Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

March 28, 2014

Longest Rally

On Monday I blogged about the new record for longest rally at 8 hrs 40 min 10 sec. Not so fast!!! Apparently Richard Bowling and Rich DeWitt rallied for 10 hrs 9 min back in 1983, and it was published as the record in the 1984 Guinness Book of World Records. Here's a video about it (3:13). I emailed Richard about it. Here is his response, which he gave me permission to post:

Yes we are in the 1984 edition of the GWR book. Unfortunately they don't do due diligence in cross referencing a previous record when someone 'breaks a new record'.

And funny about the new record, it's almost the same as the record we aimed to beat, which was 8hrs, 33 min. And yes ours was 10hrs, 9min.

Rich's father contacted GW a year or two ago. And they replied that we would need more 'proof' since standards at that time were lower, etc. A silly argument really. Their book should be proof enough.

Plus we submitted, in 1984, a notarized log book of dozen of witnesses. And always had people present in room at the YWCA, while the record was broken. Including the media occasionally. And were covered in a half dozen newspapers, plus television in CT.

Also, last July I created a youtube video as a 30yr tribute to our record. Youtube: "609 Minutes".  And take a look at the shorter version: 2:34 min.

I haven't decided if I want to launch a protest with GWR myself. At the moment busy selling Joola tables full-time, and part-time doing a life coaching business.

What's your record for shots in a row? Why not set aside some time to see how many forehands and backhands you can hit? It helps a bit in ingraining a precise stroke, but even more it ingrains a strong mental game - if you can focus for extended drills, you can do so in a match; it's far more mental than physical. I occasionally have my students see how many they can hit in a row as a mental exercise.

I have a student, Sameer, who a year or so ago when he was 11 and a semi-beginner was struggling to hit 100 forehands in a row. Twice he reached 95+ and missed. Then he reached 100 - and we continued and he did 1000 in a row! (I did about 1500 in a row.) I caught the ball after 1000 and said that was enough, and he agreed, and now we're moving on to bigger things. But think about that - he struggled to reach 100, then the first time he did, he hit another 900 in a row. It was all mental.

I remember that Sean O'Neill, back when he was about nine, had to start many of his sessions with his coach by hitting 1000 forehands in a row.

I've done it a few times myself. Back in 1978 when I was 18 (and about 1800) while hitting with Ben Nisbet at a Seemiller camp in Pittsburgh, Coach Dan Seemiller had a contest to see who could hit the most forehands. Because Ben was left-handed, I played backhand to his forehand. We started shortly before noon, but at noon, as everyone stopped to go to lunch, I was still going. Most of the players left for lunch, but we kept going. When they returned afterwards, I was still going. I ended up hitting 2755 backhands in a row - easy to remember since it's exactly 2000 more than home runs hit by Hank Aaron! I'm guessing we hit for about an hour or so. Ben only missed three shots during that time, and had at least one streak of over 1000.

Back in 2000 at a Zoran Kosonovic camp I drilled with Scott Butler, who was then 12 years old and already rated 2183. I was 20 and rated only 2002, but was about to shoot up to 2150 or so. I did side-to-side forehand footwork for 15 minutes straight (yes, 15 minutes!), then Scott did it for 15 minutes - and I didn't miss a shot the entire 30 minutes. (Scott didn't miss many either.) I probably hit about 1500 shots in a row. Then, about a year ago, I had a one-hour lesson with a beginner, and went the entire hour without missing a shot. When he realized this toward the end he tried smacking a few shots past me, but I got them back!

So I've had a few long rallies, but nothing close to the eight or ten hours these other players have done. I might have to put that on my bucket list.

One-Day Training Camp

Schools are closed today - Professional Day - so we have a one-day camp at MDTTC, 10AM-6PM. So that's where I'll be spending my day! We do have a two-hour lunch break, so I might get some writing done. More likely I'll be recruited to take the kids to 7-11.

Want to Sell Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers?

If so, contact me for wholesale prices for various quantities. The book has gotten nice reviews on Amazon and sells pretty well. And if you haven't bought it yourself yet, what are you waiting for??? (Do you really want to face opponents in tournaments who have read the book, while you haven't, you poor devil?)

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S.

Just a reminder that there are two upcoming ITTF coaching courses coming up this summer - don't forget to make plans!

Spider-Man's Andrew Garfield Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article and pictures.

Ping-Pong vs. Table Tennis

Here's the comparison.

Send us your own coaching news!

August 29, 2013

Junior Lobbers

I have an 8-year-old student, about 1200 level, who simply loves to lob (as well as chop). Yesterday I finally made a deal with him that if he'd stopped lobbing every few rallies, I promised to let him lob at the end of the session. He sort of kept his side of the bargain (not always), and at the end he lobbed away. He's actually very good at this! Some rallies went on for 6-7 shots as I'd smash a near full-speed, but to one spot.

I had a 12-year-old for the next session, and he saw this, and he wanted to lob as well. Before we could start our session, he was hitting with the 8-year-old where they took turns lobbing and smashing. I let them do this for ten minutes (and agreed to go ten minutes over for the upcoming session). At the end of the session with the 12-year-old, he also wanted to lob. So I let him lob. Then we played a few games, and next thing we know we were about 25 minutes over on time. (No, I didn't charge extra.) Normally kids want the coaches to lob so they can smash, but now we have a turnaround, and I'm teaching two of them to lob. I have another 12-year-old student who last week practiced lobbing against me. So it looks like an infection that's spreading!!! (They are also learning about fishing, which is basically a low lob.)

There's nothing wrong with lobbing. In fact, it's a great way to learn to react to a smash and to practice covering lots of ground. When the kids learn how to react and move this way, and do so properly so the lob is essentially a high loop with lots of topspin, then they are that much closer to counterlooping at warp speeds. The key is not to make it a habit. Too often players start lobbing whenever they are in trouble when, if they want to be higher-level players, they should focus on counter-attacking whenever possible, and only lobbing as a last resort.

Baltimore Orioles Pre-Game Show

I blogged last Thursday about the MDTTC visit to the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse locker room for three hours of table tennis. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network filmed some of it, and we were on the pre-game show before the game that night. However, I didn't get to see the pre-game show itself since I was at the game. The Orioles kindly sent me the video.

Here's the video (5:28)! The table tennis is only in the first 1:53. (That's Nathan Hsu playing in the background during the interviews with shortstop JJ Hardy and third baseman Manny Machado.) After that comes 90 seconds where Buck Showalter explains why he likes that the players have fun in the clubhouse, and then the rest is about the Orioles. Here's the video from (1:19), which I linked to last Thursday, where Buck talks about table tennis - great stuff, though not all completely accurate!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

It's been a while since I blogged about Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers except in passing. It's come to my attention that there are still a few people in this world that haven't bought a copy. I figured this out by taking the world's population (7,175,410,847 as I write this, according to the World Population Clock) and the number of book sales (about 2000), subtracting the difference, and we reach the inescapable conclusion that there are 7,175,408,847 people out there who have not bought this book. Inconceivable!!!

The book has gotten nice reviews. At Amazon there are an even 20 reviews, 17 of them 5-star (highest level), and the other three 4-star. Here are all 20 of them.

Perhaps there are a few billion people out there who haven't heard of the book? Then our mission is to get them to hear about it.

So, do you, or anyone you know, do table tennis reviews for a table tennis magazine or blog? Let me know and I'll send you free copy of the book for review.

I'm also interested in translations to sell elsewhere, especially Chinese. If you have connections for that, let me know. I'd need both a translator and a publisher for that.

Charity Table Tennis Event at Dodger Stadium

Los Angeles Dodgers pitching star Clayton Kershaw is holding a charity ping pong event tonight at Dodger Stadium Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation. Includes a link to a video (2:33) of him on Jimmy Kimmel talking about his table tennis.

Interview with TSP

Here's an interview with TSP that focuses on their various types of pips-out surfaces (both long and short), as well as questions about their blades.

Table Tennis Historical Pictures

Here's a collection of 292 historical table tennis pictures.

Shot of the Tournament at the Harmony Open

Here's a video (29 sec) of Singapore #1 player Gao Ning (world #16, formerly #9) making the shot of the tournament at the Harmony China Open.

Saive the Fighter

Here's a video (49 sec) of former great and world #1 (20 years ago) Jean-Michel Saive of Belgium looping, fishing, lobbing, and even chopping as he battles to win a game (leading 10-8), and showing that perhaps he's still pretty great.

No One Beats Me at Table Tennis!

So says Loki from The Avengers in this short table tennis gif image!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 10, 2013

Tip of the Week

Staying Low.

Eastern Open

It was a tiring weekend, but tournaments always are. I think coaching is more tiring than play. Seriously! Here are the results. We got there on Friday afternoon so our players could practice. I ended up volunteering with the NATT group running the tournament and spent some time putting together barriers. It was nostalgic - I was in charge of barriers at two U.S. Opens, two U.S. Nationals, and one North American Teams.

I mostly coached Derek Nie (12) and Sameer Shaikh (11). Sameer won Under 800 and made the final of Under 950, so it was a successful tournament for him. However, he needs serious work on staying low - hence the inspiration for this week's Tip of the Week (above). Often in practice with me he stays down, but once he gets into matches he tends to stand up straight, and his strokes and movement become awkward. We're going to focus on this for the foreseeable future.

Derek, rated 2215, had a strange tournament. On the one hand, he made it to the final of Under 2375, and had wins over players rated 2353 and 2332. He also went through stages where he was playing extremely well; his backhand play especially has improved as he can now do five types of backhand loops very well - over the table against short balls (especially serves), i.e. "banana flips"; off regular backspin; backhand rips against weak balls; in fast topspin rallies where he backhand loops the ball without backing up much, almost off the bounce; and from off table when forced to back up.

However, he had several matches where, at key stages, he seemed to tighten up and miss a few shots, especially finishing forehands. Astonishingly, he also kept missing his own serve, something he'd never done much before. Not fast and deep serves, but simple short serves that normally are almost never missed. He must have missed his own serve over 20 times this tournament - he has some work to do on this. In one five-game loss, after going up 2-1 in games, he missed his own serve four times in the last two games. (He also had a knee problem that affected him in some of his matches, especially toward the end; in his very first match he dived for a ball, and landed on it. Hopefully it's just a bone bruise. I don't think it affected him too much, but he's taking the next two days off to rest it.)

In the end, he lost five-game matches to three of his rival juniors, and another in four where he was down 1-2 but leading 10-8, with the opponent deucing it on a net-edge and winning on a net. (All four were actually rated higher, all in the 2260-2310 range.) Derek and I both agreed that while the actual results this time were somewhat disappointing, his actual play showed great promise. It'll take him time to gain the experience to incorporate his greatly improved backhand play with his already strong forehand play. And we had a lot of fun both to and from the tournament (four-hour drive) doing brain teasers and (I kid you not) discussing physics.

Here's a good place to thank fellow MDTTC players Raghu Nadmichettu and Harold Baring for their help in practicing with Derek throughout the tournament - and also to congratulate them for both making the quarterfinals of the Open. Chen Bo Wen, also from MDTTC and regular practice partner/coach for Derek, made the final of the Open.

I wish I could go into some of the tactics used in the tournament, but some give away too much for possible future opponents. Derek has a new-found "rivalry" with senior player Vladimir Shapiro (2332), who Derek beat in the Open but lost to in the U2375 final. In their first match, Vladimir was up 2-0, but with a major change in tactics Derek won the next three. In the U2375 final, Vladimir made a nice tactical adjustment to win at 7,8,9. "The future belongs to him," he told me, but the present belongs to him - with his two-winged looping game, varied serves, and smart tactical play, he swept three events - U2375, Over 40, and Over 50.

Because I was busy coaching, I didn't see many of the big matches. We left on Sunday as they were about to start the Open Quarterfinals.

We didn't stay at the tournament hotel, instead staying at a cheaper Day's Inn - and paid the price in other ways! I'm not picky about hotels, and didn't really mind it, but I did note a few things about the hotel:

  1. There was litter scattered all over - in the streets, walkways, outside rooms, and hallways.
  2. The coke machine just outside the front desk looked like it hadn't been cleaned in years. I could barely make out the flavors. It was situated so that to get at it I had to squeeze between a bush and an over-loaded trash can that smelled of old garbage. When I clicked on Lemon Ice Tea, I got a Ginger Ale. The front desk refunded my $1.50. They said that there had been complaints about this. I mentioned I'd try the lemonade, but they said that if I did, I'd probably get a coke instead. I ended up going for a water.
  3. The arm rests on the chair in our room were both broken and hanging off sideways.
  4. The light fixture between the beds was broken and hanging off the wall.
  5. The front door had some sort of paint splattered over it.
  6. There was trash scattered about the bathroom.
  7. While walking to the front desk to check out, in a walkway littered with trash, I stopped and watched a giant spider crawling about the wall. Spider webs were all over.
  8. The clock at the front desk was 12 minutes slow.
  9. The complimentary was only corn flakes or sugar frosted flakes, plain bagels, bread, sugar donuts, orange juice, and coffee. I didn't mind; I had two bagels.

In contrast to this, the playing conditions were excellent, with grippy wood floors and good lighting. It was rather humid, which gave some players problems. I'll never understand why so many players show up at tournaments without a towel to wipe their racket with. When it's humid, I bring two - one for me, one for the racket and ball.

Here was an "interesting" incident. A very loud argument was going on between a coach and the referee. Several spectators told me what had happened. In the fifth game of a close match a ball rolled into the court. One player raised his finger to signal let. As he was doing this, his opponent, a junior player, not seeing the raised finger (he was watching the ball) went for a shot and missed. The adult who had raised his finger for let claimed the point. The referee was called. Since the junior player didn't know that his opponent had called a let, the point stood, with his opponent getting the point. (I'm not sure if the adult denied calling a let or claimed that since the junior went for the shot the point counted.) The referee couldn't rely on spectators on what happened (or you might get a biased view), and you can't check the video (or everyone would have to video their matches just in case), and so he could only go by what the players said - and so probably made the right call. However, the adult, if did in fact call the let, pulled a fast one there - and he won the fifth game 11-9. Anyway, there was a LOUD interaction between the junior's coach and the referee, which led to the coach getting red-carded and kicked out.

I had another interesting experience. One of the juniors from my club was playing a match and seemed to be struggling. I wasn't coaching the match, but I asked his dad how he was doing, and discovered he was down 2-1 in games and down 5-1 in the fourth against a player rated considerably lower, whose game I knew. (Very strong backhand, very weak forehand, with specific tactics needed to adjust for this since the player was willing to play backhands from the forehand side.) So I called a time-out, explained how to play this player, and our junior went back out and won the game and match.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

More reviews for the book are in. At, there are 17 so far - 15 five-star ones, and two four-star ones. They are selling pretty well at Amazon, both the print and Kindle versions. A few also sold at The Easterns. Hopefully we'll sell a bunch at the U.S. Open.

Butterfly App

Here's an app from Butterfly that allows you to watch the top players on your iPhone, iPod, or iPad. (Alas, my phone is circa 18th century, and it makes phone calls. Yes, just phone calls. Though I've heard rumors it takes pictures as well.)

Receive Secrets

Here's an article from Table Tennis Master: Service Receive Secrets From Japan.

Do You Know (the Ping Pong Song)

Here's a table tennis song I hadn't heard before - the music is to the beat of a bouncing ping-pong ball.

Michael Maze - Literally

Here's a cartoon from Mike Mezyan that combines Danish table tennis star Michael Maze, Michael Jackson, a maze, and a table tennis tour. (If you can't see it in Facebook, try this.)

Send us your own coaching news!

February 13, 2013

Tactical Matches

Over the past year I've sort of been the nemesis of one of our top juniors. Since I also sometimes coach this player, I know his game well. Until recently I had a simple way to take his game apart - relentlessly going short to his forehand. I'd serve short to the forehand with varied spins. If he served short, I dropped the ball short to the forehand (usually faking to the backhand first). The only way to stop my going short there was to serve long, and then I'd loop. Plus, because I knew the player so well, I was able to read his serves and tell early in his motion if he was serving long.

Alas, it is no more. Or should that Thank God it is no more? He's finally figured things out. When I serve short to the forehand, he's finally developed a competent flip. He can also drop it short. Or he reaches over and flips with his backhand, often using a banana flip. The more I go wide to his short forehand to get away from his backhand, the wider the angle he gets to my wide forehand. When he flips there, I have to go so wide that I'm open on the backhand on the next shot.

When he serves, he's giving more variations, so it's not as easy to drop the ball short. And just as with my short serves, he's gotten better when I do drop it short, flipping both forehand and backhand. He's also disguising his long serves better so I can't see them coming so easily.

So after at one point beating him 14 times in a row, I am sad - I mean glad! - to say he's won our last two. In fact, I've had to completely revamp my tactics against him, since the relentlessly-go-after-the-short-forehand tactics doesn't work so well anymore. However, this has led to some good news - for me. It's forced me to get more aggressive against his serves, bringing out my own inner backhand banana flip. So I'm now mixing in short receives and flips, and my flips are getting better and better. Unlike many of our past matches, which (because of my tactics) were often sloppy-seeming ones with few good rallies, now we're having really good rallies, and I'm battling with him, shot for shot. He may have won, but he may have awoken a sleeping giant. Or so I hope!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

***Get your copy of Table Tennis for Thinkers Now! ***

The price right now is $17.95, but it likely will go up to $19.95 sometime soon, when dealers start to distribute it. Dealers would prefer the higher price, and they probably know the business better than I do. Most likely I'll also raise the Kindle price (currently at $9.99 for the text-only version) to about $11.95 when I have time to create and upload the version with pictures (hopefully within a few weeks). As noted previously, if I make "substantial changes" to the original version (and going from text only to adding 90 photos certainly qualifies), then they'll give a free download of the new version to those who downloaded the earlier version.

Update - Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13

So far we've done 20 chapters, 319 pages, 662 graphics. Projections: 29 chapters, 461 pages, 947 graphics. We expect to finish first draft Friday, and finish making corrections on Monday. Then it goes to the printer, and I sleep for a week. Or at least for an hour. (Note - besides the regular chapters, there are seven pages of covers, inside covers, acknowledgements, etc., which also include graphics, which is why the projections don't match up exactly to the ratio of the current 20 chapters to the planned 29.)

Ding Ning - Slow Motion Studies

Here's a video (1:57) that shows world #1 woman Ding Ning's technique in slow motion.

Samsonov over Ovtcharov in Swiss Open

Here's the article.

Ping Pong and Songs

It's for charity! "Lady Antebellum's charity initiative LadyAID™ Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee was created to bring awareness to and generate support for children in need locally, nationally, and globally through partners Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanerbilt, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Children's Miracle Network, myLIFEspeaks, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)."

Adam Bobrow's Valentine's Birthday Party

It's this Friday in LA. It's 3000 miles from me, so I better start driving!!! Here's what he wrote about it: "I haven't thrown a birthday party in AGES! I figure it will be a great way to get to see lots of my friends... old and new and bring some great people together for a fun night. There will be a DJ, a menu will delicious food and drinks and of course... many ping pong tables and awesome people to hit on. 8>) Come hang out, say hi, have a conversation with me, my friends or introduce me to your friends or just hang come play. It's FREE and it will be a blast! Parking is up to you... and dress however you want! (21 and over... dress that way)"

Table Tennis Street Art

An outdoor Christmas decoration?

Awesome Table Tennis Tricks

Here's a video (2:29) showing lots of incredible (though staged) table tennis shots, including replays in slow motion. Some great stuff!

Send us your own coaching news!

January 23, 2013

USNTTL and Leagues

Alas, it seems the U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League is no more. When you go to, you get a note saying, "This account is expired due to non renewal of services."

I was already a little irritated at them for another reason. Late last summer, after the entire thing was set up, I was invited to be a member of their Advisory Board. I agreed, and I took part in a one-hour phone conference with other newly appointed Advisory Board Members and the ones setting it up, and where I was told about the league. I gave a few recommendations (not sure if any were followed, since it was a bit too late for major changes since the league was already set up), and that was my entire involvement with it. Later, when the league was "postponed," I only found out about it by emailing them after the planned start-up date, after it had already been postponed. When nothing was happening, I asked to be taken off the Advisory Board. But I was told the person who did the web page was now in India and out of contact. So a number of months went by where there was no league going on, and the only names people saw there were the Advisory Board, none of whom had anything to do with the actual creation or running of the league. The names of the ones who set everything up never had their names on the web page.

So at least I'm no longer listed as an Advisory Board for a league that I never really was involved with.

Putting aside their apparent disappearance, and rumors that they kept the entry fees despite never running a league (anyone know if that's true?), it was a good try, but it was likely doomed from the start. The problem with trying to set up a nationwide league the way they did it is that there was little existing infrastructure to support it. To set up a nationwide league, several things have to happen.

First, someone, whether it's USATT or some other group, has to study successful leagues (both table tennis overseas and in the U.S., and other sports in the U.S.) and come up with a prototype of a league that can be run in the U.S.

Second, the country needs to have regional organizations. This is the big one. This means, at minimum, a State Association in every state, with some larger states, like California, having more than one. We started doing this in the early 1990s, but a new administration came in and went in a different direction, and all that work was lost. I blogged about this on Jan. 9.

Third, the leagues have to be organized and promoted at the regional or state level. This likely means starting in one region (perhaps with the existing leagues in the SF and Bay areas in California and the NYC area), and expanding both in their region and surrounding ones.

Fourth, with the leagues beginning to spread, the regional organizers need to focus on bringing in sponsors so the league can continue to grow. Sponsors bring in revenue that can be used to hire organizers and (at some point) as prize money for the Championship division.

When something like the above happens, a growing nationwide league will be possible, and serious table tennis participation - as well as USATT membership - will explode.

USATT League

I led an attempt to set up a nationwide league about ten years ago with the USATT League, but USATT wouldn't get behind it. (Robert Mayer did the software development and now runs it, though it's pretty much self-run.) It's the most active series of leagues in the U.S., but it's only a singles league - we never got to the all-important team leagues, which would have been the next step. To set up the team leagues, the plan was to appoint state league directors, but we never got to that step.

How active is the USATT League? In the past ten years, 16,703 players have competed in 364 different leagues in a total of 359,592 rated matches. In December, 2012, 5023 rated matches took place in 49 different leagues. In October, 2012, we had the all-time record for USATT League matches in a month with an even 6700 in 56 different leagues. So far this month there have been 4451 rated matches in 51 different leagues. (For perspective, other than the Nationals, there were only 4158 processed USATT tournament matches in December. In months where there are no U.S. Open, Nationals, or North American Teams, the USATT League sometimes has more rated matches than USATT tournament matches.) It's a good start if USATT ever wants to build on it - especially since they can email all of the league directors with the press of a button. 

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Update

Yesterday I finished the tedious line-by-line proofing of the book. Starting today I get to input the numerous edits, including some new paragraphs and sections I'm adding. Hopefully I'll finish this by Friday. Current version is 99,534 words long, but I expect it'll go over 100,000 before it's done. In the 9"x6" book format, it'll run a little over 240 pages. In 12-point Time-Roman, double spaced, regular 8.5x11 paper, it runs 482 pages.

LPGA Ping-Pong

Here's a picture of LPGA golfers Michelle Wie and Belen Mozo battling it out in ping-pong. No word on who won.

Waldner Scores in Soccer

Here's a video (14 sec) of Jan-Ove Waldner in his younger days scoring a goal in soccer (football for you overseas fans) with some fancy footwork.

Adam Bobrow vs. Timo Boll

Here's the point Adam won (37 seconds), and his reaction. The two played exhibitions points at the Spin LA event this past weekend.

Send us your own coaching news!

January 16, 2013

Rating Cutoffs at Nationals

There's been a lot of discussion recently about the ratings cutoffs at the USA Nationals. The problem is that at both the Nationals and the U.S. Open they use ratings from well before the tournament to determine eligibility, but up-to-date ratings from just before the tournament for seeding. There's a somewhat good reason for this. Players need to know in advance what events they are eligible for so they can schedule their travel and hotel. So they used to use these older ratings for both eligibility and seeding. But this led to players with very high ratings getting listed with much lower ratings, both for eligibility and seeding. So USATT decided to at least use the more recent ratings for seeding, even if it meant seeding a player with a rating that was over the cutoff. While this does make some sense, it leads to a lot of confusion and irritation when a player is listed with a rating that's over the cutoff.

How serious a problem is this? Below is a chart of the rating winners and runner-ups in rating events at the recent USA Nationals. (Here are the results.) Of the 15 Champions, 9 went in with ratings already over the cutoff. Of the 15 runner-ups, 4 went in with ratings over the cutoff.

Rating Event







U-2400 RR

Alto, Earl James



Eider, Cory



U-2300 RR

Cheng, Newman



Chow, Brandon



U-2200 RR

Seemiller Jr., Daniel R.



Ruhlmann, Johannes



U-2100 RR

Shen, Kevin



Ruhlmann, Johannes



U-2000 RR

Shen, Kevin



Chan, Ming Yung



U-1900 RR

Yang, Grace



Kumar, Nikhil



U-1800 RR

Wong, Jordan



Kumar, Shivam



U-1700 RR

Lam, Benjamin



Ackerman, Estee



U-1600 RR

Yung, Timothy



Quant, Brandon



U-1500 RR

Bai, William



Yung, Timothy



U-1400 RR

Bai, William



Meredith, Aidan



U-1300 RR

Bai, William



Nagvekar, Sanam



U-1200 RR

Puri, Sahil



Nagvekar, Sanam



U-1100 RR

Puri, Sahil



Chandrashekaran, Shreyas



U-1000 RR

Puri, Sahil



Chandrashekaran, Shreyas



How can they fix this problem? They could switch to using more recent ratings, but the problem with that (before) was there wasn't an easy way to notify players if they were no longer eligible for an event. But now USATT keeps player emails on their database, so they can easily notify players of changes. So they can email the player and ask if they want a refund or to play in the next higher event they hadn't entered in, and give them 24 hours to respond (after which they'd be automatically put in the next higher event). Or they could just put a checkbox on the entry form for players to check their preference. It shouldn't be that difficult to make such a change, other than the usual organizational inertia.

One suggestion I've heard is that players with ratings over the cutoff should simply be allowed to play, but not be allowed to advance out of their preliminary round robin group. But why would a player over the cutoff of a rating event want to play in the preliminary RR group if he can't advance?

One thing us older players have to accept is that rating events will tend to be dominated by junior players. Juniors both learn faster and are often training regularly with coaches. However, that doesn't mean they can't be beat - you just have to play well and play smart. (Remember the old saying - youth and skill can't beat age and treachery!) This might help - my article How to Play Wildly Attacking Junior Players.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

The covers are done, both back and front. (For the formatting I'm using, it's actually one big cover, connected in the middle with the rectangle that has the text on the binding.) The front cover features my fellow coach and former Chinese and USA national team member Cheng Yinghua serving, with the ball he's tossed up forming the "o" in the "for" in the title: "Table Tennis for Thinkers." Looking down over him is a head shot of Rodin's "The Thinker" looking down over him.

The back cover has three pictures of me coaching matches, including Todd Sweeris at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials (he made the team); coaching John and Nathan Hsu in doubles at the 2012 Junior Olympics; and coaching Derek Nie and Seyed Hesam Hamrahian in doubles at the 2012 USA Nationals. I didn't choose the latter two pictures because of the doubles, but because they were nice pictures. I was a little hesitant on the photo that included Seyed, since I don't normally coach him (he's from Ohio, the others pictured all are, or were, players from MDTTC), but he played the junior teams with Derek, and it was a nice picture. (There's still a chance I might change some of the pictures.) I'll post pictures later.

I have a few notes on some minor things to fix, mostly involving layouts. Then I print the whole thing out and do a very thorough line by line editing. If all goes well, it'll be on sale by the end of February, in "Print on Demand" (POP) and ebook formats.

After it goes on sale I'll get to work on getting my other books into POP and ebook formats, and then I'll do an advertising blitz everywhere, with a new web page devoted to selling those books.

Ask Timo Boll a Question

If you could ask Timo Boll one question, what would it be? You can submit it here, care of Adam Bobrow, and that question might get asked when Timo plays at Spin LA this Saturday from 6-10PM. Or you can "like" the questions already there that you like. The questions with the most "likes" will most likely be the ones asked. And since we're on the subject of Timo Boll, here's a video (10:00) of a great match of his against Ma Long at the 2009 Qatar Open.

Ma Long's Backhand Flip

Here's a video (3:25) that features the backhand flip of China's Ma Long, world #3, world #1 for all of 2010 and eight months of 2011. (Overseas they call this shot a flick instead of a flip, but it's a backhand attack of a short ball, usually against one with backspin.) It shows it in both regular and slow motion. There's also some commentary in Chinese. Ma Long was the primary player who revolutionized receive by favoring the backhand receive against short balls to the forehand instead of doing using a forehand flip, as most coaches would urge, arguing that it drew you into a backhand position. Ma often flips with his backhand against a short ball to his forehand, and covering the entire table on the next shot with his big forehand loop.

Swimming Pool Ping-Pong

It's raining outside, which inspired me to show you this picture of two players playing table tennis in a swimming pool. Then I realized that this means that somewhere, someone is actually selling these swimming pool ping-pong sets, and some of you might want to buy one. So I searched, and found you can get one for $49.99 ("was $99.99) at In the Swim. You can also get it at Amazon, but there the price is $76.47.

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January 11, 2013

Suggested Service Rule

As I've blogged a number of times, many players hide their serve illegally, and many or most umpires allow it. It's frustrating to me as kids see opponents and top players hide their serves illegally and not get called, so why shouldn't they? It's almost reminiscent of the situation baseball players faced in the steroids era.

The current rule requires that the ball be visible throughout the serve to the opponent. The problem is that it's difficult for an umpire, sitting off to the side, to tell if the ball was hidden from the receiver, since often he himself cannot even see the ball, and must estimate where it is, and judge if it is hidden or not from the server's shoulders. Since I've coached and played table tennis nearly every day  for many years, I can see if the serve is hidden or not, but many umpires only see this type of thing on an occasional basis, and so have great difficulty judging it.

Technically, it shouldn't be a problem. The rules state that "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws." That's pretty clear - it means if the umpire isn't sure the serve is visible, i.e. legal, then the umpire is NOT satisfied that the serve complies, and so the player should be warned (the first time) or faulted. But most umpires do not do this, and so at the higher levels many players get away with illegal hidden serves.

There are other serving problems. Many players abuse the "near vertical" toss rule, and few umpires enforce it. But the advantage of throwing the ball backwards (instead of near vertical) is minor compared to the advantage of hiding the serve. The same is true of other common transgressions.

But there's a solution to the problem, if we can convince ITTF (and/or USATT) to adopt it. The proposed rule would be that throughout the serve the ball must be visible to both umpires, or to where the umpires would sit if there is no umpire. Problem solved.

The specific rule change would be as follows, rewording rule 2.6.5 as follows:

Current: 2.6.5 As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net.

Proposed: 2.6.5 As soon as the ball has been projected, no part of the server, his or her doubles partner, or anything they wear or carry may be in the triangular area between the ball and the positions of the two umpires.

Kagin Lee has put together a web page detailing this proposal.

The key thing here is that even if a player tries to abuse the rule and goes into that gray area where it's not clear if the umpires (or where they would sit) can see the ball, it wouldn't matter, as if it's close, then obviously the opponent can see the ball - and that's the whole point of the proposed rule. It's sort of like the six-inch toss rule. For many years, the rule was the ball must be contacted on the drop, but many players would abuse this as it was hard to tell if they were hitting the ball on the drop or not as they practically served out of their hand. A three-inch toss would have been enough to solve the problem, but then there'd be those who'd abuse it by tossing below that, and it would be hard to tell. By making it six inches, the server can abuse the rule all he wants and if it's anywhere close to six inches, the opponent will clearly see the toss, which was the point of the rule.

I'm told that some are opposed to such a new rule because it would mean players would have to change their service motion. Well, duh!!! That's the whole point. But it's not a huge change; anyone change their forehand pendulum serve motion to make it legal; I know, because I can, and I teach this type of thing professionally. You can do so with either a more open position or by holding the ball farther from the body, or some combination of both. And it solves the hidden serve problem. Give players a year to get ready, and there'd be no reason to change the serve rule again . . . ever!!!

Dear Evil Time-Stealing Temporal-Taking Slobber Monkeys

Over the next couple of weeks I absolutely have to do the final editing and proofing (that's two complete reads) of my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers." (I also have to finalize the covers.) Every time I get ready to do this, various Evil Time-Stealing Temporal-Taking Slobber Monkeys come to me with requests for me to do things that are not editing or proofing the book. Things that are not editing or proofing my book do not decrease the time between now and when the book comes out, and things that do not decrease this time are the spawn of  the Devil and his minions, i.e. Evil Time-Stealing Temporal-Taking Slobber Monkeys. So if you are an Evil Time-Stealing Temporal-Taking Slobber Monkey, please hold off for a bit. I'll gladly sell my soul and do your work after the book comes out.

I am working under a rather tight deadline. On Monday, Feb. 4, USATT Historian Tim Boggan will be moving in with me for two weeks as I do the page layouts and photo work (with Mal Anderson's help on the latter) on Tim's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13. This one, which will once again run over 500 pages, will feature 1984, and if you've read that book, you have a vague idea of what will happen to me (and you) if I don't get my own book finalized before Tim's arrival. So let me have some peace and quiet for a while so I can finish my book. Big Brother is watching.

I've got 240 pages to edit and proof, I've got a full bottle of Deerpark Water*, half a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, it's light, and I'm not wearing sunglasses. Hit it.
    *And Mountain Dew for emergencies

Review of the New Plastic Ball

Part 3 just went up of the Plastic Ball Review from OOAK Reviews. All three parts are linked from their home page. The three parts are:

  1. Why the change and a comparison of their physical appearance (16:16)
  2. High Speed Filming of tests to compare relative rebound speed, bounce and spin (14:35)
  3. Playing Characteristics and Summary (26:40)

1273 Signatures

That's how many we got on the petition to the White House to recognize Table Tennis as a school sport. Not bad, but not good. We were 23,727 short of the needed 25,000. Think of it as a trial run; perhaps next time we can get the major distributors (with their huge mailing lists), celebrities, and others behind it.

The Power of Backhand

Here's a video (8:01) highlighting great backhand shots. The very first rally is pretty wild!

Five-Hour Energy Commercial

With table tennis! (31 seconds)

Be Different

Here's a humorous video (3:21) of some nerdy-looking guy as he takes on the "King Kong of Ping Pong"!

Ping-Pong Ball Spinning in Nitrogen

Here's 89 seconds of a ping-pong ball getting cooled and spinning in liquid nitrogen.

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December 11, 2012

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Update

The page layouts are done! Well, mostly. I still don't have the front and back covers, and I need to do a lot of proofing of the layouts. The book is 240 pages, with 76 photos/illustrations, and 99,425 words. Due to the upcoming Nationals (I leave for Las Vegas on Monday), I probably won't get much more done this week - lots of coaching activities over the next six days. If all goes well, the book will be out by the end of January.

I did the final three segments in the book yesterday, giving more examples of tactics used in actual matches. They include:

  • A player fell behind 0-2 in games because the opponent looped his deep serves, and either dropped short or quick-pushed at an angle his short backspin serves to the forehand or backhand. The solution? Short no-spin serves to the middle, which take away most of the angles and are difficult to push short.
  • A match won by simplifying a strong but erratic backhand loop by deciding to go relentlessly crosscourt, even though shots to the middle and forehand gave the opponent trouble, as well as a late-match change to short receive, which hadn't worked earlier, but did now for reasons explained in the text;
  • Turning a crosscourt 2500 monster into a down-the line 2200 mouse (and focusing on looping any slightly long serve, mostly down the line) leads to upsetting the top seed and making the U.S. National Cadet Team.
  • A player spends a week working on a specific doubles serve, which leads to winning a doubles title.
  • When paired with a two-winged ripper, a player learns to play control to set up his partner and win a major doubles title.

Note that none of these are complicated tactics. 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

Regarding the cover, I'm running into a problem in that I need to get permission from a top player to use his image. I decided I would use Cheng Yinghua, my fellow MDTTC coach and former top player, and created this cover. However, Cheng surprised me by being embarrassed about it, and didn't want to be on the cover. I may try to talk him into it. Otherwise, I'm back at square one - any suggestions? (The back cover is tentatively a picture of me coaching Todd Sweeris at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials. He made the team. I have to check with him on this - if he sees this, Hi Todd!)

Maybe I should just put myself on the cover. I don't want a cover that just shows a coach talking to a player; I want something that says table tennis, i.e. a table tennis shot. The head shot of "The Thinker" at the top signifies the thinking aspect. (Someone here suggested that - who was that? Comment here and take credit!!!)

Late Starters - Embrace It!

To become truly great at table tennis you need to start very young (and lots of other things as well). Most players start late, often well after their juniors years. (I didn't start until I was 16, alas.) You can still become very good, but you probably won't be world champion.

On the other hand, there's a huge advantage to starting late. Players who start very young peak (often at a very high level) by their 20s, and by age 30 can at best hold their level. They may continue to learn new things, but this only postpones the inevitable physical decline that comes with age. Late starters may never reach the heights of those who start early, but they can improve their level for nearly their entire lives. It may be a slow progression, but I know lots of players who started as non-juniors, played for many years, and got better well into their 50s and even 60s. It's a different perspective, of course. The steady improvement from beginner at age 20 to 2000 player at age 50 can be long and slow, and seemingly not as exciting as a journey starting at age 8 that leads to 2600 at age 20, but if the journey is the destination, then both journeys are exciting - one just lasts longer.

Playing in Less Than Ideal Conditions

Here's a short article by former top junior Vikash Sahu on the topic.

Angry Moments in Table Tennis

Here's a video (7:04) that showcases seven minutes of unhappy players. I don't think I've linked to this one before, though in June I linked to the "Top Ten Angry Moments in Table Tennis" (4:41).

Table Tennis Then and Now

This is a great video (10:48), showing table tennis as it evolved from the hardbat era to now. It's also inspirational, and will help calm you down after the preceding video on "Angry Moments."

This is Why They Call it Sandwich Rubber

But it's good to snack while you play!

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