Celluloid ban

December 6, 2011

Sun Ting joins MDTTC Coaching Staff

Sun Ting, a recently retired lefty player from China with a 2716 rating - soon to be higher, after going undefeated at the North American Teams Championships last weekend - has joined the coaching staff at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. He'd coached there much of the past summer, but now is back permanently. He is famous for his serves, and had a win over Ma Lin in the Chinese Super League. He was probably much better than 2716 at his best, considering he got his first USATT rating of 2675 from the Teams in 1998 at age 14! The following year, at age 15, he increased it to 2730. Now 27, he's semi-retired, but he's maintained his 2700+ rating in four tournaments this year, his first U.S. tournaments since 1999. He joins the MDTTC coaching staff of Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, and Larry Hodges (me). As posted previously, Donn Olsen is also joining the staff soon. (In January, MDTTC doubles in size from its current 5500 square feet and 12 tables to 11,000 and 20 or so tables with larger courts and all-red rubber flooring.)

Back-up attack

This past weekend I had a nice match with a fast penhold blocker. I started the match out forehand looping every chance, along with steady backhands. He was unable to stop me from looping after my serve, and on his serve I'd be looping after a shot or two. However, he soon got used to my looping, and began blocking side to side more and more aggressively. He was soon so tuned into my loop that he rarely missed. I battled on, but at 51 I wasn't as fast as I used to be, and the rallies were just getting too fast for me to have time to run down ball after ball to loop. So I made a simple tactical change - and went to just hitting on the forehand, a shorter, quicker stroke. The first time I smashed off his block, he had this look of surprise, since I'd been looping all his blocks until then. After a few more, he began grumbling in Chinese. He had no answer and I ended up winning in a rout. (He did switch to blocking almost exclusively to my backhand, but after a few of those I started quick-blocking to his middle and forehand to set up my forehand again. Also, since the blocks to my backhand became predictable, I began smashing backhands and stepping around to smash forehands.)

If I hadn't had a backup to my looping attack, things might have been quite different. Moral - do you have a backup game if your primary game isn't working? This doesn't necessarily mean dropping your primary game; it means finding other ways to win when necessary.

Side note - you can't normally cover as much of the table with your forehand if you focus on smashing instead of looping, and the timing makes smashing riskier, assuming you have time to loop. That's why looping tends to dominate at the higher levels instead of hitting - but not in this match. 

This also reminded me that at the upcoming Nationals next week, when I'm not coaching, I'm playing in the hardbat events. Since my hardbat game is centered on all-out forehand hitting, I'm going to focus on all-out hitting with my sponge racket in practice matches this next week.

Adham Sharara and the Celluloid Ban

Here's an interesting posting at the OOAK forum from someone who emailed with ITTF President Adham Sharara, along with discussion. Sharara states, "There is no upcoming world-wide ban of celluloid, this was a simplification of the current status and the status on the use of celluloid for many years past. Their is also no health issue with the finished product. The issue is in the manufacturing of the celluloid sheets that are used to make the ping pong balls." [You can read the rest of his long posting at the link above.]

Table Tennis, It's Not for the Slow of Wrist

Here's a short article on table tennis from craveonline.com by James LeBeau. Here's an excerpt: "Where reflexes are your primary friend in being a good TT player, you also have to have a good head for strategy as the game isn't so cut and dried as the above description would have you believe. A skilled opponent can take a ball and send it at you in a number of different ways, from pure power to the subtleties of a slight flick and they can, and will, try their hardest to put a spin on the ball that will have it flying off your racket in a number of unpredictable ways."

Before the Frost

Tim Boggan emailed me to let me know about a table tennis passage from the novel Before the Frost by Swedish mystery writer Henning Mankell. It's one of eleven novels in the Kurt Wallander series, written in Swedish and translated into English. The character references Swedish star Jan-Ove Waldner, arguably the greatest table tennis player ever. Here's the excerpt:

"He's worried [Inspector Wallander is]. First, the report about the swans, and then a calf named Apple is burned alive."

"Apple," he said. "That's an unusual name for an animal."

"I played table tennis when I was younger. I often name my animals after great Swedish champions. I have an ox called Waldner."

Free online table tennis game

Here's a new online table tennis game someone emailed me about.

Smacking the umpire

Angry at the umpire? Tired of bad calls? Here's a 22-second video that ends with a player inadvertently (we think) smacking the umpire with the ball.

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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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