Playing Penholders

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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