November 23, 2021

Tip of the Week
How to Fix a Weakness in Your Game.

Classic Hardbat World Championships
I had an adventurous weekend in Sugar Land, TX, just outside Houston, where I played in the first Classic Hardbat World Championships. It was held on Sunday, Nov. 21, just two days before the start of the "Sponge" World Championships in Houston. (Results are not yet online - they may go up later on Omnipong or Facebook.) Thirty-seven players competed, including nine over 2400. (Draw included Mario Genovese, who flew in from Malta, plus a number of players from other countries who now live in the US.) Prize money was 1st $2000, 2nd $1250, 3rd $750, 4th $500, 5-8 $150. (Here's the single elimination stage; RR group results should go up later.) 

Special thanks goes to Director Steve Claflin (who organized all this), referee Dan Reynolds, the many sponsors (including sponsor and presenter "We R Table Tennis," a new startup - no web page yet - that "will endeavor to put a FREE ping pong table into every school in America." I had a great time and can't wait to return next year! (Did I mention the free pizza they served for lunch? They also had free shuttle service from the very nice Marriott hotel in the Sugar Land Town Square.)

The final, between top seed Jimmy Butler and current US Nationals Champion AJ Carney, was a classic - an incredibly entertaining and well-played match that got better as it went on. Here's video - go to 2:33:30 for the Final. Jimmy is a steady attacker from both wings, who normally stays relatively close to the table, counter-hitting consistently from both wings. (But late in the match he added in chopping, and played his aggressive forehands more off the table as the rallies got faster.) AJ also mostly attacks from both wings (sometimes close to table, other times backing up), but also chops a lot.

It looked like AJ had it wrapped up in the best of five to 11. Jimmy wins the first, 11-9, but AJ wins the next two at 7 and 6, and leads 7-2 in the fourth. It's over, right? From here on, Jimmy played like a champion . . . and also had a bit of luck. Jimmy switches to a super-steady countering and chopping game, and AJ makes four straight mistakes, and it's 7-6. Then AJ smashes . . . and Jimmy chops back a net dribbler! (AJ lunges for it and pops it up, Jimmy kills.) It's now 7-7. Jimmy misses his own serve, then AJ puts Jimmy's next serve into the net, 8-all. But Jimmy misses a backhand kill, and AJ smashes a forehand, and he leads 10-8 match point. Jimmy hits a forehand off, the match is over - but no, it just nicked the edge! (See it at 3:05:49.)  He then deuces it. AJ has five match points before losing that game, 16-14. The only net/edge point - at 13-all, AJ gets a net, except instead of winning the point, it popped the ball up, giving Jimmy an easy kill. So, we're into the fifth!

AJ goes up 2-1, and smashes one - but Jimmy chops it back on the edge! Jimmy wins four in a row, 2-5 (AJ missing his own serve at 2-4) - and Jimmy then gets another net dribble winner, and it's 2-6, and then scores a sixth in a row to make it 2-7 - the same score that AJ led the previous game. But no comeback this time. At 4-9, AJ gets a net dribbler (5-9). Jimmy scores the next point to go up 10-5, and yells, "That's it!", just about the first thing he's said all match. He wins, 11-5.

As to me, I was in Group C with five others. I went 4-1, including a win over Randy Hou, a 2125 pips-out penholder, which is almost like hardbat, so very tough. I had a struggle with mostly-chopper Rick Mueller (1880), who caught me off guard early with his aggressive chops, almost chop-blocks but coming fast. After losing the first, I won the next two pretty easily. In the fourth, he began pick-hitting like crazy, but I'm up 10-9 match point - and he pops up my serve on the edge to deuce it! He wins in deuce with more pick-hits, and then - by continuous pick-hitting (should be illegal for choppers!), has me 10-8 match point. But I smack in two winners and win in deuce. Whoo!

Against the top seed in my group, Vlad Farcas (2450, with a win over Jimmy Butler in sandpaper), I was up 8-4 in the first and had a few game points before losing the first on a net ball, 14-12. I won the next, then he won the third, and the fourth, 11-8. If I'd pulled out that first game, we'd might have been in the fifth!!!

In the single elimination, in the round before the quarters, against Mishel Levinski (2576), I had several games points in the second before losing it, 14-12. He won the other two games pretty easily - it's not easy playing all-out forehand attack at age 61 against a near-2600 player!!! 

It was a great and fun weekend adventure. I initially hoped to stay a few days and tour Houston, but alas, I needed to get back to help prepare our players for the Teams, and so flew back on Monday morning. Steve promises to run it again next year, and so that time I will schedule a Houston tour either before or after.

World Table Tennis Championships

USA-China Ping-Pong Diplomacy

2021 ITTF Pan American Championships
Here's the ITTF page, with complete results and news for the event held Nov. 13-19, 2021, in Lima, Peru.

North American Teams and US Open

  • Here's the 2021 JOOLA North American Teams page. The event will be held Nov. 26-28, 2021, in Washington DC. There are 160 teams. I'll be there! My first Teams (then in Detroit) was in 1976, my first year playing. I've been to every Teams since (Detroit, Baltimore, now DC) ever since - this will be my 45th in a row (not counting 2020, when it was cancelled due to Covid). Originally I always went as a player, then as a player/coach, now just as a coach. I'd likely be at the Worlds in Houston except I'm committed to coaching at the Teams. It's silly that USATT/ITTF chose the same time frame to run the Worlds as the Teams, which were already scheduled.
  • Here's the 2021 US Open page. The event will be held Dec. 17-22 in Las Vegas. There are currently 680 entries. I'll be there! My first US Open was in 1976, in Philadelphia, my first year playing. I've been to every US Open and US Nationals starting in 1984.

New from Timo Boll

2 Backhand Loop & 2 Forehand Loops
Here's the video (1:35) from Jishan Liang.

Game Play Drills
Here's the video (60 sec) from Ted Li.

How to Hit the Powerful Backhand Rocket Against Backspin
Here's the video (10:15) from Ti Long.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Coach Jon

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Worlds Visa Issues
Here are three somewhat cryptic ITTF news items involving visa issues at the Worlds and USATT.

RIP: Bill Guilfoil - Memories
Here's the video (6:42). Bill died on Nov. 12, six days short of his 99th birthday. Here's his legacy obituary.

Two Sisters Tashiya and Tiana Excel at Pan Am TT Championship
Here's the article from The Daily News ePaper.

Ping-Pong Phenomenon Estee Ackerman Visits Hempstead Town
Here's the video (3:40).

Young Hockey Goalies Tried Table Tennis to Improve Coordination - It Worked
Here's the article and video (2:55).

New from Steve Hopkins

Call for Nominations: The Center for SafeSport Athlete Director
Here's the USATT info page.

Help Wanted: ITTF High Performance Manager
Here's the ITTF help wanted info page. "Main Responsibility: The High Performance Manager will be responsible for the development, management, improvement and monitoring of various programs and projects within the High Performance Unit that aim at establishing a high performance platform within the international Table Tennis community in the pursue of the related strategic objectives set in the ITTF Strategic Plan."

Presentation of the Candidates for the ITTF Executive Committee
Here's the article and video (73 min) from the ITTF. Sixteen people are running for eight positions, including USATT CEO Virginia Sung, China's Liu Guoliang, and French coach Michel Gadal (Jean-Philippe Gatien's coach).

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

Cartoon Ping Pong Paddle Shirt, Anyone
Here it is!

I Don't Like the Looks of This . . . This is a Ping-Pong Ball!
Here's the NASA cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Fiery Table Tennis
Here's the video (50 sec)!

Waterbomb Special
Here's the video (3:57) from XOLAY!

Playing Table Tennis With Your Wife - With Anything!
Here's the video (37 sec)!

Superheroes Playing Ping-Pong
Here's the video (3:51), with Batman, Spider-Man, Deadpool, and Wonder Woman!

Send us your own coaching news!