Lupulesku

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.

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August 23, 2013

Orioles Photos

Yesterday I blogged about our visit to the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse, where the top juniors from MDTTC and I played most of their players. Here are the photos I promised! (I should have video of the Orioles pre-game show that featured table tennis next week.)

Here are two photo albums. All the photos in both albums were taken either by Qiming Chen or someone using his camera.

Most of the players in the pictures are identified by the photo name/caption, though you might have to click on the picture to see the full name/captions. In the second album there are two group pictures. Here are the captions for those two photos.

Kids Post, L-R - Chris Tillman, Darren O'Day, U.S. Open Under 12 Table Tennis Champion Derek Nie, Steve Pearce, Tommy Hunter, Orioles ping-pong table. Background - Chris Davis (back to us), Brady Anderson, Ryan Flaherty

Group picture, L-R - Darren O'Day, Tong Tong Gong, Tommy Hunter, Chris Tillman, Larry Hodges, Adam Jones, Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie (in front), JJ Hardy (in back), Qiming Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Steve Pearce, Alexi Casilla, Manny Machado, and Troy Patton

The Atmosphere Inside the Orioles Clubhouse

Here's another article on the Orioles and Table Tennis

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of Week Ten of our ten weeks of camps. The focus was the backhand attack, mostly backhand looping. It was a breakthrough day for some. One girl who struggled all week with backhands and forehands sort of figured out the backhand today, though she's still struggling with forehands. Two others have transformed from passive get-the-ball-on-the-table backhands to serious topspinning backhands.

It wasn't all great - the natives were restless yesterday, as they often are on Thursdays. It's four days into the camp, but not the last day, so the day sort of drags for some of them. I pretty much accepted I'd have to say everything three times to get heard.

Here's something you don't do too often: yesterday I taught a 73-year-old man to backhand loop. He started off slow and awkward, but after time was smacking them in like a 14-year-old.

Today is the last day of our summer camps. It's been ten weeks and fifty days of non-stop action. Alas, I'm totally exhausted - and Raghu Nadmichettu is substituting for me today, so I'm off today, for a change. It's really a half day for coaching since we'll have a practice tournament in the afternoon.

Playing Well 90% of the Time

We have a top junior who's been struggling recently. Sometimes he's on, sometimes he's off. He's sort of in that class of player (like most players), who's at his best 1/3 of the time, plays average 1/3 of the time, and poorly 1/3 of the time. This is a common philosophy, and is serious mental mistake. Top players don't do this; in any important match, a top player is probably at his best 90% of the time. (My percentages are rhetorical, not exact.) Assuming you are playing regularly, and unless you have physical reasons not to be at your best - and many physical reasons are actually mostly mental - players should be at their best nearly always. It's all in the mind. Timing doesn't just come and go, but the mind does. If you are focused, the rest will come.

Here's a shortcut to playing strong mentally. Just think about the best match you ever played. Close your eyes, and get into the mental focus you had in that match. Then use that same focus in your current play.

The Making of Butterfly Blades

Here's a video (13:09) that shows how Butterfly blades are made. It's in Japanese, but you can still follow the video and images.

Lupi versus Rafa

Here's a video (22 sec) of table tennis star Ilija Lupulesku playing table tennis with tennis star Rafael Nadal (far side) in a battle of lefties.

Adizero Shoes Table Tennis Commercial

Here's a video (1:14) of a Adizero shoe commercial that features table tennis.

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