Short Serves

October 28, 2014

Tip of the Week

Defensive or Offensive Returns of Short Serves.

South Shore Open

I returned late last night from the South Shore Open in Indiana - an 11-hour drive. I have a lot to write about it, but I've also got a todo list that goes from here to Pluto. So I'm going to write about some other stuff today (the Tip of the Week and Men's World Cup - mostly linking to articles about it), catch up on other things, and write about the South Shore Open tomorrow. Here are the results of the tournament, care of Omnipong. Great performances by Samson Dubina, the Seemillers (Dan Sr., Dan Jr., and Randy), Nathan Hsu, and others!

Men's World Cup

It finished on Sunday, with Zhang Jike defeating Ma Long in the all-Chinese final. In the semifinals Germany's Timo Boll went seven games with Zhang, while Ma defeated Japan's Jun Mizutani 4-0. So Boll came close to breaking the near-Chinese lock on many of these events. Here's the ITTF Men's World Cup page, with results, articles, and pictures. Here's the ITTF article on USA's Kanak Jha, the youngest player ever to qualify for the World Cup.

However, the news of the event was Zhang's reaction to winning, where he celebrating by kicking and destroying barriers! As a result, the ITTF penalized him the entire $45,000 in prize money he'd just won. Here's the video (27 sec). Here's another video of it (45 sec), from a different angle. Here's a picture from a newspaper. Here's the ITTF's press release, "Zhang Jike Wins ITTF Men's World Cup Amid controversy." Here's Matt Hetherington's blog on this, "ITTF Fine on Zhang Jike No Less Than Absurd." (I haven't had time to really investigate this, but I pretty much agree with Matt and most others on this that the penalty was excessive - as Matt writes, a $5000 fine might be about right.) Here's extensive discussion on this at the Mytabletennis forum.

Zhang issued a statement, saying, "No matter what kind of honour I won today, I didn't handle my celebration with calmness and rationality. For a long time, I have been withstanding a lot of pressure but I shouldn't bring such mood into the arena. I didn't consider the impact on the team and the event itself. I apologise to everyone."

There are a whole series of articles on this at TableTennista:

And here's Mike Mezyan's cartoon artwork on Zhang Jike's barrier breaking!

World Cadet Challenge

It started yesterday in Barbados, after three days of training. Here's the ITTF page with results, articles, and pictures. USA players competing (on the North American team, combined with Canada) are Kanak Jha (who flew in from the World Cup), Jack Wang, Crystal Wang, and Amy Wang. Crystal was featured in an ITTF article.

Super-Fast Down-the-Line Serves and a Serving Device

Here's the video (48 sec) - I want one of these! And you should want a serve like this.

How to Become Your Own Table Tennis Coach

Here's the article from Expert Table Tennis.

Breaking Sidespin Serves - Serving Into a Shoe

Here's the video (2:41). It's both an exhibition trick and something you should learn to do to help develop your serves. If you can't do tricks with your serves, they can't be very tricky, can they? I do this same trick in clinics, though I usually have someone put their racket on the side of the table and spin the ball one way so that it curves back and bounces on the paddle.

Ask the Coach and Should Zhang Jike Keep His Prize Money?

Here's the latest Ask the Coach feature from PingSkills, Episode 16 (12:10). Below are the questions. At the end they ask the question on whether Zhang Jike should keep his $45,000 prize money from the Men's World Cup after his barrier-destroying episode. You can see the responses underneath.

  • Question 1: I have a friend that can do a serve, almost as fast as a drive and low just about above the net hitting near the edge of the table, chances of countering it are slim, most of the time the my shot goes high. How do you do and counter this serve? Jigo
  • Question 2: I'm interested in a stroke that I'm probably inventing as I've never seen it used. You know the backhand block executed with the wrist movement when the bat curves the ball, I'm wondering if the same stroke can be executed on the forehand side. Eugene S
  • Question 3: What is the most important aspect in table tennis? Is the service, or the return, or the footwork, or the third ball attack, or the speed, or the spin or any other? Kaustubh
  • Question 4: I've noticed that in table tennis, a lot of the professional players wipe the top corner of the table every now and then. I wouldn't have thought that they would use that bit of table very often. Do you know why this is? Kai Ball
  • Question 5: What is the best penhold rubber mark?
  • PingSkillers Question of the Day: Should Zhang Jike receive his prize money for winning the World Cup?

Nathan Hsu in China

As some readers might have figured out, Nathan is back in the U.S. (he just won 18 & Under and Under 2450 and made the QF of the Open at the South Shore Open), but he's editing these videos from his three months training there starting in July. Here's the latest episode - Quadricycle!? - China Day 48 Part 2 (10:00).

Sandwich Racket

I have no idea if this "sandwich" racket is legal, but I sure want one!

Waldner-Appelgren Exhibition

Here's 32 seconds of Jan-Ove Waldner and Mikael Appelgren doing an exhibition for a law firm.

Table Tennis TV Comedy - "The Kings of Queens"

In my last blog I linked to a "German" TV comedy that featured table tennis. However, as emailed to me by Grant Vogl, it turns out the clip was actually from the TV show "The Kings of Queens," which ran on CBS from 1998-2007. The original was in English, which was dubbed in German in the version linked before. Here's the original in English - the table tennis starts at 1:11. Grant also explained that the clip was from Season 6, Episode 3, titled "King Pong (20:39). Earlier in the show (as Grant emailed), Arthur (Doug's father-in-law) surprises Doug with his ping-pong prowess (1:36). Later on, Carrie (Doug's wife) defeats Doug and Doug then asks Arthur to train him. This leads to Arthur training Doug to use a wooden spoon (1:49) so that "the paddle will seem like the size of Texas." Ultimately, Doug defeats Carrie in glorious fashion. However, as shown in the episode, Carrie later proves to Doug that she was just letting him win. Doug has a hard time dealing with this, declares that the ping-pong issue is "gonna ruin everything," and in the humor of the show, considers the possibility that it will lead to divorce unless Doug defeats Carrie "for real."

Viking Pong

Here's the cartoon!

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June 6, 2014

Short Serves and Half-Long Serves

Most players serve long, over and over. A short serve is one where, if given the chance, the second bounce would be on the table, while with a long serve it goes off. So long serves are easier to attack by looping, while short serves, if kept low, are harder to attack, and are usually pushed back. (Unless it's a short sidespin or topspin serve, without backspin, in which case it's usually flipped – but most players can't serve short this way except at higher levels. Here's a related article, Serving Short with Spin. Here's another, Serving Low. Here's one on long serves, Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves.)

It's important to be able to serve both long and short. If you only serve long, stronger players will start attacking your serves. If you only serve short, it becomes predictable and you'll win fewer points outright on the serve. (The serves that win outright the most tend to be long, breaking serves. But if overdone, and at higher levels, they get attacked. Short serves don't win as many points outright, but they set up a third-ball attack more often.) 

Many players go the other extreme, serving too short. I was watching one of our top juniors play a match recently and noticed that his opponent was taking the serve right off the bounce, and either returning it at wide angles or dropping it short. The junior couldn't get any good attacks off his serve. I watched closely, and realized that his serves were too short. The second bounce, given the chance, would have been well over the table. Because they were so short, the opponent was able to both rush him and angle him with quick pushes and flips, as well as drop the ball short with ease. By serving a little bit longer, the opponent would have to contact the ball later, and would be less effective at rushing and angling the server, or at dropping it short. 

So work on your short serves so that the second bounce is as close to the end-line as possible. There are exceptions - sometimes you want an extra short serve to make the opponent lean over the table, especially short to the forehand. And you also might want to serve sometimes where the second bounce would go slightly off the end, forcing the receiver to make a split-second judgment on whether he can attack it, while forcing him to contact the ball even later. If he does try to loop it, it's often a very soft loop that you can counter-attack. (If they loop it hard, then the serve probably went too long or too high.)

USATT's New Rating Platform and the USATT League

Last night I wrote a rather long segment about the USATT's new rating platform, pointing out more problems with it and again urging USATT to go back to the old platform until the new one is functional. It was not going to be a complimentary blog. I was also involved in a number of late night emailing/messaging sessions about this – a lot of people were urging the same. Result? This morning the old ratings platform is back. So I'll put my previous words in another file and hopefully forget about them. (Fortunately I also wrote out the blog item above on Short Serves and Half-Long Serves, and planned to run that first anyway. Normally I do all the blogging in the morning.) Thank you USATT for fixing the problem. 

So now we can relax and give RailStation and USATT time to perfect their new platform, and if their smart, turn it into something that'll be an actual improvement.

One small mistake - the first line of the explanation says, "This site is being replaced by the one at http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis/Ratings." But this links right back to the ratings page it's on rather than the new ratings platform from RailStation. I've emailed the USATT Webmaster about this and it'll likely be fixed.

One thing I am worried about. RailStation is supposed to also take over the USATT League and its rating system. This is one of those relatively successful programs that flies under the radar until something goes wrong. Currently every month about 45 leagues play about 6000 rated USATT league matches, which is about the same number as USATT tournament matches. (Last month 44 leagues played 5818 league matches; some months have as many as 57 active leagues.) If something goes wrong with this, there are going to be a lot of unhappy league directors and players. (The USATT League was created in 2003 and was originally intended to become a team league as well, but USATT had no interest at the time and so it's become a singles league only.)

Long Pimples for Beginners

Here's an interesting article that explains and graphically shows (with animation) how Long Pips work.

Training Graph

Here's a training graph that applies both to table tennis and all other sports. Follow it closely.

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. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fourteen down, 86 to go!

  • Day 87: Striving to Be Ranked in the Top 5 in All We Do

Great Point

Here's video (44 sec) of a great point between Ma Long and Timo Boll. Timo's on the near side defending most of the point before the tables get turned.

RIP Johnny Leach

The 1949 and 1951 World Men's Singles Champion and one of the greatest choppers in history has died at age 91. Here's the article.

Zhang Jike Won't Allow His Future Children to Play Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Table Tennis Dance Moves

Here's the pictures and other ones from the China Open.

Baby Pong

Here's the picture. As you can see he's returning a short ball to his forehand. To do so he's loosened his grip and tilted the racket backwards with the obvious intent of flipping down the line to the opposing baby's backhand. He's also stepped in over the table with his right leg to get maximum reach toward the ball. Both eyes are focused intently on the ball, something we should all emulate. His left ear is thrust out and extended, allowing him to pick up on the sounds of the ball, which give him clues as to the ball's spin and speed, and, along with his right ear (not visible), allows him to triangulate the position of the ball acoustically. Since he's a relative beginner, he has extremely thin sponge on his racket, allowing maximum control. He has a wide stance allowing quick side-to-side scooting. His left arm rests comfortably on his leg, keeping it rested so it'll be ready for a rapid and powerful rotation as he pulls with his left side on follow-up forehand loops. He's using a legal ITTF certified mouth gear, allowing proper protection of teeth when he clenches his teeth in tense moments of a rally and when he's teething. The long-sleeved shirt keep his playing arm warm during long training sessions in cold weather. All in all, I'd say very nice form and kudos to his coach.

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