4-Table

November 18, 2013

Tip of the Week

Three Reasons Players Miss Against Deep Sidespin and Topspin Serves.

Seamless Plastic Ball

I recently ordered three of the new Palio seamless plastic poly balls that the ITTF has ordained shall replace celluloid balls in July of 2014. I ordered them from Eacheng.net, and they came in on Friday. I brought them to the club and about ten different players tried them out, mostly top players.

The consensus was pretty much the same as others have said. Hopefully the ITTF will work to fix these problems, even if it means delaying the change. Here's what we found out.

  1. Though I ordered them from Europe, they are made in China, and come in Chinese packaging.
  2. For unknown reasons, the balls are closer to 41mm than 40mm. Why didn't they keep them the same size? I can't measure them accurately but holding them side-by-side makes the size difference obvious. Because of this they also appear to be heavier.
  3. They are harder than celluloid balls. The contrast is obvious when you press your finger into one and then into a celluloid ball.
  4. They are faster than celluloid balls. We dropped them and a celluloid ball from about three feet up over and over, and every time the new balls bounced nearly an inch higher.
  5. They sound cracked when you hit with them.
  6. They are harder to spin. This might simply be due to the larger size and weight. One player thought this would favor hitters. I have a feeling it might simply favor bigger, stronger loopers, just as going from 38mm to 40mm did while pretty much killing the hitting game at the higher levels.
  7. Most players didn't like them, but enjoyed playing with something different. One 2300 player thought players would have no problem adjusting, but most didn't think they'd be accepted because of the cracking sound and the difficulty in spinning them - though that could be fixed by simply making them 40mm. I think players would adapt to the lower spin, but that cracked sound is not so good.
  8. According to John Olsen (who hit with earlier versions at a Stellan Bengtsson camp, they are better than the earlier versions.

Knees Problems

I've been having knee problems for several weeks. Right now they don't really hurt, but I feel like I'm playing on a slippery floor every time I try to move, even though I'm playing on grippy rubberized red flooring. I feel like I'm just tottering about. Even simple moves like stepping to the left or right to block or stepping in for a short serve to the forehand leave me slightly off balance. Trying to move to attack with my forehand (which is central to my game) is turning into a distant memory, and I mostly just wave at balls to my wide forehand. Again, it's as if I'm playing on a slippery floor. For the first time in decades (except when playing on slippery floors) I don't have that feeling that, no matter what's happening, I can turn it on at any time. I have no idea when or if the knees are going to get better. It's not too bad when I hit with beginning players or feel multiball, but when I hit with stronger players it's a serious problem.

I haven't seen a doctor, since I figure what's the point - they'll just say to rest them. Am I missing something?

Mostly Non-Table Tennis: Sorcerers in Space

My novel "Sorcerers in Space" came out on Friday. It's a humorous fantasy that spoofs the U.S.-Soviet space race of the 1960s - sort of Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race. You can buy it directly from Class Act Books in four formats: Print, PDF, ePUB, or MobiPocket. (For some reason it's listed on the Class Act Books pages as "Sorcerers in Space PDF," which makes it appear that the only format they have is the PDF version. I've pointed this out to the publisher, but she didn't seem to know how to change this.)

It's also sold at Amazon in Kindle format, and a print version will be sold there sometime soon. (It was supposed to be up already, but I'm told it might be a few more days or longer.) It's my first novel, though I also have Pings and Pongs, an anthology of my best sold short stories, along with five books on table tennis.

Table tennis or ping-pong is mentioned in eleven different scenes. In the novel the hero, 13-year-old Neil, has to give up his table tennis dreams to save the world. Here's a short description of the novel:

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Neil, 13, badly wants to be someone. Instead he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world.” Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text.

Since whoever gets to the Face first can lob spells down and have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets invade the U.S. in their attempts to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. A floating, talking meteor assassin named Buzz becomes Neil's companion--but in one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

President Kennedy puts together a motley crew that includes Neil, Gus, Buzz, a dragon, the god Apollo, a 2-D sorcerer, and the sorceress Jackie Kennedy. Can they make it to the Face before the Soviets, and before Buzz kills Neil?

Receive Secrets from Japan - the Banana Flip

Here's the article: Service Receive Secrets From Japan. The key point is that you should be aware of the axis of rotation on a spin serve, and either contact the ball on the axis (so the spin doesn't take on your racket much) or use the spin. In Japan, they apparently call the banana flip the "Tikita" or "Chiquita" flip.

German Open Men's Final

Here's video (9:52, with time between points removed) China's 16-year-old whiz kid Fan Zhendong defeating Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov in the Men's Singles Final at the German Open this past weekend. Here's video (8:40) of Fan defeating Vladimir Samsonov in the semifinals. The week before at the Polish Open Fan became the youngest ever Men's Singles Champion at a Pro Tour event, so this week, one week older, he became the second youngest as well? Meanwhile, here's video of a great point in the semifinals (39 sec) between Ovtcharov and Timo Boll. Here's another nice point where Samsonov does an around-the-net return against Sweden's Kristian Karlsson in the round of 64.

Fan Zhendong Training

Here's a video (7:40) of a Chinese news show that features Fan in training. It's in Chinese, but it's still interesting to watch.  

Cape Fear 4-Table Open

Here's video (3:10) of Richard Perez capturing the first 4-table Open Championship with a comeback against Greg Robertshaw.

Monsters Playing Table Tennis

  • Phantomness of the Opera. Click on the picture and see four other interesting pictures. (Picture two: three balls in play. Older man with blue shirt in two pictures is Scott's father.)
  • Scream (video, 59 sec). I like his backhand counter-hitting.

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November 1, 2013

Another Oriole Takes Lessons

Okay, cat's out of the bag (or Oriole is out of the nest?), since most of the local table tennis juniors now know. The Baltimore Oriole baseball player I blogged about yesterday that I'm coaching is Darren O'Day, the 6'4" submarining $3.2 million/year relief pitcher with a lifetime 20-9 record and 2.62 ERA. Last year in 68 games he had a 2.18 ERA, the best of the O's relief pitchers. I hit with him some in August. I'm coaching him later today; afterwards he's hitting with our local kids, who are out of school today (some teachers meeting) and so doing a one-day training session (10AM-6PM).

I did find it interesting how fast these Oriole players pick up the sport. As noted yesterday, of the 25 Orioles, about half are at least 1200, the result of non-stop competitive play in their clubhouse. Surprisingly, most have decent technique - they copied much of it from JJ Hardy and Brady Anderson, who play 1800+ level. The lefty Brady actually has the best technique, running around attacking with his forehand, and not a bad backhand either. JJ has a nice counter-hitting game, but tends to point his racket up when he strokes - but it gives him an excellent blocking game, and he can smash as well, along with a surprisingly spinny forehand pendulum serve, made even more effective because he does it from his forehand side, which almost nobody does in "real" table tennis - except me, who does it in close matches as a variation. (Why don't you?)

Scream Halloween

In a class I taught yesterday just before the kids left to go trick-or-treating I did a nasty trick. I hid my Scream mask in the restroom before the class began. About ten minutes before class ended I asked my assistant coach, John Hsu, to talk to the kids about how to create spin on serves, and arranged that he'd be facing the restrooms as he did so, so the kids would have their backs that way. Then I went to the restroom, put on the mask, and quietly sneaked up on them. Then, staying silent, I leaped in front of them. There was quite a bit of screaming! Then I went after Coach John, "choking him to death" right in front of the kids. (John knew - it was pre-arranged.) Then I chased several of the kids around the table, still silent. Finally I put a Gatorade bottle on the table and motioned for them to go to the far side. We spent the last five minutes with me feeding multiball in the mask while they tried to hit the bottle of "worm juice." When they did, I had to jam the bottle up under the mask to drink it, always looking back and forth sharply between the bottle and the kid who hit it. Then I'd go right up to the kid and stare at him from one inch away. At the end, I went back to the restroom, removed the mask, and returned and said, "Did I miss anything?"

Table Tennis the Brain Sport

Here's an essay by Daniel G. Amen, MD, on the greatness of table tennis as a brain sport.

Four-Table Tennis

Cape Fear Table Tennis Club in Fayetteville, NC, is running the first four-table tennis tournament in the U.S. What's "four table"? It's table tennis played with four tables! Here's video (7:06). And here's their home page with info on the tournament.

Around the Net Shot

Here's video (38 sec) of Puerto Rican cadet star Adriana Diaz doing an around-the-net roll-on-the-table shot at the 2013 World Cadet Challenge.

16 Table Tennis World Records

Here they are!

Table Tennis Animation Project

Here is Sneak Peak of a Demo/Test raw footage (1:44) of a table tennis animation work in progress by Mike Mezyan. Can't wait to see the final version!

Queen Latifah vs. Granny Franny

Here's the story and video (51 sec).

Superhero Bee Pong

Look! Up at the Table! It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No - it's . . . a large bumblebee playing table tennis? I think that's what it is, not sure. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Non-Table Tennis - "The Best Things About Halloween"

Last year I had a story, "The Haunts of Albert Einstein," published in the anthology Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales. ("Poor Albert Einstein is destined to haunt his old offices in Princeton for eternity, surrounded by the ghosts of bickering physicists who simply will not shut up, and the relentless paparazzi. What can he do to save himself from this fate?") The editors asked the authors to recount their favorite memories of past Halloweens. They just put up three of them, including mine - here they are! Mine's about getting caught up in a Halloween prank, and hiding late at night behind a bush in a Tyrannosaurus Rex costume as a drunk, angry man stood on the other side trying to find me.

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