Behind the Back

March 1, 2013

Flu Update

It's much better than before, but I'm still sick. I won't bore (or sicken) you with the details, so let's just say I'm singlehandedly propping up the economy with my support of NyQuil, Campbell Soup, and Kleenex Industries and. If all goes well, I expect to be coaching at the club tomorrow morning. It'll be a short blog this morning, then (after a few other items on my todo list), it's back to bed.

Off-Table Serve Practice

Here's a way to develop your serves away from the table - and it may greatly improve them. Start with a simple exercise: toss a ball in the air as if serving, and spin it with your racket. Try to do this so the ball goes straight up so you can easily catch it. After you've mastered this, try varying the spin. Try spinning it with the racket moving side-to-side, in-and-out, and in both directions. Learn to do all sorts of spins this way, where you focus on sheer spin and control. When you can do this, you are only one step away from doing this with an actual serve.

Ma Long - Superman?

Here's an article on Ma Long, the "Superman of the Chinese Team." Includes links to several videos.

Liu Guoliang and Kong Linghui

Here's an article on these two titans of China, formerly superstar players and now coaches of the Chinese Men's and Women's National Teams.

LA Dodgers Ping-Pong

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on the LA Dodgers baseball team quickly becoming baseball's official ping-pong team.

Ping-Pong Making a Comeback

Here's an article and video (1:42) on how table tennis is "trending." Table tennis coach and player Matt Winkler is featured.

Cape Fear Table Tennis

Here's a documentary (11:26) on the Cape Fear Table Tennis Club in Fayetteville, NC.

Olympian Magazine

Here's a link to the online Olympian Magazine, both the new issue and past ones. Nothing directly table tennis related, but it might be of interest to some. One article might in particular jumped out at me (haven't read it yet) - "The Role of Deliberate Practice in Becoming an Expert Coach: Part 2 - Reflection." (Presumably there's a Part 1 in the previous issue.)

Behind the Back Training

Here's a video (19 sec) showing behind the back training on an iPong robot! That's Steven Chan doing the demo. (I'm jealous; because of stiff shoulders, behind-the-back shots are about the only "trick" shot in table tennis I've never mastered.)

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October 5, 2012

Value of the Backhand Loop

If I could go back 36 years and tell myself one thing as I was developing my game, I'd tell myself to develop my backhand loop.

Sponges weren't nearly as good back then as modern ones, and so it was much harder to backhand loop with great power without backing well off the table to give yourself time for a bigger swing. The thinking for many was that if you develop your footwork and forehand, you don't need as much of a backhand attack - i.e., "one gun is as good as two." And backhand loop? It was a nice shot, but not really necessary.

And so I didn't really develop a backhand loop until I'd played many years. The result is it's not natural or particularly strong, can be erratic, and is not a particularly instinctive part of my game.

With modern sponges you can loop just about anything, even balls that land short over the table (especially with the backhand, where you can wrist-loop it), and so players pick up the backhand loop early as a dangerous weapon. A good backhand loop gets you out of those pushing rallies (including pushing back deep serves to the backhand) that put you at the mercy of the opponent's loop. Meanwhile, I still struggle to get myself to backhand loop against deep serves (I can't step around and loop forehand every time), and against quick, angled pushes to my backhand, especially after a short serve to my forehand. You don't have to rip these backhand loops; consistency, depth, and spin are key. (You can often get away with a weak loop if it consistently goes deep.)

Just as difficult is backhand looping in a rally. These days many of our up-and-coming juniors backhand loop (often off the bounce) just about everything - or at least topspin their backhands to the point where, compared to backhands of yesteryear, they are backhand loops. This turns players like me into blockers, and not in a good way. 

Not everyone has the athleticism to backhand loop over and over, though most people can if they spend enough time both practicing and (just as important) doing physical training. But just about anyone trained properly can turn their backhand loop into a dangerous weapon against pushes, deep serves to the backhand, and against low but soft blocks. Yes, I mean you, the person reading these words.

So develop that shot, and don't make the mistake I made so many years ago.

More on Backhand Looping

And since we're on the topic of the backhand loop, here's a new video out, "Backhand Loop Training" (6:41) from Dynamic Table Tennis (that's Brian Pace). It shows Brian demonstrating and explaining the backhand loop. Note near the start how he's backhand looping against block almost off the bounce, something few players did when I was starting out (except perhaps for Hungarian great Tibor Klampar).

Here's a tutorial (4:02) on the backhand loop against topspin by ttEdge.

Here's a tutorial (4:12) on the backhand loop against backspin by PingSkills.

Here's a video (1:08) from a year ago of Chinese Coach Liu Guoliang feeding multiball to Ma Long, who is backhand looping against backspin. I don't recommend most of you try to loop with as much speed as Ma, but note that his loops aren't just speed - they have great topspin as well pulling that ball down.

Zhang Jike vs. Timo Boll

Here's a match from the 2012 World Team Championships between world #1 Zhang Jike of China versus the European #1 (and world #1 for three months last year) Timo Boll of Germany, with the time between points removed so it's nine minutes of non-stop action.

Behind the Back Save Against Saive

Here's a video (55 sec) of Marc Closset making a behind-the-back return to win a point at the 2012 Belgian Championships against Jean-Michel Saive. Make sure to watch the slow motion.

How to Win a Key Point

This player has taken his high-toss serve to a new level (0:20).

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