Eugene Wang

April 7, 2014

Tip of the Week

Attacking the Middle.

Attack the Middle or Lose

Coincidental to this week's Tip of the Week, I watched two top players play this past weekend at the MDTTC Open. (See segment below.) I was coaching on a back table for much of the tournament, though I did get to coach a few matches of students of mine. One match in particular caught my eye, between what should have been two evenly matched top players whose names I won't mention.

One of the players is basically a blocker, though he can attack as well with a very orthodox game. The other was a vicious two-winged attacker who rarely backs off the table. (That describes a lot of top players.) What stuck out was how the two-winged attacker kept attacking at wide angles, and the blocker kept blocking back at wide angles. This put the attacker out of position while the blocker controlled the points. Result? The blocker won three straight.

There's a simple dynamic here that many don't understand. While loopers dominate against blockers at the higher levels, in a battle between a looper and blocker where the two go just corner to corner, the blocker is completely at home. He has little time to react to the looper's shots, but if the shots keep coming to just his forehand or backhand, he can react to those with quick blocks. But if the looper goes to the middle as well, that's too much, and the blocker just can't react. When he does, he has to move out of position or contort his body for the shot, and his blocks are weaker and the corners open up. Suddenly, instead of the blocker moving the looper around like a marionette, it's the other way around, except the blocker is more like a Raggedy Ann as he struggles to react to these loops to his middle and wide angles that jump like grasshoppers as they hit the table.

Since I've coached the looper before, I wanted to go out and tell him to attack the middle, but I was in my own coaching session, and could only watch some of the points as he played to the blocker's strength over and over. I'll be talking to him at some point about this.

Busy Pong Day

This morning I have the Tip of the Week and this blog to write. Then I try to finalize the new MDTTC April Newsletter. Then I leave to coach at the club for two hours, 12:30-2:30PM. Then I leave to pick up two kids from schools for our afterschool program. Then I do a session with one of them, plus help with homework. Then I teach my beginning/intermediate class from 6:30-8:00PM. Along the way I need to respond to a zillion emails. Meanwhile, I'm working with someone on a French translation of my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book, and working on setting up my new tabletennisbooks.com page, where I'll sell TT books and videos. Somewhere in there I'll breathe.

USA College Nationals

The College Nationals were this past weekend, Fri-Sun, in Monroeville, PA. Here's their home page, with results, video, and more. Congrats to the following champions:

Coed Team - Texas Wesleyan University
Women's Team - Princeton University
Men's Singles - Cheng Li, Mississippi College
Women's Singles - Ariel Hsing, Princeton University
Men's Doubles - Razvan Cretu & Zhedi Bai, Texas Wesleyan University
Women's Doubles - Vivien Zhou & Xixi Guo, University of Toronto

MDTTC Open

Here are complete results of the MDTTC Open held this past weekend at my club, care of Omnipong. New MDTTC coach/practice partner Chen Ruichao ("Alex") dominated the Open, defeating fellow MDTTC coach/practice partner Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen") in the final, 8,12,-8,9,3, visiting New Jersey junior star Allen Wang in the semifinals, 6,8,6,5, and Maryland junior star Roy Ke in the quarterfinals after a first-game scare, -11,7,5,3. There are still raging debates on what Alex's actual level is since it seems to go and down, but it's somewhere in the 2600-2700 range, depending on how "on" his vicious third-ball attack is, which might be the best in the U.S. when it is on.

Who's Been #1 Since 2001?

Here's the listing of the eight men and six women who have held the #1 ranking since 2001. Wang Liqin runs away with it for the men with streaks of 24 months, 6 months, 21 months, and 1 month, for a total of 52 months, while Zhang Yining is even more dominant on the women' side with 70, with streaks of 3, 9, and 58.

Here are the overall totals for men:

  1. Wang Liqin: 52
  2. Ma Long: 30
  3. Wang Hao: 24
  4. Ma Lin: 17
  5. Timo Boll: 10
  6. Zhang Jike: 7
  7. Xu Xin: 6
  8. Werner Schlager: 1

Here's the overall totals for women:

  1. Zhang Yining: 70
  2. Wang Nan: 23
  3. Ding Ning: 22
  4. Liu Shiwen: 17
  5. Li Xiaoxia: 9
  6. Guo Yan: 6

Kai Zhang vs. Eugene Wang Point

The two played in the final of the Westchester Open in February. Here's the entire match (35:46). However, you might want to skip to 29:35, where they have the point of the tournament. (Eugene, who won the match at -11,10,3,8, has been the #1 player in North American for the last few years, is on the far side. Kai is only fifteen.)

MBC Table Tennis

Here's a new video (1:51) of a junior program run in Pennsylvania by Rich Burnside, John Wetzler, and Pastor Eric.

Adoni Maropis vs. Timo Boll

Here's a video (7:45) of the two in a mini-paddle challenge match. (The paddles have pimples on one side, I think hardbat, and sponge on the other.) Timo is the former #1 player in the world; Maropis is the hardbat champion and actor who played Abu Fayed in "24" (and nuked Valencia, CA). They also almost had an arm wrestling contest. (Adoni offers his right arm, but Timo is a lefty and offers his left.)

Robot vs. Robot

We've had videos of players playing robots. Here's a new one of robot vs. robot (3:06). Expedite!!!

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March 20, 2014

Tricky Serves

Here's an interesting dynamic I've noticed over the years. Players who play the same players over and over at clubs, and only occasionally play at tournaments or at other clubs, rarely develop tricky serves that they can use when they do play in tournaments or against different players. Players who play lots of different players and compete in tournaments tend to develop tricky serves. Why is this?

It's all about feedback. If a player starts to develop tricky serves, his opponents will at first have trouble with them. But if he plays the same players all the time and rarely plays new ones, then the players he plays quickly get used to the tricky serves, and they stop being that effective. And so the feedback the player gets is that the serves aren't that effective, and he stops developing those serves and tries other ones. A player who regularly plays tournaments or other players gets more realistic feedback on the quality of those serves as his opponents aren't seeing them as regularly.

The same is true of other aspects of the game. For example, a player develops a nice backhand loop, his regular opponents might get used to it, and he'll stop using it as often - never realizing how much havoc the shot might create against players not used to it.

So if you want to really develop your game, seek out new players, either at your club, other clubs, or in tournaments, and see how they respond to your serves and other techniques. If your ultimate goal is to play well in tournaments (even if you only play in them occasionally), then you need this feedback to develop your game.

By the way, this strongly applies to me. When I used to play tournaments, most of my opponents had difficulty with my serves, especially some of my side-top serves that look like backspin. But in practice, most of the people I play are used to those serves, and I tend to serve more backspin and no-spin, which may set up my attack but rarely give me "free" points. If I went by what happened in practice, I'd be giving away a lot of free points in tournaments by not using those tricky side-top serves.

About.com Table Tennis Forum (RIP)

After something like fifteen years of operation, the about.com table tennis forum is closed. When you go there you get "Forum Closed" and "We are sorry, this forum is no longer in operation" notes. Nobody seems to know why, but presumably it was because there hasn't been a moderator for some time, and the powers that be (i.e. about.com) decided it wasn't worth the hassle. I'm not a big forum poster (though I used to be), but I like to browse them and sometimes post things. I'll probably frequent the mytabletennis.com forum more often.

Learn to Play in the "Zone"

Here's the article by Samson Dubina. This is an important lesson I endlessly try to instill in students - let the subconscious take over when you play.

Expert in a Year

Here's the home page for Ben Larcombe's "Expert in a Year" challenge. He's trying to turn a beginning player into an expert in one year. Can he do it? They are eleven weeks in, with a weekly diary and lots of video.

Zhang Jike's Shoulder Injury

Here's the article. He had to withdraw from the Asia Cup. Fortunately, the injury is to his left shoulder (he's a righty), but this shows how important it is to use both sides of the body when playing - the left side pulls around just as much as the right side.

Table Tennis is Life

Here's the video (4:46).

Testing Timo Boll's Eyesight

Here's the article with a link to the video (8:02).

Planning Underway for Even Greater 2015 Cary Cup

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Cary Cup Final

Here's the video (39:03) of the final between Eugene Wang and Li Kewei this past weekend, with Li the chopper/looper defeating the top seeded Wang (who's won the last two Cary Cups and U.S. Opens) at 8,9,-7,12.

The Brain of a Table Tennis Player

Here's the artwork by Mike Mezyan.

Waldner-Persson Exhibition Point

Here's video (59 sec) of an incredible exhibition point between Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson.

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