Daily Quarterly Interview

November 11, 2011

Half-Long Serves

I've been ruminating on the proper terminology for serves where the second bounce, if given the chance, would go near the end-line. The problem is the definition of a "half-long serve" seems to vary from person to person and region to region. Some say it means the second bounce is just short of the end-line; others say the second bounce is around the end-line (i.e. it might go slightly short or long); and others say the second bounce is just off the end.

I've always called this type (or these types?) of serve a "tweeny serve," but half-long serves seems to be the more popular term among advanced players. One person thought a half-long serve is always slightly long, while a tweeny serve is always slightly short.

Pretty frustrating for us wordsmiths! But the exact terminology isn't nearly as important as understanding these serves, both the execution of them and returning them.

Here's how five-time U.S. Men's Champion and two-time U.S. Olympic team member Sean O'Neill described how to return a half-long serve where the second bounce is slightly long, though you can go a bit over the table and do this against one where the second bounce would be very close to the end-line.

"Keys to remember when attacking these knuckle busters:

1) get closer to the table and often more sideways
2) smaller backswing
3) more upward motion with hands and forearm
4) more shoulder turn after the point of contact

Attacking topspin half longs are a little easier as the ball with help with the lifting. Don't forget to aim deep on your opponent's side and to see where they are vulnerable before hitting the shot."

Day Four at the Writer's Retreat

Yesterday was the fourth day of the writer's retreat at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, Mon-Fri, 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM, where I'm working on my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide."

After typing almost nonstop Mon-Wed, yesterday exhaustion began to set in, and I had my least productive day, and by that, I mean I did more than I had expected to do each day when this retreat began. I "only" did 4856 words, but that brought to 35,419 the total I've written since Monday morning, and 40,275 overall. I figure I'm about two-thirds through the book.

I've been thinking about this book for so long that the words are just pouring out in an explosive torrent of organized and properly formatted text.

I spent most of yesterday writing about specific strategies for various styles, including a very long section on tactics for loopers, as well as sections on tactics for hitters and blockers. I also did some rewriting of some earlier sections. Today I hope to finish the section on tactics for various styles, and move on to the chapters on playing against various grips, surfaces, and styles.

Soon I'll start going through past coaching articles I've written and begin incorporating some of that. (I've done a little of that, but most of what I've written is new.)

Today's quote: "Table tennis is a game of utter complexity and utter simplicity. If you get too caught up in the myriad of complex strategies available, you'll be lost in a sea of uncertainty. If your thinking is too simple, you aren't maximizing your play."

Here is the current Table of Contents. I'm toying with adding an "Odds and Ends" chapter where I can put tactical tips that don't quite fit elsewhere, but so far I think I can fit everything in these chapters. I had a chapter on "Rallying Tactics," but everything in that was incorporated into the chapters on "Conventional and Non-Conventional Tactics" and "Tactics for Specific Styles." Otherwise, things would get a bit redundant. I also might need to add a chapter - do I really want to have thirteen chapters???

  • Introduction
  • Chapter One                Tactical Thinking
  • Chapter Two                Strategic Thinking
  • Chapter Three              All About Spin
  • Chapter Four                Your Tactical Game
  • Chapter Five                Conventional and Non-Conventional Tactics
  • Chapter Six                  Beginning Tactics
  • Chapter Seven              Service Tactics
  • Chapter Eight               Receive Tactics
  • Chapter Nine                Tactics for Specific Styles
  • Chapter Ten                 Playing Different Surfaces
  • Chapter Eleven Playing Different Grips and Styles
  • Chapter Twelve            Doubles Tactics
  • Chapter Thirteen           The Mental Side of Tactics
  • Glossary
  • About the Author
  • Index

Interview Time

The Daily Quarterly did a two-part interview with me. Part 1 went up last Friday. Here's Part 2, which went up this morning. 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.

USA Nationals Entries

Want to see who's entered in the USA Nationals (Dec. 13-17, Virginia Beach)? Here's the listing. (Make sure to set the tournament to 2011 US Nationals.) They have 562 entries, and I think they are nearly done, though a few more last-minute ones might be added. Here's the home page for the USA Nationals.

Video of the Day

Here's The Best of Timo Boll (4:35).

Paralympic Table Tennis Pictures

Here are photos taken during table tennis tournaments for disabled, care of Flickr and the ITTF.

Ones in a Lifetime

For those living in a cave or who do not worship weird numbers and dates, twice today the time and date will be 11-11-11 11:11:11, once at 11:11 AM and again at 11:11 PM. (Make sure to set your clock according to official time so you'll know exactly when it's 11 seconds past these two times.) What does this have to do with table tennis? Well, why do you think the ITTF changed the scoring system from 21 to 11 a few years back? Obviously in anticipation of today (won't happen again for 100 years), so that somewhere out there two crazy players can go out and play an 11-11 deuce game at one of the two indicated times. (Here's the CNN article on this.)

And this is spooky. Take the last two digits of the year you were born (60 for me) and add them to your age (51 for me), it'll add up to 111 for those age 12 and over, and to 11 for those 11 and under. (It's basic math, but still fun to see.) 

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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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