Westchester TTC

April 18, 2013

No Blog Tomorrow (Friday)

I'm off to the Hopes Trials in at the Westchester TTC in Pleasantville, New York. See you on Monday!

Hopes Trials at Westchester TTC in NY

I'm going up to coach the two Maryland players who qualified, Crystal Wang and Derek Nie. We've been training for this for weeks! I did a 90-minute session with Derek just last night, while other coaches worked with Crystal. What is it?

Every year the ITTF has Hopes Week. This year it's going to be at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria, June 10-16. (I think it was there last year as well.) The best 11- and 12-year-olds from around the world will be invited there for a week of training, culminating in a tournament. The North American Hopes Trials are this weekend, coinciding with the North American Cup. Here are some info links:

For the Hopes Trials, USATT chose the top four boys and girls born in 2001 or 2002, so they are all 11 or 12 years old. Canada did the same. (USA is only sending three girls - I don't think others applied - but the top two girls are going, Crystal Wang and Amy Wang, as are the top four boys. No, Crystal and Amy are not related.) Because ITTF requires a joint Trials for each continent, the Trials are combined. The top finishing player from each country then qualifies for Hopes Week. (So if USA players finish first and second, and a Canadian third, then the Canadian goes, not the #2 USA player. At least that's my understanding.)

Gal Alguetti (NY, 2283)
Sharon Alguetti (NY, 2271)
Victor Liu (CA, 2226)
Derek Nie (MD, 2215)
Edison Huang (CAN)
Alexander Bu (CAN, 2093)
Edward Ly (CAN)
Boris Kalev (CAN)

Crystal Wang (MD, 2292)
Amy Wang (NJ, 2203)
Estee Ackerman (NY, 1721)
Benita Zhou (CAN)
Laura Yin Lai (CAN)
Sophie Gauthier (CAN)
Christian Lin (CAN)

Backswing Practice

Having trouble smashing against medium-high balls, or (for more advanced players) low topspin balls? One of the keys is to have the exact same backswing every time. Here's a way to learn to do that, as shown to one of my students last night. This is also how I developed my smash many years ago.

First, do a few smashes with someone (ideally have them feed multiball, or just serve topspin, they return the ball, and you smash), and when you make good ones, note where you backswing to. The question is how to repeat this over and over? Go near a wall and shadow practice the shot. Do your backswing just like you did in the good smashes. Then find a mark on the wall and move so the mark is just above where your racket is when you backswing. (You might have to put a mark on the wall yourself, alas.) Once you've done this, you can backswing to that same spot over and over. Get a feel for where the backswing should be. If you do this enough, it'll become so automatic that backswinging any other way will feel awkward.

Expert Table Tennis

Two new articles are up at Expert Table Tennis:

Table Tennista

Lots of new international articles at Table Tennista, mostly featuring China. Here are the current front-page stories:

Table Tennis Spectacular

Here's a new video (1:54) of some nice exhibition play between Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson, with Dan Seemiller giving animated commentary.

Ping-Pong Ball in the Face

Here's a new video (25 sec) of someone getting smacked in the face by an opponent's mis-hit smash. Shown in slow motion!

One Twisted Table

Maybe they Hopes Trials should be held on these tables?

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August 14, 2012

The Flat, Regular, and Topspinny Backhand

In my Tip of the Week yesterday I wrote about the Racket Tip Angle on the Backhand. I also referred to the various types of backhands, such as flatter ones and "topspinny" backhands. What exactly are these? Here are three ways of hitting a backhand drive; all are done mostly on the rise or top of the bounce. (Note that the three terms below are my invention, though most coaches would recognize from the meaning what they are.)

  • The Flat Backhand. This is probably the easiest way to hit a backhand, where you hit the ball with little topspin. A good flat backhand isn't completely flat; it almost always has a little topspin, but the key is that it has very little. This makes it easy to learn, since you simply start with the racket behind where contact will be and drive forward. This is how I hit my backhand, and I consider it a weakness in my game. The lack of topspin means precision and timing are key, and if you are 1% off, you are completely off. At the higher levels, players with flat backhands are often turned into blockers. However, backhand kills are often done flat as they maximize the speed, and players known for their backhand kills often have flat backhands. But often they either become hit or miss types, unable to rally consistently, or they become very consistent, but mostly just keep the ball in play. (The latter is me, alas). It's a dying style at the higher levels as backhand loops dominate (see Topspinny Backhand below), but there are still many who play aggressive flat backhands quite successfully.
  • The Regular Backhand. The difference here is that you start with the racket slightly below where the contact point will be. As the ball rises after bouncing on your side of the table, your racket rises to meet it. Contact is a bit more upward, which creates more topspin and, once mastered, more control. This is how I generally teach the backhand to new players. As they develop, they often hit the ball harder and harder (and sometimes flatter), or they start increasing the topspin, and develop topspinny backhands. Others simply stick with regular backhands, where they can be both steady and aggressive.
  • The Topspinny Backhand. This is the same as a Regular Backhand, except that you bring your wrist down and back, and snap the wrist through the ball to increase the topspin. It is essentially a mini-backhand loop off the bounce. This is what most top players do these days. Often there's no clear distinction between a "topspinny" backhand and a backhand loop.

However you play your backhand, make sure to do something with it. This means speed, quickness, spin, placement (both direction and depth), consistency, or some variation of these elements. Put pressure on your opponent or they will put pressure on you. Focus on developing to a high level at least one of these elements so that you'll have something that you know you can do that's better than your opponent. (Note that most of this applies to the forehand as well, except players tend to do that anyway; it's the backhand that's often underdeveloped.)

ITTF Coaching Seminar

Here's an ITTF writeup of the recent ITTF Coaching Seminar run by Sydney Christophe at the Westchester Table Tennis Center in New York.

Sidespin Push Return

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:33) about pushing short with sidespin.

Table Tennis Perfection

Here's a highlights video (14:40) of table tennis shots.

A VW Bug Covered with Ping-Pong Balls

It's colorful and with a happy face!


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