January 28, 2011

Backhand Looping Extraordinaires

Most players in the U.S. don't seem to know or appreciate that the U.S. has three of the best backhand loopers from the past. Cheng Yinghua (52, rated 2634, #5 in U.S., coaching in Maryland), Ilija Lupulesku (43, rated 2751, #1 in U.S., coaching in Chicago), and Fan Yiyong (42, rated 2722, #2 in U.S., coaching in Seattle) all had, during their peak years, among the best backhand loops in the world. Cheng, during his eleven years on the Chinese National Team (1977-87), was the first of the great Chinese backhand loopers, and many considered him the steadiest backhand looper in the world. Lupulesku, the 1988 Olympic Silver Medalist in Men's Doubles, was more off the table and softer, but could spin back anything. And Fan, who was the Chinese Junior Champion, may have had the most powerful backhand loop in Chinese history. Many of you have seen them in recent years; how many of you saw them at their peak, when they could challenge the best players in the world? I did, and believe me, it was a sight to see.

While none of these three still have the world-class backhand loops they once had, there is one active player who still has world-class skills. David Zhuang (47, rated 2657, #3 in U.S., coaching in New Jersey) still has among the best backhand blocks and return of short serves in the world. On the Women's side, Gao Jun (42, rated 2656, #1 in U.S., 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist in Women's Doubles, coaching in the LA area) still has one of the best backhand blocks in the world.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when I practiced my serves regularly, I considered my fast, down-the-line serve "world class." This was based on a combination of actual expertise with the serve and self-delusion (we'll leave it to your imagination what the proportions were). What shots do you do at a "world-class" level, either in reality, or at least partially so in your mind?

More on the Nationals in Virginia Beach

USATT Executive Director Mike Cavanaugh explains in his "CEO Blog" why the Nationals this December will be in Virginia Beach.

Table Tennis Is the No. 1 Brain Sport, Scientists Say

The article is from last week, but in case you missed it . . . see the headline! Plus there's more from Susan Sarandon in the article.

And here's the Sport & Art Educational Foundation's Alzheimer's and Dementia Table Tennis Therapy Program (1:26 video).

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