Waldner

February 12, 2013

Tactical Match

This weekend I played a practice match with a fast up-and-coming junior who had never challenged me before. In the past he'd had trouble with my serves, usually too passive, so I was able to attack at will. This time he came at me very aggressively, attacking most of my short serves with his newly developing backhand banana flip. When I served side-top, he jumped all over them aggressively. When I served backspin, he spun them off the bounce aggressively, a bit softer but spinnier. When I served short to his forehand, he reached over and flipped with his backhand. What to do?

This is actually a textbook case, and the answers were obvious. Here are three ways I dealt with this.

First, I went for more extremes. Instead of side-top serves, I went with pure topspin, and instead of side-backspin serves, I went with pure heavy backspin. Having to deal with the extremes meant that he began to put the topspins off the end and the backspins into the net.

Second, I began throwing low no-spin serves at him. He'd often read them usually as backspin and lift off the end. Or because they were dead, he sometimes put them into the net. It's amazing how players put no-spin serves both off the end and into the net, but that's what happens.

Third, I drilled him with short serves to the forehand, deep serves to the backhand. The key is to use the same motion. If he's going to reach over and use his backhand to return my short serves to his forehand, then he's going to have great difficulty covering a deep spinny breaking serve to the backhand. When he guards against that, then I go back short to the forehand. This combo was especially effective when I gave him short reverse pendulum serves to the forehand, which break away from him, making him reach even more.

The kid played a great match, and I'll have to keep my eye on him as he gets better and better. As it was, I came from behind 4-8 to win the first 11-9, and then won the next two more comfortably. As I explained to him afterwards, he's now at that stage where because he's challenging me, he'll lose worse at first because now I'm playing him a lot more seriously. We'll see where he is a year from now.

Update - Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

I only publicly announced Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers was available yesterday, and already 26 copies have sold. Of course, the real sales surge (hopefully) will come after I advertise in USATT Magazine (1-page color ad) and possibly their web page, and possibly other places. I'll look into that next week after I'm done doing the page layouts for Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13.

I'd like to post about the book in online forums as well, but not right now. If I post on an online forum, people will have questions, and if I try to answer those questions, Tim (who's sitting right next to me impatiently waiting to get to work) will no-look forehand smack me back to work. Sometime next week I'll post on the various forums and look into other areas to advertise, such as England and Australia, and other online websites.

I'm also getting a few blurbs from prominent TT people I can use. Here are some others I've come up with that I probably won't use.

Blurbs for My Book I've Decided NOT to Use
Feel free to comment with your own!

  1. "One of the best table tennis books I've read today."
  2. "I loved the book and will give a copy to all of my opponents."
  3. "Best book I've ever tasted." -Rover
  4. "After reading this book, my level of play only dropped a little."
  5. "But what if I don't like to think?"
  6. "Some of the words in this book are really good."
  7. "My parakeet is set for the next 240 days as he goes through this cover to cover."
  8. "Hey Larry, there's a typo at the start!"

Dealing with PTSD Through Ping-Pong

Here's an article and video (2:29) on how one Vietnam Vet dealt with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with table tennis, specifically featuring a clinic run at the Zing Table Tennis Club in Denver by Richard McAfee, assisted by Duane Gall, Peter Christofolo, and Mike Mui. (Here's an ITTF article on the clinic.)

Zhuang Zedong Obit

Here's the CNN Zhuang obit, including five pictures. Here's the ITTF obit.

The Ping-Pong Queen

Here's an article about Susan Sarandon and ping-pong.

Waldner - Persson Exhibition

Here's a video (1:29) of some points from an exhibition by Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson.

Anime Women Playing Table Tennis

The next action figure?

SPECIAL TIM BOGGAN SECTION!

Here's his Hall of Fame bio.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13

We've now finished 16 chapters, 267 pages, with 540 graphics placed. We're on pace for 29 chapters, 482 pages, and 956 graphics. This would be the most graphics by far - the last volume had the most at 837. (But he's actually been pretty consistent as the last seven volumes all ranged from 800 to 837.) We will probably finish the "first draft" on Friday. I'll be busy coaching all weekend while Tim proofs everything. On Monday (Feb. 18) we'll input changes, and by Tuesday it'll be ready to go to the printer. Copies should be available soon afterwards. We hope. (Here's where you can find more info on Tim's books - Volumes 1-12 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. And no, I don't get any commission from his sales!)

Tim Boggan and the BBC

On Sunday and Monday Tim was interviewed live on the BBC and will be again on Wednesday, via phone, about Zhuang Zedong's death and Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Each time he most wanted to include how Zhuang had asked, when he heard that Glenn Cowan had died, if Glenn had been well remembered at his funeral. He was told, well, not as you might think a historic celebrity should be remembered. Zhuang was sorry to hear this, and said, "When I die, everyone in China will know." According to Tim, the relationship between Glenn and Zhuang was largely historic and symbolic rather than any close show of friendship itself. (Note - Ping-Pong Diplomacy was seminally started when Cowen was invited onto the private Chinese bus, and then later he and Zhuang exchanged gifts. You can read more about it in Tim's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. V.)

Tim Boggan Resigns

After many years of service, Tim Boggan has resigned from the ITTF Media Committee. Here is his resignation letter.

After much thought, and more regret, I've decided, as of now, to resign from the ITTF Media Committee.

I'm not going to the World Championships in Paris, or any other. Perhaps my age is showing (I’ll be 83 this year), but traveling abroad and playing conscientious reporter for a week is just becoming WORK—and I’ve already got enough of that.

I want to focus the more on my History of U.S. Table Tennis –intend to keep writing, as I have since 2000, a new book a year (my Vol. XIII will be in hand by April Fools' Day). I'll also keep researching and making Banquet presentations on behalf of our U.S. Hall of Fame candidates—that's generally a month’s effort. (The new inductees make it a total of 138 Profiles I've done on those enshrined.) And also I'll continue writing (though not as much as before) obits and articles for our USTTA magazine—as in my "Reisman Rembrance" for the current issue, and my coverage of Mike Babuin's Cary Open in an upcoming one.

It's been more than 40 years since I became affiliated with the ITTF (as a U.S. Delegate to the 1971 Nagoya World's). And in those four decades I must have been to, and reported on, 25 or more World or International Championships. I've had the unusual opportunity to meet many interesting people and to see many interesting sights/sites that I certainly wouldn’t have otherwise. For this I'm very grateful.

I thank all those who've helped me to have this rich experience, and will fondly remember my long involvement with the ITTF for the rest of my life.

***
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December 12, 2012

Don't Bother Me!!! (Temporarily)

Anyone bothering me for anything time- or mind-consuming between now and Saturday, all I can say is HAH!!! I'm involved in a top-secret coaching operation that will take up all my time the next few days.

Backspin Serves

I was asked the following question on the forum, and decided to respond here. "Slim Dragon" wrote:

Dear Coach,

I have read several of your tips on how to generate heavy spin on underspin serves. I prefer to open up against pushes, so really want to develop this arsenal. Having watched several pro serve videos and teaching guides from pingskills to tabletennis masters to dynamic tabletennis, what I remain uncertain about is the ideal form, as all pros seem to have an individual form when executing various serves.

Having watched Waldner's serves recently, I notice that he makes contact with the ball with his forearm usually horizontal to his right breast, which seems to give his forearm a horizontal axes with the wrist snapping at the end of the motion. His racket tip normally ends up just under his right breast. In the past, my racket tip has ended up in the middle of my stomach, meaning my forearm is more diagonal than horizontal.

My first question is, what forearm placement is likely to result in the best grazing effect?

Secondly, is it imperative to contact the ball as close to the bottom as possible to maximize underspin?

Lastly, how can you properly assess whether you are generating good underspin? In the past, I thought it was necessary to make the ball rotate back towards the net as an indication of a good underspin serve, but I note in another forum question that that is mainly a trick serve.

Thanks for your consideration.

The examples I refer to can be seen from about 0.15 to 0.35 in this video link.

Great questions, and great video of Waldner's serves. Waldner was perhaps the greatest server of all time, and this video shows much of how he did it. One catch - hidden serves were legal during most of his career, so you'll see how he keeps his arm and shoulder out to hide contact. However, the basic techniques are the same. Let's go over the three questions.

My first question is, what forearm placement is likely to result in the best grazing effect?

Secondly, is it imperative to contact the ball as close to the bottom as possible to maximize underspin?

I'm going to answer these two questions together, since the direction of the forearm movement leads to the contact point. If you swing more downward (i.e. with a diagonal movement toward your stomach), contact is toward the back of the ball. If you swing more horizontal, contact is more under the ball. And you want the forearm and racket moving mostly horizontally at contact so you can contact the ball as much underneath as possible.

Technically, you can graze the ball just as finely regardless of the direction the forearm and paddle are moving - you can graze the ball at any point. However, if you graze the back of the ball very finely, the ball will go down, and so will bounce up high. To serve the ball low with lots of backspin (i.e. maximum grazing), contact the ball as much underneath as possible. Even if you are serving a sidespin, you should fake this type of contact, and then, after just missing the bottom of the ball, contact the ball on the side with sidespin. This way the opponent has to pick up where the contact point was to read whether it was backspin, sidespin, or some combination.

Lastly, how can you properly assess whether you are generating good underspin?

One way is to simply graze it so finely, with so little forward motion, that the ball hits the far side of the table and bounces backwards within a bounce or two. (If you serve it high, you can make the ball bounce back over the net on one bounce - a trick serve that experienced players will see coming, giving them time to go to the side of the table to smash the ball as it goes back over the net.) But this means the serve will be very short, and while this is a good variation (especially against short player and in combination with long serves), it's also easier to return for most players than a deeper backspin serve where the second bounce is near the opponent's endline.

The problem with serving a deeper backspin serve is that you don't get direct feedback on the amount of backspin since the ball doesn't bounce backwards. However, with experience, you can read this yourself by your own contact. If your racket is moving very fast (with great acceleration), and you graze the bottom of the ball, you should be able to tell that you've got lots of backspin. But perhaps a better gauge is how opponents return it. Do they go into the net? Do they have to open their racket a lot to push it back or attack it? Or just ask your playing partner how spinny it is.

I often assign two exercises to develop backspin serves. Bounce a ball up and down on the forehand side of your racket. Now graze the ball near the bottom, a little toward the front. You should be able to generate good spin this way and hit the ball straight up, then you catch it and repeat. Practice this until you are proficient at it.

Next, do the "come back" serve mentioned above, where you again contact the ball near the bottom, a little in front as in the exercise above. Go for maximum spin, but intentionally serve high. Learn to control this until you can serve and make the ball come back into the net, or even bounce back over it. (When I demonstrate this for beginners, their eyes go wide.) When you can do this, then you have great backspin. Then you simply adjust your contact point - still under the ball, but slightly toward the back - and you can serve this same heavy backspin and keep it low.

If you have difficulty with this, it might be helpful to get a coach or top player to help out. With practice, it's not that difficult to learn - but it does take practice! And once you have that heavy backspin serve, you can next learn to serve side-backspin, sidespin, side-topspin, and "heavy no-spin" (where you fake spin, usually backspin, and serve no-spin).

USA Juniors Finish Seventh

Team USA, led by an 8-1 Lily Zhang, finished seventh at the World Junior Championships (Hyderabad, India, Dec. 9-16). Here's the World Junior Championships Home Page (results, articles, photos), and here's a compilation of results, articles, and videos of USA players, compiled by USATT. All events were for Under 18, so Crystal Wang, 10, on the USA Girls' Team, was the youngest player there. She's from my club, MDTTC. (Here's an ITTF article that features and pictures her that came out this morning.) Addendum - due to a typo on a match slip, the ITTF reported, and I repeated here earlier, that Lily had gone undefeated, but she actually lost one of her two matches against Korea, deuce in the fourth.)

Emerging Countries in Table Tennis

Here's an article on the top ten emerging countries in table tennis - and guess which country is #1? With full-time training centers and junior programs popping up all over the U.S. in the last six years, we're on the verge of becoming a real power.

Tybie Sommer-Thall

USA's 1948 World Mixed Doubles Champion (with Dick Miles) - still active!

Great Doubles Point

Here's a great point from the Women's Doubles Final at the German Open this year.

Instant Ping Pong

Here's a commercial (2:52) for "Instant Ping Pong," which consists of a portable net that extends up to six feet and clamps on the side of a table, plus two hardbat rackets and two cheap ping-pong balls, all in a convenient carrying case. It allows you to set up on just about anything that's table-like and play - the video shows players using it on all sorts of furniture-type items. By a strange coincidence, I bought this at Target yesterday (spur of the moment) and then happened to see a link to this commercial on Facebook last night. I may bring it to the Nationals to play at the airport. (What, you've never played airport pong?) Or maybe I'll set it up to play during the USATT Board Meeting.

12:12:12 on 12-12-12

Set your alarms for 12:12:12 PM this afternoon of 12-12-12. Why? Because the next time three numbers will align in this way will be on Jan. 1, 2101, at 01:01:01 AM and PM. (We already had 12:12:12 AM this morning - or is that last night - and I was up for it.) Actually, this will be the last time ever, since the world ends on Dec. 21, nine days from now, right?

***
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August 31, 2012

Neck Injury Update

I'm still wearing the neck brace most of the time, but the neck is getting better. Tomorrow I've got a few hours of coaching, mostly multiball, but I also plan to do some "live" play during one of the sessions. I may wear the neck brace for that as an injury preventive. We'll see how it goes.

Hardbatters of the Past, Present, and Future

How good were hardbatters from the past? There's no way of really knowing, but we can make some educated guesses. However, there are some subtleties that have to be addressed.

First off, it's not fair to compare the skill level of players from the hardbat era against the skill level of current players by judging how past players would fair against certain modern techniques that they never faced, such as looping and deceptive spinny serves, not to mention modern sponges. For example, the first sponge player, Hiroje Satoh of Japan, couldn't compete with the best players in Japan because they had gotten used to his "strange" surface, but when he went to the 1952 World Championships (and managed to avoid playing his Japanese teammates), he won - not so much because of his skill level, but because his opponents weren't used to his sponge. His innovation won him the world title, but he quickly fell back in the rankings, unable to compete with his more skilled adversaries once they adjusted to his sponge racket.

And Satoh wasn't using modern sponge techniques. If I could go back to 1952, I'd likely also win the Worlds as players back then had never seen the types of serves and loops that an average 2200 player can throw at them. But it wouldn't be a fair comparison, and things could change quickly after they adjusted to me, just as they did to Satoh.

Once point comes up is that for a time, the hardbat players had to face the finger-spin serves of Sol Schiff and others before those were made illegal. It's true that once they figured them out, they were able to handle them. But the key points here are 1) that it was only after they adjusted to them - probably not the first time out - that they were able to handle them; 2) they could take the serve late and chop it back, allowing them more time to read and react to the spin. In the modern game, few players can afford to do that, since chopping a deep, spinny serve back gives the opponent the chance to loop, and since they had never seen such a shot before, it is unlikely they could have won against a competent looper. And 3), a modern player with a good spinny serve could serve it short (which the finger-spinners didn't do), so the receiver couldn't take it late. (Note that it's not just the spin of the serve they have to react to - it's also the deception, since nobody had developed the tricky deceptive serves that are now common even at the intermediate level where the racket goes through a very rapid semi-circular motion, making it difficult to pick up the direction of the racket at contact. According to Dick Miles, who questioned me about these serves, nobody did that back then, and he found it hard to believe that modern players could do it.)

However, a better question is how would such hardbat players of the past do against a modern player once they had time to adjust? That's where things get foggy. After spending a career playing hardbat-to-hardbat, many or most wouldn't adjust well. The very best ones would, since half of table tennis is adjusting to your opponent. For example, as confident as I am that I could beat, say, Dick Miles or Marty Reisman in 1952 the first time out (where I'm using sponge and they are using their hardbats), I am equally non-confident about what would happen after they had gotten used to playing me.

The next question is how good would a modern sponge player be using a hardbat in the hardbat era against the hardbat greats? First time out, of course, they'd get clobbered; not only do they have to adjust to playing with a hardbat, they have to adjust to playing against hardbat.  It's a different game! I remember the one time I played hardbat with Cheng Yinghua back in the late 1990s. He'd never really tried hardbat, and the first half hour as we just hit around I was pretty confident against him. Then a little light seemed to go off in his head, and after that he was like a buzz saw, attacking everything with ease and seemingly never missing. I still consider him the best hardbat player I've ever played or seen live, and I've seen and played pretty much all of the best current hardbat players. Cheng played an aggressive yet consistent backhand that rarely missed, while all-out hitting with his forehand - and also seemingly never missed. He never backed off the table, and he attacked every serve. I was nearly 2200 with a hardbat in those days playing against sponge, and my chances against him after the first half hour were zilch, and he won every game we played after that with ease. (I doubt if most sponge players could adapt to hardbat as fast and as well as Cheng did.) 

If Cheng practiced hardbat regularly for, say, a year (and we'll assume he's back in his peak, not in his mid-50s as he is now), how would he do against the best from the past? Very tough to say. He has two big advantages. First, he has modern serving techniques with a hardbat, which by itself would win him many matches at the start, and would later probably still give him the initiative as opponents would often return them defensively. Second, he's been training for table tennis nearly full-time since the age of five. While the training was with sponge, it has ingrained in him reflexes and attacking strokes that few in the hardbat era could match. In a counter-hitting battle, he'd beat anyone from the hardbat era. So to beat him, they'd have to do a lot of chopping and pick-hitting, something most of them are quite comfortable doing. How would Cheng do against the best choppers of the hardbat era? Tough to say.  

The best hardbat chopper I've faced was Richard Gonzalez of the Philippines, who I lost to in the Over 40 Hardbat Final at the 2011 U.S. Open. How good was he? The best chopper in the U.S. for many years was Derek May, a 2500 chopper, but when I played him hardbat to hardbat, I won rather easily as he was more used to chopping against sponge players. I've also played Steve Berger, who is also very good, but Gonzalez was a level better. How would Cheng do against Gonzalez, who also has a great attacking game? It's a match I'd love to see. The first time out, I'm guessing it would be close. However, my guess is that if Cheng were to play hardbat for a year during his peak years, he'd easily win against Gonzalez.

Another question comes up. How good could a player be in the modern game using a hardbat? Currently, the best hardbatters have ratings that max out around 2300. But it's a small sample size, and the best of them are mostly players already in their 40s who switched to hardbat after decades of sponge play. So it's obvious to me that players can get well past the 2300 level with a hardbat if they started out as hardbatters as beginning juniors at a young age, and trained that way just as sponge players do. Again, I'll turn to Cheng to see how good a player can be with a hardbat. After hitting with his hardbat with me, Cheng later played some practice matches against one of his 2250 juniors, who used sponge - and he won easily. Yes, after at most an hour of hardbat play, Cheng easily beat a 2250 junior player using sponge, and what I have to emphasize here is he did it easily, no contest, just hitting and blocking everything with ease. His level against sponge was already at least 2400. (He was rated about 2700 with sponge at the time, had previously been much better.)

How good would Cheng have been if he'd been training full-time with a hardbat against sponge players since a young age? Much better. However, at the same time there is the law of diminishing returns, since there are limits to what you can do with a hardbat against a world-class sponge player. My educated guess is that the very best would reach about 2600, but that's probably the upper limit. (The best players in the world are 2900+.)

Lastly, remember that in nearly every sport with measurable results that can be compared against future athletes, each new generation is almost always better than the previous ones. In table tennis, this is true as well, as modern players train for more hours with systematic training methods than players in the past. It's likely that if sponge had never been introduced or had been outlawed, and the game had stayed with hardbat, the same thing would have happened, and we'd have thousands of hardbatters training under top coaches from the age of five on (as they do in China), and hardbat would have been taken to a new level. (Even the best choppers of the past, as good as they were, wouldn't be as good as the best choppers coming out of a massive number of modern players training full-time as a hardbat chopper/attackers from age five.)

But hardbat was never developed to the highest levels because of the introduction of sponge, and so the hardbat game never reached the levels that it might have reached. And so it's likely that we'll never know just how good a player could be with a hardbat. But I'll stick with my 2600 guesstimate.

Paralympics

Here's the home page for the Table Tennis Paralympics, which are in London, Aug. 29 - Sept. 9. 

Pong Planet

The newest full-time professional table tennis center is Pong Planet in San Carlos, CA. They open tomorrow, on Sept. 1, 2012, with coaches James Guo Xi, Dennis Davis, Tibor Bednar, and Donn Olsen.

When Serving Short Becomes Important

Here's an article from PingSkills about serving short.

Zhang Jike's Tips On Winning the Olympic Title

Here's an article where the Men's Singles World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalists gives tips for success.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy's 40th Anniversary

Here's an article at Table Tennis Nation about the 40th Anniversary of Ping-Pong Diplomacy (this past Tuesday), with a link to a video of Henry Kissinger talking about it. Chairman Mao is quoted as saying, "The small ping-pong ball could be used to move the large ball of Earth." And here's a Chairman Mao/President Nixon Paddle.

Spanish Football Stars Play Table Tennis

Here's an article about and 13-second video of Spanish football stars (that's soccer to Americans) Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique playing table tennis. They're pretty good!

Waldner and Federer

Here's a 43-second video that shows Waldner and Federer both making almost identical moving, no-look cross-court miracle winning shots in their respective sports.

Wang Hao and Zhang Jike Exhibition

Here's a 33-second clip of Wang Hao and Zhang Jike doing an exhibition and playing with mini-rackets. At the end there's some sort of tug-of-war going on, but I have no idea who the participants are - it's all in Chinese. Anyone know? (I guess if I went over it carefully I might recognize if some of them are players, but I'll let others do that. Yes, you.)

***

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August 24, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Eleven, Day Four

Today's the final day of our eleven-week summer camp marathon. We had three new players join us yesterday (but three also left), giving us an even 40 players in the camp. I gave lectures on the backhand drive and flip against backspin (including banana flip, which I talk about in my February 15, 2012 blog), the backhand loop, and on third-ball attack.

In the lecture on third-ball attack I went over the serves different styles should favor. For example, a looper might want to serve a lot of short backspin and no-spin, with sidespin serves mixed in as well as occasional deep serves. A hitter might want to serve more sidespin and topspin, and challenge the receiver with more deep serves, especially breaking ones into the backhand. However, it's different for different players. For example, some loopers prefer looping against backspin (and so would serve more backspin), while others prefer looping against topspin, and so might serve more sidespin and topspin. I also spoke about depth - short serves, half-long serves (where the second bounce is right about the end-line), and long serves (where first bounce is near the end-line). Over and over I stressed that the purpose of the serve was to get the inniative, not just to get the ball into play. 

I also spoke about the importance of "trick" serves, where you have some serves you throw at opponent for "free" points. Your typical trick serve will work a few times before the opponent figures it out. If you don't have any such tricky serves, then you are giving away potentially free points; it's like spotting your opponent points. The problem with trick serves is once an opponent gets used to them, they are often easier to attack then other serves since most go long and can be looped, and so they should be used only a few times. (So focus on third-ball serves that allow you to get the innitiative.) Trick serves work best at the beginning and intermediate levels, but they are effective even at the advanced levels if used sporadically and at the right time. Examples of trick serves are a fast no-spin serve at the elbow or a tomahawk serve (a forehand serve with racket tip up) deep to the forehand so it breaks away from the receiver, causing him to reach for the ball and often miss-hitting off the end and side. 

I'm still in the neck brace. The most comfortable position is with my head back, nose in the air, which leads me to believe that stuck-up people aren't really stuck up; they just have whiplash.

Table Tennis Graphic Designers Wanted!

Uberpong is looking for graphic designers to create table tennis designs. "Are you a graphic designer, illustrator or just a wizard with crayons? Do you want your design to appear on an Uberpong ping pong paddle (table tennis bat)? We need you!!"

Clash of Titans

Here's a video (4:09) that contrasts Jan-Ove Waldner versus Ma Long.

As One

You can now watch the movie "As One" online, with English subtitles. It's the movie about the unified Korean women's team winning at the 1991 World Championships. Here's the IMDB info page.

New World Rankings

Here's an article on the new World Rankings, and here are the rankings themselves. The article includes a link to a video of the Olympic Men's Final between Zhang Jike and Wang Hao for those who missed it.

Ping-Pong with Giraffes

In honor of my neck problems, here are all the ping-pong and giraffe connections I could find.

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August 17, 2012

Weird Camp Happenings

Lots of strange things happen in regard to table tennis camps. Here's a sampling.

  • Someone once emailed interest in our camps, and asked if they could stay at my house to save money. I reluctantly agreed (since I didn't know the person). They thanked me profusely, and then asked me to arrange their travel and every other aspect of the trip. I emailed back agreeing to let him stay at my house, but that they'd have to make their own travel arrangements. I didn't hear back from them.
  • A player made all the arrangements to attend one of our camps, and only at the last minute emailed asking if we really were teaching table tennis. He thought he had signed up for a tennis camp.
  • Over the years I've received dozens and dozens of emails from Nigeria and other countries trying to arrange for large numbers of players to attend our camps. All involve me sending out invitations, after which they'd send payment. Of course they only wanted the invitation so they could get into the country. We went along with this a few times in the 1990s, then were contacted by the State Department, who asked us to stop.
  • Every few months we get an email from someone letting us know that a "top junior player" from some other country would like to attend our camps, and asking us how much we'd pay for the honor.
  • One 1800 player caused great havoc in our camp. He refused to do the drills, instead insisting on randomly hitting the ball all over the table with a hardbat while aggressively lecturing others about the wrongness of their using sponge and other apparent shortcomings. After two days of this, a delegation of players approached me and said they'd no longer hit with this player. I was going to have to talk to the player the next morning, but he didn't show up. I later learned he'd gotten into his car and driven halfway across the country to another camp, where he caused equal havoc.
  • During lunch at Lake Forrest Mall, one kid disappeared. After an hour we asked security to search for him. They searched everywhere, and couldn't find him. Finally, after several hours, we called his parents, who said "Oh, we didn't tell you? We picked him up at the mall."
  • At the end of one camp we arranged for a group to go to Kings Dominion. While there one player disappeared. After a few hours of looking for him along with security, I finally called his parents to ask if he'd called home. The mom went into hysterics. We finally found him - he'd wandered off and had spent the day on his own in the water park area, ignoring all the very loud announcements calling his name.
  • There are many more - perhaps in another blog. I have to go coach.

2006 vs. 2012

Yesterday I blogged about how much junior development has improved in the last six years, and compared the junior top 15 rankings from the Nov/Dec 2006 issue to the current one. Here's a chart that shows this even better, comparing the #1 and #15 then and now, showing just how dramatic the improvement has been since the advent of full-time training centers all over the country. It's amazing to me that, for example, the #15 junior in the country today would be #2 in 2006! The depth has exploded.

 

2006 #1

2012 #1

2006 #15

2012 #15

Under 18 Boys

2418 (would be #13 in current rankings)

2625

2159

2387 (would be #2 in 2006)

Under 16 Boys

2418 (would be #6 in current rankings)

2522

2087

2310 (would be #6 in 2006)

Under 14 Boys

2323 (would be #6 in current rankings)

2420

1870

2153 (would be #5 in 2006)

Under 12 Boys

2044 (would be #10 in current rankings)

2235

1440

1916 (would be #3 in 2006)

Under 10 Boys

2044  (would be #1 in current rankings, but the #2 was only 1495)

2008

(#2 is 1920)

620

1170 (would be #5 in 2006)

Under 18 Girls

2330 (would be #4 in current rankings)

2548

1811

2112 (would be #4 in 2006)

Under 16 Girls

2113 (would be #7 in current rankings)

2329

1620

2002 (would be #3 in 2006)

Under 14 Girls

2029 (would be #7 in current rankings)

2261

1432

1786 (would be #4 in 2006)

Under 12 Girls

2029 (would be #3 in current rankings)

2105

553

1213 (would be #9 in 2006)

Under 10 Girls

894 (would be #12 in current rankings)

2105

80 (!)

372 (would be #4 in 2006)

ITTF Coaching Seminar

Here's an ITTF article about the recent ITTF Coaching Seminar Richard McAfee ran in Austin, TX, the ninth one to be run in the U.S. (I ran one of them.)

Waldner - Through the Years

Here's a video (6:21) that shows Jan-Ove Waldner through the years, starting when he's a kid, including interviews and showing his development. (Doesn't actually start until 18 seconds in.)

Owen Wilson's Late-Night Ping-Pong

Here's the article from People Magazine.

Bryan Brothers to Play Table Tennis for Charity

Here's a very short article about the Bryan Brothers (world #1 tennis doubles team) playing in a charity ping-pong tournament at Spin NY on Aug. 23 to benefit FDNY.

Hardbat From the Past

Here are three clips I saw recently posted showing hardbat from the past.

The Movie Ping Pong

You can now watch the movie online - but it'll cost you 9.99 pounds (about $15.68). The documentary features "8 players with 703 years between them compete in the World over 80s Table Tennis Championships in Inner Mongolia." More info, and a preview, are at the link.

A Handy Table Tennis Racket

Let me re-emphasize - this is a Handy Table Tennis Racket!

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July 25, 2012

MDTTC Camp

I won't bother giving you the week and day number (okay, yesterday was week six, day two), since they start to blend together when you are doing eleven straight weeks of camps.

This week we have about 30 players, mostly advanced, with only 4-5 "beginners." Since it's a more advanced group (and since I could work with the beginners separately), I decided not to bother my usual stroke lectures. So yesterday I gave a talk on ball placement - playing the corners and middle, when to go for the extreme wide angles (outside the corners), opening up the wide angles by playing the middle, taking away the forehand by playing to the forehand first (often short) and then going to the backhand, moving players in and out, etc. After the break I gave short talk on doubles strategy - what types of serves to use (mostly short and low backspin and no-spin) and where to place them (mostly toward the center of the table), how to receive (forehand or backhand, as long as you can loop the deep ball), where to place the ball, etc.

Last week a reporter from the Washington Post came in to do a feature on Derek Nie, the U.S. Open Boys' 11 and Under Champion. (It looks like they are featuring Nathan Hsu as well, and other MDTTC players.) He's coming back this morning, along with a photographer. Not sure yet when the story will run.

On top of that the Baltimore Sun is doing an interview with Derek this morning for a feature in this Sunday's paper. I don't think Derek even knows about this one yet. We also have a local TV station that arranged yesterday to come in and do a special on us on Aug. 16. Plus the local Gazette is doing a special on us, not sure when they are coming in. Plus there was that CCTV American special on us last week. So it's been a busy media week. Meanwhile, I'll be coaching at the Junior Olympics next week (Mon-Wed), and will send out a whole new slew of press releases afterwards.

On break I saw Derek, Allen Wang, John Hsu, and Leon Bi playing a winner-stay-on game where they started each game at deuce, and you didn't have to win by two. (In other words, first to win two points. Leon, who's about a thousand points lower, only had to win one point.) I joined in, and did surprisingly well, winning at least the first game all five times I went on the table, and winning three in a row one time. I had a nice counterlooping point with Derek, and won a point chopping against John.

Larry's Law

This has come up several times recently, so I'll give it again. "Larry's Law" is a law I came up with years ago. Often as a player trains and improves they start challenging stronger players, but still lose most of these matches close, though they'll occasionally win one. The reason is that while they may now be playing at the same level as the other player, the other player has more experience at that level, and so is tactically and mentally more prepared to win the close games. In other words, if you are challenging stronger players and keep training and playing matches against players at that level, it means that in six months or so you'll have the experience to consistently win at that level

Interview with Jerome Charyn

Here's an interview with Jerome Charyn, table tennis player and author of the table tennis book "Sizzling Chops and Devilish Spins: Ping Pong and the Art of Staying Alive" (2001). The book is "part memoir and part history," and "...bounces from Manhattan in the 1940s (where unheralded lions of the game, like Marty Reisman and Dick Miles, hustled their way through the ping-pong underworld) to China in the 1960s (when Nixon used ping pong as a tool of diplomacy) to present-day France (where Charyn, our faithful guide, battles his way through the lower-division tournaments)."

Table Tennis Center Sprouts Up in South Carolina Mall

Here's an article about a table tennis center that opened up Richland Mall in Columbia, South Carolina.

Jan-Ove Waldner Tribute

I don't think I've posted this Waldner Tribute Video (4:21), with lots of great points from the Master.

Table Tennis as It Should Be

On a makeshift wooden table balanced on barrels.

Uberpong: Table Tennis Paddles Artwork

Here's an article and video (3:52) on Uberpong's numerous table tennis paddle artworks.

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June 8, 2012

Too tight when you play?

I'm one of the roughly way-too-many-to-count players who often struggle to get loose before playing, whether in matches or practice. But I have found a solution that works most of the time, and works for many players I coach.

When you start a session (practice or matches), have fun at the start. Let yourself go. If it's practice, start out with something you do really well (preferably something physical, like looping or smashing), and have fun doing it. If it's a match, take it lightly and have fun. The goal in both cases is to relax and loosen up. Once you feel loose - and this shouldn't take too long - then take deep breath, clear your mind, and focus.

When I say focus, this doesn't mean to get super-serious. You can have a clear mind and still smile on the inside. The best players may often look impassive on the outside, but on the inside they are having the time of their life. So lighten up at the start of your sessions, loosen up, then focus, and you may surprise yourself by how well you play.

At the Easterns last weekend, the kid I was coaching, Derek Nie, started the tournament off very nervous, and played horribly in his first match. Afterwards I took him to a back table where we did some counterlooping for a while, joked about, and then played challenge matches where we trash talked. ("I cannot be beaten!" I'd say whenever I win a point," which of course just spurred him on.) In his matches shortly afterwards, he played the best of his life. (See next item.)

Eastern Open Recap

Here's a nice video recap of the Eastern Open last weekend at Rutgers University (2:50). Alas, they somehow missed me, but at 2:25 you can see Derek Nie, the kid I was coaching, who won Under 13, beat players rated 2258 and 2142, and was up double match point on a 2233 player. Not bad for a 60-pounder! (We already have a list of things he needs to work on before the U.S. Open in a few weeks, and he's been training much of this week on them. Sorry, can't report on them here, there are rival coaches reading! Perhaps after the Open. But last night he had a great session with Jeffrey Xeng Xun, one of our 2600-rated coaches, and he seemed to be playing like he had at the Easterns.)

Waldner-Persson Exhibition Point

Here's another nice exhibition between Sweden greats Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson (1:53), with five-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller doing the commentary. (On Monday I'd linked to another exhibition they'd done.)

Why does Waldner come up so often when showing spectacular shots and exhibitions? Actually, today has three items pertaining to Sweden, so we'll belatedly declare today National Day of  Sweden, an national holiday in Sweden that was actual celebrated two days ago, on June 6.)

The Power of Sidespin

Here's a five-minute compilation of spectacular points that feature sidespin, mostly sidespin looping. Perhaps the best one is the one (shown in slow motion) of Sweden's Jan-Ove Waldner that starts right at the one minute mark.

Sweden #1 Denied Olympic Spot?

Matilda Ekholm of Sweden qualified for the Olympics, but the Swedish Olympic Association apparently didn't believe she was good enough or competitive to win an Olympic medal, and so denied her a spot on the Olympic team. She is ranked 51 in the world, the highest ranked Swedish woman. (The next best is Daniela Moskovits, #399 in the world.) For comparison, on the men's side, Sweden is sending, in singles, Par Gerell (world #80) and Jorgen Persson (#88, though of course World Men's Singles Champion in 1991, 21 years ago), and a men's team of Persson, Gerell, and Jens Lundqvist (#48). (Sweden didn't qualify for an Olympic Women's Team.)

There's been a huge outcry about this, culminating in these two letters yesterday to the Swedish Olympic Committee by ITTF President Adham Sharara and Vladimir Samsonov, chair of the ITTF Athlete's Commission (and former world #2 and current #14). There's a Facebook page devoted to her cause. And here's a discussion of the situation on the about.com table tennis forum.

Rapper Yelawolf Plays Table Tennis

Here's a three-minute video interview of rapper Yelawolf, which goes back and forth between him performing and the interview, which seems to take place as he's playing table tennis. You can see him actually playing at 1:09 and 2:20, but at other times he seems to be playing as he talks, though they only show his head (you can hear the ball bouncing back and forth in the background).

Fun with Robots

Here's 33 seconds of someone having fun with a robot at full speed, set to music. Reminded me of a sequence from Forrest Gump, but this wasn't computer generated.

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June 4, 2012

Tip of the Week

Serving Short with Spin.

Eastern Open

I was at the Eastern Open this past weekend, coaching 11-year-old Derek Nie. Derek made the final of 11 and Under at the last USA Nationals, and came in with a rating of 2127. (He's very small for his age, only about 60 pounds, and is almost for certain the best player in the U.S., pound for pound.) He played very well this tournament. But he also had a very bad experience with an opponent who was the ultimate in bad sportsmanship. Balancing that was a revelation Derek had about the mental game. Here's a synopsis.

On Saturday morning he started off at 9AM in Under 2500 against Wesley Fan, rated 2163. He didn't play well this match, and Wesley played much better than his rating, and won three straight easily. (Wesley would go on to win both Under 2250 and Under 2375.) Afterwards I took Derek aside and we practiced for an hour, the last half playing practice games. Since I know what "buttons" to push when I play him, I won all five games, but they were closer and closer toward the end. The first three we had a little fun, which helped him relax, then I told him to focus the last two games, and though I won, that's when he started playing well. I could see it, and couldn't wait for his next match. We finished the session with him practicing his serves for ten minutes.

In the Open Preliminary RR, starting at 10:30 AM, he started out against Scott Lurty, rated 2268. He'd played Scott in tournaments twice in the last month and lost both badly. (He hadn't had a coach in those matches.)  I knew Scott's game pretty well, and went over the important points with Derek before the match began. He started out having trouble with Scott's serves, and was down 3-9. That's when he figured them out, and Scott got a bit soft, and next thing you know Derek had come back to win the first game at deuce! Derek was really playing well - as someone watching said, "His forehand is like a machine - he never misses!" And his backhand was almost as good, both looping and smashing.) Derek won that match three straight, 10,7,11. (Scott would go on to win Under 22 and make the final of Under 2375.) Scott said afterwards that he thought he would have won if I hadn't been coaching Derek. (He and Derek are good friends, and bantered back and forth the rest of the tournament.)

In his next match Derek played Tina Lin, rated 2233, who is playing great. This may have been the match of the tournament. By now many players were gathering around to watch this tiny dynamo who was running around the court looping and smashing from both wings, and with good serves as well. The match was a doozy. Derek won the first 12-10, Tina the second 13-11 (I think Derek had a game point), Derek won the third 11-9. Derek then went up double-match point at 8-10 in the fourth, with Tina serving. He missed a backhand smash, 9-10. They then had the point of the match. Derek started the point on the attack, looping a series of forehands. Tina blocked them back, and finally smashed. Derek fell back and fished several back, then looped one back. Tina blocked, and was again on the attack, and finally smashed a winner to deuce it. She won the game in deuce. In the fifth, Derek served at 9-all, and both times he serve and looped, but missed a backhand smash and then a loop, and Tina pulled it out, -10, 11,-9,11,9. 

Derek next played Nhu Phong Pham, rated 2142. Pham had gone five with Tina (also coming back from down 0-2 to force the fifth) and gotten a game from Scott. Derek won the first two, but Pham won the next two before Derek won the fifth and the match, 8,5,-7,-10,6.

In the last match of the, Scott played Tina. If Tina wins, she advances at 3-0. If Scott wins, then he, Tina, and Derek are tied at 2-1, and Derek advances for sure (since he beat Scott 3-0 and went five with Tina). Even though he knew he couldn't advance, Scott fought hard for Derek and had Tina match point before losing at -8,10,13,-9,13! So Tina advanced by coming back from down double match point against Derek, down match point against Scott, and having to go five with Pham as well. Talk about your pressure play!

Derek then went 5-0 in winning Under 13, winning all five matches 3-0. He was quite proud of the trophy, which he said was the "tallest" he'd won. He came off the table after one match very apologetic because he'd just played a beginning kid he'd made friends with, and leading 10-0 in the third he'd tried to give away a point, but his attempted backhand smash into the net trickled over the net for a winner. "I didn't mean to win 11-0!"

Now is where things got a bit dark. In Under 2375 he faced an opponent rated about 2000 who exhibited about the worst sportsmanship imaginable - and we knew he would act like this before the match since he had a history of doing this, especially when playing junior players. I'd coached against him once before and he'd done the same thing in that match (though not as bad as this time), and other players, especially kids, said they'd had the same experience. The player had a strong backhand but weak forehand. So I had Derek go after his forehand over and over, and he won the first two games 11-3, 11-4. The opponent talked to Derek throughout, arguing about the score and other matters, but nothing major, and Derek was under orders not to talk to the opponent except when necessary, i.e. calling out the score, etc. A large crowd was beginning to gather, and they began booing this guy for his antics and cheering for Derek.

In the third, it got ridiculous. Essentially every single point the opponent come up with something new to complain about, and began to bicker constantly with Derek, over and over making things up, and slowing the match to a snail's crawl as minutes would sometimes go by between points as he complained about the score, about lets he'd call after the point, that the ball was too shiny, about Derek's serve, and whatever else popped into his mind. He seemed to revel in the crowd booing him. Derek completely fell apart, unable to believe an adult would act like this and not sure how he should react, and lost that game 11-7. Between games I managed to get his head back together, but the guy kept it up in the fourth, making up new things to complain about all through the fourth. Derek managed to focus, and goes up about 7-3. They have another big argument about the score or something, and that's when I finally called for an umpire. Derek loses the next two points, missing easy shots, but finally gets focused, and wins the match at 3,4,-7,5, to huge cheers from the crowd.

Playing mind games with a kid? How low can one go. Derek said he'd never experienced anything like that, and couldn't imagine an adult acting like this. Another lesson learned. (Addendum added later: Five people have emailed me guessing who the person was. All five guessed correctly. The person is notorious.) 

In the last match of the round robin, Derek plays Richard Williams, rated 2269, a very athletic two-winged looper. Derek's barely able to concentrate after the last match, but he still plays pretty well, just not like he had that afternoon when his forehand was like a "machine." Over and over he'd play nice points, only to miss the final winning shot, the very shot he'd made over and over earlier. Match to Richard, 9,-9,9,6, who told Derek, "This is the last time I will ever be able to beat you."

On Sunday morning, Derek was in Under 22. He's seeded fourth in a group of five, but the top seed and fifth seed don't show. He lost the first game against Geoffrey Xiao (who seems way under-rated at 1923), but wins the next three and the match, -9,5,9,5. Geoffrey also won the first against Connor Bockoven, rated 2206, but Connor won the next three. Against Connor, Derek has great difficulty with his serves, and can't seem to control his own serves (his short serves keep going long), and the one serve that Connor has difficulty with - sorry, can't mention it here! - Derek is unable to do effectively. With Connor controlling points with his serve and receive, Derek not only spotted lots of points (mostly care of missing against Connor's serves), but was uncomfortable in the rallies. So Connor wins easily at 5,4,5. It was the only match Derek played where he lost the serve and receive battle. He now has "homework" so he'll be ready for the type of long, spin serves Connor kept throwing at him, as well as working on his own serves.

Derek had a revelation this tournament. He told me, "You can't improve your skills at a tournament. So at tournaments, the game is all mental." He is a wise fifth grader.

Derek couldn't play other Sunday events as his dad had to catch a flight that night to France for a business trip, and so we left around noon. 

Two other interesting notes. Normally the Easterns is held on Memorial Day Weekend, which was the week before. I asked why they had moved it, and was told they wanted to have Memorial Day Weekend off themselves. That's a good reason, but that meant the tournament took place right as high school students (at least in Maryland) were getting ready for finals exams, and they lost at least ten players from my club alone. I'm guessing they lost over 50 players by postponing the tournament one week. They ended up with 164 entries, compared with 227 (plus players who entered in doubles only or who paid and didn't play) last year.

Also, I saw a player wearing a CCCP shirt with hammer and sickle. CCCP is Russian for the old Soviet Union, with the hammer and sickle their official emblem. I had to check my calendar to make sure this wasn't 1991, the year the USSR collapsed!

Sports Psychology Night at MDTTC

On Friday, June 22, Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay will run a 40-minute sports psychology workshop at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. She runs the table tennis sports psychology page dorakurimay.com, and is the co-author of the book "Get Your Game Face On!" (Here's my review of the book on the USATT website.) The schedule for the night will be: 6:30-7:00PM - book signing; 7:00-7:40PM: Sports Psychology Seminar ($20, which includes a free copy of the book); after 7:40PM: Personalized Sport Psychology Consultation. Here is the flyer for the event. Come join us!

USATT Coaching Newsletters

There have been five USATT Coaching Newsletters since Nov. 2009. Here's where you can read all five!

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Positioning to Return a Smash (2:53)

Waldner-Persson Exhibition

Here are some nice exhibition points (4:10) between Swedish greats Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson. (For some reason they also have a few exhibition points stuck in between Waldner and I think Chen Xinhua of China, a chopper.)

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April 25, 2012

Set-up serves versus point-winning serves

I was teaching serves to a new student recently, and started to launch into my usual speech about the purpose of serves. Before I could finish, he interrupted and said, "I don't want to focus on serves that opponents miss. I want serves that set me up to do my best shots." He then explained how he wouldn't feel comfortable if he tried to win points on the serve outright, since if the serve did come back it likely wouldn't be setting up his strengths. Instead, he wanted serves that allowed him to use his relatively strong backhand. He also wanted to use serves to help set up his developing forehand and backhand, since the practice he'd get from using these serves and following up with a loop would make his attack stronger. 

I was stunned - this was exactly what I was about to explain, and this relative beginner already understood this. (Okay, he later admitted he'd read some articles of mine on the subject, such as this one, and in past blogs.) But that meant he'd done his research before signing up for lessons with me, which is always a good thing.) The key point is that while your serves should put pressure on an opponent (and thereby win many points outright), they should primarily be used to set up your best shot, or to help develop your attacking shots (which then become your best shots).

Because of his strong backhand, I showed the player how to serve various sidespin and topspin serves, both short and long, and with placements that would primarily favor returns to his backhand. (I also gave him the example of Dave Sakai, a USATT Hall of Fame player with a similar style of play that favored the backhand, and explained how Dave served to force opponents into backhand exchanges, often with short side-top serves to the backhand.) We also worked on short backspin serves that would set up his forehand and backhand loops, often placing these shots so as to force returns to his backhand. By mixing up these type of serves he'll develop a strong set of tactical weapons to use against anybody.

But we didn't completely leave out "trick" serves - as I explained (and he'd already read), you are handicapping yourself if you don't develop some trick serves that are designed to win points outright. Such trick serves tend to either win points outright or give opponents a ball to attack, so if they are over-used they lose their value. But used here and there, they not only win points, they give the opponent one more thing to watch for, thereby making your other serves even better.

Tim Boggan seeing red

Poor Tim Boggan. He was quite comfortable in the typewriter age, and then the world had to go and invent the computer. He uses one for his writing now (using Microsoft Word), along with that Internet thing (for email), but he and the computer have an adversarial relationship. Yesterday all of the text of the article he was writing turned red. In a state of hysteria, he called me and pleaded for help. (He called my cell phone, another device that continually amazes him. Keep in mind that he gave me permission to make fun of him in return for my help.) I was in the middle of a coaching session, but I called him back later that day. At first thinking he had actually turned the text red, I explained how to change font colors. However, that didn't work. I finally figured out that he'd somehow gotten into "Track Changes" mode, and the red was how Word kept track of changes, i.e. new text. I painstakingly explained what was happening and how to fix it, which is similar to explaining calculus to my dog Sheeba. Fortunately, Sheeba is very smart, and Tim is as well (well, in non-technical matters), and we finally got the text back to normal. But I fear it won't be the last time he will see red in his interactions with that confounded computer thing.

ICC's Three Olympians

There are zillions of articles on the USA Olympic Trials and the four Americans who qualified. Here's a good one that features the three that trained at the ICC club.

Koki Niwa upsets Ma Long

Here's the video of Koki Niwa of Japan, world #19, upsetting world #1 Ma Long of China (8:00) 4-2 (-8, 4, 8, 10, -5, 9) at the Asian Olympic Qualification, Apr. 19-22, with the time between points removed.

The most nonchalant point-winning block ever made

Watch this 28-second video and see Waldner basically stroll over and block a forehand winner against Timo Boll!

Adoni Maropis being silly

Yes, this is Adoni Maropis, the guy who nuked Valencia, California (on "24," season six) and is the reigning National Hardbat Champ. Click on the pictures and you'll see two more of Adoni, and if you keep clicking, you'll find a bunch more, including a number of table tennis action shots.

***

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January 27, 2012

Weight training for table tennis

As noted in previous blogs, I started weight training (along with stretching) last fall because of back problems, and it not only fixed the back problems, but raised my level of play. At almost 52, the muscles simply do not move the body around fast enough, and they were breaking down trying to do so. As also noted, I stopped weight training after Christmas, and paid for it.

Now, after two weeks of weight training again, the back is fine again, and once again my level of play has escalated. Now I'm able to run around the court forehand looping better than I had in years. I've even increased the weight on most of the 16 exercises I've been doing.

There are others who also do this. Many are amazed at the exploits of George Braithwaite, a two-winged looper still about 2100 level at age 77. He regularly weight trains as well, and is in better shape than many in their 20s. Take away the weights, and watch how fast he'd fall to earth.

The simple reality is that to play a physical game, your muscles have to move your body around quickly and easily, with fast body rotations in both directions, and you have to practically throw yourself into many shots. If the muscles struggle to do this, then your shots lose power and consistency, or you simply can't do them at all in a fast rally. The measure for me is simple - if I can't react to a fast block to my forehand with a relaxed but strong forehand loop without backing up too much, then I'm too slow. And I can only do this these days if I train physically.

In the words of Mr. TT, "I pity the fool who doesn't weight train for table tennis."

Here are the 16 exercises I do, and the weights I'm currently doing. I do them Mon, Wed, and Fri, three sets of ten each. I increased the weights for several on Wednesday. (I could do more weight on some of the shoulder and leg exercises, but I'm being cautious - I've had shoulder and knee problems.) The whole routine takes about 35 minutes, and then I do about ten minutes of stretching.

  1. Arm Extension (40)
  2. Arm Curl (40)
  3. Chest Press (40)
  4. Pull Down (80)
  5. Row (90)
  6. Overhead Press (40)
  7. Leg Curl (60)
  8. Leg Extensions (60)
  9. Leg Press (140)
  10. Calf Extension (190)
  11. Fly Delts (60)
  12. Rear Delts (40)
  13. Back Extension (150)
  14. Abdominal Machine (90)
  15. Torso Rotation left (60)
  16. Torso Rotation right (60)

Shadow Practice

While we're on the subject of physical training, there's another exercise you can do away from the table that will greatly improve your play - shadow practicing. This means practicing your strokes and footwork without a ball. Here are two articles I wrote on this:

He Zhi Wen's serve

Here's a video from PingSkills that teaches the serve of He Zhi Wen (2:25).

Help Wanted: 2012 Olympic Games Team Leader for USA Table Tennis

Here's your chance to be a part of the Olympic Games!

Wall Street's Ping-Pong Wizards

Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal on a ping-pong tournament for Wall Streeters!

100-year-old table tennis player

Here's an article from the ITTF on 100-year-old Alexander Kaptarenko.

Waldner and Persson warming up

With chop kills versus chop lobs (0:37). Yes, that's how Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson warm up, at least sometimes - they do things like this to loosen up before playing serious matches. I once saw them spend half an hour goofing off at the table with things like this at the World Championships a short time before they had to play matches. 

Just one happy family

Here's Tom Nguyen's companions. L-R: Grumpy, Doc, Bashful (hiding behind electrician's tape), Sneezy, Dopey (stuck in his kite string again), Happy, Sleepy, and of course Snow White. She's white, isn't she?

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