Mikael Andersson

August 29, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was Day Three of the four-day camp. As they have every hour of the camp, 13-year-old Sameer Shaikh (who was humorously insulted that I mistakenly listed him as 12 yesterday) and Wendy Brame-Bogie assisted, with Sameer a practice partner and Wendy on ball pickup. Also joining us yesterday (as well as for an hour or so the day before) was Ram Nadmichettu (father of Raghu), who sometimes helps out with coaching at MDTTC. 

Most of the players came early, so I joined in with an impromptu 25-minute practice session before officially starting at 10AM. The day's focus was pushing, forehand looping, and return of serve. We started off with pushing, where I did a short lecture and demo with Sameer. (I even brought out the soccer-colored balls so they could see the amount of backspin.) Then the players rotated about, taking turns hitting with me, Sameer, Ram, and the robot. We did it a second time with the forehand push. 

Next up was forehand loop. Since the players were older and not young athletes, I started by demonstrating and explaining a regular forehand drive against backspin. Then I did the same with looping. Surprisingly, all but one player wanted to focus on looping - and the one who wanted to work on driving experimented with looping, and quickly changed his mind. So all of them worked on looping, even 79-year-old Bernard, and all of them figured out and did some nice ones. (Modern sponges helped! Most of the players were using the brand new rackets they'd been given as part of this USATT program - Donic Waldner Exclusive AR+ rackets and Stiga Magna TC11 max sponges.) Once again I had them rotate among me, Sameer, Ram, and the robot (which was set on backspin so they could loop against backspin). I did multiball, while the other two did live play, with the players serve and looping against backspin. 

We finished with my receive lecture. This took a while as it seemed of great interest to all. As I pointed out, returning serve is almost everyone's weakness! We also had fun as the players attempted to return serves - but unlike last time, this time I actively helped out, so they were able to return my best serves - as long as I let them know what spin was coming. 

It's been a tiring week, since besides the camp I'm also averaging two hours of private coaching each day/night, the blog, and all sorts of other stuff, such as picking up kids after school for our after-school program. 

Stefan Fegerl's Footwork

Here's a nice video (29 sec) showing the side-to-side footwork and two-winged looping of Austria's Stefan Fegerl (world #53).

China Completes Sweep of Youth Olympic Games

Here's the article on their winning Mixed Doubles Teams to complete the sweep. Here's the ITTF page for the tournament, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Table Tennis Second Most Views Sport at Youth Olympic Games

Here's the article.

ITTF Competition Managers Seminar in October

Here's the article. The ITTF Competition Managers Seminar (i.e. for tournament directors for ITTF events) will be held at the Werner Schlager Academy in Schwechat, Austria, Oct. 6-8, 2014.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Ninety-eight down, two to go!

  • Day 3: Reasons for Optimism, Walter Rönmark Positive for Future of Table Tennis

Table Tennis: The Best Sport Ever

Here's the video (3:11). 

Ice Bucket Challenge

  • Mikael Andersson, ITTF Senior Consultant - Development, Education & Training (he challenged Kanak Jha and Rajul Sheth).

The Fiery Racket

Here's another table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan.

A Little Ping-Pong Soccer?

Here's the video (22 sec).

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June 26, 2014

North American Cup

Kind of a big upset last night - 12-year-old Crystal Wang upset top seeded Lily Zhang in the semifinals of Women's Singles in a nail-biting seven-gamer (8,5,5,-3,-9,-6,7)  where Lily almost came back from down 0-3. Lots of incredible rallies. I was up late watching it - it started at 8PM western time, which is 11PM eastern time here in Maryland. Worse, I was up much later discussing the match and other issues with others via Facebook and messaging with Han Xiao, one of Crystal's regular practice partners. We're pretty proud of Crystal, who is from my club. She's too fast for me now, but for years I was one of her regular training partners and I coached her in many tournaments. She was training here at MDTTC (as she does essentially every day) just the day before, and then flew out to Vancouver, Canada. (Tournament was held in nearby Burnaby.) To get to the final Crystal had 4-1 wins over Liu Jiabao of Canada and USA's Erica Wu. In the final Crystal will play Mo Zhang of Canada.

In the Men's side, it's an all-USA final between Adam Hugh and Kanak Jha. That match starts at 8PM (i.e. 11 pm my time). Here are the results for Women's Singles and Men's Singles. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, where you can find results, articles, photos, and video. Men's and Women's finals are tonight at 8PM and 9:20PM (that's 11PM and 12:20 AM eastern time, alas). Here's where you can watch the live streaming.

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Three of Week Two of our Ten Weeks of Summer Camps. I could write about the camp - kids are making breakthroughs right and left, everyone's getting better (except us coaches, alas), and every day's highlight is the daily trip to 7-11. But for me, the dominating feature is physical and mental exhaustion. Ever spend an entire day coaching kids in the 6-8 age range? With a five-second attention span? And do this day after day? We have almost the same kids as the previous week, so they're into their eighth day of this. So I'm not just a coach, I'm their entertainer. However, the key thing to remember here is the rule of five - you have to say everything at least five times to get their attention. And getting them to pick up balls? It wasn't so hard on day one and two, but by day eight it's like pulling teeth. But somehow, inadvertently, and often against their will, they are rapidly improving. Now if I can only keep my sanity and not collapse physically, I'll be just fine! (My legs are pretty much dying right now.) 

Tactics Coaching

I had another tactics coaching session yesterday with Kaelin and Billy during the lunch break. The focus was on deceptive serving and serve variations, the tactics of long serves, receive, and rallying tactics. 

We went over the tactics of serving short. These including varying the placement, even of simple backspin serves; serving to the middle; serving very, very low; heavy no-spin serves; varying the backspin in side-backspin serves; serving with extra-heavy backspin; mixing in sidespin and side-top serves; serving with both sidespins with good placement; deceptive follow-throughs on serves; and serving half-long (so second bounce would be near the end-line); 

We went over the advantages of the various service depths, noting that the emphasis of short serves should be half-long serves, where the second bounce would be near the end-line. But we also went over the advantages of shorter serves - forcing a player to reach more for short serves to the forehand, and bringing a player in over the table so they aren't ready for the next shot. This latter is especially effective if you serve very short to the forehand, bringing the receiver in over the table, and then going after the deep backhand. But it's also somewhat risky as it gives the receiver a chance to flip aggressively into the very wide forehand, or down the line if you move to cover the forehand.

I also went over my Ten-Point Plan to Serving Success - and we spent some time going over each of these. (I wrote quite a bit about these and everything else I'm covering in Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.

  1. Serve legally
  2. Serve with a plan
  3. Maximize spin
  4. Vary your spin
  5. Disguise your spin
  6. Speed
  7. Low bounce
  8. Direction
  9. Depth
  10. Follow-up

We talked about serve deception, and the four main ways of doing this: sheer spin, semi-circular motion, exaggerating the opposite motion, and spin/no-spin serves by varying the contact point on the racket. We also went over the advantages of specific serves. For example, a primary advantage of the pendulum serve is that you can do either type of sidespin with the same motion until just before contact. A primary advantage of the backhand serve is that you see your opponent throughout the serve, and so see if he reacts to the serve too soon, allowing the server to change serves, such as a sudden fast serve if the opponent is reaching in or stepping around the backhand. We also talked about where to serve from, and why too many players repetitively serve from the backhand corner, ignoring the advantages of sometimes varying this. If you sometimes serve from the middle or forehand side, you mess up the opponent who's not used to this - try it and you'll be surprised how much trouble players have with this. Plus it gives you an angle into the forehand, especially the short forehand against players who like to receive short serves with their backhand. 

We went over what are commonly the most effective long serves. Every opponent is different, but I'd say the most essential serves - the ones that all players should develop, and yes, I mean you - are (for this I'm assuming righty vs. righty - others adjust): 

  • To the Backhand: Big breaking sidespin serves to the wide backhand that break to the right into the wide backhand, ranging from side-topspin, pure sidespin, and side-backspin, as well as a fast no-spin. The reverse sidespin serve can be almost as effective as a variation as it often catches the receiver off guard, and the returns tend to go to the server's forehand. 
  • To the Middle: Fast no-spin serves, and at least one side-top variation. Often a reverse pendulum serve is effective here. 
  • To the Forehand: Fast topspin serves where the direction is well disguised, along with at least one other sidespin or no-spin variation. 

We went over the tactics of receive. Against deep serves, you have to be aggressive unless you are a very defensive player. Against short serves, you can be either passive, disarming, or aggressive. Passive returns are common at lower levels, but unless the opponent is a weak attacker, they aren't too effective at higher levels if used too often. The most common passive receives are long pushes, though soft topspins may also be passive returns, depending on the opponent and how he handles them. Long pushes can be a bit more aggressive (or disarming) if done quick off the bounce and pretty fast. A disarming receive is one designed to stop the server's attack and get into a neutral rally. The classic disarming receive is a short push. Another is a quick flip to the server's weaker side. An aggressive push can also be disarming if the server isn't able to make a strong attack off it. An aggressive receive against a short serve is usually an aggressive flip. Ambitious players should learn all three types of these receives against short serves, but focus roughly equally on disarming and aggressive receives. 

We spent the rest of the session going over rallying tactics. This included when to respond. Usually you respond when you see what and where the opponent's shot is. But sometimes you can anticipate a shot, and move for the shot in the split second between when the opponent has committed to a shot and when you can see what the shot will be. 

We talked about the tools needed when rallying: at least one scary rallying shot (a big loop, a fast, aggressive backhand, etc.); quickness; speed; spin; depth (mostly deep on the table, other times short); placement (wide angles, elbow); variety; misdirection; and finally consistency, which is king. Then we went over the tactics of playing the weaker side (often by playing the stronger side first to draw the player out of position); down the line play; going to the same spot twice; placement of backhand attacks; forehand deception with shoulder rotation; changing the pace; rallying down faster, quicker players; where to place your put-aways; and developing an overpowering strength. (We ran out of time, so have one last item to cover here - playing lefties, which we'll talk about tomorrow.) 

Tomorrow we'll start going over the tactics against various styles, grips, and surfaces. 

Xu Xin: No Regrets in Choosing Penhold

Here's the interview.

Stiga ITTF Approved Plastic/Poly Ball Review

Here's the detailed video review (11:15) by Table Tennis Daily. It seems to play a bit different than the Nittaku poly ball I reviewed on June 16. Much of this was probably because the Nittaku ball was noticeably bigger and heavier while the Stiga ball was the same weight as a celluloid ball. With the bounce test, the Nittaku poly ball bounced higher than the celluloid, while Stiga poly ball they reviewed bounced lower. Both poly balls were harder to spin when looping. You can go straight to their conclusion at 9:10, where they sum things up in about 90 sec.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirty-four down, 66 to go!

  • Day 67: Mikael Andersson Details Creation of the ITTF’s Junior Program
  • Day 68: Jean-Michel Saive Recounts His Past and Present Successes

Lion Table Tennis

You can come up with your own caption for this table tennis cartoon. How about, "No, we don't want to play winners. We want to eat winners."

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October 29, 2013

Tip of the Week

Start Drills with a Serve.

Butterfly South Shore Open

It was an exhausting weekend, but so is every tournament I coach at. There's no question - coaching is far more tiring then playing. Seriously!!!

Here are results and pictures. I didn't get to see much of the tournament since I was busy coaching.

I traveled to and from the tournament with Nathan Hsu (17) and his mom, Wen; Crystal Wang (11) and her dad, Quandou; and Derek Nie (12) and his mom, Jenny. (Derek and his mom traveled separately going out, but were on our flight coming back. Roy Ke, 14, another top junior from my club (MDTTC) also went but traveled separately.) We flew to Chicago, and then rented a car to drive to South Shore, about 45 minutes away. We arrived at the playing hall (Lincoln Center Fieldhouse in Highland, IN) around 8PM on Friday night, just after they'd closed the gym. We found an open door and were able to look over the place and survey the draws before they shooed us out.

Crystal, rated 2267, was top seed in all three junior events she was in - 13 & Under, 15 & Under, and 18 & Under - and she swept all three events without losing a game to anyone, capturing $1700 in prize money, care of the Nate Wasserman Junior Championships. She played Anushka Oak (13, rated 2091) in all three finals.

I was mostly coaching Nathan this tournament. (I'll be coaching him and Derek at the Nationals.) He mostly played well this tournament, but didn't have the results to show it. He went in rated only 2303, well below his norm - he was 2397 just a short time ago. In the Open, he upset Patricio Perevra of Lindenwood University in Missouri, the 7th seed, to reach the quarterfinals. There he faced the unrated Wang Zhao, a former member of the Chinese National Team and only 28 years old. He'd easily dismantled a 2300 player 4-0 in the previous round, and his level was estimated at 2650. The story I was told was that injury problems had ended his career in China, but while no longer Chinese-team level, he was very good, with an unreal forehand, and everything else almost as good.

But so was Nathan!!!

Nathan used his backhand loop to dominate, often with off-the-bounce counter-loops, and a nice inside-out forehand flip to take out Wang's forehand and set up Nathan's own attacks in this best of seven. He also counterlooped surprisingly well. They battled right to the seventh game. Finally, Nathan found himself up 10-9 match point with the serve! So what happened? Nathan served short, and Wang returned it with a net-dribbler. Jeeez!!! But Nathan's not through. Wang had one or two match points, but Nathan deuced it, and had another match point with the serve. He served long to the backhand, and Wang, caught off guard, made a soft topspin return to Nathan's wide backhand - which Nathan had anticipated. He was already there, and ripped a forehand down the line that would have been a match-winning shot - but it just missed. Then Wang won the next two points, and it was over. (In the semifinals, his racket - the same one he'd used against Nathan - was ruled too thick, and so he had to use an unfamiliar racket, and lost.) 

Nathan had another nice match in the semifinals of Under 18 in a best of five, against top-seeded Jonathan Ou, rated 2472. (Nathan was seeded fourth.) I can't go over the tactics here - they will likely play many times in the future and Jonathan might be reading this (Hi John!), but once again it was a battle. Jonathan won, 11-8 in the fifth. (Jonathan would win the final 3-0.) And so, despite playing two great matches, Nathan had nothing to show for it, other than the knowledge that he can compete with these players.

During the tournament we lived on McDonalds for lunch (chicken sandwiches for me) and Cracker Barrel for two dinners (though Crystal and I had to miss one when she had some late-night matches). There was a breakfast buffet at the hotel, and I had freshly-made waffles and scrambled eggs for breakfast both mornings.

On the way back we had to wait at the airport in Chicago for over an hour. So the kids and I grabbed our paddles, and walked about until we found some tables. Then it was time for Airport Pong!!! I didn't actually play any this time (knee problems), so I was just the ball boy as Nathan, Derek, and Crystal took turns. I don't have video, but here's Airport Pong video (1:43) from after the 2012 Junior Olympics/Southern Open at Houston Airport, with Nathan, Amy Lu (the lefty), and Lily Lin.

It was a fun tournament, and we had a great time. The lighting was great, with wooden floors and lots of room. Great thanks goes to Director Dan Seemiller; to the tournament committee (Brad Balmer, Steve Betts, Jason Denham, and Pam Hazinski); to referee Kagin Lee; and to the local South Bend Table Tennis Club.

Why Today's Blog Was Late

Why, you ask? Well . . . this'll sound crazy, but blame the TV show "The Walking Dead." I missed this past Sunday's episode (coaching at the South Shore Open in Indiana). I was up late last night working on other things, and went to bed around 1AM. Just before I went to bed I had checked on when I could see replays (Fri 11PM and Sun 8PM). Well, I had perhaps the most vivid and definitely the most physical nightmare of my life, and probably the longest as well.

I dreamed I was fighting the walking dead - and it went on and On and ON!!! I was on a balcony overlooking a large gymnasium (now that I think about it, I think it was the South Shore Open gymnasium!) filled with the walking dead, and they were streaming up a stairway to get at me! My only weapon was a sharpened pencil, and it kept breaking - but then I'd find another one. (Strangely I was killing them by stabbing them in the belly, when in reality - well, Walking Dead reality - you have to stab them in the brain.) And then (of course) I had a ping-pong paddle and began swatting them away. At some point the paddle went back to a pencil, and then back again - it kept changing in my hand, and at the time, this seemed perfectly normal. Anyway, the whole time I was fighting them I kept thinking about how painful it would be if they got at me (yes, they eat you alive), and so it was an all-night adrenalin-packed episode. When I woke up in a sweat, I was exhausted and had a massive headache. It's very tough to write with a massive headache, alas.

Men's World Cup

Xu Xin of China defeats Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus in final.  Here's the ITTF Men's World Cup Page, with results, articles, and photos.

Quality over Quantity - Training Smart

Here's an article from Table Tennis Master on choosing your drills when you practice.

Ultimate Hook Loop

Here's the video (10 sec) of a super-sidespin loop. My only critique is that it would be even better if it went wider. If you are a looper and don't have a hooking loop to the forehand, you need to develop one.

Mikael Andersson, Messages from Paris 2013

Here's a video interview (13:11) with Mikael Andersson, an ITTF Senior Consultant - Development, Education & Training, and one of the main designers of the ITTF Global Junior Program.

Epic Ping Pong Fail - Spinning Face Smack

Here's the video (33 sec) - and watch where the ball actually hits!

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October 10, 2011

Tip of the Week

Trick Serves and Third-Ball Serves.

Mikael Andersson at Lily Yip TTC

Asif Hussain emailed me about a clinic held last week at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center in New Jersey. With Asif's and Lily's permission, here are excerpts from his email.

Mikael Andersson, ITTF Director of Education and Training along with former Chinese National Team member and coach Zhen Yu San came to Lily Yip's club for a one-hour free coaching class.  I of course got caught in traffic and missed the first half hour so I'm not sure what happened in the first half.  When I got there, Mikael was wearing street shoes, jeans, and jacket and walking around the court with a microphone.  Tina Lin (2200) and Michele (13-year-old around 2000) were doing drills with Mikael directing the drills and providing his observations.  The rest of the club members stood around the court and took in his information.

The girls were doing a countering drill involving both FH and BH, then played a single game to 11.  For the game, Mikael added a point to a player's score in case she made an exceptionally good play (even if the ball missed as he wanted to reward/reinforce the idea of the right shot selection or good/smart play.)  He also deducted a point from a player's score if they made a poor choice (e.g., pushing a ball back that was deep enough to be looped.)  Some of his points:

  1. Coaches should encourage randomness in drills
  2. Far too many players, even at very high levels only attack cross court.  Need to attack to wide FH, wide BH, and most importantly into the body (elbow or pocket.)  If your previous attack was to wide FH, next attack should be to elbow or wide BH.  Don't attack to same location more than once.  Wide means that the ball should cross the opponent's sideline.
  3. Your attacks should land deep on the table or close to the sidelines (in case of wide attack.)  Loops that land short can be crushed or angle blocked easily.
  4. You need very active feet, always move to the ball even if its a very small step.
  5. Always think to attack a serve.  Attack any long serve, even if it is half long.
  6. Push short (backspin) balls right off the bounce.  Push either short so it can't be attacked or push fast and deep.  Any other type of push gets killed.
  7. Move in with your body/leg to push (don't stretch out your arm as you lose control over the ball), then immediately move back out.
  8. Vary your serves in terms of spin and placement.  Need loose wrist and racket speed.  Know what type of return is likely based on your serve and be ready for your 3rd ball accordingly.
  9. On returning serve, you should stand far enough back that when you stretch your arm, the tip of your racket should touch the edge of the table.  This allows you to handle deep serves and allows you to move in to handle short and half long serves (easier to move in to return serve vs. moving back.)
  10. When in ready position to return serve, racket should be pointed straight ahead (not towards your BH or FH) so that you can more quickly move it for either FH or BH return.

On serves to the short FH, he kept talking about technique to come in and push short using the FH.  I asked him about using a banana BH loop (flick) to return.  His response surprised me saying that he is not a fan of the BH banana loop.  After the coaching session I asked him privately about his response and my surprise as the Chinese (e.g., Zhang Jike, Ma Long, et. al.) are all using this technique very effectively. It turns out he had somewhat misunderstood my question.  A BH banana loop to him is when you loop with sidespin with an exaggerated banana shape/motion, which he said some European players use. The Chinese implementation of this technique requires a very strong core/upper body, forearm and wrist.  They tuck in their belly to create space, racket goes back towards this space with the elbow out/away from the body and the wrist is cocked back as much as possible such that top of racket is pointing towards their belly button.  They then uncoil over the ball, imparting mostly topspin and some sidespin.  You need to read location of the serve and very quickly move to the correct position to attempt this return.

Westchester Open in NY

I may write more about the tournament later. We left late on Sunday afternoon, while the tournament (and the Open) were still in full swing, so I don't have the main results. Here are some notes on things that came up while coaching.

  • When you have a lead, slow down, take your time, and protect that lead. Better still, expand on the lead. It's so easy to let up, and a 1% let up often leads to 100% loss. There are always going to be fluky points, so no matter how big the lead, a bunch of them can be lost to nets, edges, finger balls (kept happening this tournament!), etc. No lead is safe until you have made it safe by winning.
  • Especially at big tournaments, the background is very different on each side of the table, often with one side looking into a wall while the other is looking into the distance. So when you warm up, halfway through switch sides so you get used to both sides.
  • Want to start out playing well in your first match? Come early and warm up early and long, preferably with someone you are used to hitting with. I know this might sound hard to believe, but warming up actually gets you warmed up. And it worked for us - we were the first on the tables Sunday morning. Of course, this is no guarantee for success - nervousness or a hot opponent can overcome the best preparations. But you need to focus on the things you can control.

New "multiball" drills

I wrote in my October 5 blog about Cheng Yinghua's "Receive/Over-the-Table Backhand Loop/Forehand and Backhand Counterloop Drill." I've now incorporated this type of drill into my coaching, with my own variations. For example, I may have the student/practice partner push the serve back, I loop, and they counterloop or block as I reach for the next ball. There are countless variations you can do rapid-fire, and they are very match-like. A side benefit is that they are great practice for the coach a well, who gets to start each drill off with a loop or some other shot.

Chinese domination of table tennis - good or bad?

Here's an article on whether Chinese domination of table tennis is good or bad for the sport, by Australian player, coach, and about.com table tennis guide Greg Letts.

Worn-out muscles on Friday

After coaching for 16 straight days, doing weight training three times a week, plus a number of training sessions on my own, my muscles finally hit the wall on Friday night. After losing two straight five-gamers to 2250 juniors who ran me all over the court, complete exhaustion set in. No, I didn't lose any more matches, but my next two matches, against lower-rated players, were sheer torture as the table corners seemed miles away, and the opponents took great glee in putting every ball to these distant corners. I finally got to "rest" this weekend while coaching at the Westchester Open, and hopefully the muscles will be ready for serious coaching later today, and that those table corners will have been moved back to five feet apart.

Do you know why table tennis is often called ping pong?

Here's a hilarious video that purportedly explains, well, see the title above (4:34).

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