2013 South Shore Open

October 29, 2013

Tip of the Week

Start Drills with a Serve.

Butterfly South Shore Open

It was an exhausting weekend, but so is every tournament I coach at. There's no question - coaching is far more tiring then playing. Seriously!!!

Here are results and pictures. I didn't get to see much of the tournament since I was busy coaching.

I traveled to and from the tournament with Nathan Hsu (17) and his mom, Wen; Crystal Wang (11) and her dad, Quandou; and Derek Nie (12) and his mom, Jenny. (Derek and his mom traveled separately going out, but were on our flight coming back. Roy Ke, 14, another top junior from my club (MDTTC) also went but traveled separately.) We flew to Chicago, and then rented a car to drive to South Shore, about 45 minutes away. We arrived at the playing hall (Lincoln Center Fieldhouse in Highland, IN) around 8PM on Friday night, just after they'd closed the gym. We found an open door and were able to look over the place and survey the draws before they shooed us out.

Crystal, rated 2267, was top seed in all three junior events she was in - 13 & Under, 15 & Under, and 18 & Under - and she swept all three events without losing a game to anyone, capturing $1700 in prize money, care of the Nate Wasserman Junior Championships. She played Anushka Oak (13, rated 2091) in all three finals.

I was mostly coaching Nathan this tournament. (I'll be coaching him and Derek at the Nationals.) He mostly played well this tournament, but didn't have the results to show it. He went in rated only 2303, well below his norm - he was 2397 just a short time ago. In the Open, he upset Patricio Perevra of Lindenwood University in Missouri, the 7th seed, to reach the quarterfinals. There he faced the unrated Wang Zhao, a former member of the Chinese National Team and only 28 years old. He'd easily dismantled a 2300 player 4-0 in the previous round, and his level was estimated at 2650. The story I was told was that injury problems had ended his career in China, but while no longer Chinese-team level, he was very good, with an unreal forehand, and everything else almost as good.

But so was Nathan!!!

Nathan used his backhand loop to dominate, often with off-the-bounce counter-loops, and a nice inside-out forehand flip to take out Wang's forehand and set up Nathan's own attacks in this best of seven. He also counterlooped surprisingly well. They battled right to the seventh game. Finally, Nathan found himself up 10-9 match point with the serve! So what happened? Nathan served short, and Wang returned it with a net-dribbler. Jeeez!!! But Nathan's not through. Wang had one or two match points, but Nathan deuced it, and had another match point with the serve. He served long to the backhand, and Wang, caught off guard, made a soft topspin return to Nathan's wide backhand - which Nathan had anticipated. He was already there, and ripped a forehand down the line that would have been a match-winning shot - but it just missed. Then Wang won the next two points, and it was over. (In the semifinals, his racket - the same one he'd used against Nathan - was ruled too thick, and so he had to use an unfamiliar racket, and lost.) 

Nathan had another nice match in the semifinals of Under 18 in a best of five, against top-seeded Jonathan Ou, rated 2472. (Nathan was seeded fourth.) I can't go over the tactics here - they will likely play many times in the future and Jonathan might be reading this (Hi John!), but once again it was a battle. Jonathan won, 11-8 in the fifth. (Jonathan would win the final 3-0.) And so, despite playing two great matches, Nathan had nothing to show for it, other than the knowledge that he can compete with these players.

During the tournament we lived on McDonalds for lunch (chicken sandwiches for me) and Cracker Barrel for two dinners (though Crystal and I had to miss one when she had some late-night matches). There was a breakfast buffet at the hotel, and I had freshly-made waffles and scrambled eggs for breakfast both mornings.

On the way back we had to wait at the airport in Chicago for over an hour. So the kids and I grabbed our paddles, and walked about until we found some tables. Then it was time for Airport Pong!!! I didn't actually play any this time (knee problems), so I was just the ball boy as Nathan, Derek, and Crystal took turns. I don't have video, but here's Airport Pong video (1:43) from after the 2012 Junior Olympics/Southern Open at Houston Airport, with Nathan, Amy Lu (the lefty), and Lily Lin.

It was a fun tournament, and we had a great time. The lighting was great, with wooden floors and lots of room. Great thanks goes to Director Dan Seemiller; to the tournament committee (Brad Balmer, Steve Betts, Jason Denham, and Pam Hazinski); to referee Kagin Lee; and to the local South Bend Table Tennis Club.

Why Today's Blog Was Late

Why, you ask? Well . . . this'll sound crazy, but blame the TV show "The Walking Dead." I missed this past Sunday's episode (coaching at the South Shore Open in Indiana). I was up late last night working on other things, and went to bed around 1AM. Just before I went to bed I had checked on when I could see replays (Fri 11PM and Sun 8PM). Well, I had perhaps the most vivid and definitely the most physical nightmare of my life, and probably the longest as well.

I dreamed I was fighting the walking dead - and it went on and On and ON!!! I was on a balcony overlooking a large gymnasium (now that I think about it, I think it was the South Shore Open gymnasium!) filled with the walking dead, and they were streaming up a stairway to get at me! My only weapon was a sharpened pencil, and it kept breaking - but then I'd find another one. (Strangely I was killing them by stabbing them in the belly, when in reality - well, Walking Dead reality - you have to stab them in the brain.) And then (of course) I had a ping-pong paddle and began swatting them away. At some point the paddle went back to a pencil, and then back again - it kept changing in my hand, and at the time, this seemed perfectly normal. Anyway, the whole time I was fighting them I kept thinking about how painful it would be if they got at me (yes, they eat you alive), and so it was an all-night adrenalin-packed episode. When I woke up in a sweat, I was exhausted and had a massive headache. It's very tough to write with a massive headache, alas.

Men's World Cup

Xu Xin of China defeats Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus in final.  Here's the ITTF Men's World Cup Page, with results, articles, and photos.

Quality over Quantity - Training Smart

Here's an article from Table Tennis Master on choosing your drills when you practice.

Ultimate Hook Loop

Here's the video (10 sec) of a super-sidespin loop. My only critique is that it would be even better if it went wider. If you are a looper and don't have a hooking loop to the forehand, you need to develop one.

Mikael Andersson, Messages from Paris 2013

Here's a video interview (13:11) with Mikael Andersson, an ITTF Senior Consultant - Development, Education & Training, and one of the main designers of the ITTF Global Junior Program.

Epic Ping Pong Fail - Spinning Face Smack

Here's the video (33 sec) - and watch where the ball actually hits!

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October 25, 2013

Back Foot on Forehands

I began to write a blog entry about how the back foot positioning on forehands has evolved at the higher levels from being back to mostly being parallel to the table in the modern game, where it's not just power, but speed of power that's paramount - and so there's no time to bring that foot back. Then I realized it should be a Tip of the Week for Monday.

South Shore Open

I'm off to the 4-star South Shore Open in Indiana right after lunch today, where I'll be coaching MDTTC juniors Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, and Crystal Wang. (Also going from MDTTC: Roy Ke, along with coach/practice partner Dong "Steve" Yiming.) There are 214 players entered. I've got my coaching notes printed out, a list of things to bring (I pack right after I finish the blog), and I think the kids are ready. There's a lot of prize money in the Wasserman junior events! But as far as we're concerned, it's just another day of matches at the club. Right?

USATT Tips of the Day

USATT is still going through the 171 Tips of the Week I wrote for them from 1999-2003, putting one up each day. Here are the Tips they've put up. Below are the Tips from the past seven days.

USATT Email Vote

Here's the minutes of the USATT Oct. 23 email vote, where they voted on a number of rule changes. I believe they are just matching new ITTF rules, as the very first item changes the USATT rules to match the current (new?) ITTF rules.

I'm a bit surprised by the first rule change - I don't think they saw the implication. Below is the new rule. The four words crossed out ("as close as possible") were part of the old rule; the words in bold italics ("attached" and "from top to bottom") are new wording:

2.2.4 The bottom of the net, along its whole length, shall be as close as possible to the playing surface and the ends of the net shall be as close as possible attached to the supporting posts from top to bottom.

Here's the problem. With the new wording, there's no requirement that the net actually goes out to the net posts, which go six inches (15.25 cm) outside the table. (Rule 2.2.2: "The net shall be suspended by a cord attached at each end to an upright post 15.25cm high, the outside limits of the post being 15.25cm outside the side line.") This is to keep players from regularly making unreturnable shots around the net, as players like Istvan Jonyer did regularly in the 1970s before they made the rule that the net (or at least the posts, with the net "as close as possible," or similar wording at the time) go six inches outside the table.

So you can have a net that only goes to the edge of the table, attached to the outside posts by, say, a piece of string. And so players can easily hit shots between the net and the net post. It wouldn't be a legal shot, but do we really want to allow that huge gap there? Besides making it trickier to call some shots ("Did that go inside or outside the net post?"), it would look bad. Why not keep the "as close as possible" wording from before?

Men's World Cup

Here are some nice action shots from the Men's World Cup, which started today in Belgium.

Ma Long Multiball

Here's a video of world #1 Ma Long (40 sec) doing multiball. It's a two-shot drill: a random backspin followed by a random topspin. (Note the other player picking up balls by hand - what is this, 1980? We have nets and other ball pickup devices for that now!)

Table Tennis in Enchanted Forest on Floating Table by Woman in Wedding Dress Weighed Down by a Paddle

Okay, that's my name for Mike Mezyan's latest artwork, which he calls "Once Upon a Table," and describes: "She Had TT Dreams...She Had TT Hopes...A Table in an Enchanted Forest Understands Her...It Knows What She Wants..It Floats Gently Carrying Her Fueled By Her Aspiration And Determination...Her Table Was Her Palace...Her Racket Was Her Prince Charming...Her Story Has Just Begun..."

About Time

Here are some table tennis pictures from the upcoming feature movie About Time, which comes out Nov. 8. Apparently there are a lot of table tennis scenes in this SF movie, which looks like my kind of movie - TT & SF! Here's the description from IMBD: "At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as you might think."

Basketpong

Here's the video (2:13)! And here's another (2:54)!

The 2014 Nationals Are Booked by Mark - Be Very Afraid

Here's a hilarious posting by Mark ("mjamja") at the about.com forum that refers to my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book. I wanted to post it in its entirety here, but wasn't able to reach the author. So here's the first paragraph (the best one!); follow the link above for the rest.

Any of you who plan to play in the 2014 US Nationals in any rating event between U1600 and U2100 should be very afraid. I have ordered Larry Hodge's "Table Tennis Tactics," Richard McAfee's "Table Tennis Steps to Success," and Alex Polyakov's "Breaking 2000."   I plan on a total table tennis immersion approach using these wells of knowledge as my guide and devoting myself to real training for the next year.

Non-Table Tennis - "Rationalized"

Here's the cover of Star Quake 1, a compilation of the best stories they published in 2012. I'm on the cover with my featured dystopian SF story, "Rationalized" (yep, it's free online), which won the 2011 Story Quest Short Story Competition. (It's the 14th time I've been on the cover of a SF magazine.) It's about a future society where everyone has an operation on their brain at age 13 to remove all emotions, and the underground society that secretly avoids this operation, but must pretend to always be unemotional - and the lengths they must go to hide their secret when a terrible accident occurs. "The writing is solid and for a story about lack of emotion, it packs an emotional punch" wrote blogger Mark Webb.

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