Reading Service Spin; 2014 USA Team Trials; ITTF Pongcast; TT in Slow Motion; Two-Table Footwork; Robot TT; Dell Sweeris; Judah Friedlander; Xu Shaofa ball; Rich Burnside; Switch Hands; Around Net; Mario Balotelli; Checkers Optical Illusion; Adam Bobrow;

March 10, 2014

Tip of the Week

Reading Service Spin.

USA National Team Trials

Here's the home page, with results, video, and pictures. Congratulations to 2014 US National Team Members! They are, in order of finish:

Women: Lily Zhang, Prachi Jha, Crystal Wang, Erica Wu

Men: Timothy Wang, Adam Hugh, Yahao Zhang, and Jim Butler

There will also be a fifth "coach's picks," which I'm guessing will be Angela Guan or Tina Lin on the women's side, and Kanak Jha on the men's side.(I'm assuming they will go for younger players.) 

Thanks to all the people who helped run the Trials - to mostly quote the Trials page, thank you Texas Wesleyan University, Jasna Rather for the great hospitality and facilities, and many thanks to the USATT Staff, Referees, Umpires, Commentators, Volunteers and David Del Vecchio for making the web stream possible.

I watched some of the live streaming. I mostly watched players from my club, in particular Crystal Wang, who made the team at the age of twelve, the youngest U.S. team member ever - see below. (She's from my club. While I've worked with her before and have coached her a number of times at tournaments, her primary coach is Jack Huang.) I also watched some of the others. As a coach, I'm constantly updating my technical analysis of each player, and I learned a few things about a few players that I added to my ever-growing notes.

The Trials ended with one of the best matches, a great battle between Yahao Zhang and Jim Butler for the third spot on the team. While there's not that big a difference between finishing third or fourth, the two really went at it, with Yahao finally winning 11-9 in the seventh. I've noticed sort of a cycle for Jim. When he first came out of retirement in his early forties a year or so ago, few knew how to play his somewhat unique style, which was based on serves, a big backhand smash, and ball control. And so many players struggled with him. Then they began to figure him out, either by playing him or seeing him play, and had less trouble. But now Jim, pushed to play well, often is forced to raise his level of play - and so while we don't often see the 2700+ Jim Butler of the 90s, we often see flashes of it, especially after he's played a bunch of matches where he's getting pushed hard.

The Trials format was as follows. On Day One, they played single elimination, with the winner clinching the #1 spot on the team. Seeding on Day Two was based on results from Day One, and once again they played single elimination, with the winner clinching the #2 spot on the team. On Day Three, with seeding again based on the previous day, they played one more single elimination, with the winner clinching the #3 spot, and the runner-up the #4 spot.

I think the story going into the Trials were the two junior phenoms, Kanak Jha (13) and Crystal Wang (12). Kanak, after his Nationals performance, was seeded #1 at 2614 to #2 Timothy Wang's 2601. Alas, it wasn't to be for Kanak this time as he ran into Timothy in the final on Friday, losing 4-1. But that made him the player to beat the rest of the way. However, he ran into Shao Yu both days, in the first round on Saturday (round of sixteen), and in the quarterfinals on Sunday, and lost 4-2 and 4-1. Shao Yu's pips-out backhand controlled the match as Shao snapped in shots all over the table. So Kanak was out - but as mentioned above, will likely be the coach's pick for the fifth spot.

Crystal had turned twelve less than two weeks before the Trials began. She came in with a rating of 2395, but since that came from a tournament she'd played in that only got processed on the Thursday night before the tournament, she was seeded seventh at 2304. (At 2395, she would have been seeded #3, two rating points below Judy Hugh.) And so she faced #1 seed Lily Zhang in the quarterfinals on Friday, losing 4-1. Lily went on to clinch the #1 spot, with a 4-3 battle over Tina Lin in the semifinals, and 4-1 in the final over Erica Wu.

On Saturday, Crystal and Prachi Jha had a titanic struggle in the quarterfinals. Crystal won the first two easily; Prachi won the next two easily, and pulled out the fifth 11-9. Up 3-2 and leading 7-1 in the sixth, it looked like Prachi was going to win, but Crystal came back to win in deuce. In the seventh, with Crystal up 8-5, it looked like she was going to win, but Prachi won the last six points to win the game and advance. She would go on to clinch the #2 spot, winning 4-0 against Judy Hugh in the semifinals and 4-1 over Angela Guan in the final.

On Sunday, Crystal went on a rampage. She won 4-0 in the first round over Tia Hsieh, 4-1 over Tina Lin (and her ferocious backhand smash) in the quarterfinals, 4-0 over in the semifinals over chopper Angela Guan, and 4-2 in the final over Erica Wu, thereby clinching the #3 spot on the team, with Erica getting the #4 spot.

At the time Crystal clinched her spot, she was exactly twelve years and fourteen days old. Is she the youngest player ever to make the U.S. team? Or the Women's Team? I put in a call to USATT Historian Tim Boggan yesterday afternoon, and literally minutes ago as I write this he emailed back verifying that she was the youngest. Offhand he had told me he knew of only two possible players who might have made the team at ages near that - Patty Martinez in the 1960s, and someone from the early 1950s.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast

Here's the video (12:08), covering ITTF events in February.

Table Tennis in Slow Motion

Here's the video (5:19) showing numerous world-class player. You can learn a lot by watching in slow motion, where you see things you miss at full speed.

Two-Table Footwork

Here's the video (2:24).

More Robot Table Tennis

Here's an article with links to a video (3:00) as well as to a repeating GIF image that shows the new DIY ping pong robot UHTTR-1 in action.

Dell Sweeris vs. Judah Friedlander

Here's an article with picture on these two titans playing (with a link to a 90-sec video). One's a USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame player; the other is the "World Champion." (They are promoting the upcoming U.S. Open in Grand Rapids.)

Testing the Xu Shaofa Seamless Poly Ball

Here's the video (7:13) as the ball is tested by "The Junkyard" (that's Rich Burnside, near side) and Sutanit Tangyingyong, chopper/looper. It looks and sounds like a regular ball.

Switch Hands, Around-the-Net Countersmash, Win on Net Dribble Point

Here's the video (1:08, but mostly from replaying point on slow-motion).

Soccer Star in Trouble for Playing Table Tennis While Injured

Here's the story, about AC Milan star Mario Balotelli.

Table Tennis Checkers Optical Illusion

Here's the video (16 sec) of the ball, racket, and table, all blending in together, with a little singing of "My Achy, Breaky Heart" thrown by Adam Bobrow. And here are dozens of pictures of it!

Futurama Ping-Pong

Here are two repeating GIF images from this futuristic space cartoon. Here's Fry vs. Bender (the robot) playing table tennis. And here's Fry and Amy, combined into one person, playing by themselves. There's a third ping-pong scene on the show in the "The Beast with a Billion Backs" four-episode shows, where Bender pulls a diorama from his chest showing him playing table tennis with Calculon. (It's misspelled in the article as "Calaculon.") I saw it, and it's mentioned in this episode description.

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