July 8, 2013

Tip of the Week

Expect to Win.

U.S. Open

As usual I didn't get to see many of the big Men's and Women's matches - I was busy coaching the MDTTC juniors. I was mostly coaching Derek Nie, Sameer Shaikh, sometimes Nathan Hsu, and occasionally others such as Crystal Wang. I flew out on Monday morning, and returned on a red-eye flight that left late Saturday night - it didn't actually take off until after midnight, so it was technically Sunday morning. I landed at BWI airport around 8AM. I'd left my car at the airport so I could drive myself and three others home. I didn't get home until around 10AM.

Here's the USATT page that has links to results, articles, pictures, video, etc.

Here's a rundown of interesting happenings. (It's rather rushed as I have to finish in time to coach at the MDTTC camp this morning. More tomorrow!)

  • Derek Nie's play. He played great. His attacks were fluid and consistent, his recently-developed topspinning backhand in rallies were jumping off the table and rarely missing, his forehand was clicking, and probably best of all, his receive was excellent - backhand banana flips, forehand regular flips, and short and long pushes. Over and over he had opponents practically falling over the table trying to get to his short push, which kept setting up his attack. He came in rated 2261, and beat four players rated between 2334 and 2361. He also had a bad loss to a 2134 player (knocking him out of Under 13), when he had great difficulty with a specific serve over and over. After losing the first two, he won the third and fourth, both 11-4, and seemed on his way to winning, but it's tough coming back from down 0-2, and in the fifth he faltered and lost.
  • Funniest incident. Derek Nie, 12, who's about 4'6" and 65 pounds but has a rating of 2261, was waiting at the table to play a match. I watched as the opponent arrived and stepped into the court, carrying the clipboard. He looked over at Derek, then looked down at the clipboard, where it had Derek's name and rating. Then he looked at Derek again then back at the clipboard. His head moved back and forth at least ten times as he kept looking at the name and rating on the clipboard and the player he was about to play - he obviously was having a hard time believing this was the 2250+ player he was playing! He finally asked, "Are you Derek?" Derek nodded. The player stared at the clipboard one more time, then smiled and went out to play. (Derek won easily over the shell-shocked but much lower rated opponent.)
  • Best Learning Experience. I walked into the ITTF arena, and on the very first practice table was Eugene Wang, the defending (and soon repeating) U.S. Open Men's Singles Champion. He was practicing his serves and backhand banana flip (where you flip the ball with great topspin and sidespin). Players and coaches were walking back and forth completely oblivious to the chance to watch. I sat down and watched for twenty minutes. Wang noticed, and even nodded at me a few times after he made some nice backhand flips. I wish I could have had some of our MDTTC players there to watch.
  • Over 50 Hardbat Doubles. Jay Turberville and I won!!! In the final we defeated Jeff Johnson and Scott Gordon (-15, 10, 15), who had won Open Hardbat Doubles. However, I've decided to retire from tournament play - too many conflicts with my coaching duties (I even defaulted out of Open Hardbat because of a coaching conflict), I keep getting injured (I aggravated my back injury this tournament, though fortunately it's not too bad), plus I'm simply not as good as I used to be - I've lost much of my foot speed, which is pretty important if you're a 53-year-old all-out forehand attacker. I normally use sponge, but mostly retired from that a few years ago, and only play hardbat (and occasionally sandpaper) events.
  • Most interesting quote. "You're a liar and a fraud! Why haven't you called the authorities to make [name withheld] stop playing loud music when he plays table tennis?" A very angry and confused person yelled this and similar versions at me over and over. I was clueless about what he was talking about.
  • Two Best Shots. I played in the Sandpaper Open. In one game there were two incredible shots. First, my opponent mishit a smash that went off the side of the table to my extremely wide backhand. It hit the net post, six inches outside the table - and bounced back on the table! I was already way over to make the return, but relaxed as it went off the side - only to see it bounce back as an unreturnable winner to my wide forehand! Not to be outdone, about two points later he again smashed a ball to my wide backhand, and this one hit. I was out of position toward my forehand side, and lunged for the ball. With my back to the table and my racket tilted straight up, and made an over-the-shoulder counter-hit for a winner!
  • Strangest Let Ball Controversy. I was watching an umpired match between two top juniors. One of them served, and the other caught the ball, saying it was a let since the ball had hit the net. The umpire didn't see it, and gave the point to the server. (I'm not sure what the server thought.) Several in the crowd also said the ball had hit the net, but the umpire can't take that into account. (The spectators could be biased.) Astoundingly, I'm told this happened three different times in the match! When there is no umpire, the players call the lets. When there is an umpire, the umpire calls the lets. Often players will still call lets in an umpired match, but it's risky if the umpire disagrees.
  • Final Autograph versus Tong Tong Count. I usually coach Tong Tong Gong at big tournaments, but he's busy this summer taking college classes (at age 15!) and doing volunteer work, and so didn't make it to the open. Over and over during the Open players asked me about Tong Tong. Players also kept bringing me copies of my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers to sign. In the end I signed 19 copies of the book, and 14 people asked about Tong Tong, so I "won," 19-14. (Derek Nie also signed three copies under a picture of himself in it.)
  • Most Fun. On Saturday afternoon I took a group of the kids swimming, and they spent 90 minutes throwing around a beach ball and chasing each other, all in 110 degree heat. (It had been 115 when we arrived.)
  • Best Coaching Advice. I wasn't scheduled to coach Crystal Wang, but I was watching her play the first game against a strong player rated about 100 points lower. The opponent had some specific weaknesses that Crystal wasn't playing into. I pointed them out to her mom, who asked me to coach her. Crystal pulled out the first, 11-9. After I spoke with her she executed perfectly, and won the next two, 11-3, 11-1. Hopefully, I had a lot of other good coaching advice for others. When Derek began playing really well, the best thing I did coaching-wise was to keep things very simple and just let him play, often just reminding him to vary his serve and receive, and perhaps to attack first to a specific spot.
  • More tomorrow. I have to coach at the MDTTC camp that starts this morning, so have to stop now. I should have more to write about the Open tomorrow.

Returning Serves to the Middle

Here's a video on this (1:33) from PingSkills.

One Myth About Attacking Backspin That You Probably Believe

The question is whether it is easier to attack a backspin ball at the top of the bounce, or even after, when the ball is descending. Here's their answer.

Table Tennis Ethics

Here's an essay on this.

Majestic Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (5:15), set to music with some interesting graphics.

Three Superpowers Table Tennis Can Give You

What are they?

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Re: July 8, 2013

Re: Strangest Let Ball Controversy

Perhaps this sounds counterintuitive but the umpire was correct giving the point to the server regardless of whether the net was hit. If there was no net, then of course the server gets the point. But if there is a net, then the point is not over UNTIL it is determined whether it was a loss or a let which means that we have to wait until the ball hits (or doesn't hit) the table after the net. Since the point isn't over yet (!), as soon as the receiver catches the ball with his hand, server immediately wins the point.

   This was actually discussed at forums a year or two ago and this is indeed the correct answer, confirmed by two IUs.

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: July 8, 2013

Actually, I misread part of this. If the ball did hit the net and go over and the umpire sees it, but the receiver catches it so it's not certain whether the serve would have otherwise been good (i.e. hit the table), then the receiver wouldn't lose the point; it'd be a let serve. There's no way an umpire would give the point to the server if he sees the ball hit the net. That's either going to be a let, or a lost point for the server if the serve doesn't hit the far side of the table after hitting the net. 

Re: July 8, 2013

Larry, about the original situation you described. Of course if receiver catches the ball AFTER it hit his side of the table perceiving a let then it is a different matter - it is basically about who (in the absence) of the umpire is allowed to make a net service call. My opinion on that is that both players should be allowed to do that (but they have to do it immediately, not after a couple of hits as some players tend to).

  But if the ball has not yet struck the far side of the table then I have to respectfully disagree (and two IUs did too - but only after everything was explained and re-explained to them and they had some time to think).

  This is indeed "counterintuituve" just as I said. I understand you might feel that server should NOT ever get the point - because if we wait until ball hits (or doesn't hit) the receiver's table the result will be either let (serve again) or point for receiver.

  However, formally (cold logic rules!) we have here almost exactly a sort of a Schroedinger cat situation - since the result cannot be determined until the ball is out of play (hits the far side of the table or passes the endline without hitting it), the umpire cannot YET apply rule 2.09.01 or 2.10.01.01 at the moment when receiver decides to catch the ball over the table (so we cannot say whether cat is dead or alive... not yet!). However, the rule 2.10.01.03 can be applied immediately at the moment when receiver catches the ball over the table with his hand. Notice that 2.10.01 begins with "Unless the rally is a let" and since it cannot be determined that the rally is a let, 2.10.01.03 can be properly applied.

  True, it is a bit unfair but on the other hand there is some kind of informal explanation - receiver is punished because he turned vigilante, that is, "took the law (or ball, as it were) into his own hands". Dura lex sed lex!

  Now, to add a bit of cruel amusement here (I am sure that you as a horror story writer will welcome this) imagine that two physicists conducting a Schroedinger Cat experiment make a bet which outcome depends on whether cat is dead or alive by the end of the first minute of the experiment. Naturally, there are some rules and one of them states that if one of the scientists interferes with the particle detector (which kills the cat if a specific elementary particle passes through) then he immediately loses the bet. Here is what happened. At 0.38 time marker both scientists see the long-awaited particle (let's not go into discussion on how they are able to see elementary particles... we can say that these scientists are very evolved cyberhumanoids with abilities far beyond what we puny humans currently possess) hitting the detector. However, scientist A (the one who bet on the cat being dead) getting really excited about this, accidentally moves the detector. After this he claims that he won the bet because the cat is dead (it was killed by the detector at 0.381 - after all, it takes some time for the poor animal to die). His opponent B concedes that the particle was there and the cat is indeed dead. But since the rule about interference with the detector is applied immediately at 0.38, before the animal is killed, B has won the bet. After all, something conceivably could happen within that 0.001 sec period - the detector could malfunction, cat could have some strange immunity against the posion, cat could be instantly resurrected by some accidental deity etc - therefore at 0.38 we cannot YET pronounce cat dead. What we can do at 0.38 is pronounce B the winner. It doesn't matter after that that at 0.381 cat is dead and A claims the victory - alas, he already lost the bet when he moved the detector.

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: July 8, 2013

I've forwarded the question to the chair of the USATT Rules Committee, and will post his response here, if he doesn't himself. 

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: July 8, 2013

Hi JimT, the receiver caught the serve after it had hit his side of the table, so it was an otherwise legal serve, other than possibly hitting the net. Since the umpire didn't see the ball hit the net, he made the right call since only he can call lets in an umpired match. (Of course, if the serve might have gone off and the receiver caught it before the umpire could see this, then it would have been a let for hitting the net, if the umpire saw this.) Informally, the players often do, and the umpires usually either go along or simply see the let called by the players. Often a receiver will call a let serve, but the umpire doesn't see it - but the server says it was a let, and the umpire then goes along with it. In this case, I don't believe the server did so, and I'm told it happened three different times in this five-game match.