Fan Zhendong

November 11, 2014

Rules Changes and One Last Change

I am tired of rule changes. The game as it is played now is substantially different than the game when I started out. Some of the rules changes were good, such as the two-color rule, the six-inch toss rule, and the idea of making hidden serves illegal. Others were more ambiguous for me - the larger ball, games to 11, and various rules restricting long pips. Some I'm not happy with, in particular the switch to non-celluloid balls, though that's mostly because they jumped the gun and made the switch before the balls were standardized or training balls were available. (I blogged about this on October 21 - see second segment.)

At this point it would take a rather strong argument for me to agree with any more changes. However, there is one last rule change I'd like to see before declaring our sport "perfect" - and that is fixing the hidden serve rule.

I've blogged numerous times about the problems with the hidden serve rule, where umpires rarely call them and so many top players (and juniors) use them to win titles, while those who play fair learn that cheating often pays off in our sport. The problem is that umpires sitting off to the side cannot tell for certain whether a serve is hidden from the opponent, and for some reason I've never fully understood, do not understand the meaning of these two rules:

Rule 2.06.06: 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, and either may decide that a service is incorrect. 

Rule 2.06.06.01 If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect. 

The second one is pretty explicit. If the umpire isn't sure, then it's not a legal serve. How much clearer can we get?

The first one also makes it very clear that if the umpire can't tell if the serve is visible to the receiver, then the serve is illegal, and they have to either warn (the first time) or fault the serve. If they aren't sure if the serve was hidden or not, then they can't be "satisfied" that the serve complies with the requirements of the Laws. Here (for example) is the Merriam-Webster Definition of "satisfied":

  1. to cause (someone) to be happy or pleased
  2. to provide, do, or have what is required by (someone or something)
  3. to cause (someone) to believe that something is true

Definition #3 is the one that applies here, though you can use #2 as well. If an umpire can't tell if the serve is hidden or not, he cannot "believe that something is true" (definition #3). Nor can he know if the rule that is required is being followed (#2). (If you do try to use #1, well, I don't think an umpire can be "happy or pleased" that he can't tell if a serve is hidden or not! But the third definition is clearly the one used in the context.)

As I've blogged before, there's an obvious solution, one that was proposed to the ITTF at the meetings at the last World Championships, but was voted down. When serving, players should be required to serve so that "throughout the serve, the ball must be visible to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit if there were umpires." When there are no umpires, it would be assumed the umpires would be sitting about five feet out on each side, lined up with the net. The point of the rule isn't to make sure the umpires can see the ball. The point is that if a server hides the ball from an opponent but it isn't obvious he is doing so, it'll be obvious he's hiding it from at least one of the umpires, and so it would be an easy call for an umpire to declare it illegal. No more hidden serve problems!

Note that the two-color rule was also voted down the first few times it was proposed before it finally passed, and the same is true of other rule changes. I think this rule is so obvious and so easily fixes the problem that we should keep proposing it until it passes.

And then, NO MORE RULE CHANGES*!!!
*Unless there's a really, Really, REALLY compelling argument for one - not likely.

TT Scene from Big Hero 6

I saw the Big Hero 6 last night (it was great!) - and there was a short table tennis scene. When the hero Hiro (pun intended!) visits the university where they are making robots there are two robots rallying in the background. (Or was it a person playing a robot? I should have taken notes!) A few minutes later they are seen again. Alas, I was unable to find any video or pictures of the scene.

Brian Pace and Orlando Muniz Training Session

Here's the video (10:27). This gives an idea of what type of drills advanced players do in their training sessions.

When Serving Short Becomes Important

Here's the article.

Ask the Coach

Here's Episode #23 (10:39)

  • Question 1 - 0:41: When I watched a video of me playing I noticed that all of my loops were going to the middle of the table, Ma Long is able to control his and I was wondering how do you do it? Luke Styles
  • Question 2 - 2:26: Sir, how do I improve my topspin against a chop player? Sahil Garg
  • Question 3 - 5:57: After serve I usually do the slow spinny loop against the backspin. Sometimes they can block my slow spinny loop but after that I don't know what to do, should I do the counter loop or should I do the slow spinny loop again. Long Regain
  • Question 4 - 8:19: Why do lots of players use the pendulum serve always or often? Maverick Abrenica

Here's Episode #24 (12:35)

  • Question 1 - 1:38: Can I play 2 sports at a same time. In my school I play table tennis and basketball. So is it ok if I play both at the same time? Or will basketball ruin my table tennis stroke because of the heavy ball? What is your opinion? Jethro
  • Question 2 - 4:14: What is the right leg position while playing a punch? Which leg should be in front while playing a forehand punch and which when playing a backhand punch? Kaustubh
  • Question 3 - 6:21: I can already do a backhand flick on a short backspin serve but not really on the forehand side. I can do it from the middle of the table but I'm not quick enough to move to the forehand side. Is there a trick to know where it is coming? Rob J
  • Question 4 - 8:33: I used to play hard bat and was able to beat some better opponents using it. Since I have moved to a sponge bat my better opponents are beating me. Can I change to my old hard bat playing a better player and change back to my sponge bat for the others? Stan

Fan Zhendong is the 2014 Chinese National Men's Singles Champion

Here's the article. The 17-year-old defeated Ma Long in the final, 4-2. Fan also won Men's Doubles, teaming with Xu Xin to defeat Zhang Jike and Ma Long in the final. Zhu Yuling won Women's Singles, 4-2 over World Champion Ding Ning.

Lindenwood College Friends Seek Redemption at 2014 Butterfly Thanksgiving Teams Tournament

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Daniel Rosenfeld Interview

Here's the USATT interview with this Paralympic player.

Top Ten Shots from the Russian Open

Here's the video (4:12), which was held this past weekend in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Here's the ITTF Russian Open home page, with results, articles, photos, and video.

Hand Table Tennis

Here's the cartoon!

Non-Table Tennis - World Fantasy Convention

I spent Saturday at the World Fantasy Convention in Arlington, Virginia. This is where science fiction and fantasy fans from around the world gather annually for panels, exhibits, movies, readings, etc. Outside my table tennis world I'm also a science fiction & fantasy writer (one novel and 71 short story sales). I gave a 30-minute reading Saturday at 1:30 PM where I read the first two chapters of my novel "Sorcerers in Space." (Due to table tennis commitments, I only went over on Saturday, though the convention was Thur-Sun.)

I've always admired how well-run these conventions are. For example, the annual World Science Fiction Convention generally gets 5000 or more paid attendees, and it's all volunteer run. The World Fantasy Convention is smaller, but probably had over a thousand.

When I mention science fiction or fantasy conventions, some of you probably have visions of people running around in funny costumes. That's true of some conventions, primarily fan-based conventions. But the more "serious" (like this one) are more literary. While there are always some who dress up, most dress like normal people and act almost like normal people.

I got lost on the way there (I don't have GPS, alas) - and then, by sheer chance, saw a van with the wording "Hyatt Regency Crystal City," which happened to be the hotel the convention was at. I followed it, knowing it was 50-50 it was going to (and not from) the hotel - and I won as it soon pulled into the hotel. After a huge hassle finding parking (and another hassle later trying to find my car), I arrived just in time for the Science Fiction Writers of America 90-minute meeting, which started 8:30 AM on Saturday.

At registration I received book bags with about 15 new novels and other goodies. Then I spent the day attending panels, watching some short movies, viewing the fantasy art show, and meeting and talking with other writers. Some of the writers I talked with included Joe Haldeman, James Morrow, James Maxey, and Cat Rambo. (Haldeman is the equivalent of a top-ten-in-the-world table tennis player, while the other three are the equivalent of U.S. team members.) I had a good time at my reading as well. To promote my novel I gave out about 20 copies.

We shared the hotel with a Rolling Thunder convention. They are basically a nationwide motorcycle gang with the following mission: "…to publicize the POW-MIA issue: To educate the public that many American Prisoners of War were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future Veterans from being left behind should they become Prisoners of War-Missing In Action. We are also committed to helping American Veterans from all wars." Nearly all wore motorcycle garb, either leather or jean vests with "Rolling Thunder" in large lettering, most of them jammed with patches and buttons. Anti-Jane Fonda buttons seemed popular. I think they outnumbered us - all these bearded motorcycle gang-type people was pretty scary at times!

Here's a thought: there are something like 400 billion galaxies, with about 100 billion stars on average in each. That's about 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. How many aliens are out there? How many of them have developed games like table tennis? Are they shakehanders, penholders, or do they manipulate the paddle telepathically? These are the burning questions that need answers.

***

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October 7, 2014

No Blog Until Monday Tuesday

Alas, something had to give. Since Tim Boggan moved in with me on Tuesday, Sept. 30, I've been working on the page layouts and photo work for his Volume 15 of History of U.S. Table Tennis every day from roughly 5AM to 2:30PM, then leaving to coach, returning roughly between 6 and 9PM. If I'm back "early," we usually do another hour or so of work, and then he goes to bed while I work on a dozen other things, including this blog. The problem is that means I'm up late, often until midnight, and I've been getting up around 4:30 AM.

It's too much. I'm known for being tireless, but I can barely keep my eyes open. Meanwhile we've fallen a bit behind. We want to finish by the weekend as I'll be away all day Saturday and coaching nearly all day on Sunday. At our current pace we aren't going to make it. (His past books are typically 500 pages with 900 photos that have to be cleaned up and placed on the pages one at a time, captions typed in, etc. This one will be a little shorter in page length, but with FAR more photos, which is the time-consuming part.) So I've made the command decision to take the rest of this week off from blogging so we can get the thing done. Meanwhile, here are two segments I'd already put together. See you next Monday!

Fan Zhendong

Here's a pretty good point (36 sec, including slow motion replay) by the Chinese phenom, now ranked #2 in the world.

Jumpy Player

I think he just won the point

October 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Should You Play Tournaments When Working on Something New?

Coaching and a Ball Shortage - a Good Thing?

Yesterday was somewhat hectic for an unusual reason - a ball shortage. But perhaps that was a good thing?

I spent the morning working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis (1986-88). We started around 6AM and stopped at noon. (Over the weekend Tim and I watched the Marty Reisman documentary "Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping-Pong Hustler, which I'll blog about later this week, probably tomorrow - I took lots of notes. 84-year-old Tim found it depressing.) After lunch I went to MDTTC for three hours of private coaching and a 90 minute junior group session.

The private coaching went pretty well - two juniors and one adult. The first of the two kids was a relative beginner, age 11. He did pretty well - his basic forehand and backhand strokes are sound - so we spent much of the session working on his forehand loop, and then on serves. His loop gets surprising spin for someone who hasn't been doing it very long - he has very good contact with the ball, though he tends to stop his upper body rotation before contact, costing him power. The second kid was a 7-year old who already topspins all his backhands, essential an off-the-bounce backhand loop that's going to be scary good someday. We spent much of the session also working on his forehand loop. The final session was with Navin, the full-time hardbat and sandpaper player with the artificial heart and Parkinson's. We spent much of the session working on his forehand hitting and backhand chop blocking, and then on hardbat serves.

Then came the hectic part. From 4:30-6:00 I teach a junior class with 12 players. Assisting was Coach Jeffrey. We needed three boxes of balls - two for Jeffrey and I (for multiball) and another for the robot. The problem was that coaches Cheng, Jack, Leon, Bowen, Raghu, and John were all doing private coaching sessions, and several of our top juniors were using boxes of balls to train or practice serves, and suddenly we had a severe ball shortage. (Fortunately, Coach Alex is in China right now or it might have been worse!) We'd opened the last box of training balls a few days later, and for now there were no more. So Jeffrey and I scrounged around the club, grabbing every ball we could. We managed to get enough - barely - though we had to really focus on ball pickup so we wouldn't run out of balls.

We do nearly 300 hours of coaching at MDTTC each week. I'm constantly amazed when I hear from some players and club leaders about how impossible it is to get players, that there just isn't enough demand out there. But there's a simple formula we discovered when we opened MDTTC 22 years ago - if you bring in high-level coaches with great work ethics, and let them keep the bulk of their private coaching income, they will have great incentive to bring in students, and those students will become the backbone of the club, paying for memberships, tournaments, leagues, equipment, and group coaching sessions. That's how you fill a club up. It's not easy at the start, but if you do it, the players will come. That's the formula that works for us, and for the large majority of the roughly 75 full-time clubs in the U.S. (I wrote more about this in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, in particular on how to find students to develop a full-time coaching practice.)

More Larry & Tim Quotes

On Friday I blogged about working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, and gave a number of quotes. Here are more.

Larry: "Should we use the good one or the blur?"
Tim: "It goes against my grain, but we'll use the better picture."
Larry: "I knew you'd weaken."

~

Tim: "Let's use them even though they're good." (About two photos that were so good they made the others look bad.)

~

Tim: "Bring the curtain over." (Wanted me to move something in a photo.)

~

Larry: "Posterity will come and go, and no one will ever know." (Musing to himself about the various manipulations he does on the page.

~

Larry: "I want to check something." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "Have to check on the Orioles game." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "I have an email coming." (Every 30 seconds.)

Snake Serve Table Tennis

Here's a video (5:19) of a hilarious coaching video. Learn the Snake Serve (a forehand pendulum serve), the Reverse Serve, and the Lizard Serve! Warning - if you suffer from Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), do not watch this.

Top Ten Creative Servers of Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (12:41).

Learn How to Make Your Loops More Deceptive - Just Add Variation!

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:12). He's actually back now, and editing and putting the videos online when he's not training. 

USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the USATT article. This month they are Crystal Wang (women), Timothy Wang (men), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic). Crystal, of course, is from my club.

Charity Tournament and Celebrity SLAMFest Huge Success

Here's the USATT article.

Asian Games Men's Final

Here's the video (7:12, with time between points taken out) between the top two players in the world, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong.

China on Top of Asia after Claiming Men's & Women's Singles Gold

Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Ping-Pong Business Hopes to Restart Table Tennis Craze

Here's the article (with pictures and video) about King Pong Table Tennis in Staten Island.

Happy Birthday Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the graphic and comments - he turned 49 on Friday.

Arguing About Benghazi Talking Points

Here's the TT cartoon.

***
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August 28, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of the four-day camp at MDTTC. We started with a contest - the players paired up to see who could get 100 forehands in a row. As I explained to them, we often say that a player doesn't have a forehand or backhand until he's hit 100 in a row, and so everyone was determined to do so. 

For inspiration I told them the story of 13-year-old practice partner Sameer Shaikh. About a year before he was struggling to get 100 forehands in a row in a session with me. He got 99 in a row, and missed! Then he got 97, then I think it was 94, and each time, just as he approached 100, he'd miss. It was torture for him! But we decided we'd devote the entire session to this, and he finally got 100 in a row. But once he did that, he relaxed and stopped trying to guide the shot. Result? The rally continued, and he actually hit 1000 in a row!!! I caught the ball and told him he'd done enough, and we'd continue later. (We never did get back to it. I'm not sure if my arm could take another 1000.) The purpose of the drill/contest was both to develop the stroking technique, timing, and consistency, but also to develop concentration and confidence. 

We rotated the players regularly so everyone hit with everyone else, including practice partner Sameer. Then we did the same thing with backhands. Everyone hit at least 100 in a row on one side, and several managed to do it on both sides. We finished with a smashing drill, where players would hit two forehands in a row, then smash and continue smashing, while the other tried to return them. 

Then we went to the main focus of the day - serving. I brought out the colored soccer balls so they could see the spin, and showed them how much spin could be created on a serve, as well as showing them various "tricks," such as backspin serves that bounced back into (or over) the net, and sidespin serves that broke almost directly sideways. Then I had them practice spinning the soccer balls in the air - spin and catch, spin and catch. It's one of the best ways to learn to spin the ball. Then I gave several lectures/demos on the rules, creating spin, deception, the main service motions, and fast serves. Between the lecture/demos they practiced serves, with each getting a table and box of balls to themselves.  

Next on the agenda was more smashing. After a lecture and demo with Sameer, the players formed a line, and in rapid-fire fashion took turns smashing forehands as I fed multiball, three shots each, one to the backhand, one to the middle, one to the forehand, and then the next was up. 

We finished with a receive "game." They took turns trying to return my serves, and stayed up until they'd missed two. The catch was that I got to make fun of them when they missed, while they got to make fun of me if they got them back. I'd mostly serve and quickly put my racket on the table and step to the side of the table my sidespin would force their return to - so if they did return the serve, I'd be stuck rallying with my hand. Or I'd say, "Don't put this in the net!" as I served backspin. Or I'd serve fast aces at the corners. Tomorrow we'll be covering return of serve, along with pushing and looping. 

It was a long day. After the camp I had another 2.5 hours of private coaching. Had some nice breakthroughs - Willie is learning to loop, Daniel's loop is getting powerful, and Matt's is even more ferocious! 

Here's the group picture, which I also linked to yesterday. Using a high-quality version, I printed out copies for everyone on photo paper, which I'll give out today. 

New Two-Toned Ball Undermines Chopper's Advantage

Here's the article and video (2 hours!). 

Interview with German National Coach Jörg Rosskopf

Here's the article

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. Ninety-seven down, three to go!

  • Day 4: Latin American Ascending to New Found Heights

Ping-Pong Balls for Children's Therapy

Here's the article

Ping-Pong Table Sound System

Here's the article - yes, a sound system that doubles as a ping-pong table!

Xavier Therien - STIGA 2014 ITTF TrickShot Showdown

Here's the Canadian National Team Member's juggling and table tennis with a crazy contraption trick shot (1:22)! And here are more - there are so many that I haven't really gone through them. Here's the home page for the competition.

Backhand of the Year?

Here's video of Nelson's Backhand (52 sec) - see the shot 7 seconds in!

Around-Net Rolling Return

Here's the video (22 sec) of some rather incredible staged shots. 

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (32 sec).

Ice Bucket Challenge

Ping-Pong Cupcakes Anyone?

Here's the picture

Tricky Serve!

Here's the video (6 sec).

***
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August 26, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

I'm running into a time crunch - I was up late last night working on two timely projects, and this morning I'm coaching a disabled veterans camp. (So blog is a little shorter this morning than usual.) Any locals who want to volunteer to help out as practice partners or ball pickup, email me. The camp is Tue-Fri, 10AM-1PM.

Professional Table Tennis Clubs Association

I've toyed with setting up a Professional Table Tennis Club Association (PTTCA), for full-time clubs. As I've blogged a number of times, I consider the rise of full-time table tennis centers in the U.S. to be the best thing that's happened to table tennis in this country in decades - and nothing else is even close. Here's a current listing which I maintain, with a few more to be added soon.

This is where you get both large numbers of junior players, and elite players as well. Want to develop players who can compete for medals? Well, where do they come from? From junior programs, where they train regularly from a young age with top coaches. Where do they do this? At training centers, where top coaches can make a living as professional coaches while running these junior programs. So if you want to develop medal contenders, you need to develop junior programs and training centers - they go together. It's always been somewhat of an eyebrow raiser that this isn't obvious to everyone, and yet it somehow isn't. It's only in roughly the last eight years that we've seen these training centers pop up all over the U.S., and with it, we now have the strongest players in our history at the cadet and under level (15 and under). Both the level and depth is way, way beyond what it was before.

So should there be an association for these centers? What would be its purpose? What would be the incentive for a professional club to join? Should the association focus on developing new centers or on the current ones? Your comments are welcome.

Serve and Receive Practice

Here's my periodic reminder - have you practiced your serves recently? If not, get a bucket of balls and go to it! It's the quickest way to improve. (Here's my Ten-Point Plan to Serving Success.) Just as importantly, have you practiced your receive? If not, get a bucket of balls and have someone serve to you! (Here's my article Why to Systematically Practice Receive.)

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. Ninety-five down, five to go!

  • Day 6: Zoran Primorac Credits Sport for Making Him a Better Person
  • Day 7: Ivan Santos Ortega: We Must Create a Mystique about Table Tennis

Dimitrij Ovtcharov: Way to the Top

Here's a great video (7:46) that features the world #4 player - and the first point (against Timo Boll) is incredible!

Westchester Open Final

Here's the video (15:38) of the final this past weekend between Qing Feng Guang (rated 2770) and Kai Zhang (rated 2666). Qing is the chopper.

Samsonov Extends Record for Winning World Tours

Here's the ITTF article about his winning #34 (Belarus Open), the most ever. Second is Wang Liqin with 31.

Jorgen Persson Commends Fan Zhendong's Performance

Here's the article on the Chinese's star's performance in winning gold at the Youth Olympic Games.

Chinese Team Supports & Donates to the ALS Association

Here's the article and video. (Yes, ice bucket challenges taken, including by Liu Guoliang, Zhang Jike, Ma Long, and Wang Hao.)

More Ice Bucket Challenges

Here are more from prominent players.

Choo-Choo Pong

Here's the cartoon.

***
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August 15, 2014

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camp at MDTTC. Much of the focus was on basics as we re-enforced the techniques learned the first three days. It's amazing how fast some have improved since Monday. I also introduced my group to fast serves, as well as to the serving bar, the adjustable bar created by John Olsen that moves up or down over the net so players can learn to serve low. 

The kids were a bit unruly today, perhaps because we were nearing the end of the week. (Or perhaps it took this long for the full moon from last Sunday to take effect?) I went a bit hoarse trying to get their attention a few times. A few times I had to bang my flat hand on a table to get their attention. I'm tempted to bring in a whistle for tomorrow. 

One kid had a hitch in his forehand - every time he does it he brings the racket tip up just before contact, and mostly just jabs at the ball. Yesterday I solved the problem by simply feeding him multiball farther away from him, forcing him to extend his arm. At first he tried to move to the ball too much so he could use his standard poor technique, but I got him to keep his feet in place. So he was forced to extend his arm properly and stroke the ball properly, and pretty soon he was hitting the ball properly! With practice, he will soon have a pretty good forehand. 

There's another kid who tries very hard, but simply doesn't seem to have the ability to learn new things. I wanted to write more about this, but if I did, and if by some chance he happens to read this, he might recognize it. Suffice to say that the talent levels are a bit diverse. 

ITTF Hall of Fame

I just saw the minimum criteria for making the ITTF Hall of Fame - "To qualify for the ITTF Hall of Fame, an athlete must have won a minimum of five gold medals in Table Tennis World Championships, Olympic Games, and Paralympic Games." What a silly criteria! Suppose a player wins Men's or Women's Singles four different times, but never wins Teams or Double because he comes from a country that's not strong in table tennis (but still chooses to play doubles with players from his country rather than team up with someone else). Or a player who is, say, #6 on the Chinese Team, and wins five World Team Championships without ever actually playing in the Team matches? It also handicaps players from before table tennis became an Olympic Sport in 1988. The result? The list is dominated by players from China and Japan, many of whom won their "five gold medals" primarily in doubles and teams. (I'd start listing them but I have to coach this morning and don't have time to start listing them.) Meanwhile, obvious stars who should be inducted are left out, such as:

  • Stellan Bengtsson (1971 World Men's Singles Champion, 1973 World Men's Doubles Champion, undefeated in leading Sweden to World Team Championship in 1973, and world #1 for a long period).
  • Istvan Jonyer (1975 World Men's Singles and Doubles Champion, 1971 World Men's Doubles Champion, 1973 & 1979 World Men's Doubles Finalist, 1979 World Men's Team Champion, and world #1 for at least two years.)
  • Mitsuru Kohno, 1977 World Men's Singles Champion, 1967 World Men's Singles Runner-up, world #1 for one or two years.
  • USA's own Ruth Aarons (1936 and 1937 World Women's Singles Champion).

Seriously, any ITTF Hall of Fame criteria that leaves out these players needs some serious rethinking. I'm trying to find a listing of historical world #1's to see how long these and other players were ranked #1 in the world. Anyone know of such a listing?

Interview with Teodor "Doru" Gheorghe

Here's the video (21:49). Doru is USATT's Interim CEO, Chief Operating Officer, and Women's Team coach. 

China's Fan Zhendong Aims to Win the Youth Olympics

Here's the article

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. Eighty-Four down, 16 to go!

  • Day 17: ITTF’s CEO Judit Farago Enjoys Contributing to the Sport’s Success

Pong Attack!

This is what happens when we teach our promising juniors how to kill.

***
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May 14, 2014

Scouting Report on You and Me

It's important to know your game. I've often said that if you can't write a book on your game, either you don't know your game or you don't have a game. (Here's a short Tip on that.)

It's good to look at your game from the point of view of your opponent. What would you say to an opponent if you were coaching him to play you? Now you probably don't want to make this public, but you should be aware of what a good coach would say to an opponent playing you, and from that you'll know what you need to work on. Why not write it out, and see what it tells you?

I'm retired from tournament play (except for some hardbat events - I normally use sponge), so I have less to lose on this - but I do play a lot of practice matches with students and in match sessions, so we'll see how many are reading this! So here is what I would say if I were coaching an opponent against me - except this is too long; you should limit coaching advice to two or three things at most. So normally I'd pick the two or three most important items below if I were coaching against myself. But here's the whole coaching report if you have to play me. I encourage you to memorize it for when you play me, since trying to remember all this will paralyze you when you play, and that'll make it easier for me to win. (Actually, if you have an extensive scouting report on someone you really want to beat, you can absorb more than just two or three items as long as you take them two or three at a time.)

So, you want to beat me? Here's what you do. Keep in mind that I'm 54 and not as fast as I used to be. The book on my game back then would be similar, except I was extremely good at covering the wide forehand - players went there at their own peril. But these days this strength has become a weakness. I also used to attack a lot more with the forehand from the backhand side, looking for every chance to do so in rallies, but not so much anymore. I also used to block much better, but now have trouble covering attacks to the wide corners. (This is my second consecutive blog that's basically auto-biographical. Hmmm...)

How to Play Larry Hodges

He has trouble with long backhand sidespin-type serves. His forehand loop against them is awkward, and his backhand returns are steady but soft. Mix your serves up a lot or he'll get used to them, but keep coming back to these deep backhand sidespin-type serves. He forehand loops deep pendulum serves very well, so use them sparingly, and only when you can get him to receive them with his backhand. Don't make the mistake of serving short over and over as he's very good against short serves, with short and long pushes and flips, and lots of last-second changes of direction. Don't serve short to the forehand too often as he has a good forehand flip to all parts of the table.

When he serves, beware his short side-top serves, which look like backspin. He'll also serve a lot of fast no-spin serves at your middle, and deep breaking serves to the wide backhand - you have to steady attack these, ideally with good topspin. If he serves short to the forehand, which he'll do with both pendulum and reverse pendulum serves, take it down the line to his backhand - he's waiting for a crosscourt return. When he serves short to the middle or backhand, he's usually looking to forehand attack from the backhand side, so take it quick to his wide forehand where he's often wide open.  If he serves short no-spin, attack it to the corners or drop it short as he's looking to follow with a big forehand loop. If your receives are predictable, he'll be all over them.

His backhand is soft but steady. Don't try to outlast him there. Instead, expect steady returns to your wide backhand that can be attacked with the goal to set up a chance to end the point with your presumably more powerful forehand. Since he doesn't attack well with the backhand, you don't have to guard your wide forehand much, so you can look to use your forehand from your backhand side every chance. Make sure your attacks are very wide or to the middle - he doesn't cover those well, but if you go to his middle forehand or middle backhand he's a wall and can also counter-attack those very well. He's also vulnerable to deep, spinny loops to the backhand. If you can backhand loop close to the table, he hates that. If you attack his wide forehand and then his wide backhand, he'll often be forced off the table, fishing and lobbing. If he does, attack his middle or wide backhand until you see a short ball that can be creamed to either wide corner.

In rallies, he tends to be weak on the forehand side early in the match, but it gets stronger as the match continues and he adjusts to you. If you handle his serves well and attack his forehand, that's often enough to win the first game. If he starts playing his forehand well in rallies - looping or smashing, he does both - focus on moving the ball around, to the wide corners and middle. Sometimes he just rallies everything crosscourt with his backhand, using it to cover his middle as well, and waits for you to change directions with your backhand to his wide forehand, where he's waiting. Don't fall for that trap - instead, keep attacking his wide backhand and middle, and realize that his middle in these types of rallies is actually a bit over to his forehand side. Look for chances to end the point off his weaker backhand shots, especially with your forehand. When his rally shots go short, he expects attacks to his forehand and covers it well - but often leaves the backhand side open. Quick, aggressive backhand shots that go outside his backhand corner give him fits.

If he starts attacking with his forehand, go after his wide forehand, and he'll struggle to cover it, and will likely stop playing so aggressively. His loops aren't as spinny as they look. He has a lot of motion, but not as much snap on them as they seem, so don't be afraid to counter-attack when he loops. He's an instinctive forehand attacker, but not as fast as he used to be, so he's often caught out of position when he forehand attacks, and so will end up fishing and lobbing. When you do go to his wide forehand, he likes to set up like he's going crosscourt, then at the last second rotate his shoulders back to loop a winner down the line. If you anticipate this or see it coming and make a simple block to his backhand, he'll usually start fishing. 

If you take a lead late in a game, be ready if he starts chopping. If he does, go for consistent attacks to his middle.

Finally, be flexible in your tactics. Larry will start out most matches trying to win on serves and serve & attack, and on steady rallying on your serve, where he likes to force backhand-to-backhand rallies. If this doesn't work, he'll start testing you for weaknesses. When he does this, focus on steady and well-placed attacks, and realize you are already halfway to winning as you've taken away his "A" game. If you hear him mutter something like, "I used to be able to get to that ball," or "That shot used to be so easy," that's pretty much an invitation to keep challenging him on that shot!

Fan Zhendong: Youngest World Champion in History

Here's the article

North Korea's Behavior at the 1979 Ping Pong Championships Really Says It All

Here's the article. Apparently the entire Korean crowd walked out after the North Korean star lost the women's final, leaving a nearly vacant stadium for the men's final.

Prizes at the 2014 Commonwealth Games Trials in Wales

Here's the picture. Look closely at the picture in the lower right - yep, the prizes were copies of my book, Table Tennis Tales & Techniques! (EDIT - I've since been told that actual picture where they are holding up my books was taken at the ICC club in California, where the books were given out as prizes.)

The Ultimate Table Tennis Footwork Guide

Here's the artwork by Mike Mezyan.

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April 28, 2014

Tip of the Week

Develop the Fundamentals: Strokes & Footwork.

The Six-Inch Toss Rule

I had a question on the six-inch toss rule, so I decided to submit it to USATT's Stump the Ump, where umpire questions are answered by Paul Kovac, an international umpire and certified referee. (He's also a regular at my club, MDTTC, and referees the MDTTC tournaments.) The question was seemingly simple, but as you'll see, may not be as obvious as you'd think. Here's my question:  

Here’s a question that keeps coming up, and I’d like to see an online answer that we can refer to. When serving, does the ball have to go six inches up from the exact point where it leaves the hand, or does it actually require six inches of clearance between the hand and the ball? I thought I knew the answer to this, but when I asked six umpires/referees for their ruling at the Nationals, three said the first, three said the latter.

Here is the answer Paul gave, which is now published at Stump the Ump.

This should not be a topic for discussion because the rule is very clear about it:

2.6.2 The server shall then project the ball near vertically upwards, without imparting spin, so that it rises at least 16cm (6") after leaving the palm of the free hand and then falls without touching anything before being struck.

The important part is:

"...so that it rises at least 16cm (6") after leaving the palm...."

The first part of the service rule, namely, "2.6.1 Service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand" is also important because if the serve does not start with "ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand", it is virtually impossible to judge the toss.

Rule 2.6.2 means that after the toss, the separation of ball and player's palm must be at least 6" before the palm and ball get any closer. We see sometime that after the 6" toss the player's hand follows the ball and gets closer than 6" from the ball as the ball raises, and sometimes also when the ball falls. But as long as the 6" separation of the palm and the ball was satisfied, and the palm and hand is not between the ball and the net (not hiding the ball from receiver), the serve is legal.

Thanks, 
Paul

However, I don't think the answer is that clear, as shown by the 3-3 split by umpires/referees when I asked the question at the Nationals. Here's my response to Paul's answer:

Hi Paul,

Thanks for getting back to me. However, I don't think the ruling on this is that clear, based on the actual wording of the rules.

The rules say the ball must rise at least 6". Suppose a player serves so that the ball leaves his hand exactly 40 inches above the ground. If the ball then goes up six inches, it has risen six inches, from 40 inches to 46 inches, and it would seem to have fulfilled requirements of the rule, regardless of what the serving hand does. Nowhere does the rule state that there must be six inches clearance between the hand and the ball - that's a common sense interpretation, but I don't see how one can get that from the wording of the rules.

As noted, many umpires and players read the rule as it is written (and interpret it differently than what you wrote), i.e. the ball must rise six inches, and since it isn't indicated otherwise, they measure it from the point where it leaves the hand. Based on that, a player's serving hand could rise and stay with the ball, and still fulfill the requirements of the rules as they are worded as long as he doesn't use it to hide the ball, and as long as he quickly removes the serving arm and hand from the space between the ball and the net. If there is an interpretation that the ball must rise six inches relative to the hand - which would be difficult to justify, based on the wording of the rule - then that needs to be published somewhere so as to remove the confusion.

I'm CCing Roman and Wendell again as I'd like to see if they concur with your ruling, and why. This came up twice at the Nationals (I didn't make an issue of it), and as noted below, six umpires/referees I asked about it split down the middle on the ruling - so it's obviously not clear to everyone, even officials, and I guarantee most players aren't sure about this. Once the wording of a ruling on this is agreed on, I think this should be published in the Stump the Ump column, or somewhere, so it can be referred to. (Ideally, they'd change the wording of the serving rule to make this clear, but that probably won't happen.)

-Larry Hodges

So what do you think? Is there anything in the actual rules that state that there must be six inches of separation between the hand and the ball when serving? I don't see it. All I see is that the ball must rise six inches, and I don't see how that is affected by the location of the serving hand. I'll go by this interpretation even though I don't really agree with it. I haven't received a response yet from Roman Tinyszin (chair of the USATT Officials and Rules Advisory Committee) or Wendell Dillon (former chair).

Have a rules question? Feel free to ask me. If I can't answer it (impossible!!!), then we can submit it to Stump the Ump.

Veep

As I blogged about on Friday, the episode of Veep that would "feature" table tennis was on Sunday night. Alas, while there was some recreational table tennis, all the scenes with the three top players I'd brought in were cut. However, in most of the scenes taking place at the fake Clovis corporation - about half the episode - I'm often standing just behind the camera or off to the side, out of view, watching it as it is filmed. 

ITTF President Adham Sharara to Step Down as ITTF President

Here's the article, where he explains why he wants to deal with the "China" crisis, and will remain involved in the newly created position of ITTF Chairman.

Shonie Aki Scholarship Award

Here's the article and info for this annual $1250 scholarship.

Incredible Rally, Michael Maze vs. Zoran Primorac

Here's the video (52 sec, including slow motion replay). Maze is on far side (lefty). This'll wake you up before you move on!

WORLD TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS

Here's the home page for the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Championships, April 28 - May 5, in Tokyo, where you can find results, articles, photos, and video. It starts today. Since Tokyo is thirteen hours ahead of us, all of the first day action should be complete already. (So 9AM east coast time is 10PM Tokyo time.) Here are more articles involving the Worlds.

USA at the Worlds

  • Men's Video Update #1 (1:37) by Jim Butler (before play began).
  • Women's Video Update #1 (43 sec) by Lily Zhang (before play began).
  • Day One Results (do search for "USA"): USA Men went 2-0, defeating Luxembourg 3-1, and Kazakhstan 3-2. USA Women were apparently in the middle of their first tie, and were listed as 1-1 with Hungary, so by the time you read this that'll probably be done.

Players at Worlds Not Happy With Cameras Next to Net

Here's the article.

Photos from Just Before the Worlds

Here are the photos - click on the photos to see more.  

Table Tennis Billboard at World Championships

Here's the picture.

My Passion for Sports and the State of "Flow"

Here's the new article by Dora Kurimay, sports psychologist and table tennis star.

Ma Long and Zhang Jike Serve

Here's a video (10:11) where they demonstrate and explain (in Chinese) their serves. Even if you can't understand the Chinese you can watch the serves themselves. About halfway through they start showing other players doing other shots.

New Coaching Articles at Table Tennis Master

The Downside of Being Fan Zhendong

Here's the article.

Basketball Star Goran Dragic Plays Table Tennis

Here's the video (3:27), where he talks about his table tennis and shows him playing.

Unique Ping-Pong Paddle

Now that's a unique paddle! I want one. Especially the swimming pool part. Artwork by Milan Mirkovic. 

Beetle Bailey on Friday

Here's the cartoon! So Beetle has learned to serve with heavy backspin?

Chicken Table Tennis Cartoon

Here's the cartoon! Now I'll never look at our own junior program the same way.

Table Tennis Epic

Here's a hilarious video (1:12), showing Michael Maze and Dimitrij Ovtcharov in an "epic" match . . . sort of.

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April 25, 2014

Fan Zhendong vs. Cho Eonrae

Here's a great video (14:32, with time between points removed) between China's Fan Zhendong (world #3) and South Korea's Cho Eonrae (world #20) in the 8ths of the Qatar Open on Feb. 18-23. Spoiler Alert! Cho wins deuce in the seventh, -12,10,7,7,-9,-8,10. Here is my analysis of the first five points. Fan is in red, Cho in black. Not all points are shown; for example, the second point shown is actually at 3-1. (FH = forehand, BH = backhand. Alas, the direct links to the start of the points make you go through the short ad at the start each time.)

POINT 1: Fan does reverse pendulum sidespin serve short to FH. Cho comes in with FH as if receiving down the line, freezing Fan (who has to cover for the down-the-line shot), and then drops it short the other way, to Fan's FH. Fan steps in, threatening to go very wide to Cho's FH, instead flips down the line to Cho's BH.  Since Fan is leading over table, Cho attacks very wide to Fan's BH. Fan has to move quickly, and does a safe backhand topspin to Cho's wide BH. Cho spins off bounce to Fan's wide BH. Both players are trying to avoid the other's FH, and since these aren't highly aggressive shots, they are going wide to the BH rather than the middle, where many attacks go. After his previous backhand loop, Fan is moving back to ready position and is caught slightly when Cho goes right back to the wide backhand. As Fan moves to do an awkward backhand loop, Cho steps around to counterloop with his FH, but Fan BH loops off. Point to Cho.

POINT 2: Cho does FH reverse pendulum serve to Fan's BH. Fan backhand banana flips, but his shot nicks the net and goes off. I can't read the spin from this angle (Cho's body is in the way), but while the obvious thought was the serve was backspin, I suspect it was no-spin from the angle of Fan's racket. His contact with the ball is almost directly behind it; if the ball was heavy backspin, he'd be going more around it with sidespin rather than go up against the backspin directly. (That's a secret of the banana flip.) Point to Cho.

POINT 3: Cho fakes a regular pendulum serve, but does another reverse pendulum serve. It's half-long to the FH, barely off the end, and Fan loops it rather weakly. But since Cho has to guard the wide FH angle, he's slow in stepping around, and so he takes the ball late and goes off the end. Point to Fan. I'm guessing Cho hasn't gotten his rhythm yet or he'd make that shot, even rushed.

POINT 4: Fan does a regular pendulum serve. The motion looks like he's going long to Cho's backhand - watch how Cho starts to step around. Instead, Fan serves short to Cho's FH, forcing Cho to change directions. See how off balanced he is as he receives? He manages to drop it short, but is still a bit off balance as he steps back, and so is slightly caught when Fan drops it back short. He does a weak backhand attack, which Fan easily backhand loops. Since Cho is leaning over the table with his backhand side a bit open, Fan goes to his wide backhand, forcing Cho to block. Fan now does a stronger backhand loop to Cho's middle, forcing a weaker block, and then Fan steps around and rips a FH to Cho's middle. The whole point was like a chess match, where a small advantage is gradually turned into a winning point. Point to Fan.

POINT 5: Here's where Fan apparently pulls a fast one. He does a pendulum serve, but it looks like he's hidden contact - but just barely. Here's an image just before the ball disappears behind his non-playing arm, and here's one just after, with the arm now hiding the ball. Can Cho see contact? Most likely contact is hidden, but becomes visible the split second afterwards. Here's one the split second after the arm gets out of the way, where you can see the ball against the racket. It happens so fast it's almost impossible to be sure, but it looks like he contacted it with a regular pendulum serve, heavy backspin, but hidden by the arm, and then, the split second after, as his arm moved out of the way, his racket moves slightly in the other direction as if doing a reverse pendulum serve with sidespin. That's what Cho likely saw, and so he backhands the ball right into the het. (This was the standard technique at the high levels before hidden serves became illegal - hide contact, but show the receiver a fake contact the split second afterwards to mislead them.) Point to Fan. 

Was this last serve legal? You decide. Here are the pertinent rules.

2.06.04: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball … shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry. 

2.06.05: 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. The space between the ball and the net is defined by the ball, the net and its indefinite upward extension. 

2.06.06: 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, and either may decide that a service is incorrect. 

Veep

Back on October 10, 2013, I blogged about spending a day on the set of the HBO TV show Veep. Well, the episode, "Clovis," airs this Sunday, at 10:30 PM in my area (east coast). I was basically their table tennis advisor, and I brought in three top table tennis players who should appear in the episode: Khaleel Asgarali (2314), Qiming Chen (2221), and Toby Kutler (2154). See the blog entry for info on what we did. So you can recognize them, here's a picture of Khaleel Asgarali. Here's Qiming Chen (on right). And here's 14 seconds of Toby Kutler doing multiball training.

You won't see me in the episode, but there's a scene where the character Mike McLintock (played by Matt Walsh) discovers the snack bar at Clovis. You'll see him talking through a window with the Clovis employee who runs the snack bar, and who fixes him some sort of drink (I think a milk shake). While you can't see me, I'm sitting right behind the Clovis snack bar employee, on the left, hidden by the wall and enjoying the show. (They did this scene about a zillion times, with Matt playing a bit differently each time, so I'm curious which version they went with.)

Knee Problems - Again

Here we go again. Last night during a class I was teaching I demonstrated a forehand smash. I thought something felt funny in my right knee afterwards, but it wasn't until about ten minutes later that my knee started to act up again. And now I'm limping about, hoping I can coach. (I have a 90-minute session tonight, so it's not a busy night, but then the weekend is very busy.) This is not a good thing for an active coach. On the other hand, it's been a while since my knees/arm/shoulder/back acted up.

I've had problems with both knees. When it's my left, I can usually compensate better, but my right knee is my push-off leg for all my forehand shots, plus it's hard to move to the right when it's acting up. We'll see how it is when I coach tonight.

Chinese Table Tennis Association Sticks with Old Ball (for now)

Here's the article.

Zhang Jike Feels Pressure With His Responsibilities in Tokyo

Here's the article.

Team USA at the 2014 World Championships

Here's a video (3:06) honoring the U.S. National Team at the World Championships in Japan. That's me coaching Crystal at 0:54 and 0:56 - see big picture on right both times. (But just for the record, Jack Huang is her primary coach, though I often coach Crystal in tournaments when he's not around.)

USA Men's Team at the Worlds

Here's video (1:26) of the most intensively serious workout they've ever undergone, and some chitchat. And here they are relaxing and playing cards. Here they are on the subway returning to the hotel.

USA Table Tennis Champions of the Century, Part 1

Here's the video (6:38) by videomaster Jim Butler. This one covers Eric Boggan, Dan Seemiller, Jim Butler, Sean O'Neill, Hank Teekaveerakit, Attila Malek, and Lily Zhang.

How You Could Send Something High in the Atmosphere

Here's an article on the use of ping-pong balls to send things into the upper atmosphere for scientific experiments.

7000 Pingpong Balls Dropped for Legacy Week

Here's the article.

Office Prank - 100+ Ping Pong Balls

Here's the video (2:13)!

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April 2, 2014

Oldest and Youngest Players in USATT

Mel Ketchel, age 91, is a regular at MDTTC. He comes in almost daily to play with others and with the robot, and regularly plays in our leagues. He asked me a few days ago if he entered the U.S. Open or Nationals, would USATT add an Over 90 event. I'd like to see it

It got me thinking - who are the oldest players in USATT? Technically Mel doesn't qualify, as he last played a tournament in 2002 and his membership expired in 2003. So I went to the USATT Ratings Page, and did some checking, using the Customizable Members Lists tool. This is what I found, where I searched only for USATT members who played in a tournament since January of 2013.

It has Madhu Vinod Diwakar of North Carolina, rated 1949, as being 114 years old!!! Now that's pretty good for your average supercentenarian, and it's recent, since he played a tournament in January. I'm guessing that somehow USATT has his age wrong.  (Actually, he's rated 1950, but because of confusion by some people over whether a 1950 player is eligible for an Under 1950 event, USATT automatically takes off and stores for later one point for anyone with a rating ending in 00 or 50. Meaning that in USATT ratings, 1950 is less than 1950!)

How about youngest member? According to the listings, we have two players under age one (!): Mohammed Khan of Tennessee, rated 1745, and Marijan Tomas of Vermont, rated 1356. That's going to be one impressive Under One Final at the U.S. Open when these two babies play! Okay, USATT probably has their birthdays wrong.

Table Tennis April Fools' Jokes

As most readers (but not all!) figured out, my posting yesterday on Tongue Training was an April Fools' joke. (If the subject wasn't enough to convince you, then read the first letter of each line in the first paragraph!) The posting was picked up and linked to in a number of places.

Maybe there is something to it. While you don't need to train your tongue (!), it is important to keep the muscle relaxed, including facial ones. Some players make faces every time they hit a shot, and while they get away with it, it might be a symptom of stress. More relaxed players don't usually make such faces. If you are the type who grimaces every time you take a shot, then perhaps you need to relax a bit more when you play.

I do such April Fools' jokes in my blog every year. Here are past ones in my blog:

  • April 1, 2011 - 13-year-old makes Chinese National Team - attacking with long pips on both sides.
  • April 2, 2012 - Wang Liqin is Coming to Maryland. And he's also a science fiction writer! And his son's a star! (April 1 fell on a Sunday, so I did this on Monday)
  • April 1, 2013 - 12-Year-Old Derek Nie Defeats Three 2600+ Players to Win Coconut Cup.

I did another April Fools' joke on one of our kids yesterday. We have an afterschool program at MDTTC, and every day, Mon-Fri, I leave my house at 2:30PM to pick up kids from local schools. We have it scheduled so I never have to pick up more than two at a time so I can get them to practice quickly. Yesterday one of the two came down sick so I only had to pick up one, a 10-year-old who's one of the best in the U.S. for his age, and one of the most dedicated. (He made me promise not to use his name.) When I picked him up he was expecting I'd pick up one other kid and then go to the club. Instead, I told him how lucky we were - two more kids were joining us, so we'd be picking three others, all from different schools. Normally we'd get to the club around 3:35PM or so, but I estimated we'd get there around 4:20PM. He went into a panic about how he was missing practice time, and was so frustrated he didn't notice that when I pulled out of his school, instead of turning right to pick up the next kid, I turned left and went directly to highway 270, which takes us to the club. It wasn't until we were on 270 for five minutes that he looked around, and suddenly said, "Where are we? This isn't the way to pick up the others!" Then he figured it out. The fact that it bothered him so much that he'd be late for practice says he's going to be a very good player someday.

There were other table tennis April Fools' Jokes yesterday. I linked to one yesterday from Table Tennis Nation, Table Tennis Named the Official Sport of the United States. Others I found during the day included JOOLA's Chop Blade, and Uberpong's Ping Pong Social Club Launch. (The latter is even talked about at BigCommerce.com.)

Sports Illustrated

The April 7 issue of Sports Illustrated comes out today. It should feature Crystal Wang in the "Faces in the Crowd" section. The online version will go up next Monday.

ITTF Voice of Table Tennis Contest

You can still enter. Deadline has been extended to April 8.

Fan Zhendong Is Now the Focus of the Main Players

Here's the article.

64-year-old Paralympian Overcomes Challenge After Challenge

Here's the article on Stuart Caplin, a member of the USA Paralympic Team, who has overcome polio and paralysis on the left side of his body.

Top Ten Shots from the ITTF World Tour German Open

Here's the video (5:10).

Lupi vs. Johnny

Here's a video (2:10) from 2004 showing Ilija Lupulesku vs. Johnny Huang. Lupulesku was top twenty in the world (and may have reached top ten - not sure), while Huang was top ten. Lupulesku plays a somewhat soft off-table topspin game, while Huang was the last of the great hitters - a shakehander with short pips on both sides.

The Outdoor Table Tennis Season Has Begun (in NYC)

Here's the video.

Cartoon Cats Playing Pong

Here's the gif image!

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