2012 U.S. Open

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July 6, 2012

U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30-July 4

I returned from the U.S. Open late on Wednesday night, took Thursday off, and now I'm back to blogging, coaching, and writing. How did I spend Thursday? Glad you asked! Saw both the new Spider-Man and Teddy movies. Both were very good. Teddy definitely deserved its R rating - most of my table tennis students aren't going to be seeing this for a while. (About thirty minutes into the movie a woman left the theatre with her roughly five-year-old son - what was she thinking? Probably thought "Teddy" sounded cute and didn't see the R.) I also read half the day ("Into the Out Of" by Alan Dean Foster), bought groceries, and watched "Little Fockers" on TV. Now on to the Open.

Before we go further, here are the complete U.S. Open Results and the complete ITTF Junior Pro Tour Results. (The latter was held in conjunction with the U.S. Open.)

I was there primarily as a coach, but I did enter one event - Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff. I'd won the event twelve times at the Open or Nationals, eight times with Ty. Make that thirteen times, nine with Ty! We eeked out a three-game victory in the final over Jeff Johnston and Jay Turberville, 20,-19,17. We were down 11-16 in the first game, and the third was close all the way until we pulled away near the end. Ty and I have a lot of experience together; our basic game plan is he attacks consistently while I end the point with forehands. My strength is my receive, where I attack pretty much every serve with quick, off-the-bounce hits to wide angles and to the opponent's middle. But I normally use sponge. I started using playing hardbat semi-seriously around 1990, and besides the doubles, have won Hardbat Singles twice and Over 40 Hardbat four times. Here's a picture of Ty and me in the final.

At the Open I was primarily coaching Derek Nie, as well George Nie (his older brother), Nathan Hsu, and a couple of times Lilly Lin. I usually coach Tong Tong Gong as well, but since he's on the USA National Cadet Team he was primarily coached this time by USA Cadet Coach Keith Evans. Since I was coaching almost the whole time I rarely got to see other matches.

Derek Nie, who recently turned 11, came in rated 2146, and at a little over 60 pounds, he may be, pound for pound, the highest rated player ever. He plays an aggressive game, looping and smashing from both sides, at a pace few opponents can keep up with, especially when he starts looping forehands. He had a great tournament, winning 11 and Under, with wins over two players around 2250 and a bunch of 2000 to 2100 players. He also went five games with two players over 2300, and in one of them, was up 2-1 in games and 8-5 in the fourth before losing 11-9 in the fifth. Perhaps most impressively he didn't lose to anyone rated under 2300 despite playing eight singles events.

Derek seemed to think a game that didn't go deuce was like a day without McDonalds - but he won most of those deuce games, including in the final of 11 & Under against Gal Alguetti, where Derek won at 16,10,11. (He was down game point all three games: five times in the first game, including twice at 8-10, and down 9-10 in both the second and third.) He also had to battle in the semifinals with a red-hot Michael Tran. Derek was up 10-8 match point in the fourth (and I think another match point in deuce) before losing that game and so went into the fifth before winning at 11,-6,7,-12,7. Afterwards Derek watched video of himself over and over missing the easiest backhand kill of all time up match point in the fourth; if he'd lost that match, missing that shot would have haunted him for a long time. We then switched to videos of his best matches as the last thing I wanted was for him to keep watching himself miss!

Against a 2240 player he won at 11,8,15,-7,10. Yes, he likes those deuce games. (But he beat the other 2250 player three straight without going deuce or even 9.) Here's a picture of me warming him up, and another coaching him. Later I hope to post the picture of him posing with a Ronald McDonald clown, but for now, here he is with green hair and striped glasses.

I've been pondering a timeout I almost called. In the 11 & Under final, Derek was up 2-0 in games and led 11-10 match point. I wanted to lock up the match, and decided to call a timeout. This is also what the Chinese National Team tends to do - they often call timeouts when their player is up match or game point so the player can focus on winning that last point. However, before I could call the timeout, the opponent's coach called a timeout instead. From their point of view, their player was down to his last point, and desperately needed the next point. From my point of view, I wanted to lock up the point and the match, and the timeout would have allowed Derek to really focus while we discuss tactics. If the opponent hadn't called the timeout, should I have? (I did make one "obvious" mistake - I should have anticipated they'd likely call a timeout, and should have waited to see if they were going to before I started to. As it was, they just beat me to it.)

In general, I'm hesitant to call timeouts with Derek. Why? Because he's very focused when he plays, plays smart tactics, and I think his opponents, facing this mini dynamo, need the break more than he does. I'm more likely to call a timeout to recommend a serve at a key point, but often he seems to serve exactly the serve I'm hoping he'll serve. He has a knack for going for the fast & deep serve at just the right time.

I also coached his brother George in many of his matches. He also had a very good tournament. He came in rated 1994, but had wins over players rated 2250 and 2080 and was up 9-8 in the fifth with a 2206 player. (I coached those three matches.) He also beat several other players rated around 2000.

I coached Nathan Hsu (now 16 years old, rated 2356) in three of his ITTF Junior Pro Tour matches. (Here's a picture of him winning a game.) All three of his opponents were in the 2350 range, with the first two a pair of lefty Canadians.

In the first one (in the preliminary Under 18 RR), he was down 1-2 in games but came back to win, 11,-6,-8,6,5. This was an interesting tactical match, especially the fifth game. Nathan had been receiving very aggressively, flipping most of the short serves, but at 2-2 in the fifth, the Canadian served two no-spin serves, Nathan flipped, and the Canadian anticipated both returns and ripped forehands. I could see that he was hanging back, waiting for the flip, and decided I was going to call a time-out before his next receive. It was a "controversial" time-out because Nathan tied it on his serve, 4-4, and so he had the "momentum" when I called the time out. I told him to start dropping the serve short - and it worked! He went back, executed perfectly, and scored four in a row and outscored his opponent 7-1 the rest of the way in winning the last game 11-5. (Once he started dropping the ball short, he was also able to flip the serves again, since the opponent wasn't sure what he was going to do.) Winning this match advanced him to the main draw.

Against the second lefty Canadian he was down 1-3 in games. He had been attacking hard with his backhand loop to all parts of the table - my advice - but missing too much. Starting in game five we agreed he should go nearly all crosscourt. Now the backhand loops became relentlessly strong and consistent, often taken very close to the table, and he came back to win, 9,-5,-8,-4,8,6,9. This advanced him to the second round.

Now he faced Kunal Chodri, who's about 2400. Again Nathan mostly went crosscourt with his backhand loop, and it worked - well, almost. He did dominate the backhand exchanges, and was up 2-1 in games. He led 10-9 in the fourth but just missed a backhand winner. In the seventh he was up 10-9 match point, and again missed a backhand winner. (He hadn't been missing many of these!) In the end, Kunal pulled it out, -10,7,-9,10,9,-7,11.

I told Nathan afterwards that if he focuses on developing his serve & receive, adds power to his forehand loop with better hip rotation (which is how you put your weight into a loop), and keeps improving his dominant backhand loop, he can ride that backhand loop to a very high level. 

A few other notes:

  • A man in his mid-60s literally got into a fight with his opponent and the opponent's wife, twisting the wife's arm so severely it left extensive bruises. (I saw them.) He also shoved the referee. He was kicked out of the tournament and probably faces suspensions and/or fines. When someone came by and told us about this, some of the kids started chanting "Old person fight! Old person fight! Old person fight!"
  • Wang Qing Liang, the 17-year-old chopper/looper from China who moved to Maryland a few months ago as a coach trainee, made the semifinals of Men's Singles and Under 21 and the final of Under 18. He beat Olympians Timothy Wang (4-0) and Pierre-Luc Hinse (of Canada) as well as Adam Hugh.
  • Coaching is 16.7 times as tiring as playing. I worked this out with actual math.
  • What does a coach actually do at major tournaments?
  • Tactical advice to players, before matches, between games, and during timeouts;
  • Strategic advice to players (i.e. explaining what they need to work on for the future);
  • Scouting (both live and video) - I keep a file on opponents;
  • Physical preparation, especially each morning;
  • Mental preparation before each match;
  • Training preparation (either as practice partner or by arranging one);
  • Advice on meals
  • Entertainment

Last Monday's Tip of the Week

Oops! I had a Tip of the Week written in advance to go last Monday while I was at the U.S. Open. But it completely slipped my mind. Alas, it'll go up on Monday.

48 seconds of Slow-Motion Table Tennis

The video is from the upcoming Topspin Documentary, and features Michael Landers, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu, and Barney J. Reed.

The Higgs Boson Explained

They explain it with ping-pong balls and sugar (1:53)!

Ping-Pong 3-D Game

If you want to go crazy, try beating this online ping-pong game! I don't think it's possible to win, but you can spend endless time trying.


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May 18, 2012

Two times to shorten your stroke

Many players develop strokes that are too short, which costs them both power and control. (They lose control because to generate power they have to jerk into the shot instead of a smoother progression.) But there are two times when players should often shorten their strokes.

The first is when returning serves. The key here is control, so you don't need a lot of power. A shorter stroke also allows you to wait a little longer before swinging, giving you more time to read the spin. It also is easier to use a short stroke over the table against short serves. You can shorten your stroke a bit when looping a deep serve as well, as long as you don't get too soft. The basic rule is loop only as fast as needed to keep the opponent from making a strong counter-attack. (Of course, if you read the serve well - and know you have read the serve well - then you can put a little more on the loop. At higher levels many players often overpower the service spin with their own huge topspin, and so they do not shorten their stroke.)

The second time is against a loop. If you are blocking, you don't need to put too much force into it since the topspin will jump off your racket already. If you smash a loop, then you should also shorten your stroke. This allows you to wait as long as possible before starting your forward swing, and it makes timing easier against a ball that's jumping off the table with topspin. Unlike a normal smash, where you can get away with hitting the ball a bit late, against a loop if you are late smashing, the ball jumps away from you. The shorter stroke makes it easier to take it on the rise or top of the bounce.

You also might shorten your stroke in a very fast rally or against a smash, but here you are doing it because you are forced to, as opposed to by choice.

How To Prepare for Match and Win! - Mental Readiness

Here's a good article on mentally preparing for a table tennis match. The article covers nine topics:

  • Scout your opponent
  • Get a Coach
  • Ignore Distractions
  • Videotape your matches
  • Practice
  • Respect your Opponent
  • Physical Readiness
  • Flexibility
  • Over thinking

U.S. Open Entry Deadline extended to May 29

Enter the U.S. Open or else we'll kill this dog!

Behind the Scenes with Ariel Hsing

Here are pictures of Ariel during a photo session with NBC.

Table tennis going to the dogs

Since we're going to shoot a dog if you don't enter the U.S. Open (see above), here's a cartoon of a dog playing table tennis, 41 seconds of a kid playing dining room table tennis to the tune of "Who Let the Dogs Out" (he's pretty good), and 31 seconds of a Yorkie playing table tennis.

Non-Table Tennis - Nebula Awards Weekend

I'll be out all day today at Nebula Awards Weekend in Arlington, Virginia. It's Fri-Sun, but unfortunately I won't be able to go on Sat & Sun due to coaching commitments. I'm in a writing workshop, a writer's web page workshop, a couple of panels, and I'll be at the big book signing session from 5:30-7:30 PM where I and my co-authors will be signing copies of the "Awards Weekend Collector's Edition Anthology," which has a story of mine in it. (I'll be coaching both at MDTTC and at the Potomac Open.)


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May 11, 2012

New Chinese kids in Maryland

Now it can be told! After months of negotiation and visa dealings with the State Department (both U.S. and Chinese versions), we have three new Chinese junior players at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Yes, junior players - they are all from the Shandong Lueng Table Tennis School in Shandong, China. They are here indefinitely, where they will both train and be practice partners while they learn English and later go to school here - they hope to attend college here as well.

They arrived on Tuesday, and played at the club on Wednesday. This afternoon they'll be in the Elite Junior Session from 5-7, and that's when we'll really learn their levels. They are obviously very strong, probably as good as anyone their age in the U.S.  The chopper is the oldest and the strongest - probably in the 2500-2600 range, and will likely be the best chopper in the U.S.  The others are likely in the 2300-2500 range. (All three will compete at the U.S. Open, and perhaps the Easterns.) They are:

  • Wang Qing Liang, age 17, originally from Guangxi Province, a right-handed chopper/looper with long pips on one side.
  • Chen Bo Wen, age 14, originally from Hubei Province, a right-handed two-winged penhold looper with reverse penhold backhand.
  • Wang Guo Cong, age 12, originally from Nanjing, a lefty shakehand looper.

Serving Seminar

As noted in my blog previously, I'm doing a Service Seminar at the Maryland Table Tennis Center tomorrow (Saturday) from 12:30-2:00 PM. Here's the info page! Make sure to email me in advance if you are coming so you can save $5. I'll be covering how to create spin, deception, specific serve motions, and fast serves. We'll alternate between lecture and on-table practice.

U.S. Open Entries

Deadline to enter the 2012 U.S. Open (Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30-July 4) is May 12, which is TOMORROW!!! After that you can enter through May 19 with a $75 late fee. So enter now!

If you want to watch as the U.S. Open entries come in, here's the page that lists entries by event, and this one alphabetically. (Click on a player's ID number and you'll see what events he's entered in.) There are currently 212 entries. There's always a lag between entries being received and put online, and there's always a last-minute rush, but inevitably we'll end up somewhere in the 700-800 range. Deadline to enter is May 12.

Chinese Olympic Women's Team

Here's a story about the Chinese women going to the Olympics, including injury news (Ding Ning replaces the injured Guo Yan), doubles info, and comparisons to the Chinese heyday of a few years ago with Zhang Yining and Wang Nan.

Santa Barbara Ping Pong

I mentioned in my blog yesterday how Santa Barbara wants to put up outside cement tables next to their libraries. Now they have a web page devoted to this - http://www.PublicPingPongSantaBarbara.com! "Ping pong is available to people of all walks of life, and to all ages and skill levels. We see this table as a singular way to bring a social sport, that’s already well-loved, to public spaces. We have benefactors who will donate our first table, the cost of delivery, and installation. We just need approvals." The article also links to this article from the New York Times from March, 2011, which is also about the joys of outdoor cement tables, also with pictures.

Gazette Feature Article

The Gazette is sending a reporter and photographer to the Maryland Table Tennis Center today to do a feature story. They'll be there between 5-7PM during the Elite Junior Session, and may stay after to take pictures when the club is jammed after 7:30PM for the Friday night league.

Coaching Offer

Yesterday I received an email with a "coaching offer" from someone from the Shaanxi Province of China. They offered me $29,000/month ($348,000/year) if I'd become the Technical Adviser for their club. All I had to do was furnish them with lots of personal info and I'd be all set! Between that and the Nigerian offers, I'm in great demand.

Table Tennis Out of This World

Here's a picture of astronauts playing table tennis at Johnson Space Center. The guy on the left has a proper grip, but the guy on the right has serious grip issues. Anyone know their names?


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May 1, 2012

Breaking 2000 by Alex Polyakov

[Note - I did a very short review of this here in February, but I decided to do a more extensive one - after all, this is primarily a coaching blog, and this is a unique coaching book. Tomorrow I've got another book review, of Steve Grant's "Ping Pong Fever: The Madness That Swept 1902 America."]

I recently read the excellent book Breaking 2000, by Alex Polyakov (Breaking 2000, 140 pages, available in paperback and ebook). The book is a first-hand step-by-step look at the strategic development of a player from near beginner to an advanced level. I don't think I've seen it covered like this anywhere else. Instructional books generally do a good job in teaching how to do each technique; this book shows the actual events taking place as the techniques were learned, how they were learned, and most important, why. (And on a related note, Alex's coach, Gerald Reid, who is mentioned throughout the book, came to several of my training camps back in the 1990s!)

Improvement in table tennis is rarely a steady upward progression. As you learn new things, your game often temporarily "regresses" as you learn the new technique, and so rapidly-improving players often go up a bunch, then down a little, then up, then down. If you chart their improvement, it's more of an upward staircase. And that proves to be the case with Alex. (See his rating chart.)  

The book is broken down into about forty chapters, often with titles about developing specific techniques ("Forehand Development," "Backhand Development," "A Push," "Service Practice," "Practicing Against Junk Rubber Players," "Timely Backhand Development," "Dealing with Mental Tactics," etc.), specific rating accomplishments that describe how he reached that level ("Breaking USATT 1400," "USATT 1600," "Goodbye USATT 1600," "En Route to USATT 1800," "Back to USATT 1700," "Anxious to Break 1900," "USATT 2000," etc.) and other more colorful sounding chapters ("Facing Demons," "No Mercy, No Hesitation," "Hollywood Shots," "I Hate Playing Him!," "The Winner Always Wants the Ball," and "It is Not About Points.") The chapters talk about how he and Coach Gerald worked to develop and improve the specific techniques needed to reach each level.

The best parts of the book are the specific step-by-step chronicling of how his game was developed from beginner to 2000 player. At each step he and Coach Gerald analyzed his game, decided what was needed to reach the next level, and then set about practicing those techniques. Most of it is applicable to anyone who is ready to put in the time and practice to follow in Alex's footsteps and develop their game to a high level.

Here are some interesting quotes from the book. There are many more that are specific to the techniques he is working on, but these are some of the more general ones that caught my eye. I especially love the "I did not know what I did not know" statement - this is the bane of so many players, who often do not know that they do not know what they do not know.

  • "I know exactly how I was losing my matches during the tournament. I simply did not know what I did not know. My game consisted of simply reacting to the ball and hitting it if the opportunity came up. I had no strategy, no clear and concise thinking; all I had was simple brute force."
  • "Coaching has been the major factor in my success and is the biggest reason why I have been able to achieve my goals."
  • "Gerald proposed to start by shaping my game in such a way that would allow me to develop certain undeniable strengths which would never fail me. He called it a 'base.' Having this base would mean that these basic skills would in time become a power that would tilt the pendulum during my matches against 95% of opponents of my level. This so-called base was meant to establish a set of technically correct strokes, which I could execute flawlessly and with consistency."
  • "Rating points do not define a player. Player's skills define rating points through results produced in competitive tournament level settings."
  • "...there is no need to rush, there is no need to be disappointed and there is no need to ever doubt your ability to win. There is just a need to find new weaknesses in your game and learn to turn the weakness into weapons."

Coaching Break

Cheng Yinghua returns today from his three-week vacation in China. I've been coaching many of his students while he was gone, and it's been exhausting, though it's been a big bonus monetary-wise. But now I'll finally catch up on rest - and soon I'll dive back into the final rewrite of my own newest book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide." (It's basically done - I've got perhaps four hours of rewriting to do, but it involves some tricky stuff - I save the hardest for last.) 

Learn to Pong Like a Champ

Here's Part 1 of 3 from 2011 USA National Men's Singles Champion Peter Li, covering 1) Developing the Forehand Smash; 2) Learning the Sidespin Serve; and 3) Learning the Long Fast Serve. It's given both in text form and video (2:18). How do these three seemingly different topics come together? As Peter explains, the sidespin serve sets up the smash, and the fast serve keeps opponents from getting too used to the sidespin serve.

U.S. Open Table Tennis Championships

Home page. Grand Rapids. June 30 - July 4. Starts in sixty days. Be there. 'Nuff said.

North American Olympic Trials Videos

Available online now! Yes, you can watch the great USA-Canadian Clash of 2012!

Matt Jarvis breaks the Ice with table tennis

England's Matt Jarvis, son of former English champions Nick and Linda Jarvis (now Linda Jarvis-Howard), made the English national team football team (that's soccer to us Americans) - and then broke the ice with his new teammates by beating them in table tennis! Here's the story.


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February 24, 2012

Service fault controversies

Over the past 14 months (and many tournaments) I've been involved in six specific incidents involving hidden serves. Five different times I've called for umpires or complained to umpires about opponents hiding their serves against a player I was coaching. Each case became a controversy as either the umpire wouldn't call the hidden serve, or if they did, and the opponent (or his coach or others in his contingent) became quite unhappy. In the other case where I complained about a fault on my player, an umpire simply got the rules wrong and faulted my player incorrectly for hiding a serve that clearly wasn't hidden. (Just for the record - players I coach were also correctly faulted several times along the way. Only that one time did I complained about a service fault called against a player I coached.)

Other than unhappy people, what's the one thing each case had in common? In every case I was right about the serve, as shown by video and photo sequences taken from the video. (I'm not going to fan the flames by publishing them, but if you were directly involved in one of these hidden serve controversies, feel free to email me and I'll show you the video and photo sequences.)

This isn't bragging. It's rather easy to see if a serve is hidden or not from the sidelines behind the players, where the coach sits, far easier than it is for the umpire off to the side. It's not a matter of being able to tell if the serve is hidden; it's a matter of choosing to speak up rather than let the opponent have the advantage of illegally hiding their serve. Some think a player or coach should just live with the disadvantage of having to face hidden serves, but I just don't buy that.

I generally don't worry about illegal serves unless the opponent is getting a serious advantage out of it. This usually means only on hidden serves, where players hide the ball with their arm, shoulder, body, or head. Other service rules are often abused, but none cause nearly as much trouble for the receiver as hidden serves. (Quick-serving out of the hand is sometimes a problem, but is so obviously illegal that any competent umpire will call it on the first instance.)

I've heard some crazy rationales for why it's "okay" to hide one's serve. (Note - hiding the serve means hiding the ball from the opponent during the serve motion, which is illegal, making it difficult for the opponent to read the spin on the serve. Usually this means hiding contact; sometimes it means hiding the ball until the split second before contact, when it's almost impossible to pick up the contact.) Here are some paraphrases of some of the best excuses:

  • "No one's called me on it before." (I know of at least one player who has used this excuse probably a dozen times. Thank about that! But even if it were true, then that doesn't change the fact that the serve is illegal; it simply means there has been lax umpiring.)
  • "That's the way everyone's serving." (Not true, but a lot do get away with it.)
  • "Why would you call me on serves?" (Because you are hiding your serve.)
  • "I'll call my opponent for serving illegally in practice, but no way should you call him on it in a tournament." (This is one of the stranger ones.)
  • "He's from your own player's club!" (So why is he hiding his serve against someone from his club who is not hiding his serve?)

It is true that many players get away with serving illegally, and umpires are notorious for not calling hidden serves in international matches. It's unfortunate but true that to compete internationally, our top players may have to develop hidden serves to compete against opponents who hide their serves and the umpire doesn't call it. And I have no problem with players hiding their serve if the opponent is doing so. But you better learn to serve legally if you are called for it - without argument - and you really shouldn't hide your serve against an opponent who is serving legally.

Unfortunately, these incidents have caused a lot of tension and are rather frustrating. Some think players and coaches shouldn't call opponents for hiding their serves, and are quick to show their anger at those who do. Others simply angrilly deny that the serves are hidden, despite the many witnesses (often including umpires and referees) and video that show otherwise. Alas.

By the way, in 36 years and about 600 tournaments, I've been faulted for my serve exactly once - and the umpire and referee both admitted afterwards they had made a mistake, that the serve was legal and shouldn't have been faulted. What happened? I'll write about that next week.

Service seminars

I plan on running a series of one-hour Serving Seminars at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, probably starting sometime in April or May. These will cover serving technique from beginning to advanced. The seminars will be both lecture/demonstration and on-the-table practice. Afterwards I may keep up a weekly 30-minute service session where players can get together and practice their serves. More on this later!

2012 U.S. Open

Here it is, the home page for the 2012 U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30-July 4. See you there!

Table Tennis Sports Psychology Book

Here's a new table tennis sports psychology book, "Get Your Game Face On! Table Tennis" by Dora Kurimay and Kathy Toon. I've downloaded it to my Kindle but haven't read it yet.

Kessel’s Handy Guide to Ruining Volleyball Player

While this was written for volleyball coaches, most of it applies to table tennis coaches as well! Some of my favorites:

  • "Never show what you want, if one thousand words will do.  All explanations should be as wordy as possible to demonstrate your vast knowledge of the game."
  • "Make sure to always tell the player what he or she did wrong."
  • "Teach volleyball [table tennis] the way it is supposed to be taught, on the chalkboard."
  • "Make sure to bawl players out about their mistakes, win or lose.  It is better to do this in front of a whole gym full of spectators, rather than in the locker room, or worse, one on one in private."

Table Tennis Benefit for Alzheimer's

Adam Bobrow, Susan Sarandon, and Soo Yeon Lee are among those who will take part in this benefit on March 4 in Los Angeles.

Kuwait Open Highlights Tape

Here's a highlights video (3:38) from the Kuwait Open of Jun Mizutani (JPN) vs. Kim Min Seok (KOR) in the quarterfinals, set to music.

Lady Antebellum Table Tennis

After a sold-out show on Feb. 17, the members of this country pop music group put on "The First Annual Lady A Ping-Pong Classic" (3:09).


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December 9, 2011

Hidden Service Rules

From the just-received Nov/Dec 2011 issue of USATT Magazine, page 62, from the An Official's View article by International Umpire Joseph C. H. Lee:

[He quotes a service rule.] "From the start of service until it is struck, the ball ... shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry."

[He quotes another service rule.] "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect."

"From the umpire’s angle, sometimes it is difficult to determine whether or not the serve is hidden from the receiver. It is the server’s responsibility, however, to demonstrate to the umpire or the assistant umpire that the serve conforms to all aspects of the service rules."

He concludes with this:

"...the server must make sure the umpire can observe the entire motion of the serve, including the moment when the racket strikes the ball. If the umpire is unable to observe the serve, he/she will give a warning and the server had better comply in subsequent serves."

Bingo. Why is it so many umpires refuse to enforce the hidden serve rule? As International Umpire Joseph Lee writes above, if the umpire can't see that the serve is visible, then he gives a warning, and if it happens again, it's a fault. It's not complicated.

I've blogged about this a number of times. Will it be enforced at the Nationals next week? I sure hope so. If not, then umpires are allowing players to win by cheating, and penalizing the ones who do not cheat. If not enforced, it likely will be the difference between a player winning a championship or making a USA Team or going home frustrated because he was cheated out of these things.

Unfortunately, we ran into this at last years USA Cadet Team Trials, and again at the U.S. Open, when umpires often wouldn't call hidden serves. (And to be fair, it's often not called internationally either.) This year I've brought printouts from videos of many of the players in question, showing blatantly illegal hidden serves that umpires wouldn't call, even after protests by opponents or their coaches. Because some of the players involved are minors, I'm not going to make these public, but I will show them to umpires & referees, and anyone who privately (and cordially) asks to see them.

If umpires do not enforce the hidden serve rules at the Nationals, then I'm declaring these rules null and void (and the umpires incompetent), and our top players (including cadets and juniors) will have no choice but to learn these illegal serves to compete. A rule that is openly not enforced soon ceases to be a rule.

Maryland Table Tennis Center Expansion

At the club last night I told a player about the upcoming expansion. (MDTTC doubles in size in January, taking over the space next door, with the wall between coming down, giving us about 11,000 square feet and 20 or so tables.) His immediate response? "There aren't enough players to support it!"

It's exactly what people said when we first opened 20 years ago, and there truly weren't nearly enough local players at that time to support a full-time table tennis center. Where will we get the players? The same way we did then, the same way any successful club does - you make the club as good as it can be, and promote the heck out of it. You build your membership, you don't wait for players to magically appear before creating the club.

I faced the same thing with USATT a few years ago when I pushed for nationwide leagues and junior training programs, with the goal of increasing the number of players and juniors. The response by many? "But there aren't enough players and juniors to create leagues and junior programs!" Alas.

Prize money increased for the 2012 U.S. Open in Grand Rapids

And here's the article!

The Chinese Advantage

Here's an article by Coach Massimo Constantini on why the Chinese are so good. It mostly involves European laziness and problematic backhand techniques that led to problems on the forehand as well.

Pongcast Episode 5 - ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals

Here's the video (26:54) - enjoy!

Blake Griffin versus Soo Yeon Lee

Here a hilarious commercial for Red Bull (2:53), which features Griffin taking up professional table tennis and taking on Lee. Blake Griffin is a basketball player with the LA Clippers, for those of you who didn't know - like me until a few seconds ago. Soo Yeon Lee is a professional table tennis player and model - she was on the cover of the July/August USA Table Tennis Magazine.


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