2013 U.S. Open

July 8, 2013

Tip of the Week

Expect to Win.

U.S. Open

As usual I didn't get to see many of the big Men's and Women's matches - I was busy coaching the MDTTC juniors. I was mostly coaching Derek Nie, Sameer Shaikh, sometimes Nathan Hsu, and occasionally others such as Crystal Wang. I flew out on Monday morning, and returned on a red-eye flight that left late Saturday night - it didn't actually take off until after midnight, so it was technically Sunday morning. I landed at BWI airport around 8AM. I'd left my car at the airport so I could drive myself and three others home. I didn't get home until around 10AM.

Here's the USATT page that has links to results, articles, pictures, video, etc.

Here's a rundown of interesting happenings. (It's rather rushed as I have to finish in time to coach at the MDTTC camp this morning. More tomorrow!)

  • Derek Nie's play. He played great. His attacks were fluid and consistent, his recently-developed topspinning backhand in rallies were jumping off the table and rarely missing, his forehand was clicking, and probably best of all, his receive was excellent - backhand banana flips, forehand regular flips, and short and long pushes. Over and over he had opponents practically falling over the table trying to get to his short push, which kept setting up his attack. He came in rated 2261, and beat four players rated between 2334 and 2361. He also had a bad loss to a 2134 player (knocking him out of Under 13), when he had great difficulty with a specific serve over and over. After losing the first two, he won the third and fourth, both 11-4, and seemed on his way to winning, but it's tough coming back from down 0-2, and in the fifth he faltered and lost.
  • Funniest incident. Derek Nie, 12, who's about 4'6" and 65 pounds but has a rating of 2261, was waiting at the table to play a match. I watched as the opponent arrived and stepped into the court, carrying the clipboard. He looked over at Derek, then looked down at the clipboard, where it had Derek's name and rating. Then he looked at Derek again then back at the clipboard. His head moved back and forth at least ten times as he kept looking at the name and rating on the clipboard and the player he was about to play - he obviously was having a hard time believing this was the 2250+ player he was playing! He finally asked, "Are you Derek?" Derek nodded. The player stared at the clipboard one more time, then smiled and went out to play. (Derek won easily over the shell-shocked but much lower rated opponent.)
  • Best Learning Experience. I walked into the ITTF arena, and on the very first practice table was Eugene Wang, the defending (and soon repeating) U.S. Open Men's Singles Champion. He was practicing his serves and backhand banana flip (where you flip the ball with great topspin and sidespin). Players and coaches were walking back and forth completely oblivious to the chance to watch. I sat down and watched for twenty minutes. Wang noticed, and even nodded at me a few times after he made some nice backhand flips. I wish I could have had some of our MDTTC players there to watch.
  • Over 50 Hardbat Doubles. Jay Turberville and I won!!! In the final we defeated Jeff Johnson and Scott Gordon (-15, 10, 15), who had won Open Hardbat Doubles. However, I've decided to retire from tournament play - too many conflicts with my coaching duties (I even defaulted out of Open Hardbat because of a coaching conflict), I keep getting injured (I aggravated my back injury this tournament, though fortunately it's not too bad), plus I'm simply not as good as I used to be - I've lost much of my foot speed, which is pretty important if you're a 53-year-old all-out forehand attacker. I normally use sponge, but mostly retired from that a few years ago, and only play hardbat (and occasionally sandpaper) events.
  • Most interesting quote. "You're a liar and a fraud! Why haven't you called the authorities to make [name withheld] stop playing loud music when he plays table tennis?" A very angry and confused person yelled this and similar versions at me over and over. I was clueless about what he was talking about.
  • Two Best Shots. I played in the Sandpaper Open. In one game there were two incredible shots. First, my opponent mishit a smash that went off the side of the table to my extremely wide backhand. It hit the net post, six inches outside the table - and bounced back on the table! I was already way over to make the return, but relaxed as it went off the side - only to see it bounce back as an unreturnable winner to my wide forehand! Not to be outdone, about two points later he again smashed a ball to my wide backhand, and this one hit. I was out of position toward my forehand side, and lunged for the ball. With my back to the table and my racket tilted straight up, and made an over-the-shoulder counter-hit for a winner!
  • Strangest Let Ball Controversy. I was watching an umpired match between two top juniors. One of them served, and the other caught the ball, saying it was a let since the ball had hit the net. The umpire didn't see it, and gave the point to the server. (I'm not sure what the server thought.) Several in the crowd also said the ball had hit the net, but the umpire can't take that into account. (The spectators could be biased.) Astoundingly, I'm told this happened three different times in the match! When there is no umpire, the players call the lets. When there is an umpire, the umpire calls the lets. Often players will still call lets in an umpired match, but it's risky if the umpire disagrees.
  • Final Autograph versus Tong Tong Count. I usually coach Tong Tong Gong at big tournaments, but he's busy this summer taking college classes (at age 15!) and doing volunteer work, and so didn't make it to the open. Over and over during the Open players asked me about Tong Tong. Players also kept bringing me copies of my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers to sign. In the end I signed 19 copies of the book, and 14 people asked about Tong Tong, so I "won," 19-14. (Derek Nie also signed three copies under a picture of himself in it.)
  • Most Fun. On Saturday afternoon I took a group of the kids swimming, and they spent 90 minutes throwing around a beach ball and chasing each other, all in 110 degree heat. (It had been 115 when we arrived.)
  • Best Coaching Advice. I wasn't scheduled to coach Crystal Wang, but I was watching her play the first game against a strong player rated about 100 points lower. The opponent had some specific weaknesses that Crystal wasn't playing into. I pointed them out to her mom, who asked me to coach her. Crystal pulled out the first, 11-9. After I spoke with her she executed perfectly, and won the next two, 11-3, 11-1. Hopefully, I had a lot of other good coaching advice for others. When Derek began playing really well, the best thing I did coaching-wise was to keep things very simple and just let him play, often just reminding him to vary his serve and receive, and perhaps to attack first to a specific spot.
  • More tomorrow. I have to coach at the MDTTC camp that starts this morning, so have to stop now. I should have more to write about the Open tomorrow.

Returning Serves to the Middle

Here's a video on this (1:33) from PingSkills.

One Myth About Attacking Backspin That You Probably Believe

The question is whether it is easier to attack a backspin ball at the top of the bounce, or even after, when the ball is descending. Here's their answer.

Table Tennis Ethics

Here's an essay on this.

Majestic Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (5:15), set to music with some interesting graphics.

Three Superpowers Table Tennis Can Give You

What are they?

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April 30, 2013

U.S. Open

The U.S. Open this year is in Las Vegas, NV, July 2-6. The entry deadline is in eleven days - May 11. (There's a late deadline of May 18, which requires a $75 late fee.) Have you entered yet? Here's the U.S. Open webpage. I'll be there as a coach. I'm toying with entering some of the hardbat events as well, but not sure if I have time. (I normally play sponge, but have won a bunch of hardbat titles on the side.)

One of my annual pet peeves is that there is rarely any advertising or advance notice about the top players coming. This year the U.S. Open is part of the ITTF World Tour, and we know a bunch of top players are coming - but there's no publicity about who is coming. Year after year the entry deadline comes, and it is only after the deadline that prospective players (i.e. potential cash-paying entries) find out who the top players are. For all we know the Chinese National Team is coming, or the top European players - but we just don't know. Rather than wait and see who enters, and announcing it after the deadline, it would be a lot better if USATT pro-actively found out at least some of the top players who are coming before the deadline, and the publicized it. They did this in the early 1990s, and it seemed to lead to increased entries, as well as happy participants who came both to play and watch (as well as to buy stuff, with all the table tennis venders at the Open).

I hope to see many of you at the Open. There are so many reasons to attend - you get to play, see the top players, see friends, see a huge convention center filled up with a hundred tables and 800 players (and hundreds of family members, coaches, officials, staff, volunteers, etc.), explore the many equipment booths, and oh yeah, it's in Las Vegas!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

For two months in a row I've made more writing about table tennis than actually coaching. So please jump on the bandwagon and buy your copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers! Or any of the other fine books sold on my Amazon page. I also made a sizeable chunk last year writing science fiction & fantasy - about $2000 total. I'm not sure if it's a profitable hobby or a low-paying job. Here's my Science Fiction & Fantasy page.

Me and Marty

Here's a picture posted on Facebook by Bruce Liu of me with the late great Marty Reisman, taken at my U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame induction in 2003. Marty was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the banquet, while Eric Boggan and David Zhuang were my fellow inductees. (If you can't see it on Facebook, try this.)

Ping Pong Candy

Alabama's Michael Wetzel (that's International Umpire and Certified Referee to you) sent me a pair of Ping Pong Candies, made in Venezuela. Here's the picture! They seem to be chocolate covered nuts or something like that. I haven't decided whether to eat them or keep them as a souvenir.

Table Tennista

Here are the international headline stories right now at Table Tennista

The Inspiring Chinese National Team

Here's a video (2:39) from a year ago on the Chinese National Team in training that I don't think I've ever linked to. It has inspirational narration (rapping?) by "Hiphoppreacher." I think I may have linked to something by him once before, but I'm not sure.

Table Tennis Can Be Really Awesome

Here's a new video (1:20) of shot-making and trick shots, from the "Piing of Power." (Not sure why there are two i's.)

A Boy and his Cat

Here's a continuous gif image of a boy playing table tennis with his cat (really!), with a seven-shot sequence repeated over and over.

USATT Minutes

[NOTE - I usually save the fun stuff for the end - like the boy and cat video above - but I decided to stick the USATT stuff here at the end so as not to scare people away.]

Here are the motions from the USATT Board of Director's April 20, 2013 meeting at Westchester, NY (during the North American Cup). You can see the minutes and motions from meetings going back to 1999 at the USATT Minutes page.

  • MOVED to appoint Rajul Sheth as Chair of the Juniors Advisory Committee.
  • MOVED to appoint David DelVecchio as Chair, and to appoint Adam Bobrow, Alex Figueroa, Willy Leparulo, and Han Xiao (athlete) as members, of the Leagues Advisory Committee.
  • MOVED for USATT to review Diego Schaaf’s Merit Pin Proposal, to incorporate Board comments into a revised draft, and to submit the revised draft to Diego Schaaf.
  • MOVED to deny North American Table Tennis’s request to vacate the Board’s December 19, 2012 Motion regarding the sanctioning of a Butterfly Teams Championship in 2013.
  • MOVED to direct the Clubs Advisory Committee to design a strategy for implementation of the club equipment package proposed by Attila Malek.
  • MOVED to affirm the February 17, 2013 Final Decision of the Board’s Special Committee in the disciplinary matter In re Chui, Case No. 2012-003.
  • MOVED that any service of Roman Tinyszin on the Officials and Rules Advisory Committee prior to December 31st, 2008, was ultra vires; therefore, the waiver approved on March 25, 2013, is inapplicable.
  • Respectfully submitted, Dennis Taylor, Secretary

USATT High Performance Committee

Here are the Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC) for March by Chair Carl Danner.

During March, the HPC did not hold any formal meetings or conference calls. However, the following summary of its actions and discussions is offered to inform USATT members about the HPC’s activities conducted by email, and through participation in the USATT Board’s March conference call meeting.  

  1. The selection process for the Youth Olympic Games was approved by the Athlete Advisory Council (AAC) and forwarded to the USOC for its approval – which was still pending as of the date this summary was prepared. The HPC reviewed the YOG code of conduct, and approved it subject to one wording change regarding possible serious criminal acts by athletes.  
  2. The HPC continued its discussion about the selection and review of National Team Coaches (NT Coaches). During the Board meeting, Board members advised that the responsibility for selecting, retaining, and opening positions for NT Coaches is the responsibility of the CEO. The HPC and other relevant committees would provide support for that process. The Board also asked the HPC to prepare a memo with its recommendations for the hiring process for able-bodied NT Coaches. As of this writing, it has not yet been determined by the CEO which able-bodied NT Coach positions will be open for applications, or on what schedule. A number of HPC members did emphasize the importance of having defined criteria for the evaluation of the performance of NT Coaches.  
  3. The HPC had some initial discussion of the concept of using multiple trials or tournaments to select national team members, starting first perhaps with the junior and cadet teams. This item will require further research and development prior to being implemented, including identifying specific events that will be counted. No decisions were made in this regard during March.  
  4. Another point of discussion was the potential of requiring some tournament participation during the year in order to validate a player’s rating as current for purposes of seedings in the Nationals Men’s and Women’s Singles events. Lacking that, the tournament committee might be authorized to seed a player based on estimated playing strength instead. Mr. Danner will identify the appropriate USATT committee to forward this proposal.  
  5. HPC members consulted with the CEO and the head of the Coaching Advisory Committee, Federico Bassetti, to help draft position announcements for Para Head NT Coach, NT Coach, and Junior NT Coach positions. USATT Para Program Manager Jasna Rather prepared the announcements, which were posted on the website with an application deadline of May 1.  
  6. The selection discussion for the April ITTF North America Cup in Westchester, NY raised some questions for future consideration about how to select teams for such events. These included understanding the relationship between the members of a U.S. adult team who represented us at a given event (such as the World Championships), the National Team Trial finishing order, and also how the coach’s pick for the World Championship team might fit in. Future selection policies will be more explicit about how priorities will be established among these criteria. 

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