Fabian Akerstrom

July 22, 2014

Two-Colored Balls

On July 17 I linked to an article on the Chinese trying out two-toned balls. I wrote, "This is a great idea - I've blogged in the past how silly it is that in such a spin-oriented sport, we have a ball where you can't see the spin, and suggested we use a soccer-colored one or something like that." 

I don't know why they are calling them two-toned balls when the more accurate term is two-colored balls. So I'm going to call them two-colored balls. Personally, I'd like to see them try out soccer-colored balls (like the ones in this picture), or have a contest for "best design," with the soccer-colored balls an inspiration for designers. 

However, there are pluses and minuses to using such a ball. Overall, I like the idea of both players and spectators better able to see spin in this spin-oriented Olympic sport. But there are downsides as well, the largest being how this would affect choppers. The only way to find out for sure how a two-color ball would affect the game is to try it out, as the Chinese are doing. I look forward to seeing the results. Here are what I see as the advantages and disadvantages of a two-color ball.


  1. Better appreciation of our sport by spectators. Few understand just how much spin is on the ball, and so have little appreciation for what's actually happening. 
  2. More interesting for spectators. Colorful balls are more interesting than bland one-color ones. Kids will especially like more colorful balls. 
  3. More rallies. Players will be more consistent in returning serves and getting into rallies.
  4. Better rallies. Players will make fewer errors in rallies from misreading spin. 


  1. May hurt choppers. This, to me, is the biggest possible problem, and why I'd like to see some testing first to see just how much it would affect them. High-level choppers do rely on mixing up the spin to force mistakes, and two-colored balls might make that more difficult. However, it's hard to say how much, both because by the time the attacker reads the spin (especially no-spins) it might be too late, and because the chopper will also be able to better read the attacker's spin. But overall it's likely to hurt choppers at least some. 
  2. Tradition. You shouldn't make changes in the sport unless there's a very good reason. 
  3. Developed skills no longer needed. Established players may find some of their hard-earned skills in reading spin no longer needed so much. 
  4. New skills needed. Players would have to develop the new skill of reading spin directly from watching the ball, something that can only be done to a small extent with the current one-color ball. I'm guessing this will have less effect than some may believe as by the time you read the spin directly off an incoming ball it's likely too late to adjust most strokes, except perhaps passive returns.

Comparison of Plastic ("Poly") and Celluloid Balls

Here's a report from the ITTF that compared plastic to celluloid balls. It's dated April 2013, based on testing from November, 2012. Keep in mind that the plastic balls since that time have improved, but this shows how much testing was done, and the info that ITTF had when it made the decision.

North American Cup on TV

One World Sports will broadcast the recent North American Championships next week. Here's the schedule, including the listing of providers.

July 2014 National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Newsletter

Here it is.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Sixty down, 40 to go!

  • Day 41: Attention to Detail, Organisational Skills Produce First Class Result
  • Day 42: The Reliable Committee Man for Over Half a Century, Chérif Hajem

American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age

Volume IV of this series is now out, by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan. This one features Bernie Bukiet, Bobby Gusikoff, Erwin Klein, and Leah & Tybie Thall. Here are reviews of Volumes I-III. They are all on sale at Amazon: Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, and Vol. IV.

Matt Winkler: Six-Time Arizona Champion

Here's the article.

International News

As usual, there are lots of great international articles at TableTennista and at the ITTF page. Tabletennista tends to cover the big names more, while ITTF has more regional news.

Unbelievable Point in Swedish League

Here's the video (32 sec). The attacker/chopper on the left is Fabian Åkerström. I believe the lobber/attacker on the right is Mattias Översjö.

Table Tennis: A Way of Life

Here's a nice table tennis highlights video (6:37), set to music. 

Table Tennis in Space

Here's a cartoon on table tennis apparently played in a spaceship in zero G. With no gravity, you need topspin to pull the ball down!!!

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March 5, 2013

Table Tennis Online

As ITTF Coach John Olsen recently pointed out to me, we live in the golden age of online table tennis. You can watch just about any major table tennis match online these days, both live and afterwards. Over the last few days (and below) I've given links for many of the major matches taking place at the Chinese World Team Trials. During major USA Table Tennis events (Nationals, Open, Team Trials), you can watch the matches live as well. And you can go to youtube and find just about anything - just put in "Table Tennis" and anything else you are looking for. Over the weekend John watched the live streaming of the Swedish Nationals, the English Championships, and the Norwegian Championships. (Note that some of the links here that gave the live streaming still have the videos online.)

The availability of videos of the top players is one of the biggest advantages this generation of players has over past ones - along with more coaches and better sponge. On the other hand, there's also a disadvantage to the easy availability of these videos - players tend to watch a video and then move on to the next, and so don't really learn all that's going on. In the old days, there were fewer videos around, and so players would watch the same ones over and Over and OVER - and would pretty much memorize every point, not to mention really learning what the players did from sheer viewing repetition. I remember back in the late 1970s (when I was learning to play) having trouble with pips-out penholders. Then I got a copy of the famous Stellan Bengtsson vs. Mitsuro Kohno tape from the quarterfinals of the 1977 Worlds, and watched it endlessly, and my level against that style went up dramatically. (Pips-out penholder Kohno won, 19 in the fifth, in what many considered the "real" Men's Singles final as it was likely the best match of the tournament. Kohno went on to win the title.)  

Jim Butler on Serves

Here are some nice quotes from four-time U.S. Men's Champion Jim Butler on serving, which he posted yesterday on the about.com table tennis forum. He used to have the best serves in the country, and now, at age 42, he's made a comeback - and he may once again have the best serves in the country.

"I've decided to put a lot of time into practicing my serves.  Improvement there takes the least physical energy.  I have the motion and understanding already down.  To have great serves, they must be practiced daily in order to make them a weapon."

"I'm working on the forehand pendulum right now.  I want to have a good chop and topspin mix like that young Chinese kid in Westchester.  His serves destroyed me, and I'd like to have those.  Easiest way to be competitive in Table Tennis is to have dominating serves."

The Amazing Tomahawk Serve of Kenta Matsudaira

Here's the video (1:09). Note how he can break it both ways - and see the side-by-side slow motion of the two versions. The real question for all you serious table tennis players: Why haven't you developed equally good serves? It's just a matter of technique and practice! If you don't have the technique, see a coach or watch videos and learn. (You don't need to match Kenta's serves - there are many other good serving techniques.) If you don't practice . . . well, then you'll never have the serve of Kenta Matsudaira, and you'll never be as good as you could have been. (This type of serve has been around for a long time. Dean Doyle specialized in this serve when he made the U.S. Pan Am Team over 30 years ago.)

Remembering Zhuang Zedong and Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's the article.

ITTF President Election

ITTF President Adham Sharara is running for re-election - but he's unopposed so far. The election will take place during the upcoming World Championships in Paris, May 13-20, 2013.

Hunter Pence and Ping-Pong

Here's an article about how the Hunter Pence, an outfielder with the LA Dodgers, builds confidence with ping-pong.

The Terminator vs. Scottie

Here's a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger and table tennis exhibition star Scott Preiss just after their game ended in a "3-3 tie" at the Arnold Sports Classic in Columbus, OH this past week.

Chinese World Team Trials

Here are some nice matches, with time between points removed so it's non-stop action.

Swedish Men's Singles Final

Here's the video (6:53, with time between points removed) as Fabian Akerström upsets Jens Lundquist in the final. Akerström plays with long pips on the backhand - but he's so forehand aggressive it's sometimes difficult to notice.

More TT Videotapes

Here's a Facebook page devoted to collecting table tennis videos.

The Dirty Dozen Throwdown

It's on, this Friday at 9PM: Gideon "The Pigeon" Teitel (17-year-old 150-lb lobber) vs. Sam "the Rock" Rockwell (13-year-old 81-lb attacker). Between them they've had three and a half years of intense training, all leading to this moment.

Monsters University

Monsters University, the upcoming sequel to Monsters Inc. from 2001, will be the greatest movie of all time. How do we know? Here's an animated scene from the movie showing the characters playing table tennis!

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