July 8, 2013

Tip of the Week

Expect to Win.

U.S. Open

As usual I didn't get to see many of the big Men's and Women's matches - I was busy coaching the MDTTC juniors. I was mostly coaching Derek Nie, Sameer Shaikh, sometimes Nathan Hsu, and occasionally others such as Crystal Wang. I flew out on Monday morning, and returned on a red-eye flight that left late Saturday night - it didn't actually take off until after midnight, so it was technically Sunday morning. I landed at BWI airport around 8AM. I'd left my car at the airport so I could drive myself and three others home. I didn't get home until around 10AM.

Here's the USATT page that has links to results, articles, pictures, video, etc.

Here's a rundown of interesting happenings. (It's rather rushed as I have to finish in time to coach at the MDTTC camp this morning. More tomorrow!)

  • Derek Nie's play. He played great. His attacks were fluid and consistent, his recently-developed topspinning backhand in rallies were jumping off the table and rarely missing, his forehand was clicking, and probably best of all, his receive was excellent - backhand banana flips, forehand regular flips, and short and long pushes. Over and over he had opponents practically falling over the table trying to get to his short push, which kept setting up his attack. He came in rated 2261, and beat four players rated between 2334 and 2361. He also had a bad loss to a 2134 player (knocking him out of Under 13), when he had great difficulty with a specific serve over and over. After losing the first two, he won the third and fourth, both 11-4, and seemed on his way to winning, but it's tough coming back from down 0-2, and in the fifth he faltered and lost.
  • Funniest incident. Derek Nie, 12, who's about 4'6" and 65 pounds but has a rating of 2261, was waiting at the table to play a match. I watched as the opponent arrived and stepped into the court, carrying the clipboard. He looked over at Derek, then looked down at the clipboard, where it had Derek's name and rating. Then he looked at Derek again then back at the clipboard. His head moved back and forth at least ten times as he kept looking at the name and rating on the clipboard and the player he was about to play - he obviously was having a hard time believing this was the 2250+ player he was playing! He finally asked, "Are you Derek?" Derek nodded. The player stared at the clipboard one more time, then smiled and went out to play. (Derek won easily over the shell-shocked but much lower rated opponent.)
  • Best Learning Experience. I walked into the ITTF arena, and on the very first practice table was Eugene Wang, the defending (and soon repeating) U.S. Open Men's Singles Champion. He was practicing his serves and backhand banana flip (where you flip the ball with great topspin and sidespin). Players and coaches were walking back and forth completely oblivious to the chance to watch. I sat down and watched for twenty minutes. Wang noticed, and even nodded at me a few times after he made some nice backhand flips. I wish I could have had some of our MDTTC players there to watch.
  • Over 50 Hardbat Doubles. Jay Turberville and I won!!! In the final we defeated Jeff Johnson and Scott Gordon (-15, 10, 15), who had won Open Hardbat Doubles. However, I've decided to retire from tournament play - too many conflicts with my coaching duties (I even defaulted out of Open Hardbat because of a coaching conflict), I keep getting injured (I aggravated my back injury this tournament, though fortunately it's not too bad), plus I'm simply not as good as I used to be - I've lost much of my foot speed, which is pretty important if you're a 53-year-old all-out forehand attacker. I normally use sponge, but mostly retired from that a few years ago, and only play hardbat (and occasionally sandpaper) events.
  • Most interesting quote. "You're a liar and a fraud! Why haven't you called the authorities to make [name withheld] stop playing loud music when he plays table tennis?" A very angry and confused person yelled this and similar versions at me over and over. I was clueless about what he was talking about.
  • Two Best Shots. I played in the Sandpaper Open. In one game there were two incredible shots. First, my opponent mishit a smash that went off the side of the table to my extremely wide backhand. It hit the net post, six inches outside the table - and bounced back on the table! I was already way over to make the return, but relaxed as it went off the side - only to see it bounce back as an unreturnable winner to my wide forehand! Not to be outdone, about two points later he again smashed a ball to my wide backhand, and this one hit. I was out of position toward my forehand side, and lunged for the ball. With my back to the table and my racket tilted straight up, and made an over-the-shoulder counter-hit for a winner!
  • Strangest Let Ball Controversy. I was watching an umpired match between two top juniors. One of them served, and the other caught the ball, saying it was a let since the ball had hit the net. The umpire didn't see it, and gave the point to the server. (I'm not sure what the server thought.) Several in the crowd also said the ball had hit the net, but the umpire can't take that into account. (The spectators could be biased.) Astoundingly, I'm told this happened three different times in the match! When there is no umpire, the players call the lets. When there is an umpire, the umpire calls the lets. Often players will still call lets in an umpired match, but it's risky if the umpire disagrees.
  • Final Autograph versus Tong Tong Count. I usually coach Tong Tong Gong at big tournaments, but he's busy this summer taking college classes (at age 15!) and doing volunteer work, and so didn't make it to the open. Over and over during the Open players asked me about Tong Tong. Players also kept bringing me copies of my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers to sign. In the end I signed 19 copies of the book, and 14 people asked about Tong Tong, so I "won," 19-14. (Derek Nie also signed three copies under a picture of himself in it.)
  • Most Fun. On Saturday afternoon I took a group of the kids swimming, and they spent 90 minutes throwing around a beach ball and chasing each other, all in 110 degree heat. (It had been 115 when we arrived.)
  • Best Coaching Advice. I wasn't scheduled to coach Crystal Wang, but I was watching her play the first game against a strong player rated about 100 points lower. The opponent had some specific weaknesses that Crystal wasn't playing into. I pointed them out to her mom, who asked me to coach her. Crystal pulled out the first, 11-9. After I spoke with her she executed perfectly, and won the next two, 11-3, 11-1. Hopefully, I had a lot of other good coaching advice for others. When Derek began playing really well, the best thing I did coaching-wise was to keep things very simple and just let him play, often just reminding him to vary his serve and receive, and perhaps to attack first to a specific spot.
  • More tomorrow. I have to coach at the MDTTC camp that starts this morning, so have to stop now. I should have more to write about the Open tomorrow.

Returning Serves to the Middle

Here's a video on this (1:33) from PingSkills.

One Myth About Attacking Backspin That You Probably Believe

The question is whether it is easier to attack a backspin ball at the top of the bounce, or even after, when the ball is descending. Here's their answer.

Table Tennis Ethics

Here's an essay on this.

Majestic Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (5:15), set to music with some interesting graphics.

Three Superpowers Table Tennis Can Give You

What are they?

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