September 17, 2018

Tip of the Week
Development of an Outrageously Great Spin Serve.

New Format at the U.S. Open
Here's the 2018 U.S. Open page, and here's the entry form. It will be held Dec. 16-22 in Orlando, FL, near Disneyworld. (Yep, I'm going afterward, probably with a group of our juniors.)

Two huge pluses are 1) Every match will be played on rubberized floors (no more cement!), and 2) Did I mention it's near Disneyworld? The entry form includes discounts for Disneyworld, Universal Orlando, and Universal's Islands of Adventure, all nearby.

However, the format for the Open itself has changed. Before going further, I recommend you browse over the entry form, and then read the FAQ page. Really - it explains a lot! It's not that complicated once you read things over. And note that this is just for the Open; the Nationals in July will stay with the previous format.

The first thing you'll notice is that the format has changed - a lot. Instead of rating events, there's a Tiered Rating event. In this, you play not one, not two, but THREE round robins, with groups of mostly five, and then there's the single elimination state. (See page 3 of entry form, "Performance Track - Event 73.") There's also a Tiered Rating Doubles event, where you play in two round robins before the single elimination state.

The other thing you'll notice is that players are now divided into two tracks - Elite and Performance. Those in the Elite Track are eligible for singles and doubles for Men's and Women's Singles; Under 21 Men and Women; and Junior and Cadet Boys and Girls. Those in the Performance Track are eligible for the rest of the events - see entry form and FAQ.

Here are some of the reasons for the new format.

  • More Competitive Matches. In a typical rating event, you might get one competitive match in a group of four. In the new format, you'll play three round robins in singles, with the last two almost all competitive matches. Plus, the round robins will typically be groups of six, so you get about five matches each. Result? You get about 12 or more competitive matches in just the RR stage, and then comes the single elimination stage. And then you get to do it in doubles, where you'll get up to eight matches in the RR stages!
  • Class Events. You still are playing to win events. Instead of rating events, like "Under 1800," you'll be playing for Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, etc.
  • Less Conflicts. At the Nationals, there were estimates of up to 500 conflicts. Each conflict affects not just the two or four players in the match, but also those who then have to wait for them to play before they can play, plus the scheduling problems of playing matches late, when the tables might be needed for other events. With the new format, there will be few conflicts and matches should be played on time.
  • Easier Planning for Players. With multiple rating events, you had to keep track of each round of each event. The new format leads to a much simpler schedule.
  • Enter Doubles and Classic Events at Tournament. With the new format, scheduling is easier, and so players can now enter doubles and classic events (hardbat and sandpaper) at the tournament site.
  • Ratings Estimation Event on Sunday. (This is the only event on Sunday.) This is for two types of players. It's for unrated players so that they can establish an estimated rating for seeding purposes. And second, it's a great event for any rated player who wants a nice warm-up to the tournament, as the event is not processed for ratings. So you get to play a series of warm-up matches at the playing venue. Then, when you go out to play your "real" tournament matches, you'll be primed and ready to play!

There's been a lot of discussion of the format at the forum, with USATT CEO (Gordon) answering questions there. I suggest browsing there, plus that's a good place to ask specific questions.

There are always going to be advantages and disadvantages to any format. The good news is that when you try something new, if it works, you have a better format for many years to come, while if it doesn't work, you can switch back whenever you want.

Some will like the new format. Some will not. But since this is the format for this year's Open, may I suggest not complaining too much about it in advance, and approaching it with an open mind? If you are strongly opinionated before the tournament even happens, how much will your opinion be worth afterwards, when we really could use your feedback? Plus, if you keep harping on how you don't like the new format, you probably won't be in the best frame of mind when you play, and so might not do so well. Seriously, let's give the new format a try, and then tell us what you think afterwards. And then we go to Disneyworld!

Other Stuff

  • My Table Tennis Books. Here's my periodic reminder that if you don't buy my books, I don't eat! Okay, I still make money coaching and other ways, but really, why not browse over them and buy one or ten?
  • USATT Board Meeting. I'll be attending it this weekend, Sept. 21-23 in Colorado Springs. There's a huge agenda to go over, including: Approval of Minutes, Strategic Planning Process and Strategic Direction of USATT; Regionalizing USATT; NewCo/ITTF North America; Staffing and Structure; Membership Update (including new Code of Conduct); USOC Compliance Update (Bylaw amendments, SafeSport, USADA Action Plan, and Financial Policies and Procedures); USATT Events; High Performance Update; Hidden Serves; Financial Update; Board Elections and Committee Assignments Preparation; SafeSport; Legal Update; U.S. Open Format; and (in "New Business") LA Open and Ranking Tournament.
  • Sunday Group Sessions. We started two of our fall junior programs on Sunday. We had the first meeting of our Beginning Junior class, with 11 players, 9 of them new players. Focus was on grip, stance, and forehand. Then we had the first Fall meeting of the Talent Program. We had the Tryouts last year, and ended up with I think 32 players. I fed multiball for much of the session, also coached serves, and spent some time with one of our advanced players, who was forehand blocking late against loops. (I had him focus either on jumping on the ball with a quick forehand block, or counter-looping at the top of the bounce.)
  • Injuries. I've blogged a number of times about my shoulder problems. The current status is simple - I could have done Tommy John surgery, and take a year off. Or, since it wasn't a torn rotator cuff, merely a "frayed" rotator cuff, they said it would heal naturally in six months to two years. Well, we're now nine months into it, and while it's a bit better, it'll still be a while before I'll smashing or reaching out for balls. Meanwhile, I have THREE (3!) other injuries. Last week, while leading kids in jogging before a session, I pulled my right Achilles tendon, and have been hobbling about on it ever since. If I were doing private coaching, I'd have had to take off at least 3-4 days. Then, a few days ago, while carrying groceries up the stairs and favoring the Achilles tendon (and so walking unnaturally), I managed to hurt my right knee, so I'm hobbling a bit on that as well. But worst of all - a few days ago, while reading late into the night (doing research for my upcoming novel), I got lazy and decided to just sleep in my lounge chair. When I woke up, my neck was very stiff. A few hours later, it began to hurt like whiplash. And so, for the last three days, the neck has been hurting, and I can't tilt my head to the left or look to my left. And notice these last three injuries were all non-table tennis injuries!

Table Tennis Jokes
Here are two recent ones I came up with.

  • Samson Dubina posted a poll on Facebook on whether we should use white or orange balls. My response: "I have a dream that my four little Nittakus will one day live in a table tennis club where they will not be judged by the color of their surface, but by the quality of their spin."
  • There was a discussion on about difficulties in table tennis, and I wrote this: "This generation is so spoiled. When I was a kid we dragged the tables three miles through the snow on our backs at 4AM. We played in the allies in the local unheated bowling alley, with gutters on each side and dodging the occasional miss-thrown bowling ball from adjacent allies. We used icicles for rackets and a pine cone for the ball. The lighting was 30 lux and we wore sunglasses. Players would make the ball fly funny by spitting tobacco juice on it, and on opponents during the point. And you had to move quick or the big black bats would swoop down and get you, or sometimes a bear that wandered in."

European Championships
Here's the home page for the event that starts tomorrow, Sept. 18-23, in Alicante, Spain.

Here's their news page - they've had 13 new items since my last blog, so why not browse them? There's some duplication, but I'm mostly linking below to items not already in the USATT news page. 

The #1, #3, and #4 Players in the USA
Here's the article on MDTTC's top 10 and under boys - Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, and Andy Wu. All three made the semifinals of Under 10 Boys at the Nationals, with top-seeded Stanley winning the event. Stanley and Mu Du both started out in my beginning table tennis class, and I've coached them in numerous tournaments. I once blogged about a match of Mu Du's. I was coaching someone else, and came over after he'd lost the first two games and was already starting the third. At the time he was about 1200, playing a 1700 player. Down 2-7, I called a time-out, and told him that, for the rest of the match, just attack everything at his tall opponent's elbow - put a target on it and just nail it every shot. He followed the instructions perfectly, almost gleefully, and came back and won the match!

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich

When Returning Serves, DON’T PROD THE BALL
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Four Gems
Here's the new podcast (31:11) from PingSkills. This week they cover:

  • Jokes of the Week
  • On This Week: Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Jang Woojin, and Stefan Fergerl have birthdays in September
  • Tournament Wrap: European Championships and Nigerian Open
  • Tip and Drill of the Week
  • Excitement
  • Returning Long Serves to the Backhand
  • Natural Backhand
  • Serves to Pushers

Zhang Jike Backhand Banana Flip and Backhand Follows
Here's the video (4 min) as he does backhand banana flips off short balls to this forehand, then steps back into position for backhands. This was considered a "no-no" in my day, but in modern table tennis is the norm, as the backhand is simply stronger at creating great topspin off a short ball, and so players use it, even against short serves to the forehand. This often leads to a cat-and-mouse game between server and receiver as the server tries to find ways to force the receiver to receive forehand, by serving wider and shorter to the forehand and by threatening with sudden deep serves to the backhand.

Timo Boll - What Makes Him Strong?
Here are four "What Makes Boll Strong" videos highlighting aspects of the German star's game. (The first two I may have linked to previously.)

It's Time to Recognize that Ma Long is the Greatest Table Tennis Player of All Time
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. He makes some good points. However, one thing in defense of Waldner, which many who weren't from the Waldner generation don't always get, is that perhaps the strongest argument for Waldner wasn't just his singles titles, but how he led Sweden to victories in Men's Teams over the "invincible" Chinese at the Worlds four different times, a monumental task.

Off the Table - Liu Shiwen
Here's the ITTF video of the world #2 (and former #1) from China.

Brian Pace - A Coach For The People
Here's the video (18:24).

Weikert's Vision and Leadership Continues to Carry ITTF Forward Towards a Brighter Horizon
Here's the interview with the ITTF president by Matt Hetherington.

US Hopes Treasure European Experience
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. (Somehow I missed this one from last week.)

Liu Guoliang's Commentary
Here's where it was translated, on He was commentating on Chinese players during a tournament on

Coach Education Reaching New Heights in Thailand
Here's the ITTF article featuring USA Coach Richard McAfee.

Table Tennis Equipment Whack-a-Mole
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

No, The Bruce Lee Nunchucks Ping Pong Video Is Not Real (Stop Sending it to Me. Really.)
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins. It's amazing to me how many people believe this video is real - I had one person argue for days about it.

Holiday Table Tennis Competition, at the Hotel
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Here's an interesting company of "Ping Pong Evangelists Leading the Social Ping Pong Movement." I asked them about their company, and this is what they said:

"Uberpong takes a revolutionary approach to ping pong that blends art and sport. We team up with designers from around the world and put their art on our paddles. Based in Austin, TX, Uberpong has an international reach and has galvanized an engaged community around the nation through events and brand activations. We offer complete paddle customization packages for companies, or even just individuals, who want to build morale and enhance culture, or simply want an awesome paddle."

"We believe that ping pong should never be boring so we create unforgettable experiences that center around our favorite aspect of the game. Just like our paddles, our events are crafted to create a great experience. Our focus is on striking the perfect chord between an improved playing experience and top-quality, authentic artwork."

WAB Featured Club: Table Tennis Minnesota
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 16
Here's chapter 16 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at This chapter covers "1995 World Championships - Part 2." 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!

Top 8 the Best Table Tennis Serve In the World
Here's the video (2:58).

Liam Pitchford - The Talent of Table Tennis in England (The Best Backhand)
Here's the video (4:42). Here's another (15 sec) of Liam (far side) practicing backhands.

Truls Möregårdh Backhand Training
Here's the video (26 sec). He's #250 in the world, but #4 in Under 18, from Sweden. (In the ITTF rankings, his last name is Moregard.)

Four-Table Footwork Drill
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Inside-Out Backhand Serve of Ma Long
Here's the video (19 sec) as he does the same weird serve I was infamous for pulling out against players a few times a match!

Under-the-Net, Roll-on-the-Table Multi-Ball Practice
Here's the video (40 sec)!

Trickshot Video
Here's the video (2:15) from Pongfinity!

Trickshot 11-Year-Old
Here's the video (54 sec).

Edge Ball Pong
Here's the video (60 sec) from Adam Bobrow.

Dodgeball Pong
Here's the video (25 sec)! This might be a good training exercise for one of my classes - the kids will love it.

Wakeboard Ping-Pong
Here's the video (10 sec) - guy on boat playing table tennis with water boarder!

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