2014 NA Championships

September 3, 2014

Playing Off-Table Two-Winged Topspinners

A top player messaged me asking me how to play against a player who is relatively solid on both sides and takes a step back from the table, allowing him to deal with opponent's attacks. Here's my response. It's a general response as I haven't seen the opponent in question, but is the general way to play these types of players.

  1. Bring him in with short serves and short receives, and then get him with your first attack before he can get into his comfortable off-table pocket. Since these players hang off the table, attacking their serve often plays right into their game.
  2. Because he plays off the table, you have more time to get your forehand into position, especially into his wide backhand and middle. He's unlikely to beat you in a counterlooping duel between his backhand and your forehand. [Note - or any other forehand attack against his backhand off the table.] However, don't relentlessly go after the backhand - make sure to go there and to the middle. Players like this often seem vulnerable to the corners, but in reality they usually cover that area pretty well. So often really go after their middle until you have a clear winner to a corner. This was one of the reasons Lupulesku was so successful for years despite backing off the table so much - players relentlessly went after his wide backhand and didn't go after his middle nearly enough.
  3. Change the pace, with either softer loops or soft blocks. Find out early which side he's more vulnerable to a change of pace. This is where a chop block can be valuable.

While this was addressed for a top player (2400+), it's true for all levels. At lower levels this type of player backs off the table and more or less fishes the ball back over and over with soft and late counter-drives with a little topspin, and can seem like a wall, but the principles above follow just as much as for top players - except there's less threat of counter-attack, and so changing the pace (#3 above) is probably even more effective. 

"I am Groot"

On Friday I had a coaching session with an 8-year-old. He hadn't seen the movie "Guardians of the Galaxy," but had seen some sort of cartoon version of it, and so knew the characters - and in particular, knew the catchphrase of the giant tree creature Groot. (For those of you who have lived under a ping-pong table the last month, the only thing Groot ever says is, "I am Groot" - but that's only to human ears. In reality, by varying the inflection, it's an entire language.) So for the last ten minutes all of my coaching commands were "I am Groot," but with inflection and hand motions so he understood, once he got over his initial giggles. 

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan just finished doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. And yesterday she finished - one hundred down, zero to go! However, she had two more articles she wanted to put in regarding new ITTF President Thomas Weikert, and so here they are - Days 1+ and 2+!

As of Monday, the Deputy is the President

Besides the two articles above, here is another ITTF article on new ITTF president Thomas Weikert.

Thomas Weikert

So what do we really know about new ITTF President Thomas Weikert? As usual, we turn to anagrams. And what do they tell us? We know he's going to try very hard to be worthy, since "Make Worthiest" is an anagram of his name. But we must be cautious as some believe he and Sharara worked together to bring about his presidency - as "Teamwork Heist" is another. He may not be worthy of the role as "Shoemaker Twit" is another. In fact, he might not be the best person named Tom for the job as "This Weaker Tom" is another. (And the ITTF Board of Directors does have a Thomas Kiggundu from Uganda.) We might even worry that he'll bring decay to the presidency as "Him Weakest Rot" is another. And the guy might not be a hard worker since "Hate Work Items" is another. Finally, for religious table tennis players, beware the new direction of our sport - for "Ow - Atheist Trek" is another!

North American Championships - Juniors

Here's a new ITTF article about the North American Championships this past weekend that features the Under 18 winners - Jack Wang and Crystal Wang. The article also talks about Crystal's training at MDTTC, my club. I'm one of the other coaches who has worked with Crystal over the years, though I worked with her more when she was younger than in recent times, where she works mostly with her primary coach (Jack Huang) and one-on-one with our top practice partner/coaches. (I do coach her in some major tournaments, such as when she won the North American Hopes Trials last year.) On a side note, for those of you who read this article when it first went up yesterday morning, there was a mistake in the original version, where it had Crystal as being from the LYTTC - but that was corrected as the player from LYTTC was Amy Wang, not Crystal. (I emailed them about this almost immediately after the article went up!)

Butterfly North American Champions

Here's a Butterfly photo layout that features 14 of their players/champions from the North American Championships. (Disclaimer: I'm also sponsored by Butterfly.)

Easy Table Tennis Essentials

Here's a table tennis music video (1:57) from a couple of years ago that I don't think I ever ran.

Mime Your Own Business

Here's another video (3:06) from the Tumba Ping Pong Show. It features table tennis (see background, where someone is smacking people with balls) for the first 35 seconds, but no table tennis after that.

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September 1, 2014

Tip of the Week

How to Execute a Fast Serve.

Disabled Veterans Camp

Friday was the final day of our four-day Disabled Veterans Camp. It was an honor working with these servicemen. I'd like to thank them for all the hard work they put in, both in uniform and at the camp! I'd also like to thank the USOC and USATT, the Department of Veteran Affairs, MDTTC officer Wen Hsu, and especially Jasna Reed, USATT's Director of Para Programs. 

The focus for the day was backhand attack - smashing, and backhand drive and loop against backspin. We started off by putting the players in six stations, and rotated them every 7.5 minutes. I fed multiball so players could work on their backhand attack against backspin. Steve Hochman had them serve backspin, he'd push it back, they'd backhand attack, and the rally would continue backhand to backhand. Sameer Shaikh had them do backhand-forehand footwork, side to side. Ram Nadmichettu worked on their pushes. Plus I set up the serving bar on the robot table so players could practice serving low. (This is an adjustable bar that goes over the net. Here's a picture of it set high, and here's a picture of it set low. John Olsen made this for our club. It has about ten height settings.) 

Next up was equipment and playing styles. I brought out my "show and tell" super-large racket case, which contains six rackets: an all-around hardbat racket; a pips-out penhold racket; a shakehands racket with inverted and short pips; a shakehands racket with inverted and antispin; and two shakehands rackets with inverted on one side and long pips on the other, one with thin sponge (chopping racket), the other no sponge (pushblocking racket). I went over each of the surfaces and now to play against them, as well as various playing styles that commonly use them. I was planning on some doubles play, but we ran into time problems, and so I only gave a short lecture on doubles tactics. We finished with up-down tables, where they played 11-point games, with the winning moving up, the "runner-up" moving down, with the goal to reach the first table. Steve and Sameer joined in, spotting points to most of them to equalize things. 

It was one of the more fun camps to coach. We used to run senior camps at MDTTC for players over age 50 (and over 40 if they were "old of heart"!). But in recent years the camps we've run were mostly for juniors, where we go easy on the lectures, and there are few questions. This camp was more like the senior camps, with lots of questions and discussion. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Table Tennis

I went to see the movie on Saturday, and despite the mostly negative reviews, I kind of liked it. Out of the blue there was a table tennis scene! The four turtles were being punished for refusing to tell their sensei, Splinter (a giant rat) why they had sneaked out. Each had to spend many hours in some uncomfortable position doing something. Donatello, the smartest of the turtles (the one with the purple mask) was punished by being forced to hold ping-pong paddles in both hands and bounce a ping-pong ball back and forth for hours, while standing on a block of wood that's balanced precariously on a basketball. I've searched but was unable to find a video or picture of this.

North American Championships

They were held this past weekend in Mississauga, Canada. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the USATT page with lots of video. Note how Canada dominated all the Men's and Women's events, while USA dominated all the junior events. Also, see the final of Junior Boys' Teams, where USA won 3-0 - but in all three matches the USA player was down 0-2 before winning in five, with each pulling out at least one deuce game. One thing I didn't like about the format was that players could only enter one singles event, which hurt USA, since essentially all the players on the USA Boys' and Girls' team would have been competitive in Men's and Women's Singles but were not allowed to compete. Congrats to all the Champions - see below!

  • Men's Singles: Eugene Wang (CAN)
  • Women's Singles: Mo Zhang (CAN)
  • Junior Boys: Jack Wang (USA)
  • Junior Girls: Crystal Wang (USA)
  • Men's Teams: CAN (Pierre-Luc Theriault, Filip Ilijevski, Xavier Therien)
  • Women's Teams: CAN (Mo Zhang, Anqi Luo, Sara Yuen)
  • Junior Boys' Teams: USA (Kanak Jha, Kunal Chodri, Krish Avvari)
  • Junior Girls' Teams: USA (Angela Guan, Prachi Jha, Crystal Wang)

New ITTF President Thomas Weikert

Here's the ITTF press release. He took office on Sept. 1 and becomes only the seventh ITTF president since its founding in 1926. He succeeds Adham Sharara, who was president for 15 years. Here's the TableTennista story, which mostly features Sharara. 

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan just finished doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. And today she finishes - one hundred down, zero to go!

Zhang Jike's Serve

Here's the video (3:25).

Slow Motion TT

Here's the video (25 sec) - some nice shots, and you get to see footwork in slow motion. That's Ernesto Ebuen on the left.

Trend: Playing Table Tennis to Enhance Brain Fitness and Mental Health

Here's the article. Well, yeah!

Scientists Teach Ping-Pong Robots to Master Spin

Here's the article. Prepare to meet our future Masters. 

Ice Bucket Challenge

Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers Play TT for Charity

Here's the article and video (2:43).

Six Seconds of Very Strange Rallying!

Here's the video.

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