July 11, 2022

Tips of the Week
While I was in at the US Team Trials and US Nationals, two Tips went up, plus this week's Tip. Here they are!

US Team Trials and US Nationals: Coaching & Covid!
I returned this past Friday from two weeks in Fort Worth, Texas, for these two huge events. For the Team Trials, June 25 – July 1 (Men's, Women's, plus boys and girls U19, U15, U13, U11), our club (Maryland TTC) had an even ten junior players and five coaches (Wang Qingliang, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng, and myself). For the Nationals, July 2-7, we had 18 junior players and four coaches (Cheng had to leave after the Trials).

The last three US Opens and Nationals were run very poorly by USATT, ending a streak of well-run ones dating back to 1994. Those who attended them or who read my blog may remember all the problems and the seeming inability to learn from the past. This time they brought in a new director, Mike Babuin, and other new staff, and Craig Krum made some adjustments in Omnipong, and this time they got it right. It mostly ran on time, helped by having extra tables and better scheduling. The facility was also nice. There were still a number of problems, but listing them would seem nitpicking. I already went over some of them with Mike and Craig. After three disasters in a row, our long national nightmare is over. :)

And here are the results and video! Congrats all the champions, including Men's and Women's Singles Champions Nikhil Kumar and Lily Zhang! (It's Lily's sixth.) 

Women's Singles

Men's Singles

More Links

  • More USATT Videos - lots of coverage of the US Team Trials and Nationals
  • USATT News - lots of coverage of the US Team Trials and Nationals

I arrived on Thursday, June 23, helped run training sessions on Friday, coached on Saturday & Sunday at the Trials . . . and then came down sick. Yes, Covid. I'd managed to go 2.5 years into this pandemic without getting it, and I chose a rather bad time to come down with it.

I actually had Monday, June 27 off, since we had few players playing in the Trials that day. So that became my sightseeing day, specifically the Fort Worth Stock Yards and the Fort Worth Water Gardens. I went over early in the morning with Stanley & Kurtus Hsu, their dad, and Mu Du. Before leaving I was felling chills, but blamed it on my roommate, Cheng Yinghua, who had lowered the temperature in the room. I was tired all day, but blamed it on the 95 degree heat – we were mostly outside. I returned to the hotel in mid-afternoon – and that's when it really hit me. I was burning up. I finally went across the street, where there was a CVS, and bought a thermometer and Covid test. At 7:30 PM, my fever was 102.4, and I'm sure it was higher earlier. I took the Covid test . . . positive.

Yes, I was vaccinated and boosted. But as Dr. Hwang explained – see below – these days that mostly keeps people who get it from getting it worse, and if I hadn't been vaccinated and boosted, I probably would have gone to the hospital and been sick much longer. Fortunately, no one else from Maryland or others that I interacted with seemed to have come down with it. However, I'm told there were a few other cases.

I spent the next week quarantined in my hotel room. (Cheng had to move to another room.) I bought cereal, milk, bread, peanut butter & jelly, paper plates & bowls, plastic silverware . . . and mostly lived on that, though I also ordered some online, mostly soups since I couldn't stomach much else. The first few days were rather bad. After that, the symptoms mostly went away. I started taking a Covid test each night, but it stayed positive. The guidelines from the CDC are I had to spend at least five days in quarantine plus a negative test. I finally tested negative on Monday, July 4 – and so, after one week, I was finally able to get back to coaching!

A great thanks goes to Dr. Dennis Hwang, who was great help while I was sick – even prescribing and delivering Paxlovid, a Covid medicine, and other supplies. He was there coaching his son, Nathaneal, who made the US National Under 13 Boys' Team (top eight). I've known Dennis since he was 16 and a member of the USATT Resident Training Program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, which existed from 1985-1993. I was at various times manager, director, and a coach there. Dennis was a part of it for four semesters, from Fall, 1988 through Spring, 1990 – and graduated as Valedictorian! (He's a pulmonologist, specializing in the respiratory system, i.e. the lungs.)

I'd missed the last five (out of seven) days of the Team Trials and the first two days of the Nationals, but went back into it 100%. (As a precaution, I always wore a mask.) While I was primarily there to coach, I was the defending champion in Over 40 and Over 60 Hardbat Singles. (I normally use sponge, but play hardbat on the side.) Because Over 40 coincided with some of the junior events I would be coaching, I didn't enter that, so I was only entered in Over 60. But after missing so much coaching time, and with many of our junior matches taking place at the same time as Over 60, I dropped the event. (I wonder how well I would have done after lying in bed for a week?)

This was my 83rd US Open or Nationals, dating back to my first Open in 1976, and including every Nationals and Open from 1984 to present, other than the ones cancelled in 2020. (I've also been to the US/North American Teams every year since I started in 1976.)

MDTTC had some pretty good results. 12-year-olds Ryan Lin (rated 2224) and Winston Wu (rated 2168, but recently as high as 2238) dominated Under 13 Boys. In the Team Trials, Winston came in first, Ryan fourth. (Ryan was actually in a four-way tie for second, and came in fourth based on their game records.) In the Nationals, they finished 1-2, with Ryan winning 4-3 in the final over Winston. That automatically made Ryan #1 on the National Team, so they were 1-2 in both the Nationals and on the National Team. The final of the National was a bit crazy – Ryan was up 3-2 and led 10-6 championship point. Winston fought off seven (7!) match points and ended up winning that game, 18-16. But Ryan won game seven, 11-5. Until he faced Winston in the final, Ryan had not lost a game in seven matches in Under 13. (They also played well in other events. Both of them, especially Winston, had a bunch of upsets, and Ryan had multiple match points on two 2300+ players.)

Here's Winston and Ryan, with their dads. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Here's Ryan with his medal and certificate for winning Under 13. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Here's the trophy they got for making the Under 13 Boys' National Team. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

What does making the National Team mean? In this case, the top four will be eligible for the Pan Am Juniors. The Pan Am Under 11 and Under 13 Championships are Sept. 17-24 in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and it's likely Ryan and Winston will go on the Under 13 Boys' Team, along with Kef Noorani and Dhruv Chopra. (I might even go as coach – I've coached US junior teams in the last six months in Ecuador, Jordan, and Austria.)

Stanley Hsu (2406) teamed with Yishiuan Lin (2205) of Massachusetts to win Under 15 Mixed Doubles. (I coached all their matches.) In the semifinals, they defeated the second-seeded team of Daniel Tran/Hannah Song (2553/2187) at -4,5,6,8. In the final they defeated the top-seeded team of Darryl Tsao/Rachel Wang (2516/2272) at 6,7,11. (Lefty Daniel Tran dominates in doubles - at these Nationals he won Men's Doubles, Under 19 Doubles, Under 19 Mixed Doubles, and Under 15 Boys' Doubles - and he did so with four different partners. This was his only doubles loss. He's the best doubles player in the US among juniors, possible among everyone.) Their only close call was in the quarterfinals, where they won 13-11 in the fifth over Andrew Cao and Amber Liu.

So . . . how did they pull off these upsets? From my book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, "Tactics isn't about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work." That's what happened here – they executed one simple tactic that allowed them to dominate. (It also worked in the close quarterfinal match, but in that match the opposing team found a very smart, unorthodox tactic, but it only worked in one order – and it allowed them to win games two and four, and make gave five so close. The scores tell a tale – 6,-4,6,-8,11.)  

Most good coaches would have used the tactic. But that wasn't enough - the key was understanding that everything in the matches (based on the playing styles of the players) centered around this tactic. The players executed it beautifully and played great overall, and the result was they dominated against very strong opponents. (You have no idea how much I'd like to write specifically about this tactic - but then I'd literally be coaching against my own team!) 

Stanley, 13, also made the Under 15 Boys' Team, finishing sixth. He and Mu Du won Bronze in Under 15 Doubles. Both of them will be eligible again next year, with all the players seeded ahead of him no longer eligible.

Samuel Altshuler, rated 973, upset a 1373 player to get silver in Para Class 6-7. Nicholas Nash won six consecutive matches to get the bronze in Under 1900 juniors. (Due to early ratings used for eligibility, the event included five players over 1900, with the top seed rated 2027.) Nicholas lost in the semifinals to eventual winner and second seed, Ben Zhang, rated 1983. Todd Klinger/Kurtus Hsu made the quarterfinals of Under 3800 Doubles.

Besides coaching our junior players, I also coached Navin Kumar in various Standing Disabled and Parkinson's events. (This was the first time we've had Parkinson's events, a nice addition.) Navin did well – he won Gold in Para Doubles Standing (with Ilya Rozenblat); Silver in Parkinson's Under 55; and Bronzes in both Parkinson's Open and Parkinson's Class 2. Here's a happy Navin with his medals (here's the non-Facebook version), and me coaching him (here's the non-Facebook version).

2022 Classic Hardbat World Championships
Here's my article on the upcoming event near Houston. Hope to see you there!!! Here's the current list of entries, by name, rating, and event. (Look who's top seed in Over 60! But the other players in the event are scary.) 

News from All Over
Since I haven't blogged since June 20 (due to the US Team Trials and US Nationals), rather than try to list every interesting article, for this blog I'll just link to some of the main news and coaching pages, and you can pick and choose.

Sally Moyland Martial Arts
Sally, who just turned 15, won Silver in Women's Singles at the recent US Nationals. She won gold in Under 15 Girls' Singles & Doubles, and Under 19 Mixed Doubles, and won Bronze in Under 21 and Under 19 Girls' Singles. She also came in first in Under 19 and 15 Girls at the US Team Trials held the week before, as well as fourth in Women's. So, what makes her special? Hmmm . . . could it be martial arts? Here's video of her from four years ago (82 sec)!

Tears of My Opponents – Ping-Pong
Here's a selection of cups and mugs!

Here's the video (71 sec)!

Feline Forehand
Here's the video (15 sec) – if only our junior players could smash lobs so well!

Beat Me, Win $100
Here's the video (13:51) from Adam Bobrow!

World's Most Expensive Racket
Here's the video (9:15) from Pongfinity, where three players have to make their own racket – but one has a $1 budget, one has a $100 budget, and one has a $1000 budget!

Non-Table Tennis – Releasing Hitler
My story Releasing Hitler was just republished by Metastellar. What happens if, a million years from now, Hitler is paroled from Hell?

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