2013 World Championships

May 21, 2013

Muscle Fatigue and Backspin

Recently my muscles have been feeling bone-tired, especially the legs. I feel like I've run a marathon before I even start. (I know; I ran one when I was 17, and went to my table tennis club that night just to prove I could do it - and could barely play at all.) The muscles are both tired and stiff. I'm hoping this is just a stage. I eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. (On the other hand, my dog, Sheeba, 15 years old, no longer can last the night without going out, and she gets me up around 4AM every single morning to go out. Maybe there's a connection. Or maybe I'm just an "old" 53.)

One result, of course, is I haven't been playing well. In fact, right now I'm probably playing the worse I've played since the 1970s. I'm a practice partner for our top juniors, but let's just say the last two weeks have been great confidence boosters for some of them. I've been going back and forth between trying to force the muscles to operate properly ("Move or else, you stupid legs!") or falling back on tactics. ("Age and treachery defeats youth and skill every time." Or so the saying goes.) There's a reason why this week's Tip of the Week was "Tools and Tactics for the Physically Challenged."

One solution I used over the weekend was lots of heavy backspin play. I'd recently lost to one of our up-and-coming juniors for the first time, primarily because she kept going after my forehand, and my legs preferred to lounge around my backhand side despite my threats, and so I kept waving as balls went by. (Or maybe we're just great coaches and this hard-working junior was getting better?) Anyway, when I played her this weekend I was again struggling in the first game, and finally decided enough was enough. Instead of looping her mostly long serves, I began to chop them back heavy. I already do that sometimes on the backhand, but she was giving me these lefty serves that break into my forehand, and I began chopping them back with my forehand. I also backed up and often chopped her first loop back. Net result - I won 3-0, though two of the games were close.

You don't need to be a chopper to win with backspin. Here's my article Winning with Backspin for the Non-Chopper.

Non-Table Tennis - Dental Dinero

Yesterday I saw a dentist and had the shock of my life. I brush and floss regularly, and have had only occasional problems. I did have one cavity in 2012, and one back in 2009. I'd been seeing the same dentist every six months for over ten years. However, she recently sold her practice, and a new one took her place. After the usual examination and x-rays, the new one said I had ELEVEN (11!) cavities!!! This makes no sense. I'm not feeling any pain or discomfort, I hadn't changed my brushing or eating habits or anything, and yet now, apparently, I have seven that need immediate attention, and four others that are growing and also need care. Total bill for all of them would be about $2300. Anyway, I'm still stunned by this. I'm going to see another dentist for a second opinion. Anyone have this type of experience? Anyone got $2300 they want to donate to a poor ping-pong coach? (Yes, I have health insurance, but no, it doesn't cover dental.)

World Championships

Below are videos of the singles finals at the Worlds, with time between points removed. There are also a number of follow-up articles on the Worlds, which ended yesterday, at both the ITTF Worlds Page and Table Tennista.


Here's USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh's blog about the Worlds, which went up yesterday. It covers the ITTF meetings, elections, and appointments, including a number of U.S. appointees.

Ping-Pong and Human Rights in Syria

Did you know they were using ping-pong balls in the civil war in Syria? Here's the article - see paragraph four. (Note - in the original version of this morning's blog I included a letter from a human rights group that was soliciting people to send ping-pong balls to Syrian groups, with an address given. They just informed me they don't want to go public on this yet, so I've taken down the letter.) 

Table Tennis Genius Touch

Here's a highlights video (2:40) from a year ago that I've never posted, set to the piano music of Yann Tiersen - La Valse d'Amélie. It features both great touch shots and great shots in general.

Spinning Liquid Nitrogen Ping-Pong Ball

Here's the article and video (40 sec). I think I posted a similar video once, but this one's pretty spectacular.

Just for Men Commercial and Oversized Paddles

Here's a video (31 sec) of a Just for Men commercial that features table tennis played with oversized paddles. The table tennis takes place in the first two seconds and against 20 seconds in. I have my own oversized ping-pong paddle which I use for exhibitions. I'm using it on the cover of my book Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. None of these are as big as the one swung by Warren Buffett.

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May 20, 2013

Tip of the Week

Tools and Tactics for the Physically Challenged.

2013 World Championships - China Dominates, But Was "Nice" in the Doubles

They just ended. Defending Champion Zhang Jike just defeated Wang Hao in the Men's Singles Final as I wrote this - I held back on posting this half an hour so I could get that result. You can get complete results here. It's a repeat of the 2011 Worlds, where Zhang also defeated Wang in the final. (Wang Hao won in 2009 over Wang Liqin. Singles and Doubles events are held every two years.) The final score was 7,8,-6,12,-5,7. Zhang was down 5-7 in the last game but won the last six points in a row.

As usual, China dominated the singles events. All four semifinalists in Men's and Women's Singles are Chinese. They could have dominated the doubles events as well. Both teams in the Women's Doubles final were Chinese. However, Taiwan won Men's Doubles, and North Korea won Mixed Doubles. What's going on?

As the Chinese coaches at my club explained it, the Chinese were being nice. They did have entries in these events, but most of the top men only played singles. In Men's Doubles, China's Ma Lin/Hao Shuai were in the final (losing 4-2 to Chen Chien-An/Chuang Chih-Yuan of Taiwan), Wang Liqin/Zhou Yu played (losing 4-2 to the Taiwan duo in the semifinals), and Chen Qi/Fang Bo also played (losing 4-3 in the round of sixteen to Chan Kazuhiro/Kenta Matsudaira of Japan). While Ma Lin and Wang Liqin are still great players (ranked #8 and #9 in the world), they are the "older" veterans of the Chinese team, as is Hao Shuai (#12). Chen Qi (#17) and Fang Bo (#30) are younger, but are not yet among the "elite."

Similarly, in Mixed Doubles, China only had four teams: Wang Liqin/Rao Jingwen, Chen Qi/Hu Limei, and Qiu Yike/Wen Jia. The three men were ranked #9, 17, and unranked. The three women were ranked #106, unranked, and #35.

Where were the top four men in the world, all from China - Xu Xin, Ma Long, Wang Hao, and Zhang Jike? Where were the top three women in the world, all from China - Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen, and Li Xiaoxia? Not to mention world #5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 16, and 22, all from China? Most were playing singles, but not doubles. Ma Long and Xu Xin were the defending champions in Men's Doubles (defeating teammates Ma Lin/Chen Qi in the final), but did not defend their title. In fact, at the last Worlds, China not only swept all five events, all five events were all-Chinese finals. (Here are results from 2011.) Interestingly, China decided they wanted Women's Doubles, and so of course took that easily in the all-Chinese final.

So yes, China is being nice. Other than occasionally Timo Boll, few can really challenge them in singles right now, and so they swept both singles events with ease. Even if Boll or someone else does defeat a Chinese player, guess what? He faces another the next round. Then another. And so on. And their Chinese opponents are prepared - they have spent years practicing with Chinese players trained to play like Timo Boll.

One additional note - the Chinese weren't the only top players not playing doubles. Germany's Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, ranked #5 and #7 in the world, did not play Men's Doubles. It's especially interesting since Boll is a lefty, and so they would have had a lefty-righty team. Perhaps the Chinese and Germans were just resting their players for singles - but that's not happened much in the past, and in a tournament that lasts a week, with athletes who are used to training six hours a day, I don't really think that's the reason, or at least a good one.

ITTF Development and Education & Training Workshop at the Worlds

Here's info on it.

2013 World Championships Results and Coverage

They end in Paris today. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, live scoring, articles, video, pictures, etc. Here's their Facebook Page. They do great coverage. Equally great coverage is at Table Tennista. They have articles on every aspect, going up every day.  

ITTF Daily Show

Here's the ITTF World Championships Daily Shows:

2013 WTTC Shots of the Day

The ITTF has been having a shot of the day throughout the tournament. (They skipped days 1 and 3.) I've posted previous ones; here are all of them. Or you can browse the ITTF Channel for all sorts of videos from the Worlds.

  • Day 2 (Between the legs shot.)
  • Day 4 (Note the next-to-last shot, when the player on the far side changes hands, then follows with a big backhand loop.)
  • Day 5 (My pick for Shot of the Worlds - and watch Ma Lin's expression! He's the penholder on far side.)
  • Day 6
  • Day 7

NCTTA May 2013 Newsletter

Here's the May issue of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Newsletter.

John Harrington's 70th Birthday Cake

Here it is! (Yes, a ping-pong cake.) If you can't see it on Facebook, try here.

Powerful Yogurt Ping-Pong Man Commercial

Here it is! (25 sec)

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May 16, 2013

Coaching Updates

I had some interesting coaching sessions yesterday. Here's a rundown on three of them, with their permission - plus a fourth who just won three titles!

  • Audrey Weisiger - She's the former USA Olympic skating coach I've blogged about before. She is determined to win against some of her fellow skating coaches, with one in particular in mind. As I blogged about recently, she's gone to long pips on the backhand, no sponge, and it's working really well. She is getting pretty good at keeping the ball in play, can block loops and drive back pretty consistently now, and can return my spinniest serves. (The coach she has in mind has a spinny serve, both forehand and backhand.) She also can do a consistent push-block against pushes, which comes back with topspin. She needs more work on the forehand. She can hit forehand to forehand pretty well, but her stroke tends to be too long, and she tends to wander off the table, which doesn't work well if you are blocking with long pips on the backhand. Also, since her backhand will tend to have backspin, many of her opponent's shots will be topspinny - and so she needs to be able to block those on the forehand with a short blocking stroke. She's also developing a somewhat spinny backhand serve. At first she had difficulty in doing this because she has to use the inverted side and flip, so we're working on her flipping skills.
  • Sameer - He's 11, and starting to improve quickly. He's about 1200 now, but will probably be much better soon. Because much of his practice is in his basement, where there's only four feet going back, I'm training him as a hitter - he loops backspin, this topspin, with inverted both sides. (I've toyed with pips-out, but I want him to be able to loop from both wings against backspin.) He tends to stand up too straight (and he's tall for his age), so we're focusing on that. And while he's quick to step around to attack with his forehand, he's a bit slow moving to the wide forehand right now - we're working on that. He also tends to be erratic with his forehand loop early in sessions, not using his whole body, but he gets into it quickly. He's very forehand-oriented, but has suddenly developed a very good backhand counter-hitting game. He's got pretty spinny serves, mostly side-backspin, but can't control them yet, so they tend to pop up a lot.
  • TJ - He's 12, and is also improving rapidly. Right now he's about 1000 level or so. He's definitely going to be a looper. However, he's a bit erratic on basic forehand smashes, so the last two sessions we've been focusing on that, with multiball and live drills where he smashes over and over, or loops backspin and follows with a smash. I've promised him that in a few weeks we'll focus more on looping. (I have him loop against block for about five minutes each session right now - he's pretty steady - but that will increase soon.) He has a natural backhand loop against backspin, and can already use it in games. He tends to rush, leading to many mistakes. Often, if I put the ball up, he'll rush and try to smash it on the rise, which is erratic. He likes to step around and forehand loop against backspin, but he has the same habit I had 30 years ago - he doesn't rotate fully around, and so can only loop down the line, plus it leaves him off-balanced with his weight moving away from the table. We're working on him rotating more so he can attack with his forehand to all parts of the table, stay balanced, and so be ready for the next shot.
  • And a fourth student, player and coach John Olsen, yesterday won the Virginia Senior Games, winning the 55-59 age category in Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles!

Orioles at MDTTC

I blogged about this on Tuesday. It's featured now on the USATT home page - that's me in the middle with Orioles star shortstop J.J. Hardy on left, former star center fielder and current VP Brady Anderson on the right. Here's the best photo! And here I'm instructing them on the intricacies of table tennis.

2013 World Championships

They are in Paris, May 13-20. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, live scoring, articles, video, pictures, etc.

Team USA at 2013 Worlds

Here's the USA Team at the Worlds Page, which shows up-to-date results and video. Alas, all USA players are now out.

Table Tennista

Lots of great coverage of the Worlds here.

Day Four Photos from the Worlds

Here they are!

Two Around the Net Shots in One Match at the Worlds

Here's the video (54 sec).

Adham Sharara Re-elected ITTF President

He defeats Stefano Bosi, the one who had accused him of corruption, but was silenced by ITTF at the Annual Meeting.

ITTF Museum to Move from Switzerland to China

Here's the article. Here's the museum.

Patent 8105183 B2 - Celluloid-free Table Tennis Ball

Here's the patent! We might be using these next year.

Pepsi Chasing and Chewing Ping-Pong Balls

Here's the video (1:18) of Jay Turberville's dog Pepsi chasing and chewing on ping-pong balls. You can see close-ups of the bite marks one minute in.

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May 15, 2013

Play With Creativity - Do Something Different!

In my blog yesterday I wrote about how some of our players had trouble with Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy's serve. It was a pretty good forehand pendulum serve, but there wasn't anything seemingly special about it. He actually used less wrist motion than he should, and had just two versions - side-top and side-back - though he did vary the depth well. As I watched it, I began to see why they were having trouble with it, and there were two reasons.

First, he wasn't changing his grip to unlock his wrist, and so he had less spin than he could have. But because he has such quick wrists and a good grazing contact, it was sufficient spin to make it effective, and the different grip seemed to give players difficulty in reading it.

Second, he served it over and over from his forehand side. We're all used to players serving forehand pendulum serves from the backhand side, since that allows a player to more easily follow up against a weak return with a forehand attack. And so when the same serve came at them from the forehand side, crosscourt into their forehand, they struggled. It wasn't something they had seen very often.

But I had - or at least I from JJ's side of the table! While I usually serve from the backhand side, at key moments in matches I often do forehand pendulum serves from the forehand side, both regular and reverse pendulum. It's a great way to get a free point or two. It was also a tactic I'd used in a pair of key matches years ago, which I described in my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers in Chapter 7, Tactical Examples:

Changing Service Position

At the North American Teams one year I was playing with slightly lower-ranked players as a player/coach. I was one of the three undefeated players in the division. The other two were two junior players from Canada. Our teams played in the final. Both of the Canadian juniors played the same style, which had created havoc throughout the division: big forehand looping attacks, but medium long pips on the backhand which they used to flat hit shot after shot. They quick-hit every short serve with their backhands (spin didn’t take on their pips), even short ones to their forehand, and followed with their big forehands.

As I watched them play, I realized that they would have little trouble with my best serve, a forehand pendulum serve I do from my backhand corner, which sets up my forehand. No matter where I’d serve it, if it was long, they’d loop it; if it was short, they’d backhand hit it. I could use a tomahawk serve to their forehand, but that would take away my big serving strength. What to do?

When I went out to play the first of the two, I set up like I normally do to serve, in the backhand corner. Then I took two steps to my right, and spent the whole match serving forehand pendulum serves from my forehand corner. This gave me an angle into his forehand so that he’d have to receive with his forehand (or risk me going down the line to his open backhand side if he tried to cover the short forehand with his backhand), and so I was able to use my pendulum serve to his inverted forehand, something he had probably rarely had to deal with. Since he couldn’t return it aggressively, I was able to move back into position after each serve to attack with my forehand. The same strategy worked against the other Canadian junior, and I won both matches. (Ironically, before the last match, the perceptive Canadian coach took the other junior off to a table and mimicked my serve over and over from the forehand side so the kid could practice against it, but it wasn’t enough.) I won all three of my matches, but alas, we lost the final 5-3.

The key point is that often you have to think outside the box to find the right tactics, and that often it is an advantage to do something different. So try and do things different - it really messes up an opponent's strokes and timing. I know; I do it all the time! Vary where you serve from; use sidespin on a push or block; dead block; aim one way and at the last second change directions; play a backhand from the forehand side; fake spin and serve or push no-spin; vary the height of the toss on your serve; open up your wrist on a forehand shot so the ball goes to the right (for a righty), perhaps putting some sidespin on it as well; vary your contact so it's sometimes off the bounce, or later than usual; put a little topspin in your blocks; or something else. Be creative!

Jan-Ove Waldner is considered by many to be the greatest player of all time. He's also considered the most creative of players, constantly doing different shots to mess up opponents. So be like Waldner - and J.J. Hardy! - and do something different, and mess up your opponents.

2013 World Championships

They started yesterday, in Paris, May 13-20. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, articles, pictures, etc.

Team USA at 2013 Worlds

Here's the USA Team at the Worlds Page, which shows up-to-date results and video.

For USA, the last one standing is Lily Zhang.

Table Tennista

Lots of great coverage of the Worlds here. Included among the articles - China's head coach Liu Guoliang proposes an international training camp in China, and Table Tennista starts a new magazine.

ITTF Daily Show

Here's the World Table Tennis Championships Daily Show - Day 1 (3:05), Day 2 (5:02).

Orioles Hangout

I blogged yesterday about Baltimore Oriole shortstop JJ Hardy and former centerfielder/current VP Brady Anderson at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I wrote a short article on this for Orioles Hangout, with a link to the blog. It's their front-page story this morning.

Ultimate Edge to Edge

Here's a video (43 sec) of Tomas Pavelka (CZE) against Bastian Steger (GER, world #25) at 8-9 in the first game. Pavelka mishits a ball high into the air off his racket's edge and turns his back to the table in frustration. Watch what happens!

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May 14, 2013

J.J. Hardy and Brady Anderson at MDTTC

J.J. Hardy is the star shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. (He's the reigning gold glove winner with 52 homers the last two seasons and a former All-Star.) Brady Anderson was the Orioles star center fielder for 13 of his 15 major league seasons, where he was a 3-time all-star, and once hit 50 homers in a season. They are true baseball stars.

But they are also pretty good at table tennis! With the Orioles having a day off from playing, they spent four hours at the Maryland Table Tennis Center last night, 4-8PM. I gave them a private coaching session the first two hours, and then they hit with our local juniors. I knew in advance that JJ was the Orioles best TT player - they have a table in their clubhouse, and NOBODY beats JJ. Brady is their #2. But how good could they be, considering they hadn't had coaching? I was expecting "basement stars," perhaps 1200 level at most. Boy was I wrong! Both came with their own sponge rackets in racket cases.

JJ's around 1850. Strengths: fast rallying and good serves, and adjusts quickly to opponents. Weaknesses: return of serve and against spin in general. He's very fast and aggressive at the table, with nice forehand and backhand hitting and blocking. He tends to hold his racket tip up on the forehand, which costs him some power, but his bang-bang rallying and reflexes allow him to rally at a 1900+ level - even better if you counter with him instead of looping. He also tends to reach for the ball instead stepping, which allows him to block but means he doesn't end the point as well as he could. He can loop against backspin from both wings, and follow with quick hitting.

He has a surprisingly good forehand pendulum serve. He doesn't change his grip for the serve, and so loses a bit of spin since his wrist is locked up, but it's very deceptive. He does the serve from the forehand side, which seemed to make the serve more effective for him since most players do this serve from the backhand side. He has two main variations, side-backspin and side-topspin, and they both look similar. His depth varies (not sure if it's intentional, need to ask him), so some are long, some are short, and some are half-long, with second bounce right around or just past the end-line.

He played a practice match with Tony Li, 11, rated an even 1800. Tony won the first two as JJ had trouble with his serves, but JJ came back to win, deuce in the fifth! You could pretty much see his mind at work as he figured out how to get Tony's various spinny serves back, and how to block his constant forehand looping. I also played JJ, and while I won easily, 11-3, 11-4, the key was that I was experienced enough to recognize how good he was at rallying, and so rarely let him get into a rally - I serve and looped everything, and looped his long serves while pushing his short ones back heavy, and looping the next ball. I wasn't going to be nice and risk losing!!!

How did he get so good without coaching or playing at a club with top players? His dad was a tennis coach and good table tennis player, and he learned from him. He picks up things very fast, as I saw both in his lesson with me and his adjustments in his match against Tony.

Brady Anderson was a level or so weaker, about 1500. He's a lefty who likes to cover almost the whole table with his forehand - he returned almost all my serves with his forehand. He has very nice footwork and range. He has a pretty good forehand, and can almost match JJ in rallies except that he has great trouble with JJ's serve. He can do a soft loop against backspin with his forehand. Brady also serves almost always from the forehand side, with a tomahawk sidespin serve, which was pretty spinny but without a heavy backspin variation, and so was easier to read than JJ's pendulum serve variations. He's very mobile, and even if you return his serve to his wide backhand, he manages to step around from where he's serving from on the forehand side to play his forehand from the backhand side.

Brady tends to hit the forehand with his arm jammed in too much, raises his elbow as he hits the ball, and often tries to muscle the ball instead of relaxing the arm and shoulder and letting the body do the work. We worked on fixing these problems, and he was quick in making the adjustments in drills. At the start he had sort of a wristy backhand, but I quickly corrected it. While his backhand isn't as good as his forehand, it's technically sound once he made the change, though he'll need a lot of practice to ingrain the stroke. Brady has a deceptive forehand - he usually goes crosscourt, and then he'll suddenly change in mid-stroke and go inside out the other way, which was almost unreturnable, even for me.

The racket Brady was using was too slow, so I lent him my backup, which he liked. He ended up buying a racket from the club, with Coach Cheng Yinghua doing the sale and putting the racket and sponge together for him. (They were in awe of Cheng when they learned he'd been #1 in the U.S. for over ten years.)

Brady also played a practice game with the 1800 Tony Li. Tony was very nervous, and Brady led 10-8 game point, but Tony won in deuce. Later Brady played 8-year-old Tiffany Ke, the #2 ranked Under 9 girl in the U.S. with a rating of 1439. (She trains seven days a week!) Brady was using the new racket and wasn't quite used to it, and seemed mesmerized that this little girl, whose head barely stuck up over the table, was so good, and so lost 0-3. (See their picture below.) I also played Brady, and I won 11-3, 11-1 - but a lot of that was because he couldn't get my serve back, and couldn't handle my spinny loops off his serves. Most 1500 players wouldn't have high-level serves or be able to loop serves, and so they'd rally - and once he gets used to his new paddle, Brady will be in the 1500 range again.

It's tricky giving rating estimate for these two, due to their lack of experience against players with proper coaching. For example, while I estimated JJ at 1850, I'm taking into account how fast he adjusts and learns in each match - he'd probably often lose the first game and have to come back, and might even struggle at first with 1700 players.

Here are some pictures taken via someone's cell phone. (We have a group picture, but I haven't got it yet.)

They hit with many of our top junior players: Nathan Hsu (16, rated 2397), Derek Nie (12, 2215), Roy Ke (13, 2229), Princess Ke (11, 1954), Tiffany Ke (8, 1439, and Tony Li (11, 1800). They were great with the kids, and posed with pictures with all of them as well as signing autographs. I think JJ and Brady were as much in awe of the kids' skills as the kids were of them. By the end of their time at the club, they and the kids were having fun and talking like old friends. These were two very nice athletes; their stardom has not gone to their heads. They were as excited about playing table tennis as a kid playing baseball. Both were interested in coming more often for lessons and regular play, but JJ can't because of the team's schedule. But Brady can, and plans to come regularly. I'm looking forward to working with him - once we've made a few adjustments on his forehand, I can already see him running around looping forehands.

One interesting tidbit - when JJ was hitting with the 2400 Nathan Hsu, Nathan of course dominated with his two-winged looping. But when they played points, Nathan actually had trouble with JJ's serve. Part of this was because he was nervous, and wasn't expecting good serves. I told him to stop thinking about it and just react, and then he began looping them in. I also missed a few of JJ's serves at first, but then stopped missing them.

The Orioles have a table at their clubhouse. Besides JJ and Brady, the other regulars are Manny Machado, Steve Pearce, and Nick Markakis. Nick plays with a hardbat and chops! They've invited us to come in and play at their clubhouse, though we haven't set a date yet. They were also interested to learn that two-time USA Cadet Team Member Tong Tong Gong lives about 15 minutes from Orioles Park, and may invite him to come in and hit with them. (Tong Tong doesn't know this yet!)

I've been an Orioles fan since 1972, when I was 12, so it was an exhilarating experience hitting with these two. They were extremely nice, and very fast learners. When I made adjustments to their strokes, both picked them up fast, though they'll need more practice to ingrain the changes. You could see how their baseball skills transferred to table tennis with their fast reflexes and ability to learn new skills quickly. Both could react to my best smashes and loop kills. They didn't most back, but they got their rackets on them over and over, and JJ made some nice blocks. Some of you may remember Brady's range as a center fielder. Well, you could see both when he ranged around playing his all-forehand game, and when I taught him how to lob. He'd never done this, but he picked it up very quickly, and with me smashing at 80% speed to his forehand he was not only lobbing ball after ball, but he began counter-smashing, making the shot over half the time.

I gave them both autographed copies of three of my books: Table Tennis: Steps to Success, Table Tennis Tales and Techniques, and Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. They gave the kids autographed copies of baseball cards, and offered free tickets to games. We'll take them up on that sometime soon.

All in all, a great day at MDTTC. The kids have a great story to tell at the school, as well as lots of pictures.

World Championships

They started yesterday, in Paris, May 13-20. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, articles, pictures, etc.

Team USA at Worlds

Here's the USA Team at the Worlds Page, which shows up-to-date results and video.

ITTF Sports Science Congress

Here's Donn Olsen's report on the Congress, with lots of stuff of interest to coaches and players.

Table Tennista

Table Tennista has lots of Worlds coverage.

Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov Training

Here's a video (1:47) of these two Germans training for the Worlds taken just yesterday. (Timo is the lefty.) They are ranked #5 and #7 in the world, the two highest Europeans in the rankings.

Rally of the Month

Here's a video (23 sec) of a great video between two kids in the last point of their match.

Pongcast Episode 26

Here's the video (3:45). In this episode: Killerspin promotes table tennis in high schools, Ariel Hsing plays with her friends Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, plus Zhang Jike and Liu Guoliang give us insight on their careers, relationship with each other, and hopes for the future.

The Four Elements of Match Basics

Here's the article - the elements are serve, receive, first attack, and first block.

Degree Deodorant

Here's a video (33 sec) of a new commercial for Degree Deodorant that features table tennis. It shows up 11 and 26 seconds in, both times for about 3 seconds.  

Kasumi Ishikawa Photo Shoot

Here's a rather funny video (23 sec) of Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan during a photo shoot taken just this morning at the Worlds. She's not used to doing these shots without a ball! Ishikawa finished fourth at the 2012 Olympics in Women's Singles (just one short of a medal!), but got the Silver Medal in Women's Teams. She is currently #8 in the world, but reached #5 for two months last year.

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May 13, 2013

Tip of the Week

Beat Weaker Players with Fundamentals.

Coaching Opponent to Victory

I had an interesting practice match with one of our top juniors this past weekend. Going into the match he appeared irritated and tense. Against someone like that all you have to do is vary your shots like crazy - placement, depth, spins, etc. - and watch him fall apart. He was too irritated to even think, and served short to my backhand over and over, which isn't smart - I'm very good there, where I can push short or long, and flip either regular or banana flip (with extra topspin or sidespin). I often messed him up by faking a long push to the backhand and at the last second dropping it short to his forehand. When he guarded against the short ball to the forehand I'd flip to his backhand, taking his service game away. I won the first game 11-3. (I'd also beaten him I think 3-0 the last three times we'd played.)

Between games I went over and asked him what was wrong. He said he'd just lost to someone else and was playing poorly. I told him the obvious - that he had to forget previous matches and focus on his current match. However, more important, I gave him practical ways to do this. I told him to take a walk around the court and not stop walking until his head was clear. Then I told him that once his head was clear, he needed something else to think about so he wouldn't be thinking about his previous match - and of course in table tennis the best thing is to think about tactics. So I told him focus on what serves he was using against me, since the way he'd been serving obviously wasn't working. (Note that you should think about tactics between points, but once the point starts, you have to stop thinking and let the subconscious take over, including tactical play. Serving is the one time where you can easily make a conscious tactical decision, i.e. what serve to use.)

Three things happened. First, the rest of the match he played the best I'd seen him play in months. Second, he began to use smarter serves, mixing in short serves to my forehand and long ones to my backhand, and once I was focused on those two (not easy), he mixed in short ones to the middle, often no-spin. He also pulled two new serves on me he'd been working on, a reverse backhand serve and a reverse forehand pendulum serve. And third, he won three straight games. (And I was playing pretty well!)

JJ Hardy

Today I'm giving a private lesson to the Baltimore Orioles star shortstop, JJ Hardy. When and where I won't disclose until afterwards so the place won't be swarmed by paparazzi, not to mention table tennis/baseball fans. (Only exception - junior players who contact me can come watch and get autographs.) I'll give a full report tomorrow.

Spam Count

As noted in my blog last Tuesday, I was getting hit with so much spam that I had to finally institute a registration system where I had to approve all accounts before they went active. For perspective, since I started this one week ago, I've had 377 account requests, of which about ten were legitimate. Without the approval system, all the rest of those would have registered and started posting automatic spam all over the place, in the comment section of the blog and in the forum.

Three Reasons Not to Serve Short

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

World Championships

They start today, in Paris, May 13-20. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, articles, pictures, etc.

Chinese Training Before the World Table Tennis Championships

Here's great video (1:56) of the Chinese team training at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria as they prepare for the Worlds. (From 1:27 to 1:32 you can see Donn Olsen, a USA coach, taking notes in a corner.) Here's another page at Table Tennis Daily with a number of videos of the Chinese team training.

U.S. Open Deadline Extended

The deadline is now May 21, with a late deadline of May 24 (the latter requiring a $75 late fee). Here's the U.S. Open page. You can also see the list of currently entered players, either by event or alphabetically.

Bill Gates to Help Promote Table Tennis in U.S.

Here's the article in the China Daily's USA version (in English) - but why is it in a Chinese paper?

Lindenwood Head Coach Wanted

Want to be a College Table Tennis Coach? Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Missouri, is looking for one. Info is here. Strangely it doesn't give salary offered or any contact info, but I found that separately - if interested, you contact Mike Elam, Director of Student Life Sports.


Here's the blog of USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh for the week May 6-10. I think this is new - I don't see previous entries. (He has been doing a bi-monthly CEO Report, which was published in USATT Magazine.)

ITTF President Sharara to do United Nationals Presentation

Adham Sharara, ITTF President, has been invited to attend the Third International Forum on Sport for Peace and Development to be held at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th June 2013. He will make a presentation during Session IV which is dedicated to the theme Sport and Social Development Legacies; the scheduled time for the address is from 10.00am on Thursday 6th June. Here's the article.

Lefty Ma Long

Here's a video (56 sec) of China's Ma Long (a righty) smashing left-handed against teammate Wang Liqin's lobs (he's playing his normal right-handed), where they change sides twice, during practice sessions as they prepare for the Worlds. Yes, Chinese team members like to goof off during practice breaks.

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