September 7, 2021

Tip of the Week
Use Your Strengths, But Test Your Opponent.

MDTTC Open and Westchester Teams and 911 Museum, Oh My!
I had an action packed Labor Day Weekend, which can be neatly divided into three parts. Alas, Part 2 I had to write with my mouth clenched in disgust.

=>PART 1: MDTTC Open. On Saturday, I coached for half a day at the MDTTC Open. Here are the complete results. Perhaps the most interesting match was against a player with the Seemiller grip. The junior player I coached had barely beaten this opponent in a previous match one month before, but armed with better tactics, won easily three straight this time. I'm one of the few coaches left around who coached actively way back when that grip was relatively common. These days, many coaches give very bad advice on how to play this grip, leading to many unnecessary losses. Every player is different, but in general, against this type of player you:

  • Attack the wide forehand, then continue attacking the wide angles.
  • Rarely open to the backhand. Draw them out of position by attacking the forehand first.
  • Rarely attack the middle. Only go to the middle when you are out of position as that takes away an extreme blocking angle. They are at their strongest from the middle, which is different than for most shakehand and penhold players.
  • Serve mostly long to the backhand with spinny, breaking serves.
  • Mix in short serves to the forehand so they can't sit back waiting for the deep ones.
  • Focus on getting used to their "off" surface as early as possible. It's usually antispin, but sometimes long pips.

=>PART 2: Westchester Teams

It was a three-day tournament, with Under 3800 Teams on Saturday, U4400 Teams on Sunday, and U4800 Teams on Monday (Labor Day). I went up on Saturday afternoon from Maryland (five hours including lunch break) with Todd Klinger and his parents (Ron and Carolyn), and Todd's teammate, Christian Funderberg. They had a two-hour practice session at the club that night, then pizza for dinner. Todd and Christian were only playing on Sunday, in the Under 4400 event.

The Westchester Table Tennis Center is one of the finest facilities in the country. It's owned by Will Shortz, the NY Times puzzle editor, who's now played table tennis for 3,260 days in a row (since Oct. 3, 2012). I've been there probably a dozen times now for various tournaments, which have almost always been very positive experiences. Here are the complete results of the tournament. Here are pictures

Alas, we had some serious friction with the tournament referee, on multiple fronts. We had been told in advance (via email) that there would be a consolation event after the main event, and that they would be playing until about 6-8PM. So we were set for a full day of matches, and had paid a hefty $315 entry to do so, not to mention another $900 for three hotel rooms for two nights.

Under 4400 was scheduled to start at 9:30AM. So Todd and Christian were there at 8:30AM for a one-hour session. We were all set to play at 9:30AM, and their first-round opponents were also ready and waiting. But the referee wouldn't call any matches. There had been some accident on one of the local highways and so some players were going to be late. No problem, send out those who are available and wait on those few who are delayed. But the referee disagreed, and refused to send out any matches until 10:10AM!!! So the large majority of the players who had warmed up and were ready to play at 9:30AM were now cold from waiting around. We didn't get our clipboard until 10:15AM, 45 minutes late. Todd and Christian went out and warmed up again, but they were more primed to play at 9:30 then they were after 45 minutes of pointlessly waiting around.

They were seeded fourth in a group of four and lost all three team matches, though Christian pulled out a couple of upsets and they played great in the doubles, twice beating "stronger" teams. They pushed one team to five. (Best of five format Corbillon - singles, singles, doubles, singles, singles.) Each team match had two tables and they played the singles simultaneously, so each team match finished in about an hour or just over. They finished the third and final team match around 2:30PM. At that point the top two teams in each of the four groups moved to the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, we waited to play the consolation event.

After a time, we went to the control desk to check with the referee on when the consolation rounds would begin. We were told that they had cancelled it, saying the software wouldn't allow them to run a consolation event! This made no sense to me - if you can set up multiple team events on the software, then you can set up another team event for the consolation rounds, and simply put those teams in it that hadn't finished in the top two. (I also pointed out that you could simply run it on paper - very easy to do, I've done it many times.) But he insisted the software would not allow him to run the event and ridiculed the idea of running it on paper.

He said if we did the event, we'd be there all night, which also didn't make sense. If you take the nine teams that didn't finish in the top two and put them in a single elimination consolation event (run at the same time as the main event, which had eight teams), you'd have at most only one more round (since there were nine teams, and so you needed one preliminary to get to the quarterfinals), and at worse might finish an hour later - and still finish in time for dinner. But realistically, not all the teams wanted to play the consolation event, and so in reality they could have started the consolation event at the same time, quarterfinals on, and both would finish about the same time. So the idea that running the event "would take all night" simply doesn't make sense. (Ideally, of course, the consolation event would have been run RR so teams would get more matches, i.e. their money's worth for $315 entry fee for one day's play. If it runs late, so what? They paid to play for a full day. We'd been told we'd be playing until about 6-8PM. So, let's run it RR and let them play until about 6-8PM!!!)

And then we ran into an even more heated disagreement. When I pointed out they should be able to run the consolation event (either with their software by creating a new event or simply by hand), he insisted that, even if he could run it on the software, you can't run a consolation event unless every team agreed to play. In other words, he said it couldn't be run unless all nine teams that didn't finish in the top two agreed to play! THIS DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE!!! We argued on this, but he stuck to his guns. I asked him what he would do if he were referee at the US Open, and they had a consolation event with, say, 50 players, but one player didn't want to play. Would he cancel the entire event because of that? He wouldn't answer, and cycled back to arguing that the software wouldn't let him run a consolation event. (Do I really need to contact the creators of the software and ask if it will allow someone to simply create a consolation event and put those teams in it? That's sort of silly - of course you can.) In the end, as he repeatedly said, he was the referee and had ruled that there would be no consolation event. (It didn't specify on the entry from that there would be a consolation event, it was simply something they had planned, at least initially, and told us would happen.)

There was another interesting argument. At this point in the argument, some or most of the teams that might have played in the consolation had left. What if there were two teams that wanted to play a consolation team match, just so they could get a few more matches? That would be easy, right? But the referee ruled emphatically that if there were only two teams, then it wasn't worth running the event. I pointed out that it might be worth it to the two teams, but he again stuck to his guns, and once against said he was the referee and had made his ruling. At this point I was pretty angry, and even sarcastically pointed out that, as referee, he could rule that 2+2=5, but that wouldn't make it right.

Since they must have run into this problem the day before (when running U3800 Teams on Saturday), and knowing they weren't going to run a consolation event, perhaps they could have at least run the event with more teams per group? They ran U4400 Teams with three groups of four, and one group of five. Why not two groups of six and one group of five? Then perhaps we would have gotten more of our money's worth. (Ironically, despite not entering U4800 teams on Monday - that was a little strong for them - they were mistakenly put in the draw, in a group of four. So they are listed as defaulting those matches, and the other three teams only got two team matches in the preliminaries. The team that finished third paid $315 to play two team matches.)

So: we traveled five hours each way to play three team matches, it started 45 minutes late (10:15AM), and by 2:30 PM we were done, with a whole afternoon and night now unexpectedly open. The entry fee for this? $300 plus $15 registration, so $315 to play three team matches. (Plus three hotel rooms for two nights - another $900!) For perspective, on Saturday, Todd or Christian could have entered four round robin events at the MDTTC Open - Open Singles, U2400, U2200, and U2000. Total entry fee would have been exactly $100, less than 1/3 the $315 we paid for the Team event - and they would have played far more matches. (They went to Westchester so they could play lots of different players.) So, yeah, if you are going to charge $315 for one day's play, then give them one day's play!!!

As you can see, we were a bit peeved by all this. (And when I say "a bit peeved," I am way, way understating.) I will be very hesitant to bring players to future tournaments run by this referee, not unless we get incredibly firm agreements in advance on what to expect. As a coach and player, I am tired of these shenanigans. (This is not the first time I've had "differences" with this referee.) Note that while he was listed as the referee, with someone else listed as director, in reality he ran the tournament. (And if he wants to defend his actions, I'm up for a very public debate on either Facebook or Zoom.)

After hanging around the hotel the rest of the afternoon, we went out to dinner with the Wu's (William and Winston and parents), who are also from MDTTC and also finished up early. They were playing on Monday, however. We went to a nice Greek restaurant. (I had a huge Greek salad and tried not to watch as most of the others ate octopus as an appetizer.) Afterwards we took the kids out for ice cream (okay, we all had ice cream). Then we went for a long walk along the Hudson River at Tarrytown.

=>PART 3: 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

The Klingers, Christian, and I spent Monday at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. We were in the museum for several hours - I sort of lost track of time. It's a rather somber experience. Lots and lots of exhibits of things from the Twin Towers, pictures, a long timeline along the way, and lots of videos. What else is there to say about it? When 9/11 happened in 2001, I was busy moving into my new townhouse I'd just bought (and still live in). I spent three days unpacking while watching everything on TV. Afterwards we went for another long walk along New York Harbor, where we could see the Statue of Liberty.

Tickets for the Worlds - Still No News
Here's the World's ticket page, which is still essentially blank. As I blogged last week, we were told tickets would be on sale in August (for the Worlds in Houston in November), and it's now Sept. 7. And, as I also said last week, the bigger problem isn't that they are late, it's that they simply won't communicate. They could easily put up a news item explaining there's been a delay, perhaps because of Covid or other issues. But silence is not the answer, though it seems to be the USATT's and ITTF's answer. (And now I'll have The Sound of Silence stuck in my head for the rest of the say.)

Life After Tokyo – What’s Next?
Here's the article by USA Olympian and 5-time US Women's Singles Champion Lily Zhang.

New from Sean Zhang

Serve Return With Banana Flip
Here's the video (2:12) from Ojo Onaolapo.

Forehand Serve - Pendulum Initial Phase
Here's the video (2:52) from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Ti Long

What Makes A Great Table Tennis Player
Here are the two videos (1:58 and 2:45). Fresh off their Olympic success in Tokyo, Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov (Silver Medal – Men’s Team | Bronze Medal – Men’s Singles) and Patrick Franziska (Silver Medal – Men’s Team) demonstrate what it takes to be a great table tennis player.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Videos (some overlap with the above)

The Chinese Table Tennis Masters all Grew Up From These Kids!
Here's the video (7:07).

New from Edges and Nets

New from USA Table Tennis

New from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association

New from Steve Hopkins

Tournament Refund Policies – No Way! No How!
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Happy Birthday, Dima!
Here's the video (3:15) as Germany #1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov turns 33!


New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

New Season Begins! TableTennisDaily Team
Here's the video (25:58)!

Vlog - The Return of Tiger Boll
Here's the video (4:18)) from Timo Boll. (No actual table tennis - it's Timo playing golf - and the lefty TT player plays golf righty!

Most INSANE Behind-the-Back Shots Ever!
Here's the video (1:56) - the first one is a long counterlooping rally that ends with a Timo Boll behind-the-back winner!

Fear My Racket Table Tennis T-shirt
Here's where you can buy it on Amazon!

$5 Racket Vs. $140 Racket
Here's the video (6:16) from Pongfinity!

How to Suck at Table Tennis
Here's the video (6:06) from XOLAY!

Table Tennis Mascot Images
Here's a page of them!

Misdirected Serve
Here's the video (8 sec)!

Adam vs. USA no.1
Here's the video (11:54)!

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