China Open

June 5, 2012

Bad Sportsmanship and Cheaters

Yesterday I blogged about the Eastern Open, including the extremely bad sportsmanship of one player. Here are some examples of really bad sportsmanship or cheating I've experienced in the past.

  • I was coaching a top 13-year-old against a much higher-rated player in a best of five to 21. The 13-year-old won the first two games. The opponent won the first point of the third game. He then walked over to the 13-year-old's side of the table, put his fist in the kid's face, and screamed very loudly, "Yeah!" He then walked back to his side of the table. The kid was stunned, and didn't want to play. I called for the referee, who actually had seen it, but all he did was give a warning and send out an umpire. The kid barely tried the rest of the way, saying before they started up again, "If he wants to win that bad, then let him."
  • Back when foot stomping was illegal when serving (since players were using it to cover up the sound of contact with combination rackets), a player I was about to play convinced the umpire in advance that if a player lifts his foot during the service motion, it's an illegal foot stomp. The umpire fell for it, and since I do lift my foot up slightly on my forehand pendulum serve, he faulted me on the very first point. I called the referee, who explained to the umpire that it was a foot stomp only if, in the umpire's opinion, the stomp was loud enough to cover the sound of contact. The umpire then tried to change his call to a let, but my opponent insisted it was a judgment call, and an umpire can't change a judgment call after the fact. The referee reluctantly agreed, and the point stood. (The opponent admitted he'd planned the whole thing.) This is still the only time in 36 years and probably over 500 tournaments that I've been faulted.
  • I discovered an opponent had great difficulties with my forehand tomahawk serve. When I served it to him at 19-all (games to 21), he caught the ball saying he wasn't ready. I served it again, and again he caught the ball. This happened four times in a row! I called for an umpire. Again I served the tomahawk serve, and the opponent again caught the ball saying he wasn't ready. The umpire then asked him specifically if he was ready before each of the next two points, the opponent reluctantly agreed, I gave him two tomahawk serves, and forced to actually return them, he missed both. He admitted afterwards he'd decided he was going to catch it and say he wasn't ready anytime I gave him that serve.
  • Two top players were battling it out, and the score reached 17-12 in the third (best of three to 21). Both agreed on the score, but both claimed to be up 17-12. Havoc ensued. The referee finally had them replay the game from scratch.
  • In the 1980s there was a player who was notorious for cheating. Opponents basically called an umpire against him nearly every match. I played him once, and he kept calling lets whenever I hit a winner even if there was no ball anywhere ("Yes there was!" he'd claim), and then he simply called the score wrong, giving himself a lead when I was winning. I had to call an umpire, and then beat him easily. (Fortunately, there were a number of spectators who were watching, who all verified to the umpire what the score was.)
  • I was watching play from a balcony on a hot and humid day when Dan Seemiller called me over and pointed at a top player who was about to serve. The player was a chopper who, surprisingly, had long pips on both sides of his racket. Just before serving, over and over, he'd turn his back on his opponent, spit on the ball (!), and then serve. The opponent would put it in the net, and thought it was just the humidity.
  • There have been a number of times I've watched grown men berate little kids throughout a match in an attempt to intimidate them, such as the example I blogged about yesterday at the Easterns. One time I was playing Perry Schwartzberg a match, and we kept getting interrupted by the antics of a grown man on the next table, who kept badgering the little kid he was playing. Finally Perry walked over and let the guy have it. I wish I had done it.
  • Here's a controversial one. In the final of Men's Singles at the 1987 World Championships, defending champion Jiang Jialiang of China was up 2-1 in games on Jan-Ove Waldner of Sweden. Waldner led 20-16 game point, and it seemed they were about to go into the fifth and final game. Jiang won four in a row to get to 20-all. He then did his infamous walk around the table: With his fist in the air, he circled the table, walking right in front of Waldner on his side of the table. Waldner later admitted this bothered him, and Jiang won in deuce to win the championship. Here's the video of the match (17:26). At 10:07 Waldner is leading 20-16. At 11:27 they start the spectacular point where Jiang deuces it, and then you see him walk around the table. Poor sportsmanship, over-exuberance, or basic gamesmanship?

Fast Serves

How many players have confidence they can pull of a very fast serve at a key moment in a match? It's risky, since most players don't practice this serve just before a tournament to get the timing down. Key phrase: "most players don't practice this serve just before a tournament." Fast serves need more precision and timing then spin serves or they are easy to miss, and so they need more warm-up and practice before a serious match. So, how do you think you can fix this? Duh!!! (When I warm up a player I'm coaching at a tournament, I almost always finish by having them practice their serves, including the fast ones.)

Want to Find Your Record Against Anyone?

Go to the TTSPIN ratings page, search for your name (see "player search" at top, since it seems to have David Zhuang as the default), choose your opponent, and your complete record (going back to 1995) will appear! (Green means you won, red you lost.)

Final of the China Open

Here's Xu Xin defeating Ma Long 4-2 (-6, 5,10,-9,7,4) in the final of the China Open in Shanghai, May 23-27. Time between points is taken out so entire match takes just nine minutes. (Xu is the penholder.)

Easterns and Meiklejohn Results

There were two major 4-star tournaments this past weekend, the Eastern Open at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and the Meiklejohn Senior Championships in Laguna Woods, California. Here are the results:

100 ping-ping balls. 100 mousetraps

Here's the result (34 seconds).

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June 20, 2011

Games against beginning/intermediate players

Because of a bad back, I've been playing an extraordinary number of "matches" against beginning and intermediate juniors in our junior session. I put "matches" in quotes because, well, they are beginning and intermediate players and aren't exactly going to challenge me at this stage in their development. Or are they? I started setting rules to equalize things. For example, I might have to push every serve to the player's forehand. Or even pop up every serve to the forehand. You get the idea. Suddenly a lot of close games! (Haven't lost any yet, but some good points.) One thing that came off well was when we played some straight backhand-to-backhand matches, where I'd spot five points. We'd put a box on the table to mark the middle, and any ball that hits the box or goes to the forehand side is a lost point. Then we go at it, backhand-to-backhand. Some really vicious points! So next time you're at your club and there's some "weaker" players, why not play them a serious match with improvised rules? It's great practice and makes every match competitive.

MDTTC Training Camp

The first of our five summer training camps starts today. All are Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM. I'll be coaching along with Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. There are about 30 kids in the camp. Our general system: I run the morning sessions, including organizing and short lectures on each major topic. I divide the players into four groups, one per coach, and then we do multiball, with the players hitting among themselves when they are not doing multiball. There's a two-hour break from 1-3 for lunch - we order from a Chinese place in the morning at $5.25/meal, they deliver for lunch. Cheng and Jack run the afternoon session, which is nearly all table practice. We usually bring in two practice partners for the afternoon session, usually Raghu Nadmichettu (2429) and Vahid Mosafari (2273).

It's not all work - we end each session with games. Toward the end of the morning session I take the younger kids off to play various games where they try to hit a drink bottle (I tell them it's worm juice, and I have to take a sip whenever they hit it), or knock cups off the table. At the end of the morning session we play Brazilian Teams, where you have 3-5 on a team, and one player plays at a time, staying at the table until he/she loses a point, then the next player is up, with games usually to 41. We usually finish the afternoon session with 11-point games, where you move up or down the table depending on whether you win or lose. Sometimes we do this with doubles.

Sun Ting

Sun Ting of China (doesn't that sound like "Sun King"?), rated 2730 and seeded fourth at the upcoming U.S. Open, is here at MDTTC for much of the summer training with our players. He's a lefty with short pips on the backhand and the usual run-of-the-mill incredibly spectacular forehand loop. He also has great forehand pendulum serves that have flummoxed everyone so far - extremely quick contact that's almost impossible to pick up.

Final of the China Open

It's a great match to watch as Ma Lin (penholder) defeats Ma Long (shakehander), but both play great. See Ma Long's receive at 0:55 (which is then replayed in slow motion). Too often people watch the shotmaking of the top players, but you can actually gain more by watching how they serve and receive. (Not just the spectacular receives like this one, but the more common ones.)  

$45,000 LA Open

Yes, you read that right. Sept. 3-4, 2011 in Los Angeles.

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June 17, 2011

Use it or lose it

Yes, I'm talking to you, the aging table tennis player reading this article. Or the young but lazy one. You both have the ability to move when you play, but you don't do it enough. Sure, you gradually slow down as you age, and so many older players become more backhand-oriented rather than attacking with their forehand, which takes more footwork. Sure, younger players may find that if they use less footwork and simply stand at the table, they won't get caught out of position. Both of these are defensible positions. But guess what? The loss of footwork begins with a single non-use of your footwork. The more you don't use footwork, the faster you lose it, which gives you more reason not to use it, which accelerates the loss of footwork, which . . . you get the idea.

It's not just footwork. When I was younger, I liked to counterloop off the bounce, or back up way off the table to counterloop. (Strangely, I was better at the two extremes.) Now that I'm older (read: stiffer and slower), these shots are harder to pull off. So it'd be best to stop using them, right? Then they'd become even harder to do from lack of use, making it even more important that I stop using them, accelerating the loss of these shots, which . . . you get the idea.

Let me rephrase what I said above: The loss of any part of your game begins with a single non-use of it. Because you can't stop using it without a first non-use. So keep using it, even if it leads to a few short-term losses.

And if you do have any complaints about your footwork, let me tell you about the . . .

One-legged nine-year-old table tennis player

The title explains the article and short video. Now, you were complaining about your footwork woes? (Ironically, the kid has little problems with his footwork with the nice prosthesis.)

40th Annual Ping-Pong Diplomacy Festivities - Twice

Yes, the 40th Anniversary of the iconic U.S. team's trip to China in 1971 is this year. (At the 25th Anniversary festivities, I met and shook hands with Henry Kissinger.) Here are two festivities that I know of.

Want to read more about Ping-Pong Diplomacy? Try Tim Boggan's two online books on the subject, "Ping-Pong Oddity" (covering the U.S. Team's trip to China in 1971) and "Grand Tour," covering the Chinese team's trip to the U.S. in 1972. Better still, buy the books, along with Tim's other table tennis history books, at TimBogganTableTennis.com! (Disclaimer: I do the page layouts and fix up the photos for these books, and created and maintain his web page.)

China Open

The China Open is going on right now, and let's face it, we might as well call it the "80% of the World Open," since probably 80% of the best players in the world are from China. Here's coverage of it.

Cats and table tennis.

Why do they go together? (Answer they don't, but play along.) Here's 33 seconds of cats and table tennis. Want more? Then see the Humorous Table Tennis Videos section of the Fun and Games section here at TableTennisCoaching.com, and scroll down to "Ping-Pong Cats." Or, if you prefer, "Ping-Pong Dogs." Where else can you find 74 videos of cats and table tennis, and 17 of dogs? Answer: only here! (Send us your own videos!)

Busy on my end

With summer coming up, I'm hitting a really, Really, REALLY busy time. Private and group coaching . . . five different five-day camps (one starting Monday, two others each in July August) . . . U.S. Open in Milwaukee (June 30- July 4) . . . this Blog and other stuff here . . . regular table tennis articles for various outlets . . . a new table tennis book (outlined, first chapter done, but may go on hold for now) . . . my non-table tennis science fiction writing . . . plus a major SF writer (known to any SF fan, but who must remain nameless for now) asked me to proof his latest novel, which I'm working on.

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