Sidespin loops

May 8, 2013

Sidespin Loops

In the late 1970s I went to several Seemiller camps. One of the things I learned there is that looping with sidespin was a good thing, and that a natural loop generally has something like 15% sidespin. This is for two reasons. First, the natural contact point of the ball is lower than the shoulder, so the arm is tilted down, and so it naturally contacts the ball somewhat on the outside, which puts sidespin on the ball. And second, if you meet a loop straight on with pure topspin, you are going up directly against the incoming topspin, and so it's better to contact it more on the side so as not to have to go up against it directly. (Here's a Tip of the Week I wrote last year on Sidespin Loops.)

There's even more to it than that. One of the things I've pointed out to some of my students is that you get a more natural hooking sidespin on your loop if you take the ball either early or late. If you take it early, your natural contact point will be more on the outside of the ball, since your arm will be tilted forward. (This is the right side for a right-hander.) If you take the ball late, you have a natural sidespin swing as your stroke tends to go more sideways. If you take it in the middle, then you'll get that natural 15% sidespin, but generally not as much as if you take it early or late.

There is value in these sidespins. If you take it quick off the bounce, and hook the ball as well, and go for a wide angle to the left (for a right-hander), the combination of these three make it an almost unreturnable shot - it combines quickness, sidespin breaking away, and wide angle.

If you take the ball late, the sidespin is effective in messing up your opponent - and you often need that extra something since you are giving your opponent more time. Watch the world-class players when they counterloop from way off the table, and see how they often load the ball with hooking sidespin.

You can also loop with inside-out sidespin, so the ball breaks to the right (for a righty). This tends to be most effective when taken off the bounce, well angled to the right, so you again get a combination of quickness, sidespin breaking away, and angle, leading to an almost unreturnable shot.

Personally I go for lots of hooking loops to the left (I'm a righty) at wide angles, which are often outright winners. The key is to learn to read your opponent and see what he's ready for. Few players can cover both corners effectively off a strong loop, and if you add sidespin so it breaks away from him, you'll often leave him flailing at the ball as it whizzes by.

USA World Rankings

I've put together a complete listing of all USA players with world rankings - Men, Women, and Boys and Girls in Under 21, Under 18, and Under 21. It's rather long, so I've put it at the end.

The Chinese National Team Training at the Werner Schlager Academy Blog

Here is Coach Donn Olsen's blog about the Chinese Team training for the Worlds, Days 1-3.

Ariel Hsing with Uncles Warren and Bill - the Video

Yesterday I showed pictures of Ariel Hsing playing table tennis with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates this past Sunday. Here's the video (1:07)! These three together are worth $120 billion, have won two U.S.

Women's Singles titles, and one's an Olympian.

Table Tennista

Here are the latest international headlines from Table Tennista. Of especial interest is the first item, where Stefano Bosi will not be allowed to speak at the upcoming ITTF meetings about his allegations against ITTF President Adham Sharara, who Bosi is running against for president.

2013 World Ping Tour

Here are Facebook photos from the ITTF of a table tennis festival they put on in Marseille, France.

Don Iguana

At the table tennis forum, there's a thread about table tennis and pets. (Go to the first posting and you'll see a picture of someone using his pet dog as the net - here's the picture.) Someone mentioned the famous Don Iguana. Here's the story.

In the early 1990s I had a 3-year-old pet Iguana named Don. I was running tournaments at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which included an Under 12 event. So I entered Don in the tournament, including buying him a USATT membership. I didn't actually bring Don to the tournament, but when it was time for him to play, I sent the clipboard out, and the kids played along. They'd keep the clipboard for a few minutes, and then they'd return it with scores, invariable 21-0, 21-0. From this Don achieved an actual rating of 25. He "played" several tournaments. In his last one, Michael Squires (who now works for JOOLA USA) put down his win as 21-0, 21-1, thereby letting Don score his first and only point ever in tournament competition. Don also "lost" to a girl rated in the low 200's, and so lost a rating point, and dropped to 24, which is what he is listed as. (Alas, the ratings didn't go online until 1994, and this all took place in 1992 or 1993, so there is no official tournament record of his matches.) When the USATT Ratings Director found out about Don, he was furious, saying it make a mockery of the ratings, and was very unhappy that a player had gained a rating point in a match that didn't take place. He took Don out of the ratings. A few years later his successor put him back in. 

After this there were numerous online stories about Don. I told about how Don was always just happy to play, and how he stubbornly stuck to his strategy of standing absolutely motionless while waiting for the opponent to miss his serve, a tactic that finally achieved fruition against Squires. Others wrote romantic tales of Don's adventures around the world, often as a pirate (hi Alan and Dave Williams!). 

If you want to see his rating, go to the USATT ratings database and put in "Iguana."

Colorful Table Tennis

Here's a picture of either table tennis balls or buttons (I'm really not sure which, though I'm leaning toward buttons), with colorful pictures of players on them. (If you can't see the Facebook version, try this.)

USA World Rankings

Here's a listing of all USA players with ITTF world rankings. The first column is their world ranking. The second is their ITTF rating, which is similar to USATT ratings but with lower numbers. Here are Men's and Women's Rankings; Under 21 Rankings; Under 18 Rankings; and Under 15 Rankings. There are a lot of Californians on the list, especially from the Bay area, led by Lily Zhang and Ariel Hsing in the Women's and Junior Girls, and Kunal Chodri and Kanak Jha on the Boys' Side. I'm proud of all the Marylanders on the list:(or former Marylanders before they went off to college - Li and Song): Wang Qing Liang (#1 USA player in Under 18 Boys and #2 in Men), Peter Li, Chen Bo Wen, Nathan Hsu, Tong Tong Gong, Xiyao Song, and Crystal Wang.

94 2202 ZHANG Lily USA
95 2198 HSING Ariel USA
148 2061 ZHENG Jiaqi USA
160 2025 LIU Nai Hui USA
202 1919 WANG Huijing USA
236 1875 WU Yue USA
331 1710 TIAN Maggie Meng USA
351 1696 JHA Prachi USA
417 1593 ZHAO Jenny USA
420 1590 HUGH Judy USA
422 1588 WANG Xinyue USA
433 1578 WU Erica USA
470 1535 LI Tao USA
605 1382 KURIMAY Dora USA
633 1351 LIN Tina USA
657 1319 SONG Xiyao USA
716 1260 JIANG Diane USA
770 1207 GUAN Angela USA
780 1196 LI Joy USA
806 1176 CHU Isabel USA
835 1149 LIU Charlene Xiaoying USA
842 1143 WANG Crystal USA
933 1064 CHODRI Aditi USA
949 1042 LUO Michelle USA
982 1007 HUANG Laura USA
998 988 WANG Amy USA
1008 980 DEB Ishana USA
1035 949 LUO Yanan Vicky USA
378 1446 LIANG Jishan USA
393 1427 WANG Qing Liang USA
405 1416 WANG Timothy USA
435 1374 SEEMILLER Danny USA
496 1317 HUGH Adam USA
527 1291 ZHANG Yahao USA
593 1213 LANDERS Michael USA
595 1209 SHAO Yu USA
649 1147 BUTLER Jim USA
698 1092 GAO Yan Jun USA
701 1087 LI Peter USA
712 1076 LI Grant USA
870 964 FENG Yijun USA
939 895 LI Hangyu USA
943 892 WANG Can USA
971 869 CHODRI Kunal USA
984 857 JHA Kanak USA
1022 822 WANG Allen USA
1089 773 CHEN Bo Wen USA
1104 764 LIU Dan USA
1104 764 JIN Ethan USA
1107 763 WANG Max Qinmin USA
1148 729 OU Jonathan USA
1179 701 REED Barney USA
1184 698 TRAN Theodore USA
1207 676 LI Fengguang USA
1252 638 PATEL Aashay USA
1287 612 HSU Nathan USA
1310 591 AVVARI Krishnateja USA
1342 562 SHAH Aarsh USA
1347 557 AZARSKY Asaf USA
1382 527 CROITOROO Mark USA
1415 506 PAK Kwang-Bin USA
1442 469 CLYDE Stephen USA
1448 464 GONG Tong Tong USA
1470 430 BUTLER Scott USA
1481 421 BOCKOVEN Chase USA
1499 403 GAO Baiyi USA
1531 367 OAK Niraj USA
1534 362 SEEMILLER Daniel USA
1534 362 WALK Michael USA
1612 184 PICCIOTTO Daniel USA
24 2202 ZHANG Lily USA
25 2198 HSING Ariel USA
152 1696 JHA Prachi USA
197 1593 ZHAO Jenny USA
205 1578 WU Erica USA
366 1351 LIN Tina USA
389 1319 SONG Xiyao USA
439 1260 JIANG Diane USA
491 1207 GUAN Angela USA
500 1196 LI Joy USA
524 1176 CHU Isabel USA
553 1143 WANG Crystal USA
637 1064 CHODRI Aditi USA
653 1042 LUO Michelle USA
686 1007 HUANG Laura USA
702 988 WANG Amy USA
712 980 DEB Ishana USA
737 949 LUO Yanan Vicky USA
103 1427 WANG Qing Liang USA
175 1291 ZHANG Yahao USA
215 1213 LANDERS Michael USA
288 1087 LI Peter USA
297 1076 LI Grant USA
411 964 FENG Yijun USA
472 895 LI Hangyu USA
476 892 WANG Can USA
509 857 JHA Kanak USA
542 822 WANG Allen USA
604 773 CHEN Bo Wen USA
619 764 JIN Ethan USA
619 764 LIU Dan USA
622 763 WANG Max Qinmin USA
659 729 OU Jonathan USA
691 698 TRAN Theodore USA
712 676 LI Fengguang USA
755 638 PATEL Aashay USA
788 612 HSU Nathan USA
809 591 AVVARI Krishnateja USA
840 562 SHAH Aarsh USA
878 527 CROITOROO Mark USA
911 506 PAK Kwang-Bin USA
937 469 CLYDE Stephen USA
943 464 GONG Tong Tong USA
975 421 BOCKOVEN Chase USA
993 403 GAO Baiyi USA
1101 184 PICCIOTTO Daniel USA
6 2202 ZHANG Lily USA
7 2198 HSING Ariel USA
68 1696 JHA Prachi USA
101 1578 WU Erica USA
199 1351 LIN Tina USA
254 1260 JIANG Diane USA
296 1207 GUAN Angela USA
304 1196 LI Joy USA
319 1176 CHU Isabel USA
345 1143 WANG Crystal USA
413 1064 CHODRI Aditi USA
427 1042 LUO Michelle USA
454 1007 HUANG Laura USA
468 988 WANG Amy USA
477 980 DEB Ishana USA
40 1427 WANG Qing Liang USA
213 964 FENG Yijun USA
247 895 LI Hangyu USA
250 892 WANG Can USA
268 869 CHODRI Kunal USA
276 857 JHA Kanak USA
302 822 WANG Allen USA
347 773 CHEN Bo Wen USA
359 764 JIN Ethan USA
391 729 OU Jonathan USA
417 698 TRAN Theodore USA
434 676 LI Fengguang USA
470 638 PATEL Aashay USA
498 612 HSU Nathan USA
517 591 AVVARI Krishnateja USA
544 562 SHAH Aarsh USA
635 464 GONG Tong Tong USA
663 421 BOCKOVEN Chase USA
681 403 GAO Baiyi USA
782 184 PICCIOTTO Daniel USA
39 1351 LIN Tina USA
55 1260 JIANG Diane USA
71 1207 GUAN Angela USA
73 1196 LI Joy USA
84 1143 WANG Crystal USA
122 1007 HUANG Laura USA
131 988 WANG Amy USA
136 980 DEB Ishana USA
39 895 LI Hangyu USA
47 869 CHODRI Kunal USA
50 857 JHA Kanak USA
57 822 WANG Allen USA
66 773 CHEN Bo Wen USA
77 729 OU Jonathan USA
92 676 LI Fengguang USA
116 591 AVVARI Krishnateja USA
129 562 SHAH Aarsh USA
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February 6, 2012

Tip of the Week

Hooking and Slicing Loops.

U.S. Olympic Trials

Here's a short article on the U.S .Olympic Trials in Cary, NC this Thur-Sun, including the playing schedule. I'll be there coaching Han Xiao, John (and possibly Nathan) Hsu - see you there! (Here's the official home page for the Trials.)

Nets & Edges

Convention wisdom says that nets and edges even out. As I've pointed out before in this blog, this simply isn't true. Some players get more or less than others, either because of their playing style or because of their precision. It doesn't always even out.

As I've done many times, I'm willing to put it to the test - and did so again this weekend. And the results are inevitably the same - I'm one of those players who gets very few nets and edges. During coaching sessions with players rated 1750-1900, we kept track of nets and edges. (We didn't count edges at the start, but started counting them partway into the first session.) Here are the results. In the first session, my opponent got 18 nets or edges to my 7. In the second, one, it was 14-3. So I was net-edged 32-10 for the two sessions.

In the past we've kept track of nets & edges during matches, and the results are the same. I may be the only person in history to lose two consecutive tournaments matches to the same player (hi John W.!), where that player got two consecutive net or edge winners both times at 9-all in the fifth to win.

Hitters, blockers, and especially players with less bouncy surfaces (long pips, anti, short pips, hardbat) tend to get more nets than other styles because they tend to hit lower shots than loopers and most inverted players, whose ball has a higher trajectory. Blockers who go for wide angles tend to get more edges. Players with great precision tend to have very clean shots and so rarely get nets or edges.

Overseas scam

There's a common scam to use table tennis clubs to get foreigners into our country. Over the years, the Maryland Table Tennis Center has been contacted dozens of times by individuals who wanted to set up "coaching sessions" for "foreign players." All they want is an invitation letter, and they'll be here. We fell for this a few times in the past, and actually were contacted by the State Department about it back in the 1990s.

According to the State Department, there are people who make a living getting people into the United States any way they can. They find places like table tennis clubs that have real events or programs that they might invite foreigners to come to, and try to get an invitation letter. They sell their services to people trying to get into the U.S. by pretending they are table tennis players (or whatever else is needed). They say they will pay in advance, though they will inevitably agree to do so only after receiving the invitation letter, after which you never hear from them again.

I received one of these requests a few days ago. The guy used every trick in the book trying to set up "lessons" for his "son," a top junior player from Europe. (The guy ignored my questions about where in Europe.) When I pointed out that if he was a "top junior," I should be able to look him up in the rankings, the guy said he'd made a mistake, that his son was a beginner interested in becoming a top player. Then I did something I started doing in the 1990s - I told him he'd made a mistake, that I teach tennis (not table tennis), and asked if he'd be interested in tennis lessons. The guy then said yes, his "son" was very interested in becoming a top tennis player, asked me to set up lessons and send an invitation letter, and he'd send the money right away. I then emailed for him to send payment, and if I didn't receive payment within one week, I'd turn over his emails to the State Department. I didn't hear from him again.

USATT also fell for these scams back in the 1990s, though I'm not sure if "fell" is the right word, since they made a lot of money off it. Players from Africa, usually Nigeria, would enter the U.S. Open in droves, often 30 at a time. Each would enter one event, and they would pay. USATT would then send out an invitation letter, they'd be entered into the tournament, and they would never show. The State Department contacted USATT about this, and I think they had to take measures against this.

European Top Twelve

Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Wu Jiaduo won the Europe Two Twelve.

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's the Chinese National Team training in 2010 (4:59), with commentary in Chinese (though you don't need to understand Chinese to see the training - we all speak ping-pong). Featured players include Ma Long, Ma Lin, Qiu Yike, Wang Liqin, and Guo Yue. See the chalk rectangles on the table when you see Ma Lin practicing with Qiu Yike? I think they are there as targets for service practice.

Going to the dogs

Once again the sport is going to the dogs, in 49 seconds. Can someone please give Tessie a high chair? You can see other dog, cat, and other humorous table tennis videos in the Fun & Games section of


Send us your own coaching news!

September 1, 2011

Sidespin loops

Do you loop with sidespin? If not, why not? There's a common misconception that a loop should be 100% topspin. It's often more natural to loop with some sidespin, as the shoulder is normally higher than ball contact, and so the arm is naturally tilted slightly down at contact, meaning contact would be a bit on the far side of the ball, thereby creating some sidespin. (Some coaches recommend loops have about 15% sidespin.) Or you can create sidespin intentionally by simply dropping the wrist to hook the ball so it breaks left, or raising the wrist so it breaks right. (Lefties should reverse.)

It's not only more natural to loop with some sidespin, it's probably more effective. The sidespin makes the ball curve in the air, jump on the table, and jump sideways off the opponent's racket, giving him great difficulty. Plus the very curving of the ball over the table means it stays over the table a split second longer, giving it more time to drop and actually hit the table, thereby increasing consistency. (At least that's the theory I've been told; more sidespin means less topspin pulling the ball down, so it's a tradeoff.)

When looping from the wide forehand it's especially natural to loop with sidespin as you drop the wrist and hook the ball back to the table, with the ball curving to the left (if looped by a right-hander). When looping from the backhand corner with the forehand you might use less, as you are now contacting the ball on the near side - and now, in fact, may sidespin the other way, so the ball jumps away to the right (if looped by a right-hander). This latter type of sidespin is generally more difficult.

You should generally loop either with whatever sidespin is most natural (without forcing it), or intentionally use sidespin to mess up the opponent (which is why many top players learn to sidespin either way, usually so that the ball breaks away from the opponent).

Here's a nice video from PingSkills (3:08) on looping with sidespin.

And now a little history. At the most extreme end of the sidespin spectrum might have been Istvan Jonyer of Hungary, the 1975 World Men's Singles Champion. He often looped with almost pure sidespin, dropping his racket tip down so as to contact the ball of the far side of the ball and hooking it onto the table. It was his ability to loop around the net, so the ball would often just roll on the table, that caused the ITTF to add the rule that the net must extend six inches past the table. Otherwise, players like Jonyer could take nearly any ball on their forehand side and go around the net.

Here's a short video (0:22) of Jonyer against Chinese star Xie Saike at the 1981 World Champions. The quality isn't good, but in the first four seconds you get to see Jonyer serve and loop two forehands, with the second one a vintage sidespin loop from the wide forehand.

And while we're at it, here's a nice 31-second clip of Jonyer against soon-to-be World Champion Guo Yuehua of China in 1979, with Jonyer looping and smashing over and over while Guo (usually an all-out attacker) lobs.

Another increase in ball size??? (And more on the celluloid ban.)

Read what ITTF President Adham Sharara said in an interview that went up yesterday. The article said, "With regards to the size, Adam Sharara said that the new ball size would be increased. This is to give a chance to defensive players to overcome offensive players. If the ball is bigger, rallies will become slower so defensive players will have more chances to win points." Uh oh.

Regarding the upcoming ban on celluloid balls, he said, "The current plan of the ITTF is to prohibit the use of celluloid ball. Such move is because of two reasons. One is that celluloids are toxic and it will have an impact towards the factory workers. The second is that it is quite dangerous to transport since it highly flammable. The new ball will be seamless and China already counts with two factories that are working in the new ball, one owned by DHS, and the by Double Fish. It will be operational as soon as the London Olympics is over."

He also said, "I need to cut the legs off the Chinese players!" He was joking here. But he wasn't joking about the ball size. Prepare for bowling ball table tennis. surprise

Here's a 53 second video of Sharara talking about the celluloid ban. (He talks the first 19 seconds, the rest is someone talking in Chinese.)

SmartPong table tennis videos

SmartPong has 24 videos on the various strokes and techniques. I just added them to our video library.

ITTF Coaching Seminar in New Jersey

Here's an article on the ITTF page about the ITTF Coaching Seminar being run by Richard McAfee in New Jersey, which includes mention of their battles with Hurricane Irene.

Disney table tennis cartoons

Go to INDUCKS, the worldwide database of Disney cartoons, and in the Keywords/title field put in either "table tennis," "ping pong," or "ping-pong," and watch as zillions of Disney cartoons featuring table tennis come up! Enjoy.


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