Nets & Edges

February 21, 2013

Preparing for Tournaments

Yesterday I coached two junior players who were getting ready for their first USATT tournament. (The MDTTC Open on March 2-3.) Neither have actual USATT ratings, but both have league ratings under 1000 - I'm not sure if they will use those or treat them as unrated. I coached a third this past weekend who is also getting ready for his first tournament, and who also has a league rating under 1000. What did I tell these players to do to prepare?

Sam, 11, a lefty, has a good forehand smash, and can forehand loop against backspin, though he's not too confident in the shot. He pushes and blocks well, and has decent serves, though he tends to have a short toss (under six inches) on his backhand serve, his best serve - we're working on that. Recently he's been learning to backhand loop. I told him to focus on practicing his serves, on steadiness with his backhand (pushing and blocking), and on steady hitting on the forehand side. Since he doesn't have great confidence in his forehand loop, I told him to focus on looping only on pushes to his forehand side. We also agreed to drop the backhand loop from his game for now. After the tournament, we'll get back to backhand looping, and work to increase his confidence in his forehand loop.

TJ, 12, a righty, likes to loop, and does so pretty well from both sides. I was at first unsure if he was ready to unleash his backhand loop in matches, but he has confidence in it, so he's going to be looping from both sides against most deep pushes in the tournament. He still has trouble controlling his serve when he puts spin on it, so we're going to focus on that more than anything else until the tournament. Because he's only recently learned to loop - though he has great confidence in the shot - he has trouble going from looping to hitting on both sides, so between now and the tournament we're going to focus on backhand hitting and forehand smashing. After the tournament we're going to focus more and more on mostly looping on the forehand side, while working his backhand loop into his game more and more. He already likes to spin the backhand even against fast incoming topspins, so he's undoubtedly going to become a two-winged looper.

Sameer, 11, a righty, most practices at home, where there's only about five feet behind each side of the table. Because of this he's mostly a hitter, though he has a decent loop against backspin. (He uses inverted on both sides, though I've considered having him try pips-out.) He's developing pretty good serves and a good follow-up loop or smash. Recently his backhand has gotten a lot better. In drills, his backhand loop is pretty good against backspin, but because he's so forehand oriented, he rarely uses it in games yet. For the tournament, I told him to focus on serves and following up his serve with his forehand (looping or smashing), which he has great confidence in. Once in rallies he needs to play a steady backhand until he gets a weak one to smash from either side. He's probably not going to be backhand looping at the tournament, but we'll work on that later. We worked a lot on his backhand push, since he can't step around to loop every ball with his forehand. We're also working on his balance - he tends to go off balance a bit when forehand looping from the backhand side, and so leaves the wide forehand open. (If he stays balanced, he'd be able to recover quickly to cover that shot with his forehand smash.)

What should YOU do to prepare for tournaments? Here's my Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success.

Amazon Reviews

I'm still waiting for the first Amazon review of my new book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. If you really liked the book, what are you waiting for??? I will not eat or sleep until I get a great review there, at least until I get hungry or sleepy.  

Extraordinary Nets & Edges Match

I once blogged about how nets and edges don't really even out - some styles simply get more than others. Unfortunately, I have the type of style that rarely gets either. My shots are very clean - a mostly steady and arcing forehand (until I get the right shot), and a steady backhand. This past weekend I had a rather crazy match with one of our juniors. When she began getting net after net in the first game, we (or at least I!) began keeping track. For the match (four games), she got 17 net balls and zero edges, winning 15 of those points. I got zero nets or edges. Now I normally get a few, so my getting zero was rare, but 17-0? In one game she got eight nets, winning all eight of them.

How to Hold the Racket

Here's a video from PingSkills (4:03) on how to hold the racket, both shakehands and penhold.

The Power of Sweden

Here's a highlights video (10:48) that features the great Swedish players of the past.

Susan Sarandon: Ping-Pong Queen

Here's a feature article from England's The Guardian on Susan Sarandon and table tennis.

The Dodgers Playing Table Tennis

Here's an article in the LA Times on the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team having a table tennis doubles tournament.

NBA All-Star Week

Here are ten pictures at NBA All-Star Weekend, where they invited members of the Houston TTC to play table tennis. Included are pictures of Houston player Jim Butler and NBA star Jeremy Lin.

Mario Lopez Plays Ping-Pong

Here's a picture of actor and TV host Mario Lopez (middle) posing with his paddle and table tennis player/actor/stand-up comedian Adam Bobrow (left) and no-doubt a famous woman (or top table tennis player?) on the right who I don't recognize.

Harlem Shake

Here's a video (33 sec.) of . . . um . . . if I could figure out what is going on here, I will die happy. A bunch of people dancing around and on ping-pong tables.

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February 6, 2012

Tip of the Week

Hooking and Slicing Loops.

U.S. Olympic Trials

Here's a short article on the U.S .Olympic Trials in Cary, NC this Thur-Sun, including the playing schedule. I'll be there coaching Han Xiao, John (and possibly Nathan) Hsu - see you there! (Here's the official home page for the Trials.)

Nets & Edges

Convention wisdom says that nets and edges even out. As I've pointed out before in this blog, this simply isn't true. Some players get more or less than others, either because of their playing style or because of their precision. It doesn't always even out.

As I've done many times, I'm willing to put it to the test - and did so again this weekend. And the results are inevitably the same - I'm one of those players who gets very few nets and edges. During coaching sessions with players rated 1750-1900, we kept track of nets and edges. (We didn't count edges at the start, but started counting them partway into the first session.) Here are the results. In the first session, my opponent got 18 nets or edges to my 7. In the second, one, it was 14-3. So I was net-edged 32-10 for the two sessions.

In the past we've kept track of nets & edges during matches, and the results are the same. I may be the only person in history to lose two consecutive tournaments matches to the same player (hi John W.!), where that player got two consecutive net or edge winners both times at 9-all in the fifth to win.

Hitters, blockers, and especially players with less bouncy surfaces (long pips, anti, short pips, hardbat) tend to get more nets than other styles because they tend to hit lower shots than loopers and most inverted players, whose ball has a higher trajectory. Blockers who go for wide angles tend to get more edges. Players with great precision tend to have very clean shots and so rarely get nets or edges.

Overseas scam

There's a common scam to use table tennis clubs to get foreigners into our country. Over the years, the Maryland Table Tennis Center has been contacted dozens of times by individuals who wanted to set up "coaching sessions" for "foreign players." All they want is an invitation letter, and they'll be here. We fell for this a few times in the past, and actually were contacted by the State Department about it back in the 1990s.

According to the State Department, there are people who make a living getting people into the United States any way they can. They find places like table tennis clubs that have real events or programs that they might invite foreigners to come to, and try to get an invitation letter. They sell their services to people trying to get into the U.S. by pretending they are table tennis players (or whatever else is needed). They say they will pay in advance, though they will inevitably agree to do so only after receiving the invitation letter, after which you never hear from them again.

I received one of these requests a few days ago. The guy used every trick in the book trying to set up "lessons" for his "son," a top junior player from Europe. (The guy ignored my questions about where in Europe.) When I pointed out that if he was a "top junior," I should be able to look him up in the rankings, the guy said he'd made a mistake, that his son was a beginner interested in becoming a top player. Then I did something I started doing in the 1990s - I told him he'd made a mistake, that I teach tennis (not table tennis), and asked if he'd be interested in tennis lessons. The guy then said yes, his "son" was very interested in becoming a top tennis player, asked me to set up lessons and send an invitation letter, and he'd send the money right away. I then emailed for him to send payment, and if I didn't receive payment within one week, I'd turn over his emails to the State Department. I didn't hear from him again.

USATT also fell for these scams back in the 1990s, though I'm not sure if "fell" is the right word, since they made a lot of money off it. Players from Africa, usually Nigeria, would enter the U.S. Open in droves, often 30 at a time. Each would enter one event, and they would pay. USATT would then send out an invitation letter, they'd be entered into the tournament, and they would never show. The State Department contacted USATT about this, and I think they had to take measures against this.

European Top Twelve

Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Wu Jiaduo won the Europe Two Twelve.

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's the Chinese National Team training in 2010 (4:59), with commentary in Chinese (though you don't need to understand Chinese to see the training - we all speak ping-pong). Featured players include Ma Long, Ma Lin, Qiu Yike, Wang Liqin, and Guo Yue. See the chalk rectangles on the table when you see Ma Lin practicing with Qiu Yike? I think they are there as targets for service practice.

Going to the dogs

Once again the sport is going to the dogs, in 49 seconds. Can someone please give Tessie a high chair? You can see other dog, cat, and other humorous table tennis videos in the Fun & Games section of


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