November 29, 2021

Next Blog on Monday, Dec. 27 29
There will be a Tip of the Week every Monday, but my next blog will be on Dec. 27 29. I'm going out of town for three weeks - coaching the ITTF Hopes Camp and Tournament in Amman, Jordan, Dec. 6-15; the US Open in Las Vegas, Dec. 16-22 (where I have to adjust in one day to the ten-hour time difference between Jordan and LV!), and a family gathering in San Francisco, Dec. 22-26.

Tip of the Week
How to Get Lucky.

Christmas Table Tennis Book Shopping
Don't forget to do your Christmas table tennis book shopping!!! Below are my seven books on table tennis that are in print. You wouldn't want me to go broke and have to live and play ping-pong on the streets? (And note that "And Still More Table Tennis Tips," fourth in the series, will come out early in 2021.) Or, if you are a non-reader, skip this and move on to the sections on the Teams, the Worlds, and so on!

North American Teams
Just had three exhausting days coaching at the JOOLA North American Teams!!! Actually, five days, since I was coaching at our pre-Teams coaching camp for two days before. This was my 45th consecutive time at the Teams, every year starting in 1976 (excluding last year, which was Covid-cancelled). Here are complete results. It also signified another milestone. My first 22 years, 1976-1997, the Teams were in Detroit, with the annual Thanksgiving drive there. This makes 23 years in Maryland/DC (where I live), so I've now played more Teams here than in Detroit.

My club, MDTTC, had ten junior teams with about 40 players. Since we only had five MDTTC coaches (myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Lidney Castro, and Wang Qingliang, with Jeffrey Zeng Xun coaching some players), it meant we had a coach for a little over half the team matches. (Since some teams had byes in some rounds, we were able to be there for over half.) A number of the parents are players, and they, along with players on the team, also helped coach, so most players ended up with someone in their corner. It's actually a great learning experience for players to coach their teammates - not only do they learn to be team players, but they learn tactics by watching other players and thinking about what's happening. I'm often amazed at some of the insights kids have - it's often easier to think tactically when watching then when actually playing.

Our kids did really, Really, REALLY well! I can't wait for the new ratings to come out. Coaching was both tactical and psychological - one of the trickiest parts of coaching between games is recognizing which to focus on, and how much. I'm pretty good at pep talks, but they always come at the expense of coaching tips, since you only have 60 seconds - and you often want to emphasize certain things, so you do sort of a recap in the last ten seconds or so. (Or just do what one opposing coach did - I started timing him, and he averaged over 2.5 minutes coaching between games and in time-outs. I actually yelled "Time!" at him a few times, but he just ignored me. I almost called for an umpire.)

I had a good run in close matches, going 5-0 in deuce-in-the-fifth matches that I coached. In three of them, I called a timeout right at the end and called the serves to use - and magically, it worked each time!!! ("Magically" in this case means the kids executed flawlessly.)

I spent a large percentage of my coaching time reminding kids to focus on attacking the "three spots" - wide forehand, wide backhand, and middle (roughly opponent's playing elbow). Next to serve and receive advice, it's probably the thing I emphasize most. Receive advice was mostly about where to play the return, and how aggressive on average. Often the best advice was simply to have them control the serve back to the wide backhand, and then rally. Other times it was important to play aggressive off the serve, though they should always vary it.

I coached one girl who caused havoc in her division. She played a number of old players who, despite all the experience and having much higher ratings, couldn't play at her pace. The tactic there was simple - serve fast and deep to the three spots, and then keep attacking those three spots. In each match, we'd usually narrow down the two best spots to attack, though we'd make sure to go to all three - and her execution was great. We pretty much put backspin serves on hold. The older players were very gracious about losing to a girl 1/4 their size, helping turn the tournament into a great experience for her. In new ratings, I think she may come out #1 in her age group in the country - she beat at least three players rated higher than the current #1, and I don't think she had any "bad" losses.

One of our juniors played a higher-rated player who blocked with long pips, no sponge. That's a touch match for a junior - this is where older, experienced players do well, while the long pips players feast on less experienced players. But we quickly found the two spots the player had trouble covering - extremely wide backhand and middle forehand, which was his "middle" (since he covered most of the table with his backhand blocks), and went after those two spots. He won, deuce in the fifth! Most players would likely have automatically gone to the wide corners, but he covered the wide forehand well. Many players might have tried to go his "middle," and gone right at his elbow - which was where he blocked best. His "middle" was where most players played their forehand best. Once again, good tactics + good execution = another win!

Meanwhile, I heard rumors there was some other major tournament going on...why in the world were they scheduled at the same time???

World Championships in Houston
USA's Lily Zhang teamed with China's Lin Gaoyuan to reach the semifinals of Mixed Doubles and win a bronze. It's the first medalist at the Worlds for a USA player since Dick Miles made the semifinals of Men's Singles at the 1959 Worlds - 62 years ago!!! We've had a few close calls - Gao Jun (while representing USA) made the quarterfinals of Women's Singles in 2003 and 2005, and Dan and Rick Seemiller once made the quarterfinals of Men's Doubles. Plus, of course, Kanak Jha reach the quarterfinals of Men's Singles this year, the first time a USA player has done that since Miles in '59!

Here's where you can find videos of the major matches, such as the men's semifinals between Truls Moregard vs. Timo Boll.

The Men's Singles Final is tonight (Monday, Nov. 29) at 7PM Houston Time (8PM Eastern Time), between China's world #1 Fan Zhendong (as expected) and Sweden's Truls Moregard (not expected!). How did 19-year-old world #77 Truls get to the final? This is how:

  • Round of 64: defeats Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE, world #25), 4-3
  • Round of 32: defeats Patrick Franziska (GER, world #14), 4-3
  • Round of 16: defeats Lim Jonghoon (KOR, world #71), 4-3
  • Quarterfinals: defeats Quadri Aruna (NGR, world #17), 4-2
  • Semifinals: defeats Timo Boll (GER, world #11), 4-3

Now let's look at Fan Zhendong's route to the final:

  • Round of 64: defeats Amir Hossein Hodaei (IRI, world #165), 4-0
  • Round of 32: defeats Emmanuel Lebesson (FRA, world #39), 4-0
  • Round of 16: defeats Wang Chuqin (CHN, world #16), 4-2
  • Quarterfinals: defeats Lin Gaoyuan (CHN, world #7), 4-1
  • Semifinals: defeats Liang Jingkun (CHN, world #9), 4-1

Notice how Fan coasted to the final, only losing a few games to the three fellow Chinese teammates he played in the last three rounds before the final? Contrast that with Truls, who needed to lose just one more game to Quadri and he'd have made the final with five straight 4-3 wins!!! Plus, of course, Truls didn't have to face any of the Chinese players. Most interesting match was his semifinal win over former world #1 Timo Boll (now #11), who almost reached the final at age 40!

Women's Singles wasn't quite so interesting - the four semifinalists are all Chinese. Wang Manyu (world #5) upset Chen Meng (world #1) 4-3 in one semifinals, while Sun Yingsha (world #2) defeated Wang Yidi (world #10) 4-1 in the other semifinals. So the final is between Wang Manyu and Sun Yingsha at 6PM Houston Time (7PM Eastern Time).

For info on how to watch the finals live, go to the World's Where to Watch page. Here are some links, including daily wraps:

Houston Vlog #3 - My way to the quarterfinals
Here's the video (4:20) from Timo Boll.

World Championships Coverage by Steve Hopkins

World Championships Coverage by Amy Karpinski

News From the ITTF Annual General Meeting Held During the Worlds

USA Table Tennis Star Celebrates Thanksgiving Day with Stellar Performances
Here's the ITTF article on USA's Kanak Jha.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

12 Movement Exercises and Coordination with Table Tennis Training Tool (Part 1)
Here's the video (5:53) from Ti Long.

Ask the Coach
Here's the page at PingSkills.

Learning Spin Through Multi-ball
Here's the video (4:55) from Coach Jon.

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

WAB Club Feature: Alameda Ping Pong Gym
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Reflections of a Legend - Jorgen Persson
Here's the video (6:30).

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

Man VS Machine: Who Plays Table Tennis Better?
Here's the video (6:26).

55 Ping Pong Sounds
Here's the video (9 min) from Adam Bobrow!

Here's the video (26 sec)!

Non-Table Tennis - Story Sale to Daily Science Fiction
Just sold a short story to Daily Science Fiction (one of the major "Pro" SF magazines), "Four Score and Seven Years of the End of America: A Bibliography." It's literally a fictional bibliography of books published from 1953 to 2040 whose titles humorously show the downfall of America. It's my 121st short story sale. Sorry, no table tennis this time!

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