World Championships of Ping Pong

January 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Three Parts to a Swing.

New Seamless Plastic Poly Balls

I blogged about these on Dec. 26 (see second segment). There's been a lot of discussion online of these non-celluloid balls and how they'd change our sport. Here's my take.

First, a caveat. When I tested the newest poly ball at the Nationals, I was having arm problems at the time and so couldn't loop at full power, so perhaps my judgment on that is suspect. On the other hand, the top juniors who tried the ball out (four of them, all around 2300) thought it played pretty much the same as a regular ball. I wish I had a copy of the ball now so I could try it out again (with my arm mostly okay), along with others at my club. 

At least one other person has tested the ball and posted he believes the ball (even the newest version) has less spin and speed. I'm suspicious that it's substantially different. I know the ball was the same size as a Nittaku, and had the same speed when I bounced them side by side, and seemed substantially the same when I hit with it, including the same weight, grippiness, etc. Serious question: what physical property would cause it to have less spin, and in particular, substantially less spin? Comments are welcome below.  

But let's assume that the new ball does have less speed and spin, as some think. This might be true if, for example, the ball were bigger. (Though the slightly bigger ball I tested previously was actually faster than the current ball, though less spinny.)

If there is less spin with the new ball, I'm pretty sure that'll hurt choppers, even if the ball were slower. Choppers need spin to work with to mess up attackers, so even if they are more consistent with a slower ball, they would be less effective overall. (It'd sort of be like sandpaper matches, where it's easy to chop over and over, but hard to win points that way against the best sandpaper attackers.) However, if the ball were slower, that should help topspin defenders (fishers and lobbers). 

As to hitters, going from 38mm to 40mm balls hurt hitters, and going to a ball with even less speed would do the same - less ball speed gives loopers more time to loop, and hitters (and aggressive blockers) rely on rushing loopers into missing, making weak loops, or backing too much off the table. The same is true of blockers. Inverted and pips-out blockers need to rush loopers, and a slower ball makes that more difficult. Long pips blockers need spin to work with (like choppers), and a less spinny ball gives them less to work with - thereby putting them more at the mercy of smart but powerful loopers. Without those heavy backspin returns of loops, they'll have great difficulty messing loopers up.

The hard-to-call case is the modern defender, who chops and loops. A slower, less spinny ball would make their chops more consistent but less deceptive (and overall chopping alone would be less effective), but the slower ball would allow them to get into position to rip forehand winners. Most likely the change wouldn't affect their level, but it would tilt them toward more aggressive play. 

The surprising truth is that a ball with less spin and speed would likely favor powerful loopers who can still produce great spin and speed. I think it'd move the sport even more in the direction of pure looping, just as the increase from 38mm to 40mm did. It might favor all-out forehand loopers to a degree, since they will have more time to get into position for their powerful forehand loops. If you want to bring back choppers, blockers, and hitters, go back to a smaller, faster, spinnier ball. 

Addendum added later: with less spin and speed, these pure topspin rallies would likely be better than current ones as players relentlessly counterloop back and forth with fewer errors. Some will love this; some will find it repetitively boring. I'm on the fence here. I really miss the greater diversity of styles in the past. If you want to see the future, look at the juniors of today; overwhelmingly they are two-winged loopers, which is what I mostly coach and coach against. There are subtle differences, but in general they play much more similar to each other than players in the past. And yet, with a slower, less spinny ball the given topsin rallies would be better, and there'll fewer errors in returning serves, with the lower amount of spin. But I sure would like to see a bit more variation. 

Baltimore Sun

Yesterday the Baltimore Sun sent a reporter to Maryland Table Tennis Center to do a feature on Crystal Wang, 11, who recently became the youngest player ever to win Under 22 Women's Singles at the USA Nationals. (I'd sent out press releases everywhere afterwards. Here's a short article on this that was already in the Baltimore Sun - with two errors from the original press release, which were my fault: Crystal's actually a 6th grader now in the magnet program at Roberto Clemente Middle School.) The reporter spoke to Crystal and a number of players and coaches, and interviewed me for half an hour. I was able to give her lots of background, explain how she developed, and give details on her modern playing style (close to table looping from both wings).

$100,000 World Championships of Ping Pong

They just completed the third annual World Championships of Ping Pong, which is a sandpaper event - with $100,000 in prize money! Yes, you read that right. For the third year in a row it was won by Russia's Maxim Shmyrev, this time defeating USA's Ilija Lupulesku in the final at 8, 7, 12. (Strangely, games are to 15 in the sandpaper format.) Here's video of the final (24:04). Alas, both players are attacking all out - little chopping in this match.

2014 USA Team Trials

Here's info on the upcoming USA National Team Trials (Men's and Women's), to be held at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth Texas, March 7-9.

Message from ITTF President

Here's the end-of-the-year message from ITTF President Adham Sharara.

Ariel Hsing's Website

Here's the new website for our 18-year-old three-time USA Women's Singles Champion!

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's a review in the New York Times on the book "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" by Nicholas Griffin.

Search for Professional Players, Clubs, and Coaches Around the World

Here's a new website that does this. I haven't really tested it out yet, but it looks interesting.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast

Here's the December 2013 issue (11:44).

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's a video (3:31) of the Chinese National Team doing physical training and then table training. With Chinese narration.

Bernoulli's Ping Pong Ball Launcher

Here's the video (60 sec) - it's both table tennis and science!

Jean-Michel Saive vs. Chuang Chih-Yuan

Here are two videos of these two stars doing exhibitions. Tape one (1:35) and tape two (4:10).

Real or Fake?

If this is real (15 sec), then it might be the greatest table tennis trick shot ever.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

January 3, 2014

Iron Man Will Shortz

Will Shortz, the owner of the Westchester TTC (that's him and manager/coach Robert Roberts in picture) in New York as well as the famed New York Times Puzzle Editor, wrote me about completing his goal. "As you may have heard or read, I set it as my goal for last year to play TT every single day of the year ... and to film myself doing so as proof. On Tuesday, Dec. 31, I completed my goal. Never missed a day. There was a party at my club, with 40-50 people in attendance, in celebration. Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, the writers/directors of the 'Paranormal Activity' movies, are making a video for me using bits of my clips."

He also wrote that he played at 38 clubs worldwide during the year, 27 in the U.S. in eight different states, plus Japan and China. He also visited Alaska: "In June Robert Roberts and I flew to Alaska and over the course of a week played at every TT club in the state (all six!). Our trip was written up in the Juneau Empire. Also, Gadling.com, a travel website, posted Vines of our trip every day. As for 2014, I intend to keep playing every day. But a) I'm not going to film myself anymore, and b) if I ever don't feel like playing on a particular day, I won't. I will no longer feel obligated."

I wrote back that "I have a firm rule I try to follow (but can't always), which is I have one day a week where I DON'T play table tennis, usually Mondays. Otherwise I go crazy!" I used to have more iron in me. Back in 1977 and 1978 (when I was 17 and 18) and I used to play seven days a week, and at least twice played every day for six months, though I don't think I went a whole year, thanks to holidays like Christmas. I did manage to play in 33 tournaments in 1978, including 14 consecutive weekends. These days, when I'm healthy, I coach six days/week. However, sometimes things get busy, and I sometimes coach or do other table tennis activities seven days a week. I know I did table tennis every day for two months once last year, and a couple times I did a month at a time.

With Tim Boggan moving in with me on Monday, Jan. 13 for a two-week stay to work on Volume 14 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis (I do layouts and photo work), and with a new afterschool table tennis program at MDTTC (where we combine table tennis and academics - I'll be doing a lot of tutoring as well as TT), my table tennis hours are about to jump up for a while.

I also wrote to Will about how I'd recently been doing the crossword puzzles in the Washington Post, and getting most of the answers. My brother and his wife have been doing them for years, and twice in recent years I'd gotten them signed crossword and Sudoku puzzle books from Will for Christmas. However, I also wrote him, "How the heck was I supposed to know that "Summer on the Riviera" was "ETE," that "One who tries to 'solve a problem like Maria'" is a "NUN," or that a Yale Student is an "ELI"??? He wrote back, saying "ETE is French for "summer." it appears often in crosswords. It's a good word to know. MARIA is a nun in "The Sound of Music." And a student at Yale is known as an ELI. That's also a common bit of crossword trivia. Memorize it!"

Speaking of crosswords, I think in the early 2000s, during the 12 years I was editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine, I ran a few table tennis crossword puzzles. I'd found an application that created them from questions and answers I put together.

Back to Private Coaching

After taking much of the last month off from private coaching (though I did lots of coaching at the Nationals and in our Christmas Camp), today I start with private sessions again. Hopefully the arm problems are over, as well as various leg, knee, and back problems that have made splashy appearances on and off this past year. I'm going in to the club around 5PM to get a good warm-up since I haven't played much recently, then I coach from 6-7PM. Then I have more this weekend.

Tips of the Day

Since the last time I posted about them on Dec. 27, USATT has put up another week of my Tips of the Day. Here's where you can see them all. Browse over them and read the ones that sound interesting or helpful, or just read them all! They are rather short and to the point.

$100,000 World Championships of Ping Pong

Wow! And the World Championships of Ping Pong is a sandpaper tournament! This is the third time for this annual event, to be held in London this weekend, Jan. 4-5. Some people will find that off-putting, but to me, table tennis is table tennis in all its forms. My only regrets are that I'm not there, perhaps 20 years younger, since I'm rather handy with the sand. Here's the actual prize fund. And here's a feature on the American duo (actually trio) going to the tournament (Adoni Maropis, Kit Jeerapaet, Ilija Lupulesku).

2014 U.S. Open Blog

Here's the first entry in the LOC Blog (Local Organizing Committee) for the 2014 U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be held July 1-5. Written by co-chairs Connie & Dell Sweeris, it features the seven P's: "We have zeroed in on some key words to describe our goals & aspirations for this year's Open. ParticipationPrestigePresentationPrizes, PromotionPleasure and Profit are all expression for our passion." Then it goes on to detail these items. Can't wait to be there!

Samsonov Highlights

Here's a new highlights video (3:25) featuring Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus.

Iron Man Table Tennis

After blogging about Iron Man Will Shortz above, I googled for "Iron Man Table Tennis" - and found this hilarious video (2:22), of a kid getting killed in table tennis until he puts on the Iron Man mask!

Non-Table Tennis: Top Twelve New Year's Resolutions by Peter Angelos

Here's my latest article at Orioles Hangout.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

June 5, 2013

Glasses

On June 4 I blogged about seeing an optometrist last week. Until recently I could read easily without glasses, but as I wrote on June 4, it's getting harder to focus on near items, and my right eye especially is getting worse. Yesterday I got the new reading glasses, and they work great. I don't need them at my computer, but now I can read books comfortably again. And there is nothing more important than that, right? Other than table tennis, of course.

I'm a bit nearsighted, so without glasses things in the distance get blurry. I discovered this on my first day in college back in 1980. I'd taken two years off after high school before starting college, and apparently my eyes had changed during that time. I sat in the front row, and could barely see what was on the blackboard - I spent the whole class squinting. Immediately afterwards I saw an optometrist, and within a couple of days I had glasses. Normally I only need them for classes, when driving, when watching TV or a movie. I take them off at home, and at most times when not doing something that requires seeing in the distance. They often are perpetually perched on top of my head, where they seem to balance well, ready to be brought down when needed.

I do wear them for table tennis. I simply can't see my opponent's contact with the ball otherwise, or see the ball clearly as it approaches. It means I don't see things as well close on my side - such as my own contact - but that's not quite as important as it would seem, as by the time you are contacting the ball you can't really react anyway. It doesn't seem to affect my serves, where the ball is traveling slower. I've tried progressive/graduated lenses, but the changeover in the lenses as the ball approaches was too much for me - it hurt my eyes and I'd lose track of the ball.

I tried contacts in the late 1980s, but they weren't for me. I never could get used to having something in my eyes, which kept drying up. Plus it's a hassle putting them in and taking them out. They'd put me in a permanent state of seeing things in the distance, but everything near would be blurry, which I don't like.

I wear croakies eyeglass holders (plain brown or black) to keep the glasses in place. Some or most people don't seem to need this, but if I don't, the glasses jump about for me. I have two pairs of distance glasses - my normal ones, and my playing ones with the croakies, which I keep in my playing bag.

I'm so used to wearing glasses when I play that when I feed multiball (which I do a lot), I'd feel uncomfortable without them. Why? Because I'm barely five feet from the player I'm coaching, with little time to react if he accidentally smacks me in the eye. So the glasses are now my eyeguards. I know Coach Jack Huang had serious eye problems for a time when someone hit him in the eye.

What are your eyewear experiences in table tennis?

Dentist

On May 21, I blogged about seeing a dentist. I'd been averaging one cavity every three years (one every six trips to the dentist), and hadn't changed my brushing or eating habits. I'd been seeing the same dentist for a decade, but she'd left, and I had a new one. Out of the blue the new one said I had 11 cavities, with seven of them needing immediate attention! Total bill would have been $2300.

Yesterday I saw a different dentist to get a second opinion. His verdict? I had zero cavities, though he said there was "one very slight gray area on the x-ray that we'd have to watch, and might be the beginning of a cavity."

Effective Training for Recreational Players

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

History of U.S. Table Tennis - 1984

USATT is once again serializing Tim Boggan's most recent book, "History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. XIII," which covers 1984. Here's Chapter One, with a new chapter going up each week. This is just the text version. If you want the full version (918 photos, 448 pages), go to Tim Boggan's history page, where you can buy any of the 13 volumes.

International News

As usual, check out the news headlines at the ITTF and at Table Tennista. Lots of stuff!

World Championships of Ping Pong (Sandpaper) and Hardbat

Here's the info page. This is the Sandpaper World Championships, which had $100,000 in prize money last year, and (I've heard) will have the same next year - Jan. 4-5, 2014, in London again. In addition to sandpaper, hardbat is pretty active in the UK - here's the European Hardbat Tour 2013 page, presented by the English Association of Table Tennis.

Inclusion: The Future of Table Tennis?

Here's the article and video (1:03), at Kickstarter (they are looking for funding). "INCLUSION combines Table Tennis and Racquetball to create a newly dynamic, fast-paced playing experience. The revolutionary side walls extend the playing surface and function as "bumpers" for novice players to help them enhance their skills.  Expert players similarly benefit from the added dimension which allows for a greater variety of angled shots and a more challenging, intensified gaming experience."

Table Tennis Rally Sculpture

Here's a sculpture that really shows a table tennis rally! (If you can't see it in Facebook, try this.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content