellan would substitute competition for a drill. We played Brazilian Teams twice and King of the Table once during the camp.

Also note that you do 4 stretches a day. Normally when I play I do a few minutes of warm-up stretching. What we did at the camp was much more extensive. The point of the cool-down stretches is to not just prevent injury but to relax your muscles and reduce soreness. I am 56 years old and not in the best of shape, but I had fewer sore muscles the entire camp than I normally have from a single casual 3 hour playing session.

What I Told a Student Before a Tournament

I coached a junior player on Sunday morning before he played in the MDTTC tournament. He seemed a bit nervous, so this is what I told him. "If you lose, there will be earthquakes and tornadoes, the polar ice caps will melt and kill off the polar bears, there will be pestilence and hunger, the earth will spin out of orbit and into the sun, and the sun will go supernova, spewing radiation throughout the galaxy and killing off all intelligent life. So the galaxy is depending on you."

I often say things like this to help relax players. Before big matches we often talk about TV shows or sports teams, anything but tactics until maybe five or ten minutes before the match. (We do, of course, discuss tactics well in advance; what we do just before the match is a review.) People often see me in animated discussion with players before a match and assume we're talking high-level tactics when we're really discussing the Baltimore Ravens or Orioles, the TV show NCIS, the latest movies, or who knows what else.

Stefan Feth a Finalist for USOC Developmental Coach of the Year

Here's the article.

Who is the Greatest Celebrity Table Tennis Player?

Table Tennis Nation has been running this online voting contest recently, and they are down to two finalists: Standup Comedian/Actor (of 30 Rock Fame) Judah Friedlander vs. former basketball star Christian Laettner. Who will win? Who should win? You get to vote! (Since I've coached Judah a number of times - he lives near MDTTC when he's not in NYC acting - I voted for him.)

Olympian Iulia Necula Helps Take Aerobic TT to Another Level

Here's the article.

Wang Liqin Demonstrates His Rubber's Tackiness

Here's the video (22 sec).

Korean Open

Here's a video (8:24) of the all-Chinese Men's Final, where Xu Xin defeats Ma Long. Here's an article on it from Table Tennista. Here are the Men's Semifinals, Xu Xin vs. Yan An (4:03), and Ma Long vs. Wang Hao (7:15). Here's the Women's Final (13:22), Seo Hyowon vs. Kasumi Ishikawa - and see the serve Seo pulled out at the end to win! (Time between points has been removed in the videos, so non-stop action.) Here's a video (5:40) of the Korean Open's Top Ten Shots.

Table Tennista

There are more international articles at Table Tennista, covering the Korean Open, the German Bundesliga (Timo Boll injured!), and others.

Albert Einstein Table Tennis Picture

Here it is!

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April 4, 2013

Different Serving Motions

I had a long, animated discussion last night with a pair of our top juniors and their parents about serves. It's always bothered me when a junior spends so much time developing high-level strokes and footwork, but not a strong serving or receiving game. The discussion ended with a mutual agreement on specific service goals for one of the players - certain serves that he'd have ready by specific major tournaments. The other player had to leave to play a match during the discussion, but I'll speak with her later on her own service goals. (When I say "ready," this means done at a high level with lots of variation and control, which takes many hours of practice. Control means keeping it low while controlling both the direction and, even more important, the depth of the serve.)

It's so easy to fall into the habit of "simple" serves, where a player masters a few basic serves that sets him up for his game, at least against lower-level players, and perhaps against peers - but of course part of the reason they are his "peers" is because they haven't developed their service game, and so aren't really controlling play when they serve.

The part that is most often missed isn't that these simple serves aren't effective, to a certain extent; it's all the points being thrown away by not having a bigger service threat. Often their "peers" are only playing them close because they are winning 2-3 points a game on tricky serves. The irony is that players often complain about losing to an opponent's serves - but make no serious effort to learn these serves themselves.

The classic example is players who develop forehand pendulum serves, with simple backspin and side-backspin, and perhaps a pure sidespin or a no-spin serve - and not much else. Maybe they have a deep serve to throw at opponents, often with a different motion that telegraphs it because they haven't spent the time developing it out of the same motion. (This happens all the time; often the server thinks he's using the same motion for the deep serve, but usually is not.)

At a recent Worlds (I can't remember which one) there was a study that showed that there were more reverse pendulum serves then regular pendulum serves at the world-class level. And yet how many players develop these serves below the top levels? It's not that hard. It allows a player to serve sidespin both ways with the same motion until the racket moves forward. With the most advanced serving technique, you can use the same motion until almost the split second before contact before committing to which sidespin. (Note - a forehand pendulum serves is a forehand serve, racket tip down, where the racket moves from right to left for a righty. A reverse pendulum serve is when the racket moves from left to right, and is often more awkward for players when they first try it. If you have trouble, get a coach or top player to help out, or watch videos at youtube.)

When a player can do a reverse pendulum serve (mostly short to the forehand or long to the backhand), with sidespin, side-top, or side-backspin (this last is the trickiest to learn, but is hugely important), and combine it with the same spin variations of a regular pendulum serves, as well as no-spin serves that look spinny, then an opponent has so many things to watch out for that he'll often fall apart. And yet so many players spend years developing a nice loop but never develop these most basic serves.

It doesn't have to be just pendulum serves. There are all sorts of backhand serves, tomahawk serves, windshield wiper serves - the list is endless. Watch what the best servers do, practice, and experiment. Turn your opponent into the one saying, "If not for his serves..."!

USATT Seeks Junior Committee Chairperson

Here's the article. Interested?

Table Tennista

Here are three more interesting articles.

Photos and Other Info from the Korean Open

Here are photos from the Korean Open, care of the ITTF, which started yesterday in Incheon City, South Korea. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, and photos. In the preliminaries, USA's Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang both advanced with 2-0 records. They also won their first match in the Women's Doubles Preliminaries against a Korean team. Both are also entered in Under 21 Women's Singles. (The only other USA player, Wally Green, was eliminated in the Men's Singles Preliminaries.)

Target Practice

Here's a video showing a player doing multiball and aiming at targets. How long does it take to hit 20 targets? Apparently 38 seconds.

Pippa Middleton Challenges Boris Johnson

Pippa Middleton, a British socialite and the younger sister of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, has issued a ping-pong challenge to London Mayor Boris Johnson. The latter is known for his table tennis; Pippa is known for her cross-country skiing. Here's the article in the London Telegraph, where she at one point calls table tennis "whiff whaff," and dismisses the sport as a "less demanding hobby" than cross-court skiing. "My only stipulation is that I can use my favourite Dunlop Blackstorm Nemesis bat, which I used when I played in the Milton Keynes U13 National Championships, don’t you know. Bring it on, Boris." The article includes a picture of Mayor Johnson playing table tennis. 

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