Yao Ming

December 6, 2013

Seeing Doctor

I'm one of those people who hates seeing doctors. But alas, my arm not only didn't heal during the week I had off playing at the Teams, it somehow got worse. So I finally made an appointment with an orthopedist/sports medicine doctor, for 1PM today. I'll report on this on Monday. I'm pretty sure I have tendinitis.

I'm also considering possible scenarios if I can't do any serious playing for a while, which mostly affects private coaching. I already do a number of group coaching sessions, but I have a number of private students as well. One scenario is I group them in two-hour segments, and bring in one of our practice partners for the middle hour - the second half of the first one-hour session, the first half hour of the second one-hour session. Then I focus on multiball and serve & receive in my thirty minutes, and just coach (while practice partner does the playing) in the other thirty minutes. In an ideal world, I'd have the practice partner do all the hitting the entire hour, but I'd have to pay him for it. This 50-50 arrangements lowers that cost 50%, and should be workable as I can still feed multiball and do most serve & receive drills as long as we don't play out the point.

Jorg Rosskopf and Me

At the about.com forum, Jim Butler quotes German coach and former star Jorg Rosskopf as saying, "When I play with the German Team I only practice playing the first ball against them.  After this I just let the ball go." This was because he's older and so not as fast as before, and so can't rally as fast as he used to. This is exactly what I sometimes do with the top juniors at my club. I don't play at the level I used to, but my serve and receive is still very strong, and so often I let them practice against just that, and don't continue the rally.

Returning Short Serves (and Playing Penholders)

Tuesday's USATT Tip of the Day was "Returning Serves Short." This was one of the 171 tips I wrote for USATT back in 1999-2003. Nearly all of them are still pertinent, as is this one, but the opening line says, "At the highest levels, the most common return of a short serve is a short push..."  While it is still important to learn the short push if you want to reach a very high level, and you will be handicapping yourself at even a moderately high level if you don't develop it, it is no longer the "most common return of a short serve." In the last ten years we've seen the rise of the backhand banana flip, and that is now the most common return of a short serve. 

The best players all have excellent short pushes, but these days more and more top players look to return many or most short serves by attacking with their backhands with a banana flip.

When I coach high-level players, much of the receive tactics against short serves is the proportion of flipping, pushing short, and pushing long. Against some players it's best to mostly push long to the backhand over and over, a nice safe return if they can't attack it effectively. Against others you have to find ways to stop their attack, or to take the attack, and that's where pushing short and flipping come in. Most often a player should choose two of these three returns as the main two, and the third as an occasional variation. 

At lower levels it's all about consistency and placement. It's also about reading the serve as many players at the beginning/intermediate levels still find themselves pushing topspin serves. 

And yet, the foundation of a good receive is good fundamentals, i.e. good technique and footwork. If you have those, then it gets a lot easier. Many players think they are misreading the spin when they push topspin serves high or off the end, but often they have actually read the spin, but don't have confidence in driving or flipping the ball, whether forehand or backhand, and so fall back on "safe" pushing - which, against a topspin serve, isn't so safe.

So develop those fundamentals and they'll greatly help your receive. 

NOTE - today's Tip of the Day, "General Rules of Ball Placement When Attacking," also has one thing I might want to expand on now. Against penholders, it says, "They are less vulnerable in the middle, but still have to choose between forehand and backhand, and so are still weak there. Most penholders tend to be weak on one corner." This was aimed more at conventional penholders, but since that time we've seen the rise of the reverse penhold backhand, which plays pretty much like a shakehander, and is typically as strong in the corners and weak in the middle as a shakehander.

USATT Tips of the Day

Below are the USATT Tips of the Day since last Wednesday, when I left for the North American Teams. These are from the 171 Tips of the Week I did for them from 1999-2003 as “Dr. Ping-Pong.” (Click on link for complete tip.)

Dec 05, 2013 General Rules of Ball Placement When Attacking
Key places to land the ball to win your next match!

Dec 04, 2013 Should You Stick With Your Best Shot If It Is Missing?
The situation: Your best shot is missing, and you are losing because of this. Should you keep using it, or abandon it?

Dec 03, 2013 Returning Serves Short
At the highest levels, the most common return of a short serve is a short push, even against a sidespin serve. At the lower levels, most players just push them deep, giving opponents the chance to loop.

Dec 02, 2013 Playing Against Seemiller Style Players
No two players play alike, and this applies to those with the Seemiller grip as well.

Dec 01, 2013 Tournament Experience vs. Practice
Many players practice for many months, not playing in any tournaments until they feel they are completely ready. They then enter a tournament … and flop.

Nov 30, 2013 Power Player Control Shots
There’s nothing an experienced and tactical player likes better than facing a player with big shots but little else. On the other hand, there’s little more scary than an opponent with big shots and ball control to set the big shots up and withstand opponent’s attacks.

Nov 29, 2013 In a Lopsided Match, What Should the Higher-Rated Player Do?
Many players have difficulty generating great speed on their regular smashes (i.e. off a relatively low ball, not a lob, which uses a different stroke).

Nov 28, 2013 Increase Forearm Snap to Increase Smashing Speed
Many players have difficulty generating great speed on their regular smashes (i.e. off a relatively low ball, not a lob, which uses a different stroke).

Nov 27, 2013 Flat Flip vs. Topspin Flip
Suppose you face an opponent who serves short, and loops your long returns, even if you flip them. 

Nominations for USATT Coaches of the Year

Here's the notice from USATT.

What is the Effect of Sponge Thickness in Table Tennis Rubber?

Here's a series of answers to this question by top coaches, including Stellan Bengtsson, Massimo Constantini, Jasna Rather, Samson Dubina, Tahl Leibovitz, Scott Lurty, and Sara Fu.

ITTF Monthly Podcast

Here's the new video (12:24), covering November.

Kanak Jha Interview

Here's the article and video interview (2:28) with USA's Kanak Jha at the World Junior Championships.

Erica Wu Interview

Here's the article and video interview (1:45) with USA's Erica Wu at the World Junior Championships. She had just upset Laura Pfefer of France.

Liu Shiwen is Technically Flawed

Here's the article.

"Ping Pong Summer" to Premiere at Sundance

Here's the article. The movie stars Susan Sarandon as well as Judah Friedlander.

Mike Mezyan's Newest Table Tennis Artwork

Here's "Be Bruce," as in Bruce Lee. It's a "…huge 8 foot by 11 foot wall mural at the new Bruce Lee lounge in Chicago. (Here are other table tennis artworks by Mike.)

More of Yao Ming Playing Table Tennis

Yesterday I posted a short video of basketball star Yao Ming playing table tennis with the Chinese National Team in China. Here's a better and longer video (4:23).

Table Tennis Jokes

Here's a collection!

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December 5, 2013

Post Teams Coaching

Now that the North American Teams are over my coaching changes focus. The last few weeks before the Teams I was preparing players for the tournament. Now comes the long period where we focus on developing their games for the longer haul. In particular, I have several players who I'll be working on topspinning their backhands more. I also want to greatly improve serve and receive. And as noted yesterday, we're going to work more on sports psychology. But in general there's going to be a lot more work on fundamentals while setting and aiming to achieve long-term goals.

Arm Problems

HERE WE GO AGAIN!!! But it makes no sense. None. Nada.

I think it was a couple of months ago that I had serious arm problems and had to take two weeks off. I've had minor problems since then, but nothing serious. Then, last week, just before the North American Teams, the arm started hurting again. Part of it might have been the extra coaching hours getting players ready for the Teams. But it wasn't that bad, and I knew I'd be able to take a week off to rest the arm during and just after the Teams. (I coached at the Teams, but except for one session warming up a player for ten minutes didn't play any.) So I rested the arm for exactly one week, from last Wednesday until yesterday.

About five minutes into the session I was grabbing my arm. At first it just seemed tight. Then it began to hurt - badly - especially when I hit backhands. It was the same injury as two months ago, and the same one I'd had as a recurring problem in the 1980s, but not in between. HOW DID MY ARM INJURY GET WORSE WHILE RESTING IT FOR A WEEK???

I finished the session, doing lots of multiball and avoiding hitting backhands. I started my next session - I only had two hours scheduled fortunately - but could barely continue. "Fortunately" (in quotes) my student (Doug) was also having some shoulder problems, and we agreed it'd be best to take the rest of the night off.

I iced the arm last night and again this morning. I've already cancelled my session today. Tomorrow I'm a practice partner from 5-6PM, and have a private session afterwards. I'll skip the 5-6 session, but I think I'll try to do the 6-7PM one - but no backhands. When needed, I'll play forehands from the backhand side. Hitting backhands is what really causes the problems, but once I hit backhands repetitively for even a few minutes the arm swells up and I can't do much of anything. Fortunately, most of my weekend coaching is group sessions, where I don't have to use my arm except for multiball. But I have a few sessions in there.

I'm also going to (finally) make an appointment to see a doctor or trainer.

The good news? My knees seem totally healed from the problems I've had there this past month. The week off really helped. Also, with the Teams over, and with the Nationals and Christmas coming up, my coaching schedule isn't very heavy right now. (I leave for the Nationals Sunday, Dec. 15, returning the morning of Sunday, Dec. 22.)

New World Rankings

The new World Rankings are out. On the men's side, the big change is Fan Zhendong of China jumping from 11 to 5. Chinese men now hold the #1-5, 7, 11, 12, 14, 18, 22, 43, 58, 61, 91, and 100 spots. Germany has #6, 8, 24, 25, 49, 60, and 78. Taiwan has #9, 23, and 88. South Korea has #19, 26, 27, 35, 36, 39, 46, 56, 65, 68, and 83. Hong Kong has #21, 31, 96, and 98. USA's top three are #352 (Yuan Xiaojie), 367 (Timothy Wang) and 393 (Wang Qingliang).

On the women's side, the only major change near the top is Ai Fukuhara of Japan jumping from 14 to 9. Chinese women now hold the #1-3, 5-8, 11, 15, 22, 29, 34, 36, 51, 52, 65, 66, 83, 88, 89, and 97-99 spots. Singapore has #4, 20, 69, and 74. Japan has #9, 10, 26, 37, 50, 57, 63, 64, 75, 76, 78-80, 90, and 94. South Korea has #12, 17, 21, 24, 25, 35, 47, 66, 72, 73, 85, and 91. USA's top three are #80 (Ariel Hsing), 110 (Lily Zhang), and 171 (Zheng Jiaqi).

World Junior Championships

They are going on right now in Rabat, Morocco, Dec. 1-8. You can follow all the action at the ITTF World Junior Championships page. USA players are: Boys - Kanak Jha, Theodore Tran, Kunal Chodri, and Allen Wang; Girls - Prachi Jha, Tina Lin, Ariel Hsing, and Erica Wu

Yao Ming Playing Table Tennis

Here's the article, interview, picture, and link to a video (1:48) of the basketball star hitting with members of the Chinese Team, with commentary in Chinese. He's a penholder.

Table Tennis Doll

Here it is!

Head Table Tennis

Here’s the bizarre video (5:05, with the “table tennis” starting about one minute in) of a new version of table tennis, where players head mini-volleyballs back and forth.

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