Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will go up on Mondays by noon USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

June 8, 2018

Ma Long Forehand Loop
Here's a new ITTF video (56 sec) showing the world's best (though technically ranked #2) in real time and slow motion! Let's take a look at it, piece by piece. I'm including four still images from the video. (Note that when I say power, that means both speed and spin.)

BACKSWING. Let's jump to eight seconds in, where they show his backswing in slow motion. Key points:

  1. Nearly all his weight is on his back (right foot).
  2. Right foot is pointed partly outwards. This allows easy power from pushing off the foot.
  3. His feet are nearly parallel to the table. This allows him to both put more rotational power into the shot and play a quicker shot, but less power from weight shifting. It also keeps him in position for a powerful backhand. Most players put their right foot at least slightly back for this shot - I do - because you can't really play forehands effectively in a fast rally with the feet parallel unless you train regularly or start early and so ingrain it. It also requires substantial physical training to be able to rotate at the hips, waist, and shoulder as quickly and smoothly as he does, which is needed if you keep the feet parallel.
  4. He's dropped his right shoulder. This will allow extra power for topspin. As he loops with more power or plays closer to the table he'll drop it less; if he backs off the table or is up against heavy backspin he drops it more.
  5. Arm is close to body. This allows more quickness in the backswing. If you hold it out, it slows you down.
  6. Arm is almost but not completely straight. If it goes too straight, you lose quickness; if not straight enough, you lose power.
  7. His body is almost completely rotated sideways at the hips, waist, and shoulder.

START OF FORWARD SWING. Key points:

  1. After completing his backswing, he's pulled it his arm away from his body.
  2. The wrist is lifted up and back as he prepares to snap the wrist and forearm into the ball. The two go together. It's hard to see the wrist motion except in slow motion or with still images. 
  3. He's begun to rotate into the ball with his hips, waist, and shoulders.
  4. Shoulders are rotating upward and around.
  5. Eyes are glued on the ball.

CONCTACT. Key points:

  1. He's completely rotated into the shot with his hips, waist, and shoulders.
  2. Contact is almost directly to the side, not out in front. If you contact more in front, then that means the body rotation came to a stop so you could get your arm out in front, and so you lose much of your power.
  3. Head and body have rotated, but moved only slightly forward. If you move your head and body forward too much during this shot, it makes it hard to recover quickly enough for the next shot, so world-class players often barely move their heads except when going for all-out power. If you watch players who can seemingly loop over and over in rapid succession without backing up from the table, watch their heads and you'll see how they are able to recover so quickly between each shot.
  4. Shoulder has lifted up.
  5. Arm and wrist have whipped into the shot. At contact the elbow is maybe around 110 degrees and still closing.
  6. He's not watching contact. There's a certain point where you can't really react anymore, so there's no point in watching the ball all the way into contact on such a shot. If the incoming ball is very slow, such as a push or lob, then you might watch it all the way into the racket. Once it becomes pointless to watch the ball, it's better to look up to see what your opponent is doing.

FOLLOW-THROUGH. The most important thing? It should be a natural follow to the stroke itself. Key points:

  1. His head and body have moved only a little bit forward during the shot as they move mostly in a circle. This allows Ma to start and finish in almost the same position so he can recover for the next shot very quickly.
  2. Arm has rotated through the shot and is now at about 90 degrees.
  3. Most of his weight is now on his left leg. He's almost instantly using it to push back into position for the next shot.
  4. He's completely balanced, as he has been throughout the shot - this is key.
  5. He's watching opponent so he can react quickly to the next shot.

Here's slow motion video of Ma Long looping against backspin starting about 12 seconds in). The main differences here are that there's more upward motion, his head moves more forward (since there's no rush to return to ready position), and if you look closely, now he's using even more wrist.

Thursday Beginning Junior Class
I teach two beginning junior classes each week, on Thursdays and Sundays. We had our final Thursday session of the season last night, with the final Sunday session this weekend. As usual, on our final session we did "player's choice," where the players choose what they want to work on; then we did smash against lob, always a favorite, where they took turns smashing against my lobs and Coach John Hsu's. As usual we finished with games - this time I introduced them to Table Tennis Tic Tac Toe (TTTTT), as demonstrated in this video (64 sec) from Maria Ingles that I posted yesterday.

So no more beginning classes until late August - but now it's Summer Camp time!!! Yep, camps all summer long, Mon-Fri.

Japan Open
Here's the home page for the event, which starts today in Kitakyushu, JPN, June 8-10. But because they are on the other side of the world, that means their "today" is already done! Here's the Japan Open Day 1 Review (2:02).  Here's video (52:22) of world #4 Timo Boll's opening match against Tanaka Yuta (world #331) of Japan. Ma Long is top seed, no Fan Zhendong or Dimitrij Ovtcharov, so there's a good chance of a Boll-Ma Long final in Men's Singles - but Zhang Jike is also in Boll's half. As of this writing, Boll is already in the QF against Kenta Matsudaira of Japan, with Ma Long a round behind and up against Maharu Yoshimura of Japan - followed by a likely quarterfinal clash between Ma Long and Japan whiz kid Tomokazu Harimoto, #10 in the world at 15. On the Women's side, no serious upsets as of yet.

Table Tennis Diplomacy
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "I am a great believer in table tennis diplomacy and Diplomacy as a whole. Many years ago a great event occurred called Ping Pong Diplomacy, In short, it's about how China opened their gates to America (click on the link to read about it). A month ago the table tennis world witnessed history once again but this time, I call it Table Tennis Diplomacy."

Even Younger Sora Matsushima, Next Child Prodigy
Here's the ITTF article. Japan keeps pumping out these child prodigies! China probably does as well, but they tend not to play internationally or get much public exposure until they are older. Many of the best Chinese first show up internationally when they are already among the top ten in the world or close to that. "Undoubtedly he oozes talent, the popular view being that at the same age he is ahead of Tomokazu Harimoto, a player who has left crowds open mouthed in recent years with wins against celebrated names."

Kelly van Zon, Most Celebrated Name on Duty
Here's the ITTF article. "Winner earlier this year in Lignano and Slovenia, Kelly van Zon of the Netherlands is the most decorated player on duty at the forthcoming 2018 Spanish Para Open which commences in Sant Cugat de Valles on Friday 8th June."

2018 Cook Islands Junior & Cadet Open – Breaking News
Here's the article by Bruce Liu.

Ping Pong (Table Tennis) Scenes - Movies
Here's the listing of 18 movies with lots of pictures!

Talking Tom and Friends - Ping Pong Wizard
Here's the animated table tennis cartoon (10:54)! The table is there from the start, but the real table tennis action starts at 1:35.

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June 7, 2018

Timo Boll Hand Switch at 2018 China Open - Revisited
Here's the video (45 sec), which I posted on Tuesday, of the point between Timo Boll of Germany (world #4) and Liang Jingkun of China, world #82. Let's look at it shot by shot. (Use the space bar to start/stop the action, and the left arrow to bring the video back 5 seconds - at least that's what it does on mine.) Note that Liang will end up pulling off the upset, -5,9,10,-7,-4,9,5. At the time of this point, Boll is up 3-2 in games but Liang leads 9-5, and 9-6 after this point. 

  1. Liang's serve. It's hidden, of course, since umpires these days almost never call hidden serves - or more specifically, don't call serves where they are not "satisfied" that the serve is legal. When a player contorts his body like this and then thrusts his head out just as he's about to contact the ball, there's no way an umpire can be "satisfied" that the serve was not hidden - he simply can't tell from his angle, meaning he cannot be "satisfied" the serve was not hidden, meaning there's no gray area anymore - the serve is illegal, period. See Rule 2.6.6: "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."
    Watch the video - see how he thrusts his head out just before contact? Here's a screen image. Pretty clearly illegal, isn't it? But it isn't called, and there's no push by the ITTF, USATT, or any of the Rules or Referee/Umpire Committees to do anything about this pervasive cheating in our sport because cheating has become part of our table tennis culture. (There is some nuance here - cheating means to "act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage." Therefore, the first person to hide his serve is cheating. If you respond by hiding your own serve, you are not doing so to "gain an advantage" - you are doing so to take away the opponent's unfair advantage.) At the world-class level, players are used to it, and so have learned to read the spin by how the ball travels through the air and bounces on the table, but it leads to more passive returns, like Boll's here, and more mistakes. Below the world-class level it can cause havoc.
  2. Boll's return. It's a relatively weak return, probably because of the hidden serve. But he deadens the ball some so that the table is partly in Liang's way so he can't wind up with full power.
  3. Liang's follow. He makes a strong forehand loop into Boll's wide backhand.
  4. Boll's block. It's extremely well placed, to Liang's middle, forcing Liang into an awkward position.
  5. Liang's second loop. Despite the awkwardness of his position, Liang uses his upper body to loop rather strongly to the middle of the table. This is a technique that was originally developed by pips-out penholders, then adopted for looping by 1993 World Men's Singles Champion Jean-Philippe Gatien, and now common by top players caught in the middle - it allows you to make a strong shot while staying right at the table. It's not really to Boll's middle, since Boll was already off to the side and in position for this, but it puts Boll out of position.
  6. Boll's loop from the middle. He makes a decent loop, but not particularly powerful, and it's not that well placed, going right into Liang's middle backhand. This is where Liang gains the advantage. Note how while Liang took the ball almost off the bounce from the middle, Boll takes the shot from the middle a little further back, which gives Liang more time and a bigger angle into the forehand.
  7. Liang's angled block. With Boll caught out of position and with a big angle to Boll's forehand, Liang does exactly that. Note that he didn't just blocked - he backhand topspinned off the bounce.
  8. Boll's awkward return from wide forehand. He's caught out of position, and so is almost falling back as he practically lunges for the ball, setting up Liang for a likely winning shot to the now open backhand side.
  9. Liang's shot to the open backhand. He should have ripped it, but instead seems to hold back a little for safety and doesn't really angle it well. I haven't seen Liang play before, but his Chinese teammates (Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Zhang Jike, Xu Xin) would have ripped this shot.
  10. Boll's hand-switching shot. Liang's failure to rip the ball or go for a wider angle is all Boll needs for this spectacular hand-switching shot.
  11. Liang's counterloop. When someone suddenly switches hands on you like this, the ball comes at you different than you expect, and so Liang makes a surprisingly good recovery with this counterloop.
  12. Boll's backhand loop. Just a nice shot. It completely catches Liang off guard. Except . . . .
  13. Liang's weak but well-place forehand. When you have to make a weak return, place it well, and that's what he did here. He also sidespin looped it so it broke even more into Boll's backhand side. Liang has the advantage here, and it seems there's nothing Boll can do that won't set up Liang for a strong forehand.
  14. Boll's inside-out forehand sidespin. I don't think you'll find this shot covered in instructional books. Boll is looking to do a forehand, but the angle and the sidespin caught him off guard. And so he improvises with a once-in-a career shot. (Has he ever done this in a big match before? I've never seen it. That's why it's called improvisation.)
  15. Liang's reaction. When you've trained all your life against standard shots, and then get something you've never seen before . . . well, his reaction is like an intermediate player faced with world-class hidden serves, and his return is about as good. (Note - world-class players don't just hide contact; they fake one spin, then change it right when contact is hidden.)

Japan Open
Here's the home page for the event, which takes place in Kitakyushu, JPN, June 8-10, starting tomorrow.

New World Rankings
Here they are. On the men's side, they are a bit saner than before with the best player in the world, Ma Long, moving from #6 to #2, after Fan Zhendong, the second best player in the world. (I think Ma has beaten Fan the last three times - that's what someone told me though I haven't checked it.) Overall, for the first time since they began the new system, the rankings look rather accurate on the men's side other than this. On the women's side, it's still hard to fathom that Ding Ning is #12, when she should be at the top with the other top Chinese - Chen Meng, Zhu Yuling, Wang Manyu, and Liu Shiwen, with Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan (#4) the only non-Chinese to break up that murderer's row.

3 Ways to Win a Table Tennis Point
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "Each point is evidently different and no player plays the same way! But there are three different ways we approach a point or match."

How to Return a Topspin Serve
Here's the video (7:55) by Tom Lodziak.

Response to "Shut Up and Just Play"
Here's the article by Sean O’Connell.

WAB Club Feature: Atlanta International Table Tennis Academy
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Hong Kong Open
Here's the ITTF video (5:42).

Table Tennis Tic-Tac-Toe
Here's the video (64 sec) from Maria Ingles. I may try this out in my beginning junior class!

Insane Ping-Pong Gun
Here's the video (41 sec)!

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June 6, 2018

Waldner 2018
Many, perhaps most, consider Jan-Ove Waldner the greatest player of all time. I've never played him, but I've met and talked to him many times, even had lunch with him and other top Swedes when I interviewed them for an article. What would happen if he were in his prime today?

There's no way of making a perfect comparison. For one thing, Waldner played nearly his entire career with a 38mm ball, while we now use 40mm. Equipment has also gotten better. (Hidden serves are now "illegal," but it isn't really enforced, so that part won't affect him. Games to 11 instead of 21 won't make much of a difference.) So how would he do? Keep in mind that nearly always the next generation is "better" than the previous generation, with better techniques, better training, and better equipment. Only a true phenom like Waldner could hope to compete with players a couple generations later. (Of course, if Waldner were to have developed in modern times, he'd have access to these better techniques, training, and equipment, but we're going to look at him as he actually was, not as he might have been.) 

First, note that "greatest" is not the same as "best." Victor Barna is one of the greatest players of all time - he won Men's Singles at the Worlds five times. But I'm pretty sure that if I could go back in time when I was at my peak and play him when he was at his peak, using the rules at the time, I'd beat him easily, since I'll using Tenergy and throwing loops and serves at him that he's never seen before, and he'll be stuck with a hardbat. Similarly, the best modern swimmers are all faster than Mark Spitz, but he won seven gold medals at one Olympics, setting a world record in each of them. The best modern swimmers are better than Spitz, but Spitz was greater than all of the ones not named Phelps or Ledecky.

Getting back to Waldner, I think Ma Long has a better game than Waldner. He simply has too much firepower. But there's a catch - that's only after he's played Waldner at least once, perhaps more. Players who have played Waldner pretty much all report the same thing about, how uncomfortable it is to play him with all his misdirection, change of pace, and variety. These days nearly all coaches turn players into mini-Ma Longs or something close, and so the things that Waldner did to make players uncomfortable is mostly a lost art. It's not a matter of a player suddenly deciding he's going to try to change the pace or use misdirection; he'd have to have done it since he was a kid, while developing, so it's natural and instinctive, as it was with Waldner. Then you use these techniques as just another part of your game, to be used at the appropriate time, while focusing on the modern all-out two-winged looping game. 

Keep in mind that as good as Ma Long is, none of his shots are that much better than Waldner. He has a slightly better forehand, slightly better backhand, slightly faster footwork, and with his banana flip, is better at attacking short serves with his backhand. (In fact, that's probably the shot where he's most ahead of Waldner.) But Waldner had a masterful forehand - not quite as powerful as Ma Long, but dominant because of placement and consistency. Ma Long also has a better backhand attack from close to the table, but Waldner mostly (not completely) offsets that with his more all-around skills - he can loop, hit, or block, and his blocking is far better and among the best ever. Shot for shot, Ma Long seems to have an edge in almost any type of rally, though Waldner had more dominant serves, among the best of all time. 

So what is my conclusion? If Waldner were to suddenly show up in his prime, and ignoring the nitty details about the different ball size, etc., I think he'd cause havoc at first. Keep in mind that Timo Boll is 37 and still one of the five best players in the world - and he was never as good as Waldner at his best. In his first outings with Ma Long and Fan Zhendong, Waldner would give them great difficulty as they adjust to a game they haven't really seen, while Waldner will be a bit more comfortable against their styles. I'm not sure who would win at first, but I think it would be close at the start. But after they've played a few times, Ma Long's overall game would prevail, and Waldner would drop down a few spots in the rankings - my guess is he'd be #3, after Ma Long and Fan Zhendong, and he'd battle with them as well or slightly better than Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov. 

But the repercussions of Waldner showing up now in his prime? Suddenly the things he does that few others do would once again be on display. Players would see how effective it is to have misdirection, change of pace, and variety, and want to add those aspects to their games. And coaches would have a pretext to teach this part of the game early on, where before they felt compelled to teach only the "modern" game of relentless attack. Perhaps rather than attacking ten balls it would be better to throw something different 10-20% of the time, and catch the opponent off guard as Waldner did so well?

Of course, one problem is that most of the stuff Waldner does that I'm talking about was self-taught, so it's more important for a coach to encourage and guide it while the player experiments and finds out what works and when. You don't just throw a change-of-pace or misdirection shot at an opponent who is in position and ready for it - you do it when it will catch him off guard and set up a follow-up shot.

The key point is that the modern game is more advanced than what players did in the past, but that we've gotten so much into turning players into clones of the current best that we ignore aspects of the game that, if developed, would enhance their games.

Starting Out in Table Tennis
Here's the video (50 min) from PingSkills. "In this episode of the PingSkills we talk about how we got started with table tennis, we talk about a young Timo Boll, and we answer some of your table tennis questions."

USATT Nominates Players for 2018 Pan American Junior Championships
Here's the USATT announcement by USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio.

2018 China Open: Day 4 Review
Here's the video (2:30).

Table Tennis Presents Another Golden Opportunity for Sir Peter Snell
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn. "In his prime Sir Peter Snell of New Zealand was one of the most accomplished and decorated middle distance runners of all time." … "Long retired from running, today as he approaches his 80th birthday Snell has adopted he same attitude to competing in his most recent athletic endeavor table tennis as he did when he was an Olympian.

Ma Long, Landmark in Reach but Still More Goals?
Here's the ITTF article. "Success at the recent Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Platinum Kaisa China Open in Shenzhen means that Ma Long is just one win short of equalling the all-time ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles record of Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, the owner of 27 such titles."

Zhang Yining Within Sight of Wang Manyu
Here's the ITTF article. "Like Wang Manyu from China, Guo Yue won four times in 2007 but the player to catch is their Chinese national team colleague Zhang Yining."

Champions Crowned at AGTTA Summer Open
Here's the article and video (35:06) by Brian Crisp of this tournament held this past Saturday in Atlanta.

Actor, Lead Villain, Fayed, in Hit Series 24 Joins Celebrity Lineup
Here's the article featuring table tennis hardbat & sandpaper star and actor Adoni Maropis. "We’re excited to announce THE FIRST of several Special Guests attending the Tenth Annual PingPongforCHARITY™ Events with Christian Laettner and Friends." … "Adoni has won the National Championship and US OPEN Championship in Hardbat and Sandpaper Ping Pong and represented the USA at the World Championships of Ping Pong twice at Alexandria Palace in England."

Pongfinity Trick Shots
Here's their latest!

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June 5, 2018

Tip of the Week
Footwork at Different Physical Levels.

Maryland State Championships . . . and Waldner
They were held this past weekend. My write-up (along with links to photos) is up at the USATT News site and the Butterfly News site - take your pick! The Butterfly one features a picture of the Under 4000 Doubles Finalists - and those two little 9-year-olds in the middle, Mu Du and Stanley Hsu, made it to the final, losing 15-13 in the fifth. They are rated 1789 and 1976! (Read about their exploits in the tournament article.) USATT featured the Open Doubles finalists, with Lidney Castro/Martin Jezo the winners over Jeffrey Zeng/Wang Qingliang.

Here are the ratings from the tournament, which went up yesterday.  And in case you missed it from my mini-blog yesterday, here was the Point of the Tournament (55 sec), from the Men's Singles final between Lidney Castro and Wang Qingliang, care of PongMobile - the foremost way to view ratings!

Running a tournament can be exhausting. I think I received more emails and phone calls in advance of this tournament than just about any other I've ever run - and this was the 201st USATT sanctioned tournament I've run, all but two of them two days long. That makes exactly 400 days of running tournaments. This weekend I opened the club at 7:45AM each morning (play started at 9AM), and was there until 10:30PM both nights. I was also there from 6-11PM on Friday setting up (with great help from Mossa Barandao and Wen Hsu, as well as during the tournament). But I spent a huge amount of time the week before the tournament with those emails and phone calls. (And don't get me started on the time spent before that on scheduling, selecting and ordering trophies/plaques, and the zillion little things that you have to remember to do or the whole tournament comes collapsing down like the pyramids of plastic cups the younger kids like to construct and then knock down by smacking forehands and backhands.

Sunday from 4-5:30PM I ran off to the back tables to run the Beginning Junior Class, while Mossa and Wen kept things going at the control desk. The day's feature, after a bunch of standard drills, was backhand-to-backhand - how many can you do? Grace joined the 100 backhands in a row club - and she did 100 forehands last week.

I'm not sure how people keep getting my phone number as I try to do all tournament business by email. That way there's little chance of misunderstanding, there's a record of what was said, and I don't have to jump every time someone calls - with email I can get back to them after I finish with whatever I'm working on, though I always get back quickly. I also have a problem that I have great difficulty understanding accented voices over the phone, and over half of the calls are from people with accents - and so I'm constantly having to ask them to repeat what they say, which isn't fun. (I think my hearing is getting worse these days, alas.)

This morning I was going to write about how Waldner would have done if he played at his peak now, but when I got up this morning the power was out in my house - I have no idea why. It didn't come back on until about 9AM, and since I'm running short of time, I'll hold back on the Waldner blog until tomorrow. Writing about the tournament is quicker!

Timo Boll Hand Switch at 2018 China Open!
He's done it again - here's the video (45 sec, including slo-mo replay). But that's not the most interesting thing about the rally - look at what he does two shots later to win the point! Replay it a few times.

China Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event (results, articles, pictures, video), which was held this past weekend in Shenzhen, China. Check out the results!

Three Ways to Win a Point
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Tom's Table Tennis Tips
Here's the newsletter from Tom Lodziak, with links to coaching tips.

Taking the Ball Early
Here's the podcast (32:49) from Pingskills. This week they cover:

  • Joke of the Week
  • On This Week
  • Jun Mizutani turns 29
  • Tournament Wrap (China Open, Japan Open, Australian Open)
  • Tip and Drill of the Week
  • Learn a new serve and use it in a game
  • Spin Reversal
  • Advanced Backhand
  • Position for Optimal Power

Butterfly Amicus Prime Table Tennis Robot
Here's the article by Larry Thoman about the new line of robots that just came out. I normally shy away from equipment articles due to conflict of interest - I'm sponsored by Butterfly - but this is rather new. "Butterfly launched a refresh of its highly regarded Amicus line of table tennis robots at the recent World Team Table Tennis Championships in Sweden. The newly introduced models are the Start, Expert, and Prime models. All are upgraded models from the models they’re replacing—the Basic, Advance, and Professional."

World Awaits Tan and Naresh as they Succeed North American Hopes Qualification
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

2018 TATA Trickshot Challenge
Here's the video (5:15).

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 2
Here’s chapter 2 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Chapter 2 covers "June-July 1994 Tournaments." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Werner Schlager - Kalininkos Kreanga, Legends Tour 2018
Here's the video (9:05) from Arnaud Scheen.

Through Rolling Tube and Into Cup
Here's the video (50 sec, including slo-mo replay). I'd love to try this one, and would probably use my forehand where I can smack a ping-pong ball from nine feet better than half the time.

The 1901 Ping Pong Song
Here's the video (1:42) of this song from 1901 (!) played on the original equipment!!! It was sent to me by Steve Grant, who wrote under the video, "Ping Pong Song, by Edward Lauri, 1901, London, playing on a polyphon-like music box. My collection also includes the Edison Bell brown wax cylinder of this same song, sung by Harry Bluff, which I am attempting to play and record. I do not own the sheet music and do not yet know the lyrics. I welcome any help."

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June 5, 2018

When I got up this morning the power was out - I have no idea why. It didn't come on until about 9AM. I'll have the blog up by 10:30AM,and if I don't, I'll just pardon myself. Meanwhile, the Tip of the Week is up - Footwork at Different Physical Levels. So why not stand up and do some table tennis footwork practice, away from the table without a ball? That'll wake you up faster than coffee!!!

June 04, 2018

Maryland State Championships
I'm still recovering from two consecutive 15-hour days running the tournament (98 players), and the huge hours before setting it up (with a record number of emails and phone call queries), and as I normally do after tournaments, will take today off from blogging. Alas, it won't be a day off - I have to finish the tournament write-up, photo work, press release, and accounting, plus finalize the June MDTTC Newsletter with all the tournament info. Here are the results of the tournament. And here is the Point of the Tournament (55 sec), from the Men's Singles final between Lidney Castro and Wang Qingliang, care of PongMobile (the foremost way to view ratings!). For your further TT reading and viewing, USATT put up a number of news items over the weekend. And perhaps this is a good time to rewatch The Ping-Pong Song (3:40, from 2009)!

June 1, 2018

Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar
The Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar was a big success. We had 23 players ranging from beginners to 2000. Here's a group picture. (Several players left before we did the picture at the end.) We raised exactly $400 to help send our coaches to the Nationals to coach the 16 MDTTC junior players going. Here's the funding page, which currently shows $14,175 of the $15,500 goal, but the $400 hasn't been added as of this writing. (It'll probably go up later today.) So we're now just $925 short of the goal. Why not pitch in? From the funding page, "We're raising $15,500 to bring the coaches that work with the kids all year to the tournament to ensure that our young athletes have the support they need to succeed in the sport they love. They will create a training camp for the kids before the tournament and coach them during the tournament."

The seminar went a little longer than expected. We started at 8 PM. Originally I planned 30 minutes on serve tactics, 30 minutes on receive tactics, and 30 minutes table practice where I'd walk around and coach, and we'd be done at 9:30 PM. But the serve tactics part took 45 minutes, partly because of lots of questions, but also because there's a lot of material. The receive part took 25 minutes, finishing at 9:10, but then we had lots and lots of questions, so we didn't get to the tables until 9:25 PM. For the majority who could stay late we went until 10PM, even though it was scheduled to finish at 9:30PM. Special thanks to Wen Hsu, who collected the money and also stayed late to help out.  Here was the list of topics covered:

SERVE TACTICS

  • The purpose of the serve
  • Set-up serves vs. trick serves
  • Types of deception
  • Long serves
  • Short serves
  • Serving combos
  • Holding back on serves
  • Ten-point plan to serving success

RECEIVE TACTICS

  • Reading the serve
  • The purpose of the receive
  • Types of receive - your arsenal
  • Passive, disarming, & aggressive receives
  • Receiving deep serves
  • Receiving short serves
  • Deception on receive
  • What to do with tricky serves

I covered all except the "Ten-Point Plan to Serving Success," where I had initially planned to cover the ten steps one by one. But to save time, I instead gave printouts to everyone of the article and invited them to email questions later. (It's one of the more popular articles, with 4546 reads.) Throughout the seminar I called up volunteers to demonstrate various tactics. I think the parts that had the greatest interest were the backhand banana flip; serving a side-topspin or no-spin serve that looks like backspin; the tactical placement of long and short serves; receiving long serves; and reading spin.

I'll be running the same seminar again on Tuesday, July 3, 7:00-8:30 PM at USA Nationals in Las Vegas - and that one is FREE!!! We have eleven signed up, but there will for certain be many more entered over the next month. If you would like to register, email me, and please include your state, rating (or estimation if you don't have one), and age. See you there!

China Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event (results, articles, pictures, video), which is taking place right now in Shenzhen, China, through Sunday. Huge news from yesterday - the Japanese whiz kid, Tomokazu Harimoto, defeated Zhang Jike in the round of 32, 4-0 (8,3,6,6)! Here's video of the match (8:28, time between points removed). Xu Xin also lost that round, 1-4 (7,9,-6,-7,-6) to Lim Jonghoon of South Korea. On the women's side, #1 seed (and world #2) Zhu Yuling lost in seven (5,-9,7,8,-9,-8,-5) in the round of 16 to Saki Shibata of Japan. Here's their news page where you can read about all this and more. Here's the Day One Video Review (2:44).

North American Hopes Challenge
Here's the home page for the event which started yesterday in Markham, Canada, in Ontario. This is for the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the North American. Players qualified through a series of regional trials. 

USA Juniors and Cadets in Canada
Here are three ITTF articles on USA players at the 2018 Canadian Junior and Cadet Open in Markham, Canada, which finished yesterday.

Best Table Tennis Serves Tutorial
Here are three videos from Tomorrow Table Tennis.

  • Part 1 (20:54): backspin, hook.
  • Part 2 (24:53): reverse pendulum, tomahawk.
  • Part 3 (30:26): fastest, backhand, pendulum.

Alternatives
Here's the article from Pro Table Tennis by Rowden Fullen. "Power is not only what you have, it’s also a matter of what the opponent thinks you have!"

WAB CLUB FEATURE: Washington DC Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

USATT Insider - Edition 174
Here's the issue that came out Wednesday.

The New ITTF - Interview with ITTF CEO
Here's the ITTF article.

We’re Hiring: ITTF Content Manager
Here's the info page for this ITTF job. "Do you have a background in media and communications and have dreamt of working for the ITTF? If so then now is your chance of joining the crowning ITTF media and marketing team in the position of ITTF Content Manager."

2018 Elections for NCTTA Board of Directors
Here's the article for "NCTTA school club presidents, members, alumni, coaches, and supporters."

Ted Dabney, Atari Co-Founder and Video Game Industry Pioneer, Dies at 81
Here's the article. He co-invented "Pong," the ping-pong video game that revolutionized the video game industry. Here's one version you can play online - note that it gives you the option of moving your paddle using your mouse or the original way, with the keyboard.

Funny Table Tennis Match France vs Philippines
Here's the video (3:44)! Quality of the video isn't good, but the two kids really have fun as they do exhibition tricks and goof off.

Table Tennis Bees
For this, I'm not distinguishing between bees, wasps, and hornets! This segment is in honor of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which ended yesterday, and took place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington DC, the same location for the annual North American Teams Championships. 

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May 31, 2018

Coaching and Public Speaking
As noted in segment below, I'm running a 90-minute Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar at MDTTC tonight, 8:00-9:30PM. With 19 players already signed up, we'll likely have well over 20. The flyer lists eight serve and eight receive topics I'll be covering. 

How am I preparing for it? Many years ago I would have practiced like crazy, and put together a one-page outline. And that's how I recommend most coaches do it. However, I've been coaching for four decades, and have written extensively on these topics, including Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, and putting together an outline for this would be like creating an outline for tying your shoes. I've been over this material so many times that the only outline I might need is what NOT to cover so as to cover everything in about an hour (including interactive demos), leaving the last 30 minutes for table practice. I've always considered tactics, serving, and receiving my strongest coaching strength, and here they are all together.

The game has changed a lot since I started playing in 1976, and like any coach who wishes to be successful, I've closely followed the changes in our sport, in particular how tactics, serve, and receive have changed. Probably the biggest change has been the growing dominance of the backhand banana flip. 

While I did a lot of coaching before we opened MDTTC in 1992, I'd rarely had to give lectures to groups - until then I either did private coaching or assisted in camps. Like many, the idea of giving public speeches was pretty scary. So back in 1992 I quietly signed up for a public speaking class. There I practiced giving talks on the various table tennis fundamentals. I also learned an interesting trick - practice in front of something moving, which simulates having an audience, so I'd practice by lecturing to the dryer as it spun about!!! Years later I'd get a dog, and when I needed practice I'd lecture her, and she seemed quite appreciative as I also gave her snacks.

I do recommend coaches practice giving talks, and if they have difficulty or are really nervous, take a course on public speaking. It really helps.

For the Seminar tonight, I'll use the eight serve and eight receive topics listed as my outline - I could spend the entire hour on each one. I'll try to pace myself - hopefully if I keep looking at my watch they won't think I'm impatient! (I'll probably explain why I'm looking at my watch.)

For those in the seminar who are reading this, be prepared. The first thing I plan to do is ask everyone what is, or what they want to make, strongest part of their game is after serve and receive. Every playing style should have a different answer. I also plan on making it somewhat interactive, sometimes calling up volunteers for demos.

Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar at MDTTC
We now have 19 players signed up for the Serve and Receive Tactics Seminar tonight, 7:00-8:30PM at MDTTC. (Please email me if you would like to attend.) Players so far range in level from advanced beginners to about 2000. Cost is $15 for members, $20 for others, with 100% of the money raised going to the HW Global Junior Program at MDTTC, to pay for our coaches to go to the USA Nationals to coach the 19 MDTTC junior players who are competing. Here's their funding page - we're now at $14,175 raised of the $15,500 needed. All money raised in the seminar will go toward this - I'm not taking any of it.

Maryland State Championships
I'm running them this weekend. I blogged about them yesterday (second segment) - deadline to enter is 7PM tonight, after which there is a late fee, with entries only accepted if there is room. (Some events have already filled up - Under 2100 and Under 1000 - while there are only two spots left in Under 1500, and four in Under 1800.) Here's the Maryland State Championships Preview Video (2:05).

China Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which is taking place right now in Shenzhen, China, through Sunday. Men's and Women's Singles are already into the main draw (final 32). Today's feature match is probably Zhang Jike vs. Tomokazu Harimoto, the Japanese whiz kid.

North American Hopes Challenge
Here's the home page for the event which starts today in Markham, Canada, in Ontario. This is for the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the North American. Players qualified through a series of regional trials. 

Athlete Transformation: Improving Health and Wellness
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. "I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 2013 and have struggled with periods of relapse and remission ever since, still managing to remain determined as ever to keep my head down and stay in my chosen sport. Each relapse cost me 3-4 months of time each year between 2013 and 2016 in time spent sick or recovering. These are major setbacks for a training athlete."

World-Class Table Tennis Tactics
Here are two videos from Tomorrow Table Tennis.

  • Video 1 (5:22, from December): "Learn about a super effective tactic in games: banana flip + backhand topspin off the bounce. Clarified important points of Mizutani's serve from the last video."
  • Video 2 (8:06): "Learn about another super effective tactic to deal with players who are good at flips: long serve then pivot counter."

Table Tennis Legend Headlines 2018 Vegas World Veteran Championship Entries
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

School is Out, Table Tennis Is for the Genius
Here's the ITTF article by Massimo Costantini. "As in any other skill game, talent has its own importance, the paradox is that the talent can express such great potential and at the same time carry great limitations."

Table Tennis Breakups
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Olympic Coach Magazine
Here's the May issue, which just came out.

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 1
Here’s chapter 1 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Chapter 1 covers "Potpourri of Interests." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Table Tennis Weighted Workout
Here's the video (27 sec) of some weighted shadow practice. 

Tears of Your Opponents
Want to drink the tears of your opponents? Here's the mug!

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May 30, 2018

Changes I Wouldn't Mind Seeing Tested
We're so used to the way table tennis is played that many are resistant to any change. And there's a good argument for that - why would we want to change the sport we already love? But let's open our minds and consider testing a few - and the key word is test

  • Colored Ball. Our sport is all about spin, and we have a ball that makes it almost impossible to see it! We're used to it, but I've always thought this was almost insane. We want to be a spectator sport while hiding what is practically the central aspect of our sport? Being able to read the spin more easily would also lead to fewer mistakes against serves. It would also pretty much solve the hidden serve problem as you could more easily read spin from the ball. Plus, imagine how cool it would look if we chose a really nicely designed ball! They actually tried this at a major tournament a few years ago, using a multi-colored ball, but the ball itself was a cheap one. It needs to be tried out with a high-quality ball. 
  • Adjustable Table Height. The standard table is 30 inches high. A standard basketball net is ten feet high - except when it is not. We all grew up with adjustable basketball nets in elementary school where they'd lower the nets - second graders won't do so well with a ten-foot basket!!! Similarly, a 30-inch table isn't great for everyone. You can't play table tennis until you are five or six because of the height of the table, and yet I've seen tennis classes for three-year-olds! We could do the same in table tennis. I'd like to make adjustable height tables standard at clubs - every club would have them. This way we could have a much lower table for little kids. Plus the average man is something like three inches taller now than they were when table tennis was invented and standardized in the 1890s, so perhaps the standard table should now be 2-3 inches higher?
  • Anything Goes Open. Imagine a special event where you could use any surface on your racket. I can just see the final between someone with an inch of Tenergy sponge stacked on top of each other, against someone with one-inch frictionless super-thin long pips! (Not sure if pips that long would help, but let's find out!) Here's a scary thought - it would take 12 sheets of 2.1mm Tenergy to make it one inch. At $78/sheet, and covering both sides (24 sheets), that's $1872!!! (Okay, this idea isn't as serious as the previous two.) 

Maryland State Championships
I'm running them this weekend. There are 21 events in this 3-star event, with over $3500 in cash and prizes. Men's and Women's Singles, Open Doubles, and the various age events are open only to Maryland residents, but the rating events are open to anyone. (Residency means living in Maryland the previous three months, with military personnel assigned to Maryland and full-time students in Maryland immediately eligible.) Here's the Maryland State Championships Preview Video (2:05)! It was created by PongMobile, the most efficient way to explore the USATT ratings. Some of the events are filling up fast, so enter now! There are only five more spots left in both Under 1800 and Under 1500. Deadline is Thursday at 7PM. After there's a $10 late fee, but only if there's room in the draw.

Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar at MDTTC
We now have eleven players signed up for the Serve and Receive Tactics Seminar on Thursday (tomorrow), 7:00-8:30PM at MDTTC. Cost is $15 for members, $20 for others, with 100% of the money raised going to the HW Global Junior Program at MDTTC, to pay for our coaches to go to the USA Nationals to coach the 19 MDTTC junior players who are competing. Here's their funding page - we're now at $14,175 raised of the $15,500 needed. All money raised in the seminar will go toward this - I'm not taking any of it.

8 Slump-Busting Tips and Tagging of Coaching Articles
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. He's also tagged and somewhat organized them by topic. Here's his posting on it.

Articles from the Table Tennis Daily Academy
Here are three recent ones. You can also check out older ones from their archives. They also seem to have a good Video library - see their link at top.

New from EmRatThich
Here's his video page - he's posted ten new videos since yesterday - top matches, training videos, and highlights reels, etc.

What it Takes to Become an Olympic Athlete: 15 Essentials According to a Two-Time Olympian
Here's the article by Nick Catlin, two-time British Field Hockey Olympian.

US Brother Duo Deliver Final Blow to China in Canadian Junior Team Event
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "The US brother duo of Sharon and Gal Alguetti have achieved what few international teams hope for in the sport of table tennis. Today at the Canadian Cadet and Junior Open in the final of the Junior Boys' team event, the US pair defeated China in a result that left onlookers simply in awe." Here's the ITTF article, Sharon Alguetti steadfast, steers United States to gold.

USA Athletes to Advance Development and Experience in Europe
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "In a pivotal move to enhance the international competitiveness of US National Team players, USATT High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio has arranged for top national team contenders to compete in European leagues next season. Aside from Kanak Jha, who is already living in Grenzau and will move up to represent 1.FSV Mainz 05 in the 2nd Bundesliga (2nd division) next season, Nick Tio and Jennifer (Yue) Wu will also move to Europe to live, train and compete in the league."

Ping Pong Helps a Senior Bounce Back
Here's the article from the Wall Street Journal. (Alas, you have to subscribe to read it - but they have a Memorial Day Special going on, $1 for two months.) "Intense training and league play at the table-tennis club founded by actress Susan Sarandon brings a New York woman new friends and fitness."

ITTF Butterfly Canadian Junior Open: Photo, Results & Live Stream
Here's the page.

Jun Mizutani: Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (6:25), with Adam Bobrow.

Zhang Jike is BACK
Here's the ITTF video (1:38).

Crazy Pong
Here's the page about this new version! "Crazy pong is a variation of traditional table tennis. It was created for several purposes: to restore the taste of the game to those who practiced it one day and allow the children to discover it in an original and very playful way. Crazy Pong tables have unusual shapes (round, square, with unevenness, holes ...), the net has become mobile; we play with snowshoes of many sizes, and a large selection of balls is proposed to experience a maximum of different sensations."

VeggieTales Jerry Eggs the Ping Pong Table
Here's the video (12 sec)!

Dead Men’s Open with Illegal Rubbers
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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May 29, 2018

Tip of the Week
The Balance Between Tactical and Strategic Thinking.

Balticon and Back to Pong
For once, I had pretty much of a non-table tennis weekend. (But I'll get to the table tennis in a minute.) I was a panelist at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention. Here's my Balticon Bio - note where it says, "He's also a professional table tennis coach, and claims to be the best science fiction writer in USA Table Tennis, and the best table tennis player in SFWA"! (That's Science Fiction Writers of America, which has stringent membership requirements - you have to sell at least three short stories to one of the big "pro" magazines - I've sold 26 - or a novel to one of the big "pro" publishers.)

On Saturday I had a one-hour book signing session - here's a picture. I was on four panels. I moderated "Techniques for Plotting Your Novel,' and was on panels on "Science Fiction & Sports," "When to Tell Instead of Show," and "Turning the Starship of State: Government in SF." In the panel on "Science Fiction & Sport," I talked about how the best athletes in table tennis and other sports develop, and about the "threat" the world faces from China and its 10,000 sports schools, where kids from age 5 on are basically trained full-time in a sport.

On Sunday I snuck away from the convention and back to MDTTC to run the Beginning Junior Class. Most were away because of Memorial Day Weekend so we had a small turnout. We focused on basics. I had planned a backhand-to-backhand competition - who could get the most in a row, as I had done with forehands the previous week - but decided to postpone that until next Sunday when we have more players.

And now it's back to TT. After this morning's blog and Tip of the Week, I'll be writing up player evaluations for the Talent program; the MDTTC June newsletter; arranging an article for Butterfly; preparing for the Serve and Receive Tactics Seminar for this Thursday at MDTTC; fine-tuning a letter about hidden serves to send to ITTF; and preparing for the Maryland State Championships I'm running this weekend. Plus I'll be seeing the shoulder therapist against today at 2PM - still meet with him twice a week. Shoulder is much better, but the key is not to try to come back too soon and re-injure it.

Butterfly Training Tips With Brian Pace: How To Loop Underspin
Here's the article and video (4:17). "The forehand loop is the skill that can trump any other skill because you can loop a block, serve, push, smash, chop, high ball, as well as another loop. The forehand loop from underspin is the number pathway into the point, and it plays a major role in how rallies will play out. I will breakdown the components of looping underspin. The goal is to have a fully developed forehand loop from underspin that transitions you into extended rallies."

13 Stages: Develop a systematic approach to learning a new skill
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Wall Touch Drill
Here's the video (74 sec) from Andrew Williams, where the kids have to touch the wall between shots. I've done similar drills, but not this exact, but I will likely try it out.

Quick Thinking on Flicking Drill
Here's the video (76 sec) from Eli Baraty, where the coach uses flash cards! (Flip and flick mean the same thing.) "This exercise helped one of my students sharpen his BH and FH (push/flick) Return of Serve. It made him quickly think and make the correct decision. Previously he would as most of us do (pre-decide) or react to an oncoming server."

Table Tennis Culture
Here's the article by Ely Baraty. "Life has changed more over the last 20 years than it has in the last 2000 years due to technology. But has table tennis culture evolved? Often I look at life and reflect and ponder, is change a good thing?"

New from EmRatThich
He's put up 14 new videos over the weekend.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 World Team Championships
Here's the ITTF video (6:09).

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - April 2018
Here's the video (9:56).

Legends Tour
Here are two videos from Arnaud Scheen from the 2018 Legends Tour

World Teams Championships Part B
Here's the podcast (34:58) from PingSkills. (Here's Part A.) This week includes Joke of the Week, Competition Winners, Tournament Wrap, World Teams Championships Results, Tip and Drill of the Week, Watching the best players and thinking about the future, Backhand From Outside Body, Backhand against Slower Balls, Fitness for Tournaments, and Backing up from the Table.

WAB Club Feature: North Texas Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

May "Upside Down" Open Recap
Here's the article on the tournament held at Triangle Table Tennis on May 19.

Grapevine Spring SpinMaster TT Tournament Result & Photos
Here's the article on this Texas tournament held May 20.

ICC Table Tennis Center 10th Annual Gala Serves Up Budding Star Players
Here's the article from India West.

Too Caught Up in Celebrity Life? Multiple Olympic gold medalist Zhang Jike crashes out of the Hong Kong Open
Here's the article from the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.

SuperHero Universe Table Tennis Championships
Here's the story! It's posted in reverse order, so Day 1 is at the bottom, so read from the bottom up.

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