Chinese Dominance

June 23, 2014

Tip of the Week

Get the Backswing Right.

Luckiest Shots Ever

There's an interesting thread on this at the forum. The two initial videos given are pretty wild: this one (1:09, includes slow motion replay) and that one (11 sec) - see the expression and reaction of player on far side! And here's a video (4:07) that compiles some of the luckiest nets and edges in matches (but starting off with one from a great exhibition match).

Some believe that nets and edges even out, but they really don't, at least not for everyone. Here's my blog on that from Feb. 4, 2011. Make sure to read the comments below.

Here are the luckiest and unluckiest shots I've ever done.

Luckiest: My opponent (Bob Powell) popped the ball up very wide and deep to my backhand. I stepped all the way around and tried forehand smashing down the line. My ball hit the top of the left-hand net post, bounced to the right, hit the right-hand net post, bounced to the left, hit the top of the net, rolled along it for few inches, and then dribbled over for a winner.

Unluckiest: My opponent mis-hit the ball with his racket edge, putting the ball high and short to my backhand with a crazy backspin. The ball bounced back over his side of the table. I stepped over and smashed the ball with my forehand as hard as I could, barely stopping my forward swing before hitting the table with my racket. The ball went straight down very fast. The ball went straight up very fast, way up toward the very high ceiling. Then the ball just dropped down - still over the table. I was still standing off on the left side watching the ball when I realized what was happening. My opponent simply pushed the ball back to my wide forehand for a winner. (I dived after it and got my racket on it, but couldn't return it.) So this is the answer to the question of how a player can push a smash back for a winner. 

Another wild one was while hitting with a student. It was just a regular practice rally, and suddenly he got a net ball. I returned it with a net ball, and this continued for seven consecutive shots! He had four nets to my three (see, my opponents always get more than me). I'm still wondering if this is somehow a world record.

But the ultimate in luck/bad luck was the Men's Singles Final at the 1973 Worlds, where Sweden's Kjell Johansson was serving to China's Xi Enting at 18-19 in the fifth. Xi won the next two points on a net and an edge. Here's video (3:01) of the last few points of the match. Jump to 2:12 to see the start of the last two points.

Summer Table Tennis

On Satuday, summer officially began, so it's time to head out to the beach table tennis club! But unless you play only in air conditioning, you need to be prepared for heat and humidity. 

  • Heat: Obviously dress appropriately. But more importantly, drink lots of water. Sports drinks are also okay.
  • Humidity: This is a mostly a problem in keeping your racket dry. But there's a simple solution - bring three towels. One for you, one for the racket and ball, and a backup - if the racket/ball towel gets damp, you'll need to replace it. I've never understood why so many people use the same towel to wipe away sweat and to dry off the racket and ball.

How to Win Consistently Against Lower Players

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

U.S. Senior Circuit?

At the club yesterday Dave Sakai told me about plans to create a senior circuit in the U.S. Apparently he and Dan Seemiller had been looking into bringing the World Veterans Championships to the U.S., and were told that to do so, they'd need to show more senior play. And so the senior circuit idea was born, with events that match the World Veterans Championships, from Over 40 to Over 85. Those involved include Dave Sakai, Dan Seemiller, Dean Johnson, and Mike Babuin. 

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 down, 70 to go!

  • Day 71: President Sharara Reflects on the Impact of Ping Pong Diplomacy
  • Day 72: Chinese Dominance, Absence & Ping Pong Diplomacy
  • Day 73: The Era of Japanese Dominance

Top Ten Reasons to Play Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Video Interview with Shiono Masato

Here's the video (2:41, with English subtitles) of the Japanese defensive star, #22 in the world.

Top Ten Shots from the Japan Open

Here's the video (3:50). The World Tour event was held this past weekend. Here's the Japan Open page, where you can find results, articles, pictures, and video.

1970s Table Tennis - Stellan Bengtsson vs. Chuang Tse-tung

Here's the video (24:40) of the semifinals of the Swedish Open between the three-time world Men's Singles Champion from China (1961-1965) and the soon-to-be World Champion (1971 at age 17, so presumably about 16 in this video) Stellan Bengtsson. Keep in mind that Stellan is using old-fashioned sponge, what we consider these days the stuff on "toy" rackets. Chuang is using pips-out sponge. [EDIT: Stellan wasn't happy with my assessment of the sponges used in 1971. He was using Mark V sponge, which isn't exactly a "toy" sponge though essentially no top players use these types of sponges anymore in this age of tensor and high-tension sponges. (But they are still an appropriate surface for beginning/intermediate players.) I'd actually thought the Mark V used then was slower than the Mark V now, but I've been told that it's about the same now as it was then. (I'm talking about the original version, not all the new types.) The point I was making (and overstated by likening it to "toy" sponge) was that much of the reason the game was slower back then, as seen in the tape, was that the inverted sponges were slower than what are used these days by top players, especially when looping, where modern sponges practically slingshot the ball out. I'll blog about this after I return from the U.S. Open on July 8, 2014.]

Players Autographing Ping-Pong Table in U.S. Open Golf Locker Room

Here's the article.

Desert Pong

Here's the latest table tennis artwork by Mike Mezyan. Warning - do not look if you suffer from Ophidiophobia!

Supersonic Ping-Pong Gun Destroys Paddle

Here's the article and video (34 sec).

Send us your own coaching news!

January 31, 2012

Different strokes for different folks

It's interesting to watch the natural tendencies of players come out in their play. Yesterday I coached three kids, all beginning-intermediate players.

The first one, age ten, literally takes every ball off the bounce. It is easier for an elephant to fit through the eye of a needle than to get him to hit the ball at the top of the bounce. In a previous era not dominated by looping he'd be a hitter/blocker. These days? I'm not so sure. Right now he hits everything off the bounce; later on, perhaps he'll loop everything off the bounce. He plays at home with a table that has about four feet going back, so that says something about how and why he's developing this way.

Another kid, also about ten, doesn't seem to get the concept of a flat hit, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in this topspin-dominated age. His version of a forehand-to-forehand warm-up is no different than when he loops, and he doesn't seem to realize this - he uses the same looping stroke for drives and loops, and seems to think he's doing something different, though I haven't found a difference yet. So we've abandoned any pretense of hitting and he just loops everything. Not bad considering he's played about two months.

A third kid, age seven, has the weird habit of hitting until the ball is high. Then he'll wait for it to drop, and loop it! He has loop written all over him, and will probably be looping everything soon. The interesting thing here is that at age seven, he already knows all the best players in the world, and likes to mimic them. Yesterday he was showing off his "Ma Lin backhands," mimicking both Ma's conventional and reverse penhold backhands, though he's a shakehander. He also tried to mimic Timo Boll's loop - needs work.

What are your natural tendencies, and how have you incorporated them into a winning table tennis style?

Busy day

Yesterday was one of the busiest days I've had in a while. I was on the go non-stop the entire time. A quick rundown, in rough order from my todo list - and don't even try to calculate how I fit all this into the roughly sixteen hours I was up.

  • Wrote the Tip of the Week, on "Quick and Variable Blocks," and put online at and
  • Wrote my daily blog.
  • Put new sponge on my forehand.
  • Paid all my bills for the month of January and worked out my finances for the month, including my monthly coaching payment to MDTTC. (I pay them $10/hour for court time.)
  • Updated four web pages.
  • Worked out hotel arrangements for MDTTC camps and tournaments.
  • Watched and took notes for on three matches for upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials
  • Went to bank.
  • Took car to repair shop for various problems, costing about $400.
  • While waiting three hours for car repairs, went to Jerry's Pizza and read and did short critiques on 39 short stories (all under 750 words long, about 27,000 words or 140 pages total) as part of a SF contest. Consumed two small pepperoni pizzas.
  • Coached three hours.
  • Did 40 minute weight training and stretching routine.
  • Did an hour's work on the final rewrite of "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide."
  • Made popcorn and watched The Daily Show and Colbert Report.

Han Xiao hoping to grab a U.S. place at the ping-pong table

Here's an article in the Washington Times this morning on Han Xiao. I'm quoted in the story. The other player with the really good backhand? Fan Yiyong. I'll be coaching Han and John Hsu at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Cary, NC.

United States National Table Tennis League

Here's an article on the new USNTTL! Attila Malek (full-time coach at Power Pong Table Tennis Club in Huntington Beach, CA, and 1979 U.S. Men's Singles Champion) is the prime mover of this league, though there's apparently a group putting it together and financing it.

Royal Navy Table Tennis Book

Here's the Royal Navy Table Tennis Book!

Tribute to Chinese Dominance

Here's a video that pays tribute to China and their dominance of table tennis (5:24).

Bruce Lee Table Tennis Commercial

You've probably seen this video before - but now it's part of a Japanese Nokia camera commercial. There's no hint that it's a commercial until the last ten seconds of this 73-second video. And for our naïve viewers - it's not real. They just took footage of Bruce Lee (or is that an actor portraying him?) and used real table tennis players and computer animation to make it look like he's playing with nunchucks. Or am I the naïve one?


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