Table Tennis Collector

May 2, 2013

Fundamentals and 1000 Forehands in a Row

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. These are the three things that make up the foundation of your game. If you want to be good, you develop them until they are so ingrained you can do them in your sleep while tap dancing on a hot air balloon Here is my article, Develop the Fundamentals: Strokes and Footwork, from the May/June 2005 USATT Magazine.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because a student of mine, 11-year-old Sameer Shaikh, is rapidly developing the fundamentals - and had a huge breakthrough yesterday. We started the session by seeing how many forehands he could hit in a row. In the first rally he missed after 38 in a row. The second rally went on and On and ON - until I caught the ball after he'd hit 1000 in a row!! Not bad for a kid with a rating of 804. (It'll be a bit higher after his last tournament is processed.) I remember five-time U.S. Champion Sean O'Neill once said that his coach, Chutchai Chan, often made him hit 1000 in a row before they'd move on to other things. (It takes about 20 minutes - if you don't miss.)

It's a matter of muscle memory. When you practice a technique the right way enough times, it becomes so ingrained that it repeats over and over whenever you need it. All you have to do is blank your mind out and let the subconscious take over, and the shot will be there for you when you need it. (Muscle memory doesn't come from the muscles; it comes from the subconscious part of your brain that controls your muscles when you let it do so.)

This doesn't mean you have to do 1000 in a row every session. It's more a mental thing. If you do that 1000 in a row one time, then you pretty much have confidence you can do it anytime. Plus it's great mental training to have the focus to hit 1000 in a row. Once the shot becomes ingrained, you should move on to more advanced practice where you combine strokes with footwork.

I was coaching another kid yesterday, age 10, who had just started. He had a developed a pretty good forehand from hitting with his father (who's also a developing player at the 1000+ level), but he had a few small technique problems, such as a habit of leaning forward as he stroked the ball. He was fine with multiball, but as soon as we went live (i.e. forehand to forehand) he'd fall back in his bad habits. So I used a trick I've used to cure this habit - I had him stand by the table, throw the ball up himself, and smack in a forehand. Since he's no longer chasing after an incoming ball, he stopped leaning forward, and instead stroked with his body going in a circle, as if rotating on a pole stuck through his head, as you want to do. At first he struggled with this, but then it came together. When we went back to forehand to forehand, he'd adopted the change and no longer leaned forward as he stroked the ball. Boom, another fundamental down!

The father had pretty good fundamentals, and is working hard to master looping. He has nice technique on the backhand side (just needs practice to use it in games). On the forehand, he tends to fall back as he's looping the ball against backspin. Why? Because he stands too far from the table, and so has to reach forward to reach the ball. To compensate for this, he falls back with his left foot. Once he moved closer to the table and took the ball from the side instead of in front, the problem was solved. Boom, another fundamental down!

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. The three foundations of your game. Have you got your fundamentals down?

The Table Tennis Collector and the ITTF Museum Newsletter

Here's the May issue of The Table Tennis Collector (#68). Here are links to all 68 issues. And here are links to all 31 issues of the ITTF Museum Newsletter. If you are a table tennis history buff, this should keep you happy for a few millenniums. (Still want more? Than order copies of Tim Boggan's 13 volumes - so far - of History of U.S. Table Tennis.)  

New World Rankings

The new world rankings from the ITTF are out. The big change - Xu Xin passed Ma Long for #1 in the men's. Here are the top ten for men and women. (Vladimir Samsonov of BLR just missed the men's top ten at #11.)

MEN

  1. Xu Xin, CHN
  2. MA Long, CHN
  3. WANG Hao, CHN
  4. ZHANG Jike, CHN
  5. BOLL Timo, GER
  6. CHUANG Chih-Yuan
  7. OVTCHAROV Dimitrij, GER
  8. MA Lin, CHN
  9. WANG Liqin, CHN
  10. MIZUTANI Jun, JPN

WOMEN

  1. DING Ning, CHN
  2. LIU Shiwen, CHN
  3. LI Xiaoxia, CHN
  4. FENG Tianwei, SIN
  5. GUO Yan, CHN
  6. ZHU Yuling, CHN
  7. SHEN Yanfei, ESP
  8. ISHIKAWA Kasumi, JPN
  9. WU Yang, CHN
  10. KIM Kyungah, KOR

Beauty of Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (5:34) set to music.

Westchester Open Final

There was a great final recently on April 28 at the Westchester Open, between Damien Provost and Zhen Wang. Below are links to all five games. Don't have time to watch them all? Then just check out game five, which ends in a 13-11 victory for...
Game1 (7:50)
Game2 (12:04)
Game3 (9:02)
Game4 (5:05)
Game5 (11:26)

LATE ADDITION: Here's the entire match (45:25)

Stockholm Open Poster

Here's a great promotional poster for the Stockholm Open in May - with Jan-Ove Waldner and Mikael Appelgren with tuxedoes and rackets, looking like a pair of gangsters!

Juwooowww!

Here's a Facebook video (10 sec) of 10-year-old Boris Pavlotsky, a student of Brian Pace, looping forehands, winning the point, and his celebratory exclamation. I don't think you need to be on Facebook to see it.

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February 4, 2013

Tip of the Week

Super Spinny Slow Loops.

Tactical Matches

Here are two examples of tactics used in matches this past weekend.

Last Thursday I wrote about a chopper who had spent much of the last year learning to forehand loop, going from an almost exclusively defensive chopper to having a very aggressive forehand. This weekend it paid dividends for him - well, almost. I usually eat choppers alive, but he wasn't really a "chopper" this match, as he kept attacking. The score went to 9-all in the fifth before I won the last two points. The key to what made him so difficult to play wasn't just his attacking; it was the threat of attacking. Besides his usually defensive play, he won points with his attack three ways:

  1. Directly by attacking;
  2. By my playing overly aggressive to avoid his attack;
  3. By my overplaying into his backhand chop to avoid his forehand counterloop, thereby letting him almost camp out on the backhand side and chop everything back with ease.

The problem I had with his forehand counterloop is that it would catch me close to the table, and so I'd almost always block it. (I tried looping into his middle and wide forehand, but he ran them all down to counterloop over and over.) Then he'd swoop in and keep looping, and I'd usually end up fishing and lobbing. At 9-all in the fifth, he suddenly counterlooped - and I counterlooped off the bounce for a winner, a shot I used to be good at, but that I don't do nearly as often anymore. I may have to go for that shot more against him. Or I might work on dead-blocking the ball. I also probably need to go after his middle more in my first loop, where he's not as ready to counterloop. As it was, I was somewhat lucky to pull off that shot at 9-all, and could easily have lost this match.

In another match I played a really good two-winged hitter who, until now, simply couldn't return my serves. However, we've played a lot recently, and for the first time ever he did a decent job of returning my serves, and once in a rally, could hit really well. At this point I'd been at the club coaching and playing for eight hours, and I found myself unable to go through him with my attack, nor could I outlast him in rallies since I was too soft against his strong hitting due to exhaustion. (I had just finished playing the extremely tiring 11-9 in the fifth match against the chopper - see above.) After losing the first game - the first game I'd ever lost to him - I went to a simple strategy of pushing or chopping his serves back as heavy as I could. He had a nice hitting game, and could loop against normal backspins, but against these ginzo backspins, he fell apart. When he did manage to lift one up, it was too soft and usually short, so even exhausted I could smash them or block them hard to his middle. I won the next three games. The key was to commit to the heavy backspins so I knew in advance I would be doing them, and so could really load them up and control them.

More tactical examples coming tomorrow.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - Kindle Situation

Two notes:

  1. As noted previously, and in the Amazon.com Kindle description of the book, the current version is text only. In a month or so I plan to put together a Kindle version with all 90 photos that'll be in the print version. (Unlike the print version, these photos will be in full color.) I checked with Amazon on whether those who had already bought and downloaded the text-only version could get the new version, and they wrote back: "If the changes made to your content are considered critical, we’ll send an email to all customers who own the book to notify them of the update and improvements made. These customers will be able to choose to opt in to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com." I'm fairly certain going from a text-only version to adding 90 color pictures would be considered "critical," though of course I can't guarantee that.
  2. I wrote that the Kindle edition cost $9.99. However, I've since learned that that is only in the U.S. For "International wireless delivery" the cost is higher - I'm told in one location outside the U.S. the cost was $14.39.

I should have the proof version of the print version tomorrow. I'm already planning a few changes, so after I check to make sure everything's coming out (I already wrote that I'm worried about the photo resolution), I'll upload the "final" version. It should be available a few days after that.

USA Team Trials

They start in three days, Thur-Sun, Feb. 7-10, at the Top Spin Club in San Jose, CA. They had a press conference on Saturday. Here are pictures and other info on the Trials. And here is the USATT's info page on the Trials.

Bojan Tokic Interview

Here's an interview with Bojan Tokic of Slovenia, world #25. Includes video.

The Awesomeness in Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (8:40).

Wang Liqin vs. Xu Xin

Here's video (3:59) of for world #1 Wang Liqin's incredible comeback from down 0-8 and 3-10 against world #1 Xu Xin at the 2013 Chinese team trials.

Table Tennis in Lagos

Here's two kids in Lagos playing table tennis using an old door balanced on stools as their table. Remember this next time you complain about your playing conditions!

The Table Tennis Collector

Here's issue #67 of The Table Tennis Collector. Here's what Editor and ITTF Museum Curator Chuck Hoey says about it:

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce the publication of issue number 67 in the Table Tennis Collector series. This is the 20th year of publication, beginning with 16 pages in black & white, and evolving to a 50-page issue in full color, free to all.

Many interesting articles in this issue, and a special report on missing World Championship scores that are needed to complete the historical record - please help!

Special thanks to our many contributors for sharing their research, including Alan Duke, Steve Grant, Fabio Marcotulli, Jorge Arango and John Ruderham, and our dedicated phiatelic collectors, Hans-Peter Trautmann, Winfried Engelbrecht, Tang Ganxian and Marc Templereau.

The pdf download is 10MB in size, so please allow extra time for the download to complete. This is a direct link: http://www.ittf.com/museum/TTC67.pdf

This issue, along with the entire series, can be accessed via my website: www.ittf.com/museum
Click the TT Collector icon and then select an issue to view.

Hope you enjoy the new issue. As always, constructive feedback is welcome.
Best wishes from Switzerland.

Chuck Hoey
Curator, ITTF Museum

Xu Xin Multiball

Here's video (37 sec) of world #1 Xu Xin doing multiball. See if you can match him!

Xu Xin and Ma Long Fooling Around

Here video (41 sec) of the current #1 and #3 players in the world goofing off. See if you can match their tricks! (Xu is the penholder, who starts out on the near side.)

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November 3, 2011

November 3, 2011

How Leagues Spur Growth

I was asked this morning who could (or would?) play in a nationwide table tennis league. I'd already talked about Germany and its 11,000 clubs and 700,000 players, England's 500,000, France's 300,000, etc., and how other sports also do this, and how these huge numbers come almost exclusively from leagues. Here's an excerpt of my response, which explains a bit more precisely and concisely how this happens.

"Anyone can join the league as part of a team representing a club, with the membership rate to be determined. This is the stage where new clubs are often certified or created, as players list the place they practice as their club (solving the U.S. problem of hordes of non-sanctioned clubs full of non-USATT players), or find and create ones for the purposes of the league (leading to hordes of new clubs, which soon fill up with new players who join the league, snowballing membership). There are always details to be worked out, which is why you go to experienced league directors (in club to club leagues) in the U.S., overseas, and in other sports to see how they did it, and then design a U.S. model."

There was a lot more written in the discussion, but I can't print what others wrote, and much of what I wrote only makes sense in the context of what others had written. I may write more on this later. However, one thing I've concluded is that it is far more likely that an independent group creates such a league - some are already working on it - than USATT, since independent groups can make and implement decisions in ways USATT is simply unable to do.

Plus, of course, leagues simply aren't among USATT's three vague "priorities," as decided at the 2009 Strategic Meeting (and unchanged), which are "Junior Development," "Grow Membership Through Added Value," and "Communications." I do agree with the "Junior Development" one, but not in the direction they are going, which I won't go into. The focus needs to be on recruiting and training coaches to set up and run junior programs. But nothing has been implemented from the task force on "Junior Development" in the two years since it was created.

Someone did say that I had convinced USATT at the Strategic Meeting that leagues should be a priority, and I responded, "On the contrary, I completely failed to convince everyone, or even a majority, that leagues should be a priority, which is why it did not become one of the three priorities. Please, nobody argue otherwise; if a majority agreed that leagues should have been one of the top three priorities, than it would have been one of the top three priorities. A huge opportunity was missed."

Article #1300

In the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of USA Table Tennis Magazine, I have a coaching article on footwork entitled, "Are You a Tree or a Squirrel?" This is my 1300th published article (plus four books). Wowie! Here's a listing of all 1300, many linked online - why not spend the next few weeks reading them all? Here's the opening paragraph of the article:

"Squirrels run circles around trees, and there's a lesson there. If you are a tree, you just stand there, rooted to the ground, waiting on each shot to see if you have to move. By the time you realize you have to move - how often does your opponent happen to hit the ball right into your forehand or backhand pocket so it'll hit right in the middle of your paddle? - it's too late, and so you can only awkwardly reach for the ball. There are no proud redwoods in table tennis, only weeping willows."

Samson Dubina returning half-long balls

Here's Samson topspinning half-long balls, with his forehand (1:57) and with his backhand (1:46). These are balls that, given the chance, the second bounce would be just off the end. These are difficult for some players to loop, but once you get the knack, they are easy to topspin.

The Art of Table Tennis

Here's a video (4:05) of amazing points from 2010 and 2011. A lot of both great forehand and backhand play - many such videos focus mostly on forehand shots. Don't miss the Samsonov backhand counter-kill at 3:29, which they then show in slow motion from two angles.

The Table Tennis Collector

The November, 2011 issue of The Table Tennis Collector just came out, their 62nd issue. The Table Tennis Collector is a quarterly magazine published by the ITTF Museum. If you are really, Really, REALLY interested in table tennis history, especially U.S. history, then buy some of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis books. You won't be able to put them down.

The NBA and Table Tennis

Table Tennis Nation talks about NBA players and table tennis, including Michael Jordan, Yao Ming, Rod Higgins, Carmelo Anthony, and Speedy Claxton. (If you want to see more basketball players, or other athletes and celebrities playing table tennis, see the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page.)

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