Wang Liqin

January 13, 2012

Anticipating versus Reacting versus Responding

One of the things I've always taught is that, in most circumstances, you should react, not anticipate, in a rally. This is because way too often players do anticipate a certain return, and are caught off guard when they don't get that shot. For example, when they attack, many players anticipate a crosscourt return, and so are caught off guard if it is returned down the line. Or they serve short backspin and anticipate a long backspin return. There are times where you can anticipate, such as against a player who does return your attacks crosscourt over and over (as many do), or against an opponent who does push your short backspin serves back long over and over (as many do). In these cases, you can anticipate, but you still have to react if you don't get the ball you expect.

However, in the context I'm using, perhaps I should instead say a player should respond, not react. What's the difference? React may imply that you are simply doing something that you are forced to do, i.e. in reaction to what the opponent is doing. It almost implies that the opponent is in charge, forcing you to react to his actions. Respond implies that you are choosing your response, and that you are in control. It's still a reaction, but it's a more selective reaction.

For example, suppose an opponent attacks hard to your backhand. You could react and block it back crosscourt, the most natural and easy way to return it. Or you could respond by noting the opponent is waiting for that ball and is already edging over, and instead respond by blocking it down the line. Or suppose your opponent serves short backspin. You could react and simply push it back long, the most natural and easiest way to return it. Or you could respond by noting the opponent is waiting to loop that ball, and instead respond by pushing short or flipping.

Here are two links to similarly titled articles that discuss the difference between react and respond, courtesy of Sean O'Neill:

Friday the 13th

Yes, today is an unlucky day, at least for the 20 million or so Americans (and hundreds of millions of others) who suffer from varying degrees of friggatriskaidekaphobia. Yes, tonight when you play at the club, you will be unlucky and your opponent will gets lots and lots of nets and edges. And yes, when your opponent plays tonight he will also be unlucky and his opponent (that's you) will gets lots and lots of nets and edges. So today is the best day of the year for practicing against nets and edges, an annual net-edge extravaganza. When else will you get to practice systematically against these shots? So today is a blessing in disguise. Good luck!

Wang Liqin drill

Here's Wang Liqin doing a multiball drill (0:48) where he gets a short backspin ball to the forehand, then a random long backspin (about 2/3 to his backhand), where he has to loop the long backspin with his forehand. This is one of the best drills for forehand-oriented attackers, one I used to all the time. (Wang Liqin of China was the 2001, 2005 and 2007 World Men's Singles Champion.)

One of the standard ways to disarm a player with a strong forehand loop is to serve or push short to the forehand, bringing the player in over the table, and then go out to the backhand. While this will often work, if you develop good footwork you might be able to still use a forehand. For more mortal players whose footwork doesn't push lightspeed, you can do the same drill where you use a backhand loop for the deep ball to the backhand, though you might experiment to see if you can sometimes get around and loop a forehand. (The advantage of looping a forehand from the backhand isn't just that the forehand is often the stronger shot; it's also that it puts you in forehand position for the next shot.)

Michael Maze - Simply A'maze'ing

Here's a Michael Maze highlights reel (5:51), which especially shows his lobbing points against Chinese star Hao Shuai (the lefty he's playing at the start), where he came back from down 0-3 and three match points to win in seven in the quarterfinals of the World Championships in 2005. He's the #1 player from Denmark and has been ranked as high as #8 in the world.

Table tennis players use their heads

This is one of the funnier "table tennis" videos you'll see (0:39).

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November 4, 2011

Vary your serves

I recently played a match against a strong player about my level who basically used three serves: short backspin or no-spin to the middle or backhand, or a deep side-top serve to my backhand that was telegraphed by the delivery. The player never served to my forehand. Since I could see the deep serve coming a mile away (and could just hit it back with my backhand and force a neutral backhand exchange on his serve), all I had to do was worry about the short serves. Since they were so predictable, I hung over the table and returned them right off the bounce, with last-second changes of directions, mostly dropping them short to all parts of the table. Because of the quickness off the bounce, the tweeniness of many of the returns (i.e. second bounce would be near the end-line), and the last-second changes of direction, even when I went long the opponent had great difficulty attacking. And so I completely controlled the match off the opponent's serve. This is the type of thing that happens all the time in matches, where players get into the habit of using the same few serves over and over, thereby making things easy for the opponent. I have one word of advice about this: Don't.

FIT Open in New York City

This morning I'm catching a bus to Manhattan to play in the FIT Open, run by Lily Yip. I'll be staying at Tim Boggan's house, and probably talking table tennis late into the night with him and Eric. Other than playing some hardbat events, I've mostly been retired as a tournament player since 2006. However, recently (after getting into much better physical shape, and actually practicing) I've been playing so well that I decided it would be a crime against humanity if I didn't play in one, and I didn't want to get sent to Gitmo. I'll report on this next week.

Interview Time

The Daily Quarterly did an interview with me, and part 1 should go up sometime this morning. (Part 2 goes up next Friday.) They are the same satirical site that did the spoof of Brad Pitt starring as me in the movie adaptation of my book Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. And so I gave my answers accordingly.

Wang Liqin Multiball

Here's 30 seconds of three-time world men's singles champion Wang Liqin doing multiball at the 2011 World Championships in May in Rotterdam.

The Reverse Pendulum Tomahawk Serve

Here's a video by Pingskills (2:19) on this serve used by Sweden's Par Gerell. (He calls it the "punch serve.") Note all the variety possible from the basic forehand pendulum serve motion - the regular version (with racket moving right to left for a righty), and the reverse pendulum variations (with the racket moving left to right), which can be done two ways - racket tip down or racket tip up (as shown in this video). The video says that you don't use as much wrist with this serve, but I use this serve, and use lots of wrist. I find it most effective served into the middle of the table where it suddenly breaks into the forehand.

Michael Landers now part of Team Kelloggs

Really! Click on his picture to get his bio.

China-Qatar Relations Bolstered by Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's an article in the Huffington Post on Ping-Pong Diplomacy in Qatar.

How to solve the Occupy Wall Street situation

You knew that Marty Reisman had a solution, didn't you? "Table tennis has an incredible diplomatic history," noted Marty Reisman, 23-time National and International ping-pong champion and President of Table Tennis Nation. "Ping Pong Diplomacy opened the doors for relations between China and the US, and can help settle Occupy Wall Street. ... Table Tennis Nation is offering representatives from Wall Street and the Occupy Wall Street $100 per team to play a Table Tennis Nation Brawl to settle their issues once and for all. Over ping-pong."

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November 1, 2011

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I've updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, with 11 new celebrities and 14 new pictures, bringing the totals up to 1285 pictures of 1285 celebrities. (Some pictures have multiple celebrities, so numbers below may appear not to add up.) New this month (and "new" means I already had pictures of that celebrity, but have put up new ones):

  • Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler's wife
  • Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys quarterback
  • Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos quarterback
  • Tiger Woods, golfer (new picture)
  • Payne Stewart, golfer
  • Sebastian Coe, English Olympic 1500 meter Olympic gold medalist
  • Andy Murray, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Boris Becker, tennis player
  • Bill Tilden, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Francis Hunter, tennis player (3 pictures)
  • Justin Gimelstob, tennis player
  • Wladimir Klitschko, Ukrainian heavyweight boxer (new picture)
  • Magnus Carlsen, chess player (2 pictures)
  • Boris Johnson, mayor of London (new picture)
  • Beatrice Lillie, actress
  • Junior Durkin, actor
  • Howard Jacobson, author (new picture)

Serve practice

I think the best way to do it, and way I do it (including a lot recently) is to practice one serve motion and one spin, depth, and placement variation at a time. After you've done a bunch of that one, do another variation with that motion. When you've practiced all the spin, depth, and placement variations for that motion, then practice doing them randomly. If you have trouble controlling one of them, go back and practice it until you have control of it, then go back to serving them randomly. When all this is done, move to the next service motion, and repeat. At the very end, randomly practice all the variations with all the motions.

A few important points. First, don't get in the habit of rapid-fire serving. Visualize each serve in your head before you do it, and make sure your execution matches what you visualize, including where it bounces on your side of the table, how it breaks, etc. Second, you should also practice subtle differences in the serves. For example, vary your follow-through on each serve to throw opponents off. On a forehand pendulum serve, sometimes follow through down, sometimes sideways, sometimes up. If you don't practice it, you won't be able to do it effectively in a match. Third, don't forget fast & deep serves. They take a disproportionate amount of time to develop the timing, and so put in extra practice with them.

Crazy inside-out sidespin by Wang Liqin

It's only nine seconds long, but if you want to learn how to loop inside-out with crazy inside-out sidespin, this is the video to watch. Shown at full speed and in slow motion, from two angles.

Pongcast Videos

  • 2011 European Championships (26:53), with play-by-play commentary, and time between points removed.
  • 2011 Swedish Open (30:30), starts off with "Classic Moments in Table Tennis History," then goes to the Swedish Open, with play-by-play commentary, and time between points removed.

Iran pulls out of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy"

North and South Korea, and India and Pakistan are all competing in Monaco in this modern version of Ping-Pong Diplomacy run by the Monaco-based Peace and Sport, but Iran has pulled out, with no reason given. Other teams competing are USA, China, Japan, Russia, France, and Qatar. Here's the ESPN article.

Big Ping-Pong

When I say Big Ping-Pong, I mean BIG PING-PONG. Watch this video (0:43), and see if you agree.

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September 16, 2011

Wang Liqin forehand loop

In regular and slow motion (0:46) The perfect loop? Note the smooth weight transfer and body rotation as he creates torque. He's a three time World Men's Singles Champion (2001, 2005, 2007), world #1 for 25 consecutive months (second most ever), and winner of 21 Pro Tour singles events, the most ever. And I once interviewed him (through a translator) and shook his hand. Yes, my playing hand touched his. Regrettably, I've washed it since.

Service practice reminder

The following is a public service address. Remember that serve that let you down at the last tournament? The one that was going slightly high, or slightly long, or that nobody seemed to have trouble with? Isn't it time you go out and fix that problem for next time? Get a bucket of balls and practice. Here's a ten-point plan to serving success. I've got a bunch of other articles on serving here

USA Table Tennis Leagues

Yesterday there was an email exchange among USATT and other officials regarding the USA League Finals at the USA Nationals. Should they be an open event, where anyone can show up representing a region, or should they only allow teams representing a region with an established regional league? I'm strongly for the latter. There are established leagues in some areas (such as BATTF, LATTF, and NYTTL, representing the bay area (San Francisco region), Los Angeles, and New York (which includes teams from states as far away as Maryland). Here's my response.

"I really, Really, REALLY hope we can turn these leagues into a national thing. This is how many European countries developed huge memberships. I strongly recommend going with only allowing regions that have established leagues; otherwise, it's just another open event at the Nationals, and there's no incentive to grow. We need a nationwide network of leagues like these or we'll always struggle to gain membership. I also hope that those developing these leagues (BATTF, NYTTL, LATTF, others) have studied or will study how the European and Asian leagues started up and grew so that we can steal ideas from them in developing a USA model."

In another email, I wrote:

"I think there are some misconceptions about leagues. First, setting up leagues should not be a primary goal; they are the MEANS to a primary goal, which is to drastically increase membership, as has happened in other countries all over the world and in other sports. (They are an intermediate goal on the way toward this primary goal.) Our membership has been described as a round-off error, and that's not going to change until we do something to change it."

"Second, leagues are not set up for the benefit of the few existing clubs. They are set up to bring in new players which leads to new clubs set up primarily for league play. Germany, for example, didn't create its leagues for the benefit of its 11,000 clubs, which didn't exist at the time. It was the leagues that led to the 11,000 clubs. Before they created their leagues, they were in a similar situation as the U.S."

"Leagues and full-time training centers with full-time coaches and junior programs are beginning to take off around the U.S. . . . and that is the most promising thing I've ever seen in our sport."

I also wrote some strongly worded criticism of USATT's lack of effort in the league department, but I won't post that here at this time. Suffice to say they were severely reprimanded. Severely!!!

U.S. and NA Olympic Trials in Cary, NC

Here's your chance to buy tickets to see the U.S. Olympic Trials (Feb. 9-12, 2012) and North American Olympic Trials (April 20-22, 2012), both in Cary, NC.

Golf Pong

Yes, it's Golf Pong as former junior star Grant Li takes on golf pros Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, and Frederick Jacobson. Jacobson was a nationally ranked player in Sweden twenty years ago, who still plays in San Diego occasionally with Stellan Bengtsson in San Diego. (3:33, but doesn't get to the table tennis until 2:12.)

Machete Pong

Yes, it's Machete Pong as Comedian Jimmy Fallon takes on English adventurer, writer and television presenter Bear Grylls. (2:47, but starts with a 16-second commercial.)

Car Pong

Yes, it's Car Pong. Really. (0:14)

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