Kanak Jha

May 2, 2014

Coaches, Heal Thyself! - and Covering the Wide Forehand

I made an interesting discovery while coaching on Wednesday. Over the last few years I've been having more and more problems covering my wide forehand. In drills or free play, when players go to my wide forehand I simply can't get to them very well. Even when blocking forehands if the ball goes a bit outside the corner - an easy block for me in the past - these days I often don't get to it. At age 54 and with on-and-off again knee problems, this is to be expected. Or is it?

Okay, I'll never move as well as I did in the '80s and '90s, but have I really gotten this slow? Apparently not, as I'll explain. During my peak years one of my big strengths was covering my wide forehand, whether blocking, hitting, or looping. My forehand block has always been better than my backhand block, which is somewhat rare - but I've spent so much time blocking with it with practice partners looping forehands that it became a wall, both in drills and games. But now it's like a big hole over there.

I was doing a drill where my student (about a 1600 player) would serve and loop anywhere. I was getting irritated at myself that he kept getting me with loops to my wide forehand. So I asked him to serve and loop a few to my wide forehand so I could practice my forehand block. The first two times he did this I just waved at the ball as it went by - and that's when I realized I was leaning toward the ball instead of stepping. So I forced myself to step to the next one, and lo and behold, suddenly I was able to cover the shot much more easily. I shadow practiced this basic move a few times, then we went back to the serve and loop anywhere drill. And now I was able to (mostly) cover the wide forehand!

What had happened? It seems that as my feet have slowed down in recent years I've felt rushed covering the forehand, and so had started leaning when rushed, which is a bad habit. To cover the wide forehand (whether blocking or any other shot) you have to step to the ball, which is what I teach, what I've done for most of my 38 years of playing, and what I normally do when I have time. But when rushed is exactly when you most need to focus on stepping to the ball, and that's where I'd fallen into a bad habit without really noticing it. If I were still playing tournaments, where I used to regularly analyze my game, I probably would have caught this a lot sooner, or more likely stopped it from ever happening. So if you see me doing quick steps to my right at the club, or in my office, or at the grocery store, you know what I'm practicing.

How about you, dear reader? Have you fallen into any bad habits without noticing it? It's important to regularly analyze your game. One of the ironies of the sport is that many players are constantly learning new things, but unknowingly are almost as rapidly unlearning other things, which is why some players have difficulty improving.

Extremely Busy - TT and SF

I'm in an extremely busy time right now. In the world of table tennis, I'm about to start the final editing phase of my new book, Table Tennis Tips (with special thanks to proofers Kyle Angeles, Scott Gordon, Stephanie, Hughes, John Olsen, Dennis Taylor, and Kevin Walton). I've got my daily blog and weekly tip. I've got about 25 hours total of private and group coaching. I pick up kids after school five days a week to take to our afterschool program. I've got the new MDTTC Newsletter to finalize. Plus a zillion minor things on my todo list, from U.S. Open arrangements to organizing our new Monday night training sessions to doing the accounting for the junior classes I teach. Meanwhile, I'm gearing up for ten consecutive weeks of Mon-Fri training camps this summer, where I do all the talking and much of the organizing. (I do get two of those weeks off - July 1-5 for the U.S. Open, and July 22-26 for the writing workshop I mention below, so I'll only be doing eight of them.)

But it's the world of science fiction & fantasy that's taking up much of my time at the moment. I've got three big projects I'm working on right now. As some of you know, I'm also a novelist. My first novel, Sorcerers in Space came out in November. (It's cheaper if you buy directly from the publisher, Class Act Books. It's a humorous fantasy retelling of the 1960s U.S.-Soviet space race, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts and cosmonauts.) This is in addition to the anthology of my 30 best published short stories, Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges. ("More Pings and Pongs" will be coming out early next year.)

A publisher is interested in another novel I wrote, "Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates," a SF novel that covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100 (where the whole world has adopted the American two-party electoral system - heaven forbid!). But they want rewrites on several parts. So I just began work on that yesterday - some of you may have seen me yesterday disappearing for several hours in the back room at MDTTC to work on it between coaching sessions. I'm also going to a nine-day writer's workshop this summer, which involves reading and critiquing roughly 300 pages of material. (That's my version of an annual vacation.) Finally, I'm in the middle of a new short story. So I'm currently bouncing back and forth between the worlds of TT and SF like a ping-pong ball. (Or like the souls of famous American generals Washington, Grant, Lee, Pershing, Eisenhower, which I pictured bouncing about on a battlefield - like ping-pong balls - in my fantasy horror story War of the Night.)

But rest assured, it's table tennis that mostly pays the bills, and so table tennis gets top priority.

World Championships

I was debating whether to do Worlds coverage here in my blog, but they are already doing an excellent job elsewhere, so I'll just link to the following two places, where you'll find results, articles, and lots of video. (I'll run this segment daily throughout the Worlds.)

Interview at the Worlds with Stefan Feth and Kanak Jha

Here's the interview (3:47) with the USA Men's Coach Stefan and 13-year-old USA Team Member Kanak.

Adam Bobrow and Ma Long Messing Around

Here's the video (1:39) where Adam tries to sidespin chop-lob down the Chinese superstar. Wait'll you see at the end who the cameraman is! (Hint - youngest member of Chinese men's team.) Adam won the ITTF "Voice of Table Tennis" contest and is at the Worlds as their primary broadcaster.

St. Louis Open

Here are the daily press releases by Barbara Wei about the upcoming $16,000 Butterfly St. Louis Open this weekend. (I linked to the previous ones already.)

Ma Long Playing with No-Arms Player

(I ran this yesterday, but had a bad link, so I'm running it again.) Here's the article and video (65 sec) of Ma Long rallying with Ibrahim Elhoseny, who holds the racket in his mouth.

Ten Table Tennis Champs Staring at Ping Pong Balls

Here's the article and pictures.

Butterfly Ad

Here's a video (45 sec) of a rather interesting Butterfly ad. (Disclaimer: I'm sponsored by Butterfly.) It's mostly animated, with an appearance at the end by Timo Boll.

Jimmy Fallon and Diane Keaton Play Beer Pong

Here's the video (3:23). I don't usually post too much about beer pong, but this one was pretty funny as they competed, and then it devolved into a ball fight, and then they just upended the whole baskets of balls on each other. Here's an article about it, with pictures.

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January 14, 2014

Tip of the Week

Maximum Power and Control.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis and Other Stuff

Once again we're at it, for the 14th year in a row. (Disclosure, I only helped a little on the first volume.) Yesterday morning USATT Historian Tim Boggan (now an experienced 83 years young) moved into my house so he could direct as I do layouts and photo work (with great help from photographer and USATT Hall of Famer Mal Anderson) on his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 14. Yes, you read that right; we're into the 14th volume, which covers the years 1985-86. Here's TimBogganTableTennis.com, where you can learn about and order the books.

It's not going to be a fun two weeks. Basically it means being at my desk at 7AM every day and working most of the day, until it's time for my coaching hours. If I get back early enough, we work on it again that night. Then he goes to sleep, and I sit down and stare at my computer, completely exhausted, and debate whether to do the next morning's blog then (as well as the weekly Tip of the Week), or get up extra early and do it in the morning. (I'm typing this a little after 11PM at night, and still have the Tip to write. I already put together all the short segments below, though I'll likely add more in the morning.)

As I noted in my last blog, I was away at my nephew's wedding and a family gathering in New Orleans Wed-Sun, returning around midnight on Sunday night. I had three hours of work that night that I had to take care of, and then I got a good four hours of sleep before starting work. Technically Tim didn't come in until 9:30 AM (driving down from New York), but I had a lot of stuff to do to prepare for him, from cleaning the house a bit to preparing the documents we'd be working on.

On an exhaustion scale of 1 to 10, I'm at 17 right now. And we've only done one day. And my coaching gets busier as the week goes on.

I actually had little coaching yesterday or today. Instead, I'm picking up kids at schools, taking them to the club, and watching over them as they do homework for our new Afterschool Program. Starting Wednesday my coaching picks up, with three hours that night. I don't even want to talk about the weekend!

While in New Orleans I mostly was busy with family and wedding stuff. (It's been something like 20 years since I was last at a wedding, and eight years since I last wore a suit and tie.) I did get one afternoon off where I spent four hours at the World War II Museum. I also put together (with help from other family members) a 550-piece The Hobbit jigsaw puzzle.

USA Grand Tour Finals

The USA Grand Tour Finals were this past weekend. Here's where you can find results, photos, video, etc. On a side note, ten copies of my book Table Tennis Tales & Techniques were given out as raffle prizes!

SafeSport

USATT Coaches, listen closely: ALL USATT certified coaches need to go online and complete the background check process now required by the USOC. Here's the USATT info page on this.

USATT Athletes of the Month - Dec. 2013

Here's the article on Ariel Hsing (female), Kanak Jha (male), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic).

USATT and Leagues

At the about.com table tennis forum there's a discussion of the Atlanta Tennis Leagues (tennis, not table tennis), and how they are ten times bigger than USATT. Jay wrote about this; here's my short response. And here's USATT National and ITTF Coach Donn Olsen's response to me.

Morrisville, NC Might Get Full-time Training Center

Here's the article in yesterday's The Cary News.

Introduction to Multiball

Here's a new video (2:46) from PingSkills that teaches how to do multiball training.

Using Pivot Forehand to Your Advantage

Here's the article from TableTennisMaster - and the two common errors.

"Speed Gluing was Harmless" (Waldner didn't say this)

That's the headline and quote in this article that came out yesterday. However, what Jan-Ove Waldner really said in the article is, "Speedgluing should have been allowed to continue providing it was harmless." That's a very different statement than the headline. But the article does have some interesting stuff about Waldner's views on various rules topics.

How Wealthy is World's Men's Singles Champion Zhang Jike?

Here's an article on it!

Tahl Leibovitz Highlights Video

Here's the video (4:31)! Due to disabilities, he uses a somewhat unique grip, holding the racket very low so the handle is almost in his palm. And he's a shot-maker!

Star Rally Shot of the Year

Here's the video (23 sec) of the shot at the 2013 World Championships by Timo Boll, who just won the TMS International contest.

2013 Ping Pong Dubai Male and Female Table Tennis Stars

Here's their videos of winners Zhang Jike (male, 23sec) and Li Xiaoxia (female, 24 sec). And here's video of the male nominees (1:09) and female nominees (1:09).

Triples

Here's a video (2:38) from the BBC on the newest TT fad - triples!

Ghostly Table Tennis

Or is this Death playing table tennis? You decide; it's the latest table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan.

Non-Table Tennis - After Death Anthology

The After Death fantasy horror anthology came out last year, with my story "The Devil's Backbone." Here's a review of the anthology that came out yesterday - and read what they wrote about my story!

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January 7, 2014

Away Wed-Sun

I'll be away the next five days, Wednesday to late Sunday night (Jan. 8-12), going to my nephew's wedding and family gathering in New Orleans. So no blog until next Tuesday. (I'll also put the Tip of the Week up on Tuesday.) At that point things get exciting - USATT Historian Tim Boggan moves in with me on Monday, and we begin the grueling two-week task of doing the photo work and layouts for Volume 14 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, as I've done with the previous volumes. 

USATT Election Results

USATT just completed a special election for the open seat vacated by Christian Lillieroos. Here's the announcement - Jim McQueen wins over Ross Brown. Here's the USATT Board of Directors listing.

Ratings Records

I don't like to harp on ratings, but a record's a record. Here are two new ratings records, by Crystal Wang and Klaus Wood, both from my club, MDTTC. (However, as noted below, Klaus has spent most of the last four years in Taiwan.) 

Just as she did as a 9-year-old (with a 2150 ratings) and a 10-year-old (with a 2355 rating), Crystal Wang just set the all-time record for highest rating for an 11-year-old, boys or girls, with a 2402 rating after the North American Teams. Alas, it didn't last - at the USA Nationals, where she became the youngest ever to win Under 22 Women (beating in the semifinals soon-to-be three-time USA Women's Singles Champion Ariel Hsing), she sort of imploded in Under 18 Girls' Singles with several huge rating losses, and so came out at 2304. Suffice to say that few who play her think of her as "only" 2304.

Did she deserve the 2402 rating? You decide. (And remember that she beat the 2511 Ariel Hsing three weeks later at the Nationals!)
Wins: 2359, 2356, 2348, 2345, 2315, 2305, 2304, 2289, 2277, 2276, 2262, 2247, 2134, 2059, 2012.
Losses: 2781, 2542, 2394, 2325, 2305.

Crystal has been chasing after Kanak Jha's records for the last few years. Kanak, 13, set the record for highest rated 9-, 10-, 11-, 12-, and now 13-year-old in history, with Crystal breaking the first three. (Kanak's highest ratings at age 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 were 2017, 2265, 2366, 2468, and 2635. This last one especially is going to be tough for anyone to top! Note - I'm not absolutely certain Kanak's 2017 rating at age 9 was the record, but I think it was.) The two are leading a huge surge in elite cadet players in the U.S., which is stronger than it's ever been. Just for the record, both Crystal and Kanak are U.S.-born citizens. I had a listing of Kanak's highest ratings at each age, and now I can't find it, alas - but I know his highest as an 11-year-old was somewhere in the 2350 range, which is still incredible.

At the USA Nationals, Klaus Wood, 12, went from 637 to 1747, a gain of 1110 points, which I believe might be a record. If anyone's gained that many in a tournament, let me know. At worse, it's probably a record for the Nationals. The amazing thing is that's way, way too low for him. Just look at his results - he beat players rated 2261, 2068, 1906, and 1892, and his worst loss was to a 2132 player in five games! He's really 2100+. But his 637 rating was from 2009. Here's his story: he started out as a 9-year-old at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 2009 (my club), and played five tournaments that year, getting that 637 rating. I coached him a number of times that year in group sessions. Then his father got a job in Taiwan, and so he moved there and spent the last four years there training. (He's half Chinese.) He came back to Maryland for a time this summer and attended two of our camps. Then he attended the USA Nationals. He's back in Taiwan again, but he's supposed to return to Maryland permanently later this year. We look forward to having him back.

Full-Time Table Tennis Centers

I've added two new clubs to the list I maintain of full-time table tennis centers in the U.S.; there are now 67 on my list.  The new ones are the Zaman TTC in Westminster, CA, and the Washington TTC in Gaithersburg, MD. Let me know if there are any I've missed. I'm sure there are a few out there that I don't know about. One rule - the club needs a web page in order to be listed.

There are full-time centers in 23 states. The leaders are California with 20 and New York with 12. After that it drops down to four in Maryland and Texas, and three in Georgia and Oregon, and two in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. States without a full-time center (in order of population) are MI, TN, MO, WI, CO, AL, SC, LA, KY, OK, CT, IA, MS, AR, KS, NE, WV, ID, HI, ME, NH, MT, DE, SD, AK, ND, VT, AND WY.

I was curious as to how they match up if you divide the state's population by the number of centers, and here's what I found, with number of full-time centers in parenthesis.

Population Per Full-Time Center in Millions

  1. RI (01): 1.1
  2. OR (03): 1.3
  3. MD (04): 1.5
  4. NY (12): 1.6
  5. CA (20): 1.9
  6. NM (01): 2.1
  7. NV (01): 2.8
  8. UT (01): 2.9
  9. GA (03): 3.3
  10. MA (02): 3.4
  11. NJ (02): 4.9
  12. MN (01): 5.4
  13. WI (01): 5.7
  14. PA (02): 6.4
  15. IL (02): 6.5
  16. IN (01): 6.57
  17. TX (04): 6.61
  18. AZ (01): 6.63
  19. WA (01): 7.0
  20. VA (01): 8.3
  21. NC (01): 9.8
  22. OH (01): 11.6
  23. FL (01): 19.5

Expert Table Tennis

Here's a growing step-by-step guide to playing table tennis. Not all the segments are complete, but it's halfway - nine articles done, nine to go!

Around the Net Winner

Here's video (41 sec) of Adam Bobrow winning a match in Vietnam with a spectacular around-the-net backhand counter-smash winner.

Imitating the Stars

Here's a funny video (1:56) of someone imitating four top Chinese players. See if you can identify which is which!  If you're stumped, the comments below it identify them. (Anyone who doesn't recognize the first hasn't been paying attention!)

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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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November 8, 2013

Playing at a Club with Great Conditions

One of the problems with playing at a very nice club with very nice conditions is you get used to it. So when you go to tournaments, where the conditions often aren't so nice, you have problems. For example, at my club we have this nice rubberized red flooring, which is great for moving on, as well as having enough give so that it doesn't hurt your legs from the constant movement. But many of us will be playing at the Teams in three weeks, where we'll spend three days playing on somewhat slippery and unforgiving concrete. How do we prepare?

Recently I've been doing "shoe checks." I've been checking the bottoms of everyone's playing shoes to make sure they are in good condition. On our red floors you can wear your shoes down and it doesn't affect the grip on the floor. But on concrete floors (and most wood floors) the floor is more slippery, and you need grippy shoes. So I've been urging those with worn-out shoes to get new ones. Otherwise they'll be sliding all over the place at the Teams.

There are other ways of adapting. You've probably seen players on slippery floors step on a damp cloth between points to increase traction. There are also non-stick sprays you can put on your shoes - in table tennis, I think only Butterfly sells these. (I just ordered a bottle to try out, though I'm not playing in the Teams, just coaching.)

Of course, if you are not from my club, I urge you to show up with nicely worn-out shoes. I mean, c'mon, don't you want shoes you are used to? You'll have three days to learn how to slide into position.

On a side note (and I think I once blogged about this but can't find it), it is a huge advantage to play at a club with nice conditions. The conditions are conducive to high-level play, leading to, yes, high-level play, which helps you improve faster. If your club has poor conditions (bad lighting, bad background, slippery floors, bad tables, etc.), it limits the level of play, and so you don't improve as fast. There is the benefit that if your club has poor conditions, you are ready for tournaments, but that benefit pales in comparison to the higher level of play you'll be able to reach in good conditions.

Non-Table Tennis: Novel and Philcon

If all goes well, I should have copies of my novel "Sorcerers in Space" sometime this morning. Then I drive up to Philcon, the annual Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention, to spend Friday afternoon and night attending panels and (hopefully) promoting the novel. I come back late Friday night as I'm coaching at the Potomac Open on Saturday all day. (On the other hand, I'm still feeling the effects of that slight cold I wrote about yesterday, so I'm considering spending the day in bed. I'll decide later.)

Addendum added 20 minutes after posting blog: I got a phone call, and discovered my voice is completely hoarse this morning. So I'm apparently sick again. No Philcon, but I'll get a lot of reading in bed today....

USA Cadets at the World Cadet Challenge

Here are results and pictures.

Interview with USA's Kanak Jha

Here's the ITTF's interview (1:45) with Kanak at the World Cadet Challenge.

Coaching Articles from Table Tennis Master

Crazy Point Between Wang Liqin and Oh Sang Eun

Here it is (38 sec).

USATT Tips of the Day

USATT has been putting up as "Tips of the Day" the 171 Tips of the Week I wrote for them a few years ago as "Dr. Ping-Pong." I was going to put up links each Friday to the previous week's Tips, but forgot last Friday. So below are the 16 Tips since the last time I linked to them all - enjoy!!! (Click on link for complete tip.) 

Nov 07, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Backhand Attack Placements
The strength of most backhand attacks is that they usually involve a quicker, shorter stroke, and so are harder for opponent’s to react to.

Nov 06, 2013 - Tip of the Day - How to Vary Your Receive Against Short Backspin Serves
Most players return short backhand serves with a simple push, without much thought to it.

Nov 05, 2013 - Tip of the Day - How to Win
You can't win unless you can find tactical match-ups where you are better than your opponent.

Nov 04, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Placement of Aggressive Shots
When attacking, you should generally put all your shots to one of three places: wide forehand, wide backhand, or middle (opponent’s playing elbow).

Nov 03, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Inside-out Backhands
Want to really tie your opponent in knots not to mention win a lot of points? Aim your backhand crosscourt with a normal backhand stroke.

Nov 02, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Place Your Quick Backhand Attacks
When attacking a ball right off the bounce with their backhands, most players automatically go crosscourt to the opponent’s backhand. That’s not usually the most effective place to go.

Nov 01, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Blocking Tips
One of the most common reason players have trouble blocking against heavy topspin is because they hold the racket too high.

Oct 31, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Anticipate an Opponent’s Direction
Get in the habit of watching how an opponent hits the ball. Does he change direction at the last instant ever?

Oct 30, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Use Practice Matches to Practice
Exactly as the heading says this is the time to try out new things, develop new techniques, and generally improve your game.

Oct 29, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Play the Middle Against a Two-Winged Hitter
Some opponents hit well from both sides, seemingly taking a big swing and smacking in everything, both forehand and backhand.

Oct 28, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Don’t Give a Quick Player a Short Ball
If your opponent is quicker than you, than the last thing you want to do is let him rush you.

Oct 27, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Playing the "Unique" Style
You’ve probably all had the experience of playing someone who plays "different."

Oct 26, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Watch Top Players to Raise Your Own Level of Play
One of the best ways to improve your shots is get a good visual image of what your shots should look like just before playing.

Oct 25, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Footwork Against Off-Table Player
A player with good footwork doesn’t wait to see where the ball is going before he prepares to move.

Oct 24, 2013 - Tip of the Day - On Short Serves to the Forehand, Challenge the Forehand, Go Down the Line
Assuming two right-handers play, a common rally starts with a short serve to the forehand. Many receivers don’t understand the strategies in receiving this shot.

Oct 23, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Fool Your Opponents - Forehand Position for Backhands?
When playing close to the table, you have very little time to make a transition from forehand to backhand shots, and vice versa.

Octopus Table Tennis

Yes, that's an octopus playing table tennis, and yes, you can put it on your shirt.

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November 5, 2013

Junior Hamburger Incentives

A few days ago I promised Crystal Wang and Nathan Hsu that I'd eat a cheeseburger if she won Women's Singles at the Nationals or if he made the Junior Boys' Team. (EDIT: I've since promised the same to Derek Nie if he wins Mini-Cadet Singles or makes the Cadet Team.) Doesn't seem like much of an incentive, does it? Here's the story of my 33-year hamburger estrangement.

In 1980, when I was 20, I was living in Wilson, North Carolina, training every day at the Butterfly Table Tennis Center. My highest rating achieved at the time was 1954, but I'd been stuck at around 1850 for the past two years. I entered four events in the North Carolina Open - Open Singles, Open Doubles (with Tom Poston), Under 2100, and Under 22. I wasn't seeded in Open Singles or Under 2100, and I was one of the lower seeds in Open Doubles and Under 22.

After pulling off an early-round upset I ate a quarter pounder with cheese from the McDonalds down the street. When I pulled off another upset, I had another. Every time I pulled off an upset I ate one. We'll now jump all the way to the final of Open Singles. At this point, here is the situation:

  • I've won Open Doubles
  • I've won Under 2100
  • I've won Under 22
  • I've eaten nine quarter pounders with cheese in the course of about five hours
  • I'm bent over in agony with a stomachache and am nauseous
  • I'm in the final of Open Singles against Fred King, a 2100 player (that's 2200+ in modern ratings)
  • Fred is serving up 17-13 in the fifth (games were to 21 in those days and you served five times in a row)

Despite constantly clutching my stomach in agony between points, and attacking nearly every ball with my forehand (both looping and smashing), I win all five points on Fred's serve to lead 18-17, and finally eke out the win, 21-19 in the fifth. I swept all four events I entered, and it was a major event in my playing career as I jumped from 1850 level to around 2100. But I came out in such agony I almost went to the hospital. At that point the very sight of a hamburger made me nauseous.

Over the next twenty years I didn't eat a single hamburger or cheeseburger. I'd eat meatballs in spaghetti and sloppy joes, but somehow a straight hamburger or cheeseburger brought back memories of that intense stomachache and nauseousness. Then, at the 2000 Junior Olympics, I told the story to our group of 30 Maryland juniors at dinner the night before the competition. They asked me what they had to do to get me to eat one. I said if they won over half the gold medals, I'd do so. Guess what? They did. (Actually, they did this nearly every year in the 1990s through the early 2000s.) So at dinner afterwards, while everyone watched, I ate a cheeseburger. I put lots and lots of lettuce, tomato, and onions on it to drown out the hamburger, and managed to survive.

I haven't eaten another one since.

So here we are, 33 years after that epic comeback against Fred, and I've got two juniors gunning to make me eat another. I'll probably give the same incentive to a few of our other juniors if they reach major goals at the Nationals. And then I'll force myself to eat another cheeseburger. Ugh!

Pretty good junior incentive program!

ITTF Trick Shot Competition

The winner of the ITTF Trick Shot Competition is supposed to be officially announced tomorrow, but I just got an email from USA's Adam Hugh that, even though he led on nearly every objective criteria, the winner is Josep Anton Velazquez of Spain, with this entry, over this one from Adam. We should have more on this tomorrow.

USA's Kunal Chodri and Kanak Jha Win Bronze

They made the semifinals of Cadet Doubles at the ITTF World Cadet Challenge (which ended Sunday in Otocec, Slovenia), defeating Horacio Cifuentes and Gustavo Yokota of Argentina and Brazil in the quarterfinals, 11-8 in the fifth. In the semifinals they led 2-0 against Hwang Minha and Man Kwan of Korea and Hong Kong before losing in five, -12,-9,7,6,4.

Table Tennis Facts

Here are eight of them - but are they all really facts? The fifth items says players smash the ball over 100 mph, but there's been no test that I know of that shows this, while most show that few smashes go over 70mph. (Of course, this might have a lot to do with the testing procedure and definition of the speed. The ball may leave the racket at a high speed and rapidly slow down due to air resistance.) The last item says China, Sweden, and South Korea are the "current world powers," but it's been a while since Sweden was a world power.

Why Serve Variation is Vital

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

The Honeymooners Table Tennis

Here's a video (26 minutes, but you only need to watch the first 3-4 minutes) of a table tennis scene in the classic TV show "The Honeymooners." The episode, "Something Fishy," played on Dec. 17, 1955, and opens 32 seconds in with a roughly three-minute table tennis scene between the characters Ralph Kramden (actor Jackie Gleason) and Ed Norton (actor Art Carney), mostly involving Ed leading Ralph 19-2, with Ralph then pretending to lose the ball so as not to lose a ten-cent bet over the game. About a minute after the table tennis scene sewer worker Ed also quips about playing table tennis in the sewers. Special thanks to Steve Thoren for alerting me to this classic scene.

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May 28, 2013

May 28, 2013

Tip of the Week

What to Do at the End of a Close Game.

Here Was My Weekend

SATURDAY. I was coaching pretty much all day. I gave a private lesson from 9:15-10:15AM, then a group beginning/intermediate junior session from 10:30AM-Noon. From 2-4 PM I gave private lessons, and then from 4:30-6:30 was a practice partner for a group session.

Probably the most interesting session was the 9:15-10:15AM session with Sameer, 11, rated 1181. I've been coaching him at his house where there's only about four feet going back. Today was the first time I gave him a private lesson at the club where there was room to go back - so much of the lesson was on looping against block, which he can't do at his house. He's going to start taking more lessons at the club for this reason. He has a tendency to stand up straight, and then his strokes fall apart. When he stays low and doesn't rush, he's a lot better.

In the afternoon one of my sessions was with John Olsen, 56, rated 1999. I've been working with him for a few years now, and now he's playing me dead even in our practice matches. Against juniors, I'm still pretty good, but more experienced tactical players are starting to see the holes in my game now that I've slowed down to sloth speed. It's not easy being a mostly one-winged attacker when your feet move like a sloth. Add that John's used to my serves, and that my blocking in matches has also deteriorated due to slower footwork (yes, good blocking takes footwork), and he's not easy to play anymore.

That night I saw the movie Epic, which I thought was pretty good. If you go to see it, early on there is a scene where the main character, M.K., takes a taxi to visit her father out in the wilderness. She has a short discussion with the taxi driver. The taxi driver is voiced by none other than Judah Friedlander, one of the stars from 30 Rock, stand-up comedian, and well-known table tennis player! (I've given him several private lessons. That's why he's the World Champion.)

I looked around that afternoon and realized how spoiled players at MDTTC are, along with a few other clubs around the country. Regular club players were playing side-by-side with some of the best players and juniors in the country. Here's a listing of some of the players or coaches at the club that afternoon, with their rating (and age if a junior - lots of good juniors!), with apologies to those left out.

  • Cheng Yinghua, 2614
  • Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), 17, 2587
  • Jack Huang, 2526
  • Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), 14, 2498
  • Harold Baring, former #2 in Philippines, 2400+
  • Raghu Nadmichettu, 2331
  • Richard Doverman, 2310
  • Crystal Wang, 11, 2292
  • Zhang Liang Bojun ("Brian"), 16, 2251
  • Chen Jie ("James"), 16, 2249
  • Tong Tong Gong, 15, 2246
  • Stephen Yeh, 2233
  • Derek Nie, 12, 2215
  • Roy Ke, 13, 2191
  • Lixin Lang, 2187
  • Heather Wang, 2181
  • Barbara Wei, 2178
  • Larry Hodges, 2145 (I'm getting old!)
  • Greg Mascialino, 2099
  • Changli Duan, 2080
  • Changping Duan, 2065
  • Amy Lu, 12, 2022
  • Princess Ke, 12, 1953
  • Adam Yao, 11, 1908
  • Tony Li, 11, 1799
  • Wesley Duan, 12, 1761
  • Tiffany Ke, 8, 1430
  • Lisa Lin, 9, 1385
  • Missing on Saturday, but back on Sunday: Nathan Hsu (17, 2397) and John Hsu (2248)

SUNDAY. I coached a 6-year-old from 10AM-11AM. He's up to 86 forehands and 35 backhands in a row against multiball. But at his age hand-eye coordination is a problem, so we spent some time on ball bouncing. He was able to bounce the ball up and down on his racket seven times, a new record for him. It isn't easy as his reactions at this age aren't fast enough to really react to the ball in the time it takes to bounce up and down on his paddle. He could just bounce the ball higher, but then he loses control.

I was off until that afternoon. I had another private session from 3:15-4:15, then a group junior session from 4:30-6:00. While I was coaching there was an elderly woman hitting with an older teenager for about an hour, and I realized they had been there the day before as well. I'm guessing it was a grandmother and grandson. What made it interesting is both had these identical windmill-style forehands, sort of like an exaggerated Dick Miles forehand (if you've ever seen that!). They'd bring their rackets way over their heads like a windmill, then bring it down and hit the ball. They weren't much beyond the beginning stage, but it was somewhat obvious he had learned his strokes from her.

The group session was smaller than usual because of Memorial Day weekend. With three coaches (myself, Raghu Nadmichettu, and John Hsu), and a practice partner (11-year-old Tony Li, rated 1799, who helps out in these sessions), the kids got a lot of one-on-one practice.

MONDAY. I believe yesterday was the first morning since Christmas where I didn't have either a blog or coaching in the morning. I actually could sleep late! (Except my 15-year-old dog, Sheeba, can no longer last the night, and as usual got me up at 4AM to go out.) I got a lot of work done on various writing projects.

Plastic Ball Conflict of Interest?

To quote from the OOAK forum, "It comes to light that Dr. Joachim Kuhn, the ITTF Equipment Committee member in charge of ball testing and approval, the man behind the report about how great the new plastic balls are (that was recently suppressed by the ITTF without explanation) has a MAJOR conflict of interest. Turns out that Dr. Kuhn's wife, In Sook Yoo, is one of the two patent holders, so Mr. and Mrs. Kuhn stand to make money on every new ball sold." There are discussions on this on the OOAK forum and About.com.

Kanak Jha Wins Two Silver Medals at Polish Cadet Open

Here's the pictures and caption. The events were Cadet Boys' Doubles and Teams.

What Table Tennis Is All About

Here's a new tribute video (4:50) from Genius Table Tennis.

Worlds Pre-Match Light Show

Here it is (2:13)!

Meet Coach Richard McAfee

JOOLA put together this video (2:00) welcoming him as a sponsored coach. I think all sponsors should do this with all their sponsored coaches and players.

Will Shortz on TV

Here's a video (16:16) of world-renowned puzzlist and Westchester TTC owner Will Shortz last Wednesday on the Artie Lange Show, with guest host Colin Quinn. As described by Will, "The conversation started with puzzles, then segued to table tennis, and ended with me playing Colin in a TT match." The discussion turns to table tennis at 8:46 (here). For the record, Will won 11-1.

Real Table Tennis

Outside, where the buffalo roam. (Or cattle anyway.) Or perhaps indoors, on the floor, with shoes for a net.

Cartoon Fox/Kitten

I'm not sure if this Facebook picture is a baby fox or a kitten. (If you can't see it in Facebook, try this.)

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November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

See my Thanksgiving links at the end of this blog.

Malware warnings all gone

It took a while, and I had to hire Sucuri Securities, but all the problems are over with Google blacklisting the site for malware that was long gone. Our long national nightmare is over. Or at least mine is. (One complication - apparently you might get a false malware warning if you visited the site recently. If so, clear your cache - sorry! - and it'll go away. That's what happened to me.)

No Blog Friday

I'll be coaching (and playing part-time) Fri-Sun at the North American Team Championships. Here's a preview picture!

Crystal Wang Enters the Stratosphere

Crystal Wang, age 10, is now rated 2245. This is by far the highest rating ever achieved by a girl at that age, and the second highest for anyone that age, boys or girls. The highest rating ever achieved by a 10-year-old is Kanak Jha two years ago at 2265. (And Crystal still has three months to gain 20+ points before she turns 11.) No one else has even been close to breaking 2200 at that age. For perspective, Ariel Hsing's highest rating as a 10-year-old was 2066, and Lily Zhang's was 1887 - and these two are now both our best junior girls and our best women as well.

To recap what I wrote in my blog last week (Nov. 13), Crystal already had achieved the highest rating ever for a 9-year-old last year, boys or girls, at an even 2150. She was rated 2166 earlier this year when she began complaining of wrist problems, and had three poor tournaments in a row, dropping to 2099 - still #1 in the country for Under 11, Under 12, and Under 13. They x-rayed the wrist and discovered she'd been playing with a fractured (i.e. broken) wrist. So she had to take most of the summer off. She started up again at the end of the summer, and now she's even better than before. At the Potomac Open she defeated players rated 2334, 2240, 2205, and 2149, without losing to anyone under 2200. It's no fluke as she just before the Potomac Open she defeated two players over 2300 to make the final of the MDTTC Elite League. (Crystal trains at the Maryland Table Tennis Center.)

Crystal (yes, she was born in the U.S.) plays a very modern two-winged looping game, hitting and looping on both sides. She's a member of the USA Cadet Girls' Team, making the team last year as a 9-year-old competing in an under 15 event. She trains long hours, day after day, with Coach Jack Huang her primary coach, though she also trains with the MDTTC coaches and players. She and Amy Wang (no relation, a year younger, coincidentally rated 2099, from NJ) are essentially Ariel & Lily, Part II, east coast version - the new Dynamic Duo, but rated even higher for their ages. The Walloping Wangs? But they both have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to follow in the huge footsteps of Ariel and Lily. 

And to think I'll have to write about this all over again if Crystal breaks 2265 in the next three months....Jeez.

Just to be clear, I'm not obsessed with ratings, and in fact believe they often hurt the sport, especially at the junior stage. (Here's my article on Juniors and Ratings, which I also linked to yesterday.) But they are usually a pretty decent indicator of level.

Update: 2013 USA Junior and Cadet National Team Selection Procedures

There's a mysterious change in the USA Junior and Cadet Team Selection Procedures. Here's the note from the USATT web page - it sure would be helpful to have some hint on why they withdrew the previous procedures. Below is the text from the message:

  • The previously published selection procedures for the 2013 Junior and Cadet National Teams are hereby withdrawn.  The High Performance Committee will promptly review and revise those procedures, subject to the approval of the Athletes’ Advisory Council.   The selection procedures then will be republished.
  • As previously announced, the 2013 Junior and Cadet Trials will be conducted in Las Vegas at the U.S. National Championships on Dec 18 – 22, 2012.  All entries have been received, and all who entered will compete for spots on the National Team.
  • The revised 2013 Selection Procedures will be posted on the USATT website NO LATER THAN Dec. 10, 2012.

The Power of Zhang Jike

Here's a musical highlights video of World Men's Singles Champion Zhang Jike (6:07).

Jean-Philippe Gatien

Here's a highlights reel (5:02) of 1993 World Men's Singles Champion Jean-Philippe Gatien, often called the fastest man in table tennis. (He and 2004 Olympic Men's Singles Gold Medalist Ryu Seung Min should have a race!) The key thing to see when you watch Gatien play is how much of the table he covers with his forehand without backing up.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Last year I did an entire blog on Thanksgiving and Table Tennis. Rather than try to up that, I'll simply link to it so you can again enjoy these nine items, including the Table Tennis Thanksgiving Turkey.

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June 20, 2012

Day Two at the MDTTC Camp - the Backhand

There are just over 30 players in the camp, ranging from beginner to 2400, from age 7 to 24. Today's focus was on the backhand, though of course that varied from player to player. I did a backhand demo with Tong Tong Gong where he and I went at it backhand to backhand. I am happy to say I smacked about three dozen consecutive backhands at full speed, an incredible display of advanced backhand prowess. I am unhappy to say that Tong Tong did three dozen plus one. Yeah, I finally missed.

So how's your backhand? Do you tend to keep the racket tip down? (This is for shakehanders.) This gives you extra power and can turn your backhand into almost a second forehand. However, it may cost you control and quickness, and make you weaker in the middle. Do you tend to keep the racket tip more up? That'll give you extra quickness and control, and make it easier to cover the middle. To use two classic examples, Jan-Ove Waldner tended to keep his tip up a bit while Jorgen Persson kept his down. (If you don't know these two Swedish world champions, google them.) Jim Butler is another player who keeps his racket tip down, giving him a great backhand smash. Dave Sakai is an example of a player who keeps his racket tip more up, giving him a great backhand counter-hitting and blocking game.

These days, at the world-class level, most players loop almost everything on both backhand and forehand, and so they tend to keep the racket tip down.

I pointed out to the campers that we've run over 150 five-day camps, which comes out to over two years of camps. Yes, I've spent two years of my life running these things. They were suitably impressed.

USA's Kanak Jha wins ITTF Hopes Challenge

Here's the ITTF article!

Challenge the brain with table tennis

Here's an table tennis graphic with Spanish captions. Here is the English translation from an online translator - see #6! ("Apparently"?)

Six Steps to Exercise the Brain

1. Play an instrument, play, not only listen, strengthens the neural pathways.

2. Learn another language. Pay attention to hear another language sharpens the brain functions.

3. Juggle.

4. Dance. Memorize the dance steps improved the memory balance and posture.

5. Put together puzzles. Improve your concentration.

6. Table Tennis. Apparently this sport requires very fine movements that challenge the brain.

London Olympics/Coca-Cola Commercial

And it features table tennis! It's a mixture of music video and coke commercial (4:28). The table tennis player is Darius Knight of the English table tennis team.

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June 13, 2012

Tactics Case Study

I recently had an interesting practice match with a top player. I'm not going to name the player, so I'll call him "Bob" (not his real name). Bob has a very good backhand, both looping against backspin and hitting against once in the rally. He also has a rather quick off-the-bounce forehand loop, so it can be dangerous going there. His serves are mostly short backspin or no-spin, with deep, spinny serves thrown in as a variation. When he flips short balls with his forehand, they almost always go crosscourt - a weakness I was about to ram an entire match through. He was playing well, and had just defeated two very strong players, while I was not playing very well. But tactics, not playing level, decided this match. Here's what happened.

Early on I could tell when his serve was going long, but I wasn't sure why - there was something different about the way he set up. So whenever he served long, I was ready to loop. (Near the end of the second game I realized it was because he set up for his long serve with his racket farther back and more closed. I pointed this out to him after the match.) Because I was looping his deep serves so well, he had to serve short over and over. This allowed me to drop them almost all short, often faking to the backhand and then dropping it short to his forehand. He mostly pushed these or predictably flipped them crosscourt to my forehand. In both cases, I took the attack. So throughout the match I was the aggressor on his serve.

On my serve, I gave him a steady diet of varying serves short to his forehand, occasionally to the middle. I used forehand pendulum and reverse pendulum serves from the backhand side (and occasionally, to mess him up, from the forehand side), and tomahawk serves from the middle and forehand side. This allowed me to throw both types of sidespin at him, mixed with varying backspin and topspin, as well as "heavy no-spin" serves, where I fake spin but serve a dead ball. Since his returns were either passive, or aggressive right into my forehand, I was able to attack.

When I attacked, I almost always went after his wide forehand and middle. Sometimes I'd aim at his forehand and at the last second go to his wide backhand. With his forehand he'd usually try to counterloop, but since I was getting the first attack over and over it wore him down. I could tell by the way he set up if he was ready for the longer, more aggressive loop since he'd be a step farther off the table, so when he did that I'd try to loop very short and spinny, which completely threw him off. If he stayed too close to the table, then my loops were aggressive and deep, and again his counterloop would be erratic. Any loops that landed in between he'd counter-loop away off the bounce, so depth control was key. If he did make the counterloop, he was usually vulnerable to a quick block at wide angles or to his middle. Since I knew he was going to mostly counterloop, I didn't even attempt to follow my first loop to his forehand with another; I'd set up to quick-block, which often set me up for another attack.

Another key was that when he attacked my forehand, he'd set up to counterloop my expected loop to his forehand. So often I'd get free points by looping down the line to his open backhand side.

I won the match three straight. The keys to the match? His backhand loop against backspin is very good, but he got exactly zero chances to backhand loop against backspin. Not even one. His backhand counter-hitting is very strong, and we had exactly three backhand exchanges during the match. Other than a few points on his serve where I decided to very things by chopping (yes, I do that!) he had exactly zero chances to serve and loop against a deep push. Over and over I played into that little weakness where he was unable to forehand flip down the line. I fought the temptation to vary things in a way that would allow him to get his strengths into play.

Obviously players with different styles and levels have to use tactics that are relevant to their style and level. For example I wouldn't coach a beginning-intermediate player in an important match to vary the depth of his loop - he doesn't have the depth control yet, and trying to vary the depth would just lead to his own misses. But the key is to find ways to use your strengths against the opponent's weaknesses. In the above, I focused on Bob's telegraphing of his long serve, his inability to flip down the line effectively, and his sometimes erratic forehand counterloop against varying incoming loops. I used my own strengths - ability to loop balls when I can anticipate chances to do so (against the deep serves and crosscourt flips to my forehand), varying the depth on my loop, short push control when I can anticipate a short serve (and so didn't have to guard against a deep serve), my varying short serves to his forehand, and the ability to quick-block when I know early on the opponent is going to counterloop.

ITTF Hopes Training Camp

The ITTF Hopes program is a worldwide program where the best kids age 12 and under get together to train under top coaches. This morning USA's Kanak Jha is featured on the ITTF web page. There is also a video (4:35) of a training session, featuring coach and former Swedish star Erik Lindh.

Team Tryouts for 2013 USA Maccabiah Table Tennis Team

The Tryouts will be held Aug. 26 at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center. Here's info on the USATT web page.

Table Tennis Screensaver

Want a table tennis screensaver for your computer? Here it is!

"As One" star featured in GQ Magazine

Bae Doona, who stars as North Korea's Li Bun Hui in the new table tennis movie "As One," is featured in the June GQ Magazine. The issue isn't online yet, but here are pictures from Korean Lovers Photoblog.

Strange Looking Tables

If you are shopping for the strangest, weirdest looking tables you can find, look no further. Here are eight of the strangest, ranging from a martini table to a Spider-man table. 

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