October 8, 2018

Tip of the Week
Counterlooping and the Forehand Block.

Why China's Dominance in Table Tennis is Unmatched at the Olympics
Here's the video (10:54). This is fascinating viewing, and I recommend you watch it.

One interesting statement in the video was someone saying, "61% of the worldwide table tennis innovation techniques and tactics are from China." Now this is a rather arbitrary thing as who judges what is an innovation?

Here's discussion on this at the Mytabletennis.net forum, which includes a listing of the innovations by China and others, where they got the 61%. But as noted, it's somewhat arbitrary. It includes many techniques that are no longer common at the high levels, and some are somewhat redundant. If they are going to include those, then they should include many more European hardbat techniques from the 1940s and 1950s, such as the Barna backhand flick - he won Men's Singles at the Worlds five times with it - and many more. It also has entries for Zhuang Zedong's penhold close-to-table double wing attacking, Li Furong's penhold close-to-table backhand blocking and forehand attacking, and Xu Shaofa's "kuai dai" technique, which are all rather similar, with only subtle differences. If they are to be included, then there are all sorts of subtle variations of techniques that could be included. It includes several items for racket flipping, but leaves out Carl Prean's innovations. It also leaves out the innovative variations and serving techniques developed by Waldner. (There's also the Seemiller grip - two USA players reached top 20 in the world with it.)

A better listing might be of the innovations that are still used at the highest levels. My impression is that the Chinese were no more innovative than the Europeans until recent years, though they have always been the best at refining current technique. In fact, it was the stubborn refusal to change from the old-fashioned Chinese styles centered around close-to-table fast attack that led to Sweden and the rest of Europe dominating the sport the first half of the 1990s. But China quickly learned the new two-winged topspinning game and became the best at it - refining and perfecting everything. And now, as the video shows, they truly study the game with an open mind to develop the best players and innovations.

Here's a short listing of modern techniques and who first developed them at the elite level, to the best of my knowledge.

  • Forehand looping. The modern loop is, in many ways, a perfection of the best of the old Hungarian straight-arm looping style of the 1980s and the Cai Zhenhua arm-snap loop of the 1980s. I would say it reached its pinnacle with China's Wang Liqin, with the modern Chinese having a similar level but no breakthroughs that make it better than Wang's.
  • Backhand looping. The modern backhand loop is usually done close to the table. This was innovated by Tibor Klampar and Anton Stipancic in the 1970s, but it took many years before others copied these techniques. At the time, they were called "freaks of nature" because of their ability to backhand loop off the bounce. The pure power of the backhand loop was shown by Jorg Rosskopf and Erik Lindh. The Chinese have developed these shots to perfection with players like Ma Long, Zhang Jike, and Fan Zhendong, with close-to-table quickness more the focus than pure power. Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto might be taking these techniques to an even higher level.
  • Short Push. This was popularized at the higher levels by Stellan Bengtsson when he won the Worlds in 1971.
  • Forehand flip. This always used, but the Hungarians in 1979 truly brought it to the highest level, spending huge amounts of time practicing and developing this shot in secret and springing it on the Chinese at the Worlds, which they won with this shot, combined with their two-winged looping game. The Chinese at the time liked to serve short to the forehand, but this backfired on them.
  • Backhand Banana Flip. This was innovated at the highest levels first by Czech shakehand player Petr Korbel, and then by penholder Wang Hao, who won Men's Singles at the Worlds with it. While Wang Hao did the banana flip reverse penhold style, it was copied by shakehand players as well, and is now the #1 used receive at the world-class level. 
  • Reverse Penhold Backhand. This was mostly innovated at the highest levels by China's Wang Hao. (Liu Guoliang of China was the first to use the reverse penhold backhand at the highest levels, but he did it as a variation, while Wang Hao made it his primary backhand shot, as did Ma Lin.) Wang Hao was one of the most innovative players, with both the reverse penhold backhand and the backhand banana flip. 
  • Lobbing. This was primarily innovated by 1967 World Men's Singles Champion Nobuhiko Hasegawa of Japan. The Europeans later innovated as they developed the fishing game, i.e. lower defensive topspins.
  • Serving. If I gave a list of who innovated each serve at the highest levels, it would be a LONG list, and I don't really know some of them. For example, the listing above lists "Austrian shakehand reverse pendulum serve (1999)," which probably refers to 2003 Men's Singles World Champion Werner Schlager, who did this serve very well. But many players were doing this well before that - I was doing this serve in the 1980s, and I copied it from others. So who first innovated it?
  • Other Techniques. I'd be at it all day if wanted to be comprehensive!!!

On a side note, I'm very happy that China continues to allow their players and coaches to emigrate to other countries as full-time coaches at training centers. This really helps raise the level and popularity of the sport all over the world. Former Chinese players pretty much dominate the coaching ranks all over the world, and probably 80% of the hundreds of full-time coaches in the U.S. are probably Chinese. 

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 22
We're just about finished! Tim moved in with me last Monday morning, and we expected, based on the previous 21 volumes, that it would take until at least Wednesday this week to finish. But due to my reduced coaching schedule (due to shoulder problems - primarily shredded rotator cuff), and because Mal Anderson spent a bunch of extra time cleaning up scans in advance, we basically finished yesterday. So Tim drove back to New York this morning. I still have to do some fixes on a few pages, and then do all the pre-press work to get it ready for publication.

This volume is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers 1996-97. It should be available in a couple weeks. Meanwhile, why not buy a volume or 21?

On page 67, former junior star Jessica Shen is quoted saying, "If Larry Hodges can be 2250, so can you." I'm not sure if my game has been insulted or my tactical skills praised!!! (I'm all over this volume, both articles written by me and articles where I'm mentioned.)

Sunday Coaching
I had the usual two group sessions on Sunday. In the Beginning Junior Class (14 players), I introduced fast & deep serves, then we had serve practice both for those and for spin serves. Then we introduced footwork, with a demo and explanation, and then lots of practice. We finished with the usual games - one group played up-down tables, the other (younger) ones did target practice games with me feeding multiball - a competition to see who could hit Froggy the most, and then the inevitable cup game, where they stacked cups and then knocked them down.

In the advanced session, as usual I fed multiball for much of the session, plus led a group in serve practice - and coincidentally, the focus was also on fast & deep serves.

MDTTC October Open
I'll be running the three-star tournament this weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Come and join us! The Open already has some strong entries - Akufumi Hamakawa (2688), Jishan Liang (2648), Chen Bo Wen (2592) and Lidney Castro (2520), and I'm expecting several more of this level.

TTTeamUSA Training Camp - Maryland
Here's the USATT article on the upcoming USATT training camp at MDTTC. It's an elite camp - "Participants will be current or potential future TTTeam USA members and guest players."

Non-Table Tennis - My Interview at Analog Science Fiction
Here's the interview. I have a story in their current issue, "The Plaything on the Tesseract Wall." (Here's my science fiction page, which includes my SF blog, bibliography, and other stuff.)

USATT and ITTF News Items
Why not browse over the USATT and ITTF news items of the past week?

Youth Olympic Games
Here's the home page for the event going on right now (Oct. 7-15) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (USA players are Kanak Jha and Amy Wang.)

New from EmRatThich

How to Do an Around-the-Net Shot
Here's the video (5:41) by Craig Bryant (from Tom Lodziak).

Some Loop versus Block Practice
Here's the video (57 sec).

Smart Phones in Table Tennis Tournaments
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

October Skill of the Month ???
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

USATT Nominates Players for 2018 World Junior Championships
Here's the USATT article.

Off The Table - Lily Zhang
Here's the ITTF video (5:03) with the USA star.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Czech Open
Here's the video (5:31).

Denethi Wijegunawardana Videos
Here's the page (2 videos, 1:08 and 2:27) from Samson Dubina.

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

Gaetan Swartenbrouckx vs. Kalinikos Kreanga, Super Division
Here's the video (7:34). Kreanga has the flashiest shots in the world!

Bruce Lee on Table Tennis
Here's the meme! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) It makes sense - "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 backhands once, but I do fear a man who has practiced one backhand 10,000 times."

Pong Revolution T-Shirts
Here's their page! For the next two weeks you can get 10% off by applying "USATT" as a coupon code.

Juggling Ping-Pong Music
Here's the video (22 sec)!

Life is Ping-Pong
Here's the video (3:01)!

Using Your Head in Table Tennis?
Here's the video (34 sec) of this fast-rising game!

"Stop War" Play More Table Tennis
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Send us your own coaching news!