Fortune Cookies

June 28, 2013

Last Blog Until After U.S. Open

I'm off soon to the U.S. Open in Las Vegas, returning on Sunday, July 7. As usual, I don't blog when I'm at tournaments - just too busy. I'll start up again on Monday, July 8. (It'll be a hectic time as I also have a new Mon-Fri training camp starting that morning.)

U.S. Open

It looks like a record number of entries. There are currently 913 players listed as entries for the U.S. Open, but this does not include entries to the ITTF U.S. Open World Tour. (The actual U.S. Open doesn't include Men's or Women's Singles or Under 21 Boys or Girls, which are part of the ITTF World Tour.) The ITTF U.S. Open World Tour Page shows 181 entries, but there are overlaps between that and the regular U.S. Open entries. However, it looks like there'll be more entries in all than the 1000+ from the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens in Oklahoma City and Houston. However, the 1990 U.S. Open in Baltimore included the World Veteran's Games and a special Junior Championships, and in all had something like 2700 entries if I remember correctly, though I may be off. (Anyone have better numbers for 1990?)

You can follow the action of the World Tour events at the U.S. Open at the ITTF U.S. Open World Tour Page.

MDTTC Camp, My Back and Foot, Fortune Cookies, and White House Down

Yesterday's focus was the backhand loop. I gave a short lecture on that as well as on the backhand drive against backspin and the backhand smash, and used Roy Ke as my demo partner. I also introduced the beginners to returning serves, mostly with a return serve game where they'd line up and try to return my serve. If they did, they stayed until the missed. Then I explained the way to return the various spins I was giving them. If I told them in advance what the spin was, most were able to return the serve about half the time. I also gave them fast serves (they did not like those!) as well as my infamous backspin serve that bounces back over the net to my side. (I let them do a takeover when I do that. Top players see it coming and smack it in from the side of the table.)

Unfortunately, my back hasn't gotten much better. I tried giving a private lesson, but after hitting two minutes I went to multiball, and then brought in Raghu Nadmichettu to do the last 30 minutes. The problem is the back has really stiffened up, and when I try hitting, I'm like a block of granite. Worse, this put a strain on the rest of me as I compensated - and in those two minutes I managed to aggravate the back problem as well as hurt my foot. Yes, I'm limping now. But I've got substitutes for my coaching sessions today and this weekend so I'll have three days off (Sat-Mon), other than one session with a six-year-old on Sunday where hopefully I'll survive.

For lunch, I created another fake fortune that I snuck into my fortune cookie, which said, "A giant panda will sit on you and crush you." The day before I had one that said, "A giant wolverine will eat you today." Previous ones included "A meteor will kill you in five minutes" and "A ping-pong player will kill you this afternoon." Today's says, "Today you will be shot, electrocuted, burned, drowned, eaten, and a giant squid will choke you. Have a nice day." I create these in Photoshop, and have mastered the art of surreptitiously opening the plastic around a fortune cookie, breaking the cookie in half, replacing the real fortune with the fake one, putting it back together again so it looks unbroken (with the fake fortune sort of holding it together), and sneaking it back inside the wrapper. I think the kids are getting suspicious!

After the camp finished at 6PM I took five of the players (Derek Nie, Roy Ke, Leon Bi, Raghu Nadmichettu, and Allen Lin) to see the 7PM showing of White House Down. (Three others - Crystal Wang and Princess & Tiffany Ke - went separately and I believe saw Monsters University.) It went over really well - a nice action movie. As an amateur presidential historian, I loved the White House scenes, including recognizing all the presidential pictures and statues.

How to Cut Table Tennis Rubber

Here's a new article from Paddle Palace on this.

Pong XT - Europe on Fire

Here's a great new video (4:05) set to music that showcases the best points from the 2013 World Championships. Edited by Canadian star Xavier Thérien!

Saving Norman

Here's a great short film just out (10:30, actual movie is about 9 min) on table tennis, starring Willem Dafoe. It actually takes table tennis seriously. Spoiler Alert! It's about a former table tennis star who missed his big chance at the World Championships 25 years before, who's become a recluse, and how someone helps him resolve these issues - and how it all affects his parrot, Norman. From a serious table tennis player's point of view, the actual table tennis scenes are pretty weak - the first one because the level is obviously very low with poor technique, the second because the computer special effects are poor and obviously fake, as are the actors attempts to fake real table tennis strokes.

Ping-Pong Ball Mouth Juggling

Here's a video (1:04) of a guy setting the record for the most consecutive pong-pong ball juggling with his mouth - 212.

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June 20, 2013

MDTTC Camps - Day Three Highlights

Yesterday's focus was on forehand looping. I did a short lecture and demo, both against backspin and block.

There are four ways to demo a forehand loop against backspin. You could just serve backspin, your partner pushes it back, and you loop. But then they only get to see the shot one at a time. Another way is to feed multiball backspin to someone with good form so they can see it over and over. Another way, if you can chop, is to serve backspin, partner pushes, you loop, partner blocks, and you chop. Then your partner pushes, and you loop again. (If your partner is the one who can chop, then adjust for this.) If you or your partner can really chop (i.e. against loops, not just against blocks), then one loops, the other chops. A good player with a sheet of antispin, long pips, or hardbat can often chop loops back over and over even if they aren't normally a chopper. (If they use long pips, it may put some strain on the looper since he's getting all his topspin back as backspin!)

Two of the players in my group had never looped before. One picked it up pretty quickly, though he had one of those ragged strokes with lots of extra movements. We worked on simplifying it. One thing I often tell players is that much of coaching isn't telling players what to do; it's telling them what not to do. In this case, there was a lot of excess motion to get rid of - sort of a waving backswing, extra wristiness, and too-jumpy feet.

The other player had hitting thoroughly ingrained, and had difficulty switching to looping against backspin. He had trouble dropping the racket or bringing the tip down and back, dropping his shoulder, and getting down in general to lift the backspin. He also had trouble grazing the ball for topspin, but as I quickly suspected, this was more because of his not dropping his racket than an inability to "roll" the ball with topspin. Once I got him to drop his racket (which wasn't easy), he began getting pretty decent topspins. He'll need a lot of practice on this.

One of the "highlights" I have fun doing when teaching the loop to new players is their first regular forehand drive or smash after doing lots of looping against backspin, where they are lifting the ball instead of driving forward. I always tell them that I'm going to now give them a regular topspin ball (I'm feeding multiball), and that they shouldn't drop the shoulder, just drive forward. But invariably, even though I warn them and predict they'll go off the end, sure enough their first few shots go off. This happened with all five players in my morning group, even the ones who had had done some looping before. I ended the session by having them all alternate looping backspin and hitting topspin so they could work on switching back and forth.

Fortune Cookie Frivolities

Now we find out if any of the kids in the camp read my blog. (Some do, but not each morning.) We have Chinese food delivered to the club at lunch each day, with the players making their orders in the morning, which we call in. At lunch yesterday I pulled a trick on them that I'd pulled in the last camp as well. Using Photoshop, I created a fake fortune cookie fortune that read, "A meteor will kill you in five minutes." I opened my fortune cookie very publicly, made a surreptitious switch of the fortune with the fake one I'd hidden in my hand, and held it up and read it, and then showed it to them. The kids went crazy with disbelief. Five minutes later, when none were looking, I smacked a rock I'd snuck in against the ground and claimed it was a meteor that had just missed me. Today I've got another fake fortune ready, which read, "A ping-pong player will kill you this afternoon." I'll report tomorrow on the response.

Jungle Pong

This is the all-time favorite game of the kids in every camp during breaks. I think I've described it before, but it's so popular I'll go over it again. I'm not sure, but I think the kids in our camp from years ago might have invented and named the game - I don't remember ever seeing this until it suddenly began popping up in our camps.

The rules are simple. You can have as many players on one table as you want, numbered in the order they will hit the ball. You start the rally with a player serving just like table tennis. From there on, whether off the serve or in a rally, the next player must wait for the ball to go off the table and bounce on the floor, even if it means waiting for the ball to bounce several times or roll across the table, and even if it hits the net. The player must then return the ball so it hits either side of the table, and the rally continues until someone misses. Then that person is out. You continue until there is only one player. The only other rule is no looping; they are almost impossible to return. Soft topspins are allowed, but nothing aggressive. If one does loop, it's a takeover.

There are some interesting tactics, such as faking a hit to one side and going the other way, or using various spins to make the ball do funny bounces - backspin is especially popular in throwing off the next player. Players sometimes smack the ball into the net so that the next player will break the wrong way, and then have to recover when the ball rebounds off the net. Some of the kids focus on just getting every ball back; others are more creative with their shots. Since it takes time for the ball to bounce both on the table and the floor, players have time to run down most shots. I watched them play for a while - at one point there were two adjacent tables going with about eight on each - and I've decided my next book will be "Jungle Pong Tactics for Thinkers."

Table Tennista and ITTF

As usual, there are lots of international news articles at Table Tennista and the ITTF News Page.

Serena Williams Table Tennis

Here's a picture of her where she "...trades her tennis racket in for a table tennis one on her way to Wimbledon." (If you can't see the Facebook version, try this.)

Pong-Style Beach Surfing

Here's Kim Gilbert doing a little beach surfing, pong style. 

Now That's a Lot of Ping-Pong Tables

Here's the picture!

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