Ryder Cup

February 22, 2013

Forehand or Backhand Receive in Doubles?

More and more these days top players receive short balls with their backhand whenever possible. In doubles, where players only have to cover half the court on the receive, most players used to return everything with their forehands, so that they'd be ready to forehand loop anything that went long. But that paradigm has changed.

Here's a video (4:21, with time between points removed, not all points shown) of the all-Chinese Men's Doubles Final at the Kuwait Open this past weekend, where Xu Xin and Yan An defeated Zhang Jike and Ma Long, -6,9,10,4. The video showed 44 points; below is the breakdown on receives. Overall, players received forehand 24 times and backhand 20 times. However, these results were skewed by Yan An, who received forehand 12 times, backhand once. Take him out, and the other three had 12 forehand receives to 19 backhand ones.

  • Ma Long: FH 4, BH 8
  • Zhang Jike: FH 2, BH 7
  • Xu Xin: FH 6, BH 4
  • Yan An: FH 12, BH 1

Make sure to see the nifty ducking move by Ma Long in the point starting around 46 seconds in. Also, see where Zhang Jike and Ma Long accidentally bump into each other, about 65 seconds in. (Xu is the lefty penholder; Yan An his righty shakehands partner. I sometimes had trouble telling Zhang Jike and Ma Long apart in the video, especially on the far side where you couldn't see their names on their backs - they are dressed identically right down to their shoes, both have black on their forehands, have nearly the same haircuts, are about the same height, and from a distance look similar (at least to me on the video). I did so by keeping track of who was serving to who. In game one, Ma Long served to Xu Xin, and you can work out the rest from that.)

I did a similar analysis of an early-round match at the Qatar Open, which started yesterday. Here's a video (3:14, with time between points removed, not all points shown) from the Qatar Open just yesterday showing most of the points in a match in Men's Doubles in the round of 32 where Xu Xin (the same lefty penholder from the match above) and Fan Zhendong (righty shakehander) of China defeated Hungary's Janos Jakab (all-blue shirt) and Czech Republic's Michal Obeslo (blue shirt with orange sleeves), -10,4,8,6. The video showed 39 points; below is the breakdown on receives. Overall there were 27 forehand receives and 12 backhand, but the stats are again skewed, this time by Jakab's 11-1 stats. Take him out, and the other three had 16 forehand receives to 11 backhand ones.

  • Xu Xin: FH 4, BH 4
  • Fan Zhendong: FH 7, BH 3
  • Janos Jakab: FH 11, BH 1
  • Michal Obeslo: FH 5, BH 4

You could say that Yan An and Janos Jakab are "old school," in that they received nearly everything forehand, just as players in the past (including myself) were taught to do, so as to be ready to loop anything deep. However, newer players like to receive short serves with the backhand whenever possible, using banana flips with heavy topspin and often sidespin. (As I've blogged about before, this is also true in singles.)

In most cases, the players set up in advance to receive forehand or backhand. However, often you'd see them switch, based on the incoming serve. Ma Long and Zhang Jike in particular would sometimes set up forehand and switch to backhand as the serve was coming in. It looks like they were trying to receive long serves with their forehands, and would switch to backhand as soon as they saw the serve was short. Late in the match in the Kuwait Final, there are two points where Zhang Jike looped two serves in with his forehand against Yan An's serve - they were the only forehand receives he used that match, and probably the only long serves he saw.

Xu Xin, the lefty penholder, was tricky to watch. Sometimes it was hard telling if he was receiving forehand or backhand when he pushed (almost always short).

Qingdao Great Personality Award for the year 2012

Zhang Jike has been named the Qingdao Personality of the Year for 2012. Here's the article.

Who is Liu Guoliang's Favorite Player?

Answer: Chen Qi. Here's an article on what the Chinese Men's Coach and former star said. (Actually, despite the article's headline, what he really said was "Chen Qi is one of my favorite players on the National Team."  He also said that fans call him a "cute murderer.")

Mario vs. Maria

Here's a video (1:23) of a three-point challenge match between Mario Lopez and Maria Menounos from Extra TV, with "pro" table tennis players Elie Mehl and Adam Bobrow first giving a demo.

Ryder Cup Table Tennis

Here's a video (1:30) of Ryder Cup Golf players discussing table tennis. Players interviewed include Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, and the reigning table tennis champion, Matt Kuchar. They make fun of Phil Mickelson, who was the best until Kuchar came along. Some quotes:

  • "The Ryder Cup is all about ping-pong."
  • "Bubba thinks he's good, but he just plays defense."
  • "I think it's clear that Matt Kuchar is the best. Phil Mickelson's not quite ready to admit it. I think he's in denial."
  • "When you bring your own paddles and cases, and a briefcase with a paddle, then it's obviously about ping-pong. Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar have their own cases for their paddles. It's nuts."
  • "Phil Mickelson pouts every time we make him play Matt Kuchar. Love you Phil!"

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October 3, 2012

USA vs. Belgium Clubs

Someone emailed me yesterday saying he was pretty sure Belgium didn't have 500 full-time clubs, as I'd quoted someone posting yesterday. There's no way to judge from here. But the key is that both seem to agree they have 500 clubs in an area about the size of Maryland with about twice the population. Maryland, the state with the highest percentage of USATT members among its population, has only six clubs. That's about an 83-1 ratio by area, or 42-1 by population. I think we're outgunned.

The writer also pointed out that clubs in Europe are organized differently and said there's no point in comparing numbers, but I disagree. People are people, and if we create a good product, they will come. Every time someone has opened a nice table tennis club in the U.S. and run it properly, the people have come. The limiting factor isn't the U.S.; it's the small number of people in the U.S. able and willing to create such clubs. Sure, Belgium and other European countries have more government support, but entrepreneurs in the U.S. have shown over and over that professional table tennis clubs can make it in the U.S.  Look no further than the San Francisco Bay area, where new full-time clubs seem to pop up every week.

There's a reason why so many can open in a relatively small area and be successful. While more dedicated players will travel longer distances to play at a nice club, something like 90% of a club's business is with players within five miles. That's five miles in both directions, so call it a square with a ten mile diameter, or 100 square miles. You could ring most major cities with full-time clubs, as they have in the Bay area, and they'd barely affect each other. Plus the major cities themselves, with their much denser populations, can support a larger percentage. (The Maryland Table Tennis Center, my club, is about 15 miles north of Washington D.C.  I once estimated that the D.C. area could support 20-30 full-time clubs.)

Of course, from the point of view of each club, do we really want more local clubs that will take away some business? Of course it hurts a little bit, but not nearly as much as you'd think. More clubs means more players, and more players mean a larger field to draw when running leagues and tournaments. The simple reality is that most of a club's business is not only local, but from locals they develop themselves by promoting the sport and setting up programs that meet the needs of the players, i.e. leagues, coaching programs, etc.

Here's the current list of full-time clubs in the USA. I really wish USA Table Tennis had chosen to get involved in recruiting and training of coaches and promoters to set up these centers (as well as leagues), but my proposals to them over the years haven't convinced them. So we're on our own. Why not take an online virtual tour? Each of these clubs is the result of someone who took the initiative. They are the heroes of our sport, the ones who will take it to the next level.

The Orioles Excuse

Some readers may remember my back problem tribulations of last year. I got over them from a regimen of weight training and stretching. After the back was better, I stopped weight training, and so far my back has survived. However, the weight training did something else - it made me play better. In particular, my upper body and legs were stronger, and this led to my better play. I found myself looping with mobility, consistency, and power that I hadn't had in years.

Now it's mostly gone and I'm back to futilely waving at balls as they whip past me. The solution? Back to weight training. However - I'm going to put it off a few more days, possibly a few more weeks. I've been following Baltimore Orioles baseball, and now they are in the playoffs. I usually did weight training at Planet Fitness on the way home from coaching sessions at the club, which often finish as the Orioles are about to play. They could be done as early as Friday (if they don't win the AL East today over the Yankees and then lose in the one-game wild-car playoff), or they could continue all the way to the World Series, with a potential seventh game scheduled on Nov. 1.  

So here's my vow. Starting after the Orioles finish their season, I will start up weight training again. Opponents beware!!!

USA Junior and Cadet Team Selection Procedures

Here is how USATT will selection their 2013 junior and cadet teams.

Ryder Cup Table Tennis

It seems the real reason USA lost to Europe at the Ryder Cup is the golfers spent all their time playing ping-pong. Here's another article on the topic care of Table Tennis Nation. (Yesterday I wrote about Phil Mickelson at the Ryder Cup; last Thursday I wrote about how table tennis was the heart of Team USA bonding at Ryder Cup.)

The Ping-Pong Round Table

I'm not sure if this is a conference table or King Arthur's table, but it looks like fun.

The King Kong of Ping Pong

Yes, King Kong plays ping-pong. Guess what he uses for balls?

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September 28, 2012

2009 Strategic Meeting

I just realized that Wednesday, Sept. 26 (two days ago) was the three-year anniversary of the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting. I still consider that one of the greatest disappointments in USATT history. We had a new board of directors looking to really do things but not sure what, and they and table tennis people from all over the country gathered for two days to decide what to do. Unfortunately, the same old arguments that look good but lead to nothing won them over, and we ended up with lots of slogans and a series of vague priorities that predictably never led to anything. I wrote much more about this one year ago, on Sept. 26, 2011. I don't know when we'll ever have such an opportunity again to get USATT to really start developing the sport the way it's done successfully in other countries and other sports. I was going to write more about this, but you know what? It's too depressing. So instead we'll go to anagrams and smile. Yes, smile.

Table Tennis Anagrams

Don't blame me - I'm just the messenger!!! On February 22, 2012, I did anagrams of the U.S. Men's Team (Michael Landers: "Me Learn as Child," "Lame Child Nears," many more; Timothy Wang: "I Own That Gym"), and the next day, February 23, 2012, I did them on the U.S. Women's Team (Ariel Hsing: "Irish Angel," "Shinier Gal," several more). Here are others; Tim and Mike are going to kill me! (Remember, I'm just the messenger!!! If they can find "positive" ones with their name, I'll post them.)

  • USA Table Tennis: Uneatable Snits, Attain Blueness, Baseline Taunts, Nastiest Nebula, Instant Useable, A Baseline Stunt, A Subtle Inanest, A Sensible Taunt, Unsatiable Nets, Abase Silent Nut, Abates Nuts Line
  • USATT Hall of Fame: Fat Lush Meatloaf, A Shameful Fat Lot, A Flame That Fouls, Slam Fateful Oath, Hamlet Faults Oaf, Them's A Fatal Foul, Fateful Lot A Hams, Am A Slothful Feat.
  • Maryland Table Tennis Center: A Barnacle-Styled Internment, A Sternly Nerd Tent Imbalance, Rents A Cleanable Trendy Mint.
  • Dan Seemiller (USATT Hall of Famer): Learned Miles, Learned Smile, Learned Slime, Slender Email, Smellier Dean, A Smellier Den, Ills Neared Me, Erased Ill Men.
  • Tim Boggan (USATT Hall of Famer): Aging Tomb, Maggot Bin (Sorry Tim!!!)
  • Mike Cavanaugh (USATT Executive Director): Again Have Muck, I Vague Hack Man (Sorry Mike!!!)
  • Larry Hodges: Dasher Glory, Holy Regards, Shared Glory, Gory Heralds, Godly Sharer,
  • Hodges: He's God!

2012 Men's World Cup

It started today at Liverpool, England. Here's the home page, with results, articles, and photos. And here's a great lobbing point played just this morning from Adrien Mattenet of France.

Chicago International Table Tennis Festival

It's going on right now (Thur-Sat, Sept. 27-29), and here's the home page. Players include Wang Liqin, Wang Hao, Ma Lin, Chen Qi, Ding Ning, Kalinikos Kreanga, Ryu Seung Min, Biba, Jorgen Persson, Zoran Primorac, Aleksandar Karakasevic, Ilija Lupulesku, Chen Weixing, and Ariel Hsing.

Table tennis at the heart of Team USA bonding at Ryder Cup

That's the headline of this article in the Chicago Business. Unfortunately you have to register to see the rest of the article. But here's a quote - "The Ryder Cup is all about pingpong, everybody." -2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson

Table Tennis Jewelry

Here are a few places to buy it:

Baby Doing Multiball - Really!

I think I posted this once before, but it should be posted again. Yes, it's a baby doing multiball (1:35), and he's actually doing it well! (And there's no rule I know of against sitting on the table, though that wooden bat is illegal - needs a legal surface.) Here are more photos of this prodigy and his dad.

National Chinese Honor Society Speech - with Table Tennis!

Here's another hilarious video (0:55) from junior table tennis star Nathan Hsu - his 55-second pitch for the presidency of the National Chinese Honor Society, which includes table tennis.

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