College Championships

May 31, 2013

Good Misses, Bad Misses

In a session with an advanced beginner yesterday, while hitting forehand to forehand (we're both righties), I pointed out to him the difference between a "good miss" and a "bad miss." Ideally, there would be no misses, but some are better than others.

When his shot went long, that was a "good miss" since at least he was driving into the ball, usually with some topspin, and he only needed to adjust his racket angle and perhaps not lift so much. When his shot went into the net, it was a "bad miss" because it usually meant he was taking the ball too quick and hitting it straight on into the net, rather than with any type of topspin. The same was true later on when I had him loop against backspin (multiball) - spinny loops off the end - good. Loops into the net - bad.

When his shot went wide (to my right), it was a "good miss" because, again, he was driving into the ball, and only needed to adjust his timing. If his shot went toward the middle of the table but actually hit the table, that was still a "bad miss" because it meant he was probably turning his wrist in and letting his racket tip fall back, i.e. it was a technique problem, not just a timing issue.

Another "good miss" is a missed serve that has lots of spin. When I play practice matches with juniors, I often claim "I wasn't ready!" if they miss a serve. I want them to push the envelope and go for great, spinny serves rather than wimp out and go for safe ones. If they serve high I'll return it passively, but mention they need to practice keeping it lower. (Key to that is a low contact point with a fine grazing motion.) A "bad miss" is any serve that misses - or hits! - that's not otherwise a good serve, i.e. spinny. (Not all serves have to be spinny, but I'm talking about players learning to serve with spin, not advanced players learning to serve no-spin that looks spinny, i.e. "heavy no-spin.")

Best Shots of My Life

Here are the best shots I've ever made in my life in a tournament, in rough order:

  1. The dive under the table.
    This was against Marty Reisman in a hardbat challenge match in the late 1990s (so not really a tournament match), but it was at a tournament, so I count it. I was out of position and he hit wide to my backhand. I lunged over and chopped it back short to his wide backhand. He did a short drop shot to my forehand that went off the side. We were playing on a table where the table legs were near the end, and there was no obstruction underneath. So I dived under the table, in front of the table leg on my forehand side, and managed to scoop the ball back up onto the table. Marty pushed it back for a winner, though I didn't see it - was I was sprawled on the ground.
  2. Forehand Counter-Smash From Two Tables Away While Knocking Over Eric Boggan.
    I was on table three playing Dave Sakai in 1983. U.S. Men's Champion Eric Boggan was on table one. I was back lobbing against Dave, and lobbed one high and wide to his backhand. I knew that Dave had this inside-out forehand smash he'd do on such shots, so as he was about to smash I ran way around my backhand to forehand counter-smash. Dave smashed it inside out with sidespin so it broke way over, all the way into court one. I ran after it, and ran right into Eric Boggan, knocking him off his feet - but I made the forehand counter-smash! Dave blocked it back for a winner, alas. Eric was not happy with me.
  3. The counterloop against Allen Barth.
    He's a lefty, and he looped to my backhand in a tournament match in the early 1980s. I started to block, but the ball hit the net. I readjusted, but the ball hit the side edge and jumped to my left. I dived after it, and did a mid-air backhand counterloop around the net that just rolled on his side of the table for a winner. I landed on the floor on my stomach.
  4. The underhanded counter-smash.
    This was against a much weaker player in the late 1980s. I was back lobbing, and the guy just creamed one to my forehand. I backed way, way back, and lobbed it back. He smashed again to my forehand, but not as hard. For some reason, spur of the moment, I did an under-handed counter-smash, bowling style. (I think I'd seen Jan-Ove Waldner do this shot, so perhaps I was subconsciously copying it.) It went in for a clean winner.
  5. Backspin Chop Lob Ace.
    This was against Sunny Li, the U.S. Under 10 and 12 Champion in the early 1990s, and already rated something like 1900 or so. (He would go on to win just about every junior event up to Under 18 before going off to Iraq as a sharpshooter.) I was up match point, something like 20-15. Sunny served short backspin to my backhand. I chop lobbed it into the air so it landed very short on his forehand side and bounced back to my side for a match-winning ace. (I've also done backspin serves that bounce back to my side of the table, usually against in less serious matches, but those aren't great shots - I can do that serve 2/3 of the time.)

Kagin Lee Blog on the College Championships

Here's the blog that went up this morning, "The Making of the College Table Tennis Championships, 2013 Edition." (Kagin is on the USATT Board of Directors.)

ITTF Development and Education Programs

Here's a report on the ITTF's plans on this for the next four years.

Table Tennista

Here are this morning's headlines at Table Tennista.

Ping Pong Hustler

Here's a short film (15:03) made in 2006 featuring the late great Marty Reisman.

Table Tennis Movie Posters

I did a Google search for "Table Tennis Movie Posters," and this is what I found. Lots of great pictures!

Scripps National Spelling Bee

Table Tennis Nation did this preview of the spelling bee - turns out a number of the contestants are table tennis players! Alas, the final winner wasn't one of the table tennis players, even though three of the four finalists were.

River Table Tennis

Here's a video (39 sec) of table tennis played on a floating mini-table in a river! Added bonus - you get to see player fall into river.

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April 15, 2013

Tip of the Week

Playing the Big Backhand Player.


Yesterday I was coaching a 6-year-old. I've been working with him for a while, but his hand-eye coordination make learning difficult. For example, despite months of trying, he can rarely bounce a ball on his paddle more than two or three times. He also has great difficulty timing serves - the timing of throwing a ball up and hitting it accurately is difficult for kids that age - and he can rarely serve two balls in a row successfully. (His record is four in a row.)

Because of his difficulties in learning, he quickly loses patience if he doesn't get it quickly. He also is obsessed with Star Wars, and I made the mistake of letting him know what a big fan I was as well. It's often all he wants to talk about. Sometimes he insists I call him Yoda. He often tries to steer practice sessions into Star Wars question and answer sessions.

I often challenge him to do as many forehands or backhands as possible. His record on the forehand (when I feed multiball, which is easier than hitting them "live") was an even 40, but that was sort of fluky; his second most was about ten or fifteen. His backhand record is 18. His interest in getting as many in a row as possible is erratic.

I came up with an idea a few days ago. I created a chart, "Anton's Chart," where I listed his records for most forehands and backhands in a row, both with multiball and live, as well as ball bouncing, ball balancing (where he sees how long he can balance the ball on his racket while I time it), and how many serves he can do in a row. At the start of our lesson yesterday I brought out the chart, and taped it to the wall. His eyes went wide.

Suddenly he had a goal. Normally we work on a lot of things during each session, but he decided for some reason that he was going to break his forehand record. And so we ended up doing nothing but forehands for 45 minutes! That broke by about 40 minutes his record for focusing on something. The result was he broke the record twice - first with 55 in a row, and then with 64 in a row.

Even after he got the 64 he wanted to keep playing forehands. Why? Because I had explained to him that in table tennis, it's often said you don't have a forehand or backhand until you hit 100 in a row. And I promised him that if he ever did 100 in a row, I'd print out a nice certificate with his name on it and saying what he'd done. He was determined!!!

He didn't get 100 this time, but he was excited to break his record twice, and to be able to write in his new record on his chart. I have a feeling we'll be hitting a lot of forehands until he gets that 100, and then we'll move on to the backhand.

Ball balancing wasn't on the original chart. I added it as his insistence. We spent ten minutes on this as he kept trying to increase his record, finally getting it up to 5.46 seconds. (This, and ball bouncing, are difficult for kids his age, and so great practice in developing hand-eye coordination, but now that he's got a goal, he'll probably learn faster.)

I think the next step is to tell him that in table tennis, you don't really have a serve until you can do, say, twenty in a row. Right now he can't do that, but I bet this way he'll learn fast!

USA College Championships

They were held this past weekend in Rockford, IL. Here's the home page, with results, articles, and video. Here are the new National Champions:

  • Men's Singles: Emil Santos, Texas Wesleyan University
  • Women's Singles: Jiaqi Zheng, Northwest Polytechnic University
  • Men's Doubles: Grant Li & Justin Huang, University of Southern California
  • Women's Doubles: Sara Hazinski & Claudia Ikezumi, Texas Wesleyan University
  • Coed Team: Texas Wesleyan University
  • Women's Team: Texas Wesleyan University

Pongcast 25

Here's the video (17:29), which covers the Korean Open.

What Makes Zhang Jike Beatable

Here's an article from Table Tennis Master on this. Three reasons are given, involving a tendency to take the ball late, attitude, and pressure.

Table Tennista

As usual, there's a host of new international articles on Table Tennista, including Liu Guoliang's sarcastic humor, Zhang Jike criticized by his father, and the Asian Cup.

Tina Lin to Worlds

Here's an article on New Jersey's junior star Tina Lin.

Adam Scott Wins Masters, Plays Ping-Pong

Here's the article and video (5sec) from Table Tennis Nation.

Buried in Ping-Pong Balls

Here's a picture of a woman literally buried in ping-pong balls. (I'm guessing it's actually in a swimming pool, with the balls floating on top. Or perhaps not. (If Facebook doesn't let you see this, try here.)

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