Dimitrij Ovtcharov

December 4, 2012

Full-Time Clubs

The biggest change in the game over the past six years or so is the rise of the full-time table tennis club. There were about ten in December 2006 when I did a presentation to USA Table Tennis, trying to convince them to get into the business of recruiting and training of coaches and directors to set up such centers and junior training programs. (Nothing came of that - two board members literally laughed at the idea. I blogged about this on January 4, 2012 while writing about "USA Cadet Depth.") Anyway, since then the number of full-time clubs has skyrocketed as coaches see how others doing them so successfully. Here's my current list of 56 full-time table tennis clubs in the USA.

The biggest stumbling block for those who are setting up these centers is that there is no manual on how to do it. Each time they have to re-invent the wheel. It's not quite that bad - they can see others doing it successfully, and so know it can be done, and they have others to ask advice on how to do it. I don't have time to put one together. (I do way too many volunteer activities already.)

Nearly all of these full-time clubs have copied the rough formula made successful at my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which opened in 1992. We were the first full-time club in the U.S. centered on coaching and training. (There have been others that were league-centered, with part-time coaching, but our emphasis was toward coaching, especially junior training programs.) Many didn't think it would work, arguing that there weren't enough players for a full-time center, similar to the arguments made at the 2006 Board meeting. What they don't understand is the primary point of a full-time center is to attract new players. It is coaching and training that turn recreational players (there are millions of them) into serious players. I'd say "duh," but I've come to learn that this isn't as obvious to many as it is to those who are actively doing it.

I've advised many of those starting these centers, and those I've advised have advised others, and the "how to" of setting up a full-time training center has literally spread word of mouth. Here are a few guidelines.

  1. Center it around the coaches. From a financial point of view, the purpose of the coaches is to bring players in, not to make lots of money off of. You want coaches who want lots of students, and will go out and find these students. When they bring in a new student, the club usually gets a new player who buys membership, equipment, refreshments, pays to play in tournaments and leagues, to attend training sessions and/or junior programs, and to attend clinics and camps. That's where the money comes from.
  2. Have multiple coaches. I find you want about one full-time coach for every four tables in the club. So if you have eight tables, you need at least two. If you open a large center with, say, 20 tables, you'll want about five. (Don't bring them all in at once; start with two, then bring more in.) It helps to have at least one "name" coach or player, but that's not that necessary. You can usually build up any good coach as a "name" coach.
  3. Let the coaches make good money. If you want a coach who will work long hours, let him keep the bulk of his money. For example, if the coach charges $50/hour, he keeps $40, the club gets $10. (That's the MDTTC standard.) You want a coach with lots of incentive to bring in lots of students and work those long hours. You don't get that if you do what some clubs have tried, where they keep a high percentage of the coaching fees.
  4. Have multiple revenue sources. The club should get money from membership, coaching fees, training sessions, junior programs, clinics & camps, tournaments, leagues, and equipment and refreshment sales. Make sure the coach understands that he needs to guide interested students towards these programs and sales.
  5. Keep the place clean and neat, with good playing conditions. You don't need a Taj Mahal as long as the place looks neat and clean, with good floors and lighting, and enough room. Put up a few table tennis posters and you're set.

The Rise of Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's an interesting article from ITTF on Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who is now ranked #7 in the world. Along with Timo Boll (#5) and Bastian Steger (#25), is Germany a legitimate threat to the Chinese? More important, how the heck do you pronounce Dimitrij Ovtcharov?

Lily Yip Featured

Here's an article on two-time USA Olympian Lily Yip.

Gal Alguetti's Serve

Here's his last serve in a match at the Teams in Baltimore - not to mention the nice return and Gal's follow! Gal was leading 10-0 at this point against what he described as a 2000 player.

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September 24, 2012

Tip of the Week

Care of Equipment.

Disservice to Juniors Everywhere

I'm going to do a disservice to junior players everywhere and point out something I noticed at the MDTTC tournament this past weekend, though it's something I've mentioned before. When playing these fast and furious juniors (i.e. players that can rally faster than you can), your best option is use serve and receive to get the first attack in, usually with a loop. However, over and over I saw players losing to juniors because they kept opening with crosscourt loops, which the juniors would pounce on. These juniors do a lot of crosscourt hitting, and I think if you even snap your fingers they'll reflexively cover the crosscourt angle. The players that gave them trouble were the experienced ones who would attack down the line with their first shot, and then move to cover the wide crosscourt angle if it came back. Usually they did not.

Butterfly MDTTC September Open

Here are the main results for the MDTTC tournament I ran this weekend. Juniors dominated, with at least one in every final except Under 2350. Here's a rundown, with main results below.

  • The Open was won by 17-year-old Wang Qing Liang over 15-year-old Chen Bo Wen, both player-coaches at MDTTC. In the semifinals they defeated two former Maryland junior stars, Khaleel Asgarali and Raghu Nadmichettu (who would win Under 2350 from down 0-2 in the final to Hung Duy Vo).
  • Roy Ke, 13, won Under 2200 from down 0-2 in the final to Lixin Lang.
  • Anthony (Tony) Qu, 12, won Under 2050 and made the quarterfinals of the Open with a huge upset over fourth-seeded Richard Doverman (2349, 11-9 in the fifth) and Derek Nie (2170, 13-11 in the fifth).
  • Wesley Duan, 12, made the final of both Under 1900 and Under 1650.
  • Kyle Wang, 13, made the final of both Under 1400 and Under 1150.
  • Daniel Yang, 12, won Under 1150.

Butterfly MDTTC September Open
Gaithersburg, MD, Sept. 22-23, 2012
Open - Final: Wang Qing Liang d. Chen Bo Wen, -6,6,9,7,-9,6; SF: Wang d. Khaleel Asgarali, 10,3,8,7; Chen d. Raghu Nadmichettu, 6,7,9,5; QF: Wang d. Nazruddin Asgarali, 8,5,6; K. Asgarali d. Anthony Qu, 4,6,5; Nadmichettu d. Larry Abass, 9,5,12; Chen d. Sutanit Tangyingyong, 4,5,9.
Under 2350 - Final: Raghu Nadmichettu d. Hung Duy Vo, -9,-15,6,11,8; SF: Nadmichettu Lixin Lang, 2,-9,3,7; Vo d. Sutanit Tangyingyong, 5,11,8.
Under 2200 - Final: Roy Ke d. Lixin Lang, -6,-5,4,8,8; SF: Ke d. Nazruddin Asgarali, 6,9,7; Lang d. Sutanit Tangyingyong, 10,-13,5,9.
Under 2050 - Final: Anthony Qu d. John Olsen, 8,4,4; SF: Qu d. Austin Stouffer, 9,5,-9,6; Olsen d. Josiah Chow, 8,-11,12,-4,10.
Under 1900 - Final: Pat Lui d. Wesley Duan, 9,-10,7,4; SF: Lui d. Gahraman Mustafayev, 3,5,3; Duan d. Mohamed Kamara, -4,8,6,-3,7.
Under 1650 - Final: Quang Lam d. Wesley Duan, 8,6,8; SF: Lam d. Tang Yanghang, 16,-7,8,-6,14; Duan d. David Goldstein, -3,9,8,9.
Under 1400 - Final: Ara Sahakian d. Kyle Wang, 9,8,7; SF: Sahakian d. Quang Lam, 10,8,8; Wang d. William Wung, 5,9,7.
Under 1150 - Final: Daniel Yang d. Kyle Wang, 7,8,8; SF: Yang d. Allen Eng, 7,11,12; Wang d. Benjamin Kang, 8,7,7.

Women's World Cup

Here is the home page for the Women's World Cup, which was played this past weekend in Huangshi, China. It includes results, articles, and photos. Congrats to champion Liu Shiwen of China (world #3), who defeated surprise finalist Elizabeta Samara of Romania (world #38) in the final.

Ariel Hsing is a Focused Student

Here's the article from Table Tennista.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov in Training

Here's a short video (0:23) of the German Olympic Bronze Medalist doing a multiball drill. It'll tire you out watching.

Table Tennis Fitness Training

Here is a short video (0:29) of some serious physical training for table tennis. I believe this is in Taiwan.

You Can Play Table Tennis Anywhere

Scenes from Sri Lanka.

Ma Lin versus Roger Federer

Sort of!

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September 5, 2012

Los Angeles Open and Exhibitions

Here are the results, and here's a video of the final (14:53) between Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany (a bronze medallist at the 2012 Olympics in Men's Singles and Teams) and Oh Sang Eun of Korea.

If you watch the match, it becomes clear early on they are basically playing an exhibition. There's been much discussion of this on online forums, and few experienced players disagree with this verdict. (Many lesser-experienced players couldn't tell.) Many have condemned it, and I have to grudgingly agree that it was completely out of line for them to play this way in the final of a major tournament, and right from the start. I have no idea why they did this.

USATT has rules that cover this, under 3.5.3 Good Presentation (and ITTF has nearly identical rules):

3.5.3.1 Players, coaches and officials shall uphold the object of good presentation of the sport; in particular players have to do their utmost to win a match and shall not withdraw except for reasons of illness or injury.

3.5.3.2 Any player who deliberately fails to comply with these principles may be disciplined by total or partial loss of prize money in prize events and/or by suspension from USATT events.

In this particular match, it is obvious the two did not "do their utmost to win [the] match." Are there cases where it is okay to play exhibition in a tournament match? Some would say never, citing both the USATT rules and the general idea that you should always fight to the end. However, many European players have a long history of playing exhibition at the end of a lopsided match, usually instigated by the player losing badly, and usually their opponents (often Chinese) go along with it, since in essence the one losing has given up on the match. (So technically speaking, both sides are playing exhibition, in violation of the rules.) I remember a women's singles final match at the USA Nationals between Gao Jun and Jasna Reed (now Jasna Rather), both known for their backhands, where (if I remember correctly) Gao had already won the first two games in the best of three to 21, and in game three they essentially had a backhand-to-backhand contest (won by Gao in deuce). I don't think anyone complained; that last game was riveting.

I'm guilty as well. About twenty years ago I played David Zhuang in the quarterfinals of the New Jersey Open in a best of five to 21. He won the first two and was well up in the third when I switched to exhibition. We put on a good one (lots of lobbing and counter-smashing, and I jumped the barriers several times while lobbing), but the umpire was very upset at us, even jumping out of his chair and trying to grab the ball while it was in play near the end when I blew a ball back, and again a few points later when David kicked one back. I also once played an impromptu exhibition match with Eric Boggan in front of an audience after I was well down, and once took on Scott Boggan in a pure exhibition-style counterlooping duel. (Note that between them, David, Eric, and Scott have won nine Men's Singles titles at the USA Nationals.) I've played plenty more exhibition points in matches, almost always at the end of lopsided matches.

So I'm on the fence about this one. I think there are circumstances where it's okay for players to play exhibition . . . except there are those pesky USATT rules. . . .

Does Time Slow Down in Table Tennis?

Here's an article in Discover Magazine entitled "Ready steady slow": time slows down when we prepare to move. I've experienced the same phenomenon, especially when returning serves, but also at other times, right as they say - when I'm about to move. How about you?

Is Tahl Leibovitz the Greatest Jewish Athlete You’ve Never Heard Of?

Here's an article in the Jewish Journal about Tahl Leibovitz.

Ping-Pong Cover for iPhone

Want a table tennis cover for you iPhone4? Well, here they are! They come in legal red and black, and illegal green and blue, but only in hard rubber (i.e. pimples out, no sponge). Sorry inverted loopers!

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November 14, 2011

Zhang Jike wins 2011 Men's World Cup

Here's coverage at Table Tennista, a great place to get your table tennis news (besides here!), including many articles translated from Chinese. Zhang was down 0-2 in the final to Wang Hao in the all-China final (what else is new?) before staging his comeback, -7,-7,9,4,5,3. Here's the whole match in just 13:49, with the time between points removed. (Note - this was originally linked to their match at the 2010 World Cup; it didn't get corrected until Monday night at 7PM.) Here's the ITTF home page for the Men's World Cup, with results, articles, and photos.

World Cup 2011: Zhang Jike (CHN) vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER)

One of the best matches of the 2011 World Cup was the Zhang-Ovtcharov match in the preliminaries. Both had already defeated the other two in the group (), and were playing for positioning in the final draw of eight players. Here's is the entire match in just 7:50, with the time between points removed. Zhang comes from behind 0-2 and 1-3 to win deuce in the seventh, -10,-7,5,-8,5,8,10. This is a great match to study. Watch how they vary their serves and receives.

Also note how Ovtcharov often serves backhand to the forehand side (see first point), and over and over Zhang returns it with his backhand. See extreme case at 0:50. Ovtcharov does it as well - see 1:05, for example. Also see 1:10, where Ovtcharov is about to return backhand from the forehand side, then realizes the serve is long, and switches to a forehand loop. As mentioned in previous blogs, this technique of using the backhand to attack short serves to the forehand, mostly against backhand sidespin type serves, is relatively new at the world-class level, and went against what coaches taught until just a few years ago, when top Chinese players like Ma Long and now Zhang began doing it successfully.

Day Five at the Writer's Retreat

Friday was the fifth and final day of the writer's retreat at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, Mon-Fri, 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM, where I was working on my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide."

44,327 words, over 38,000 since Monday. I'm about two-thirds through the book, and hope to get most of that done this week - we'll see. Here's the wordy sentence of the day (which might get rewritten): "This book is for all levels, from beginners learning to play (who should focus on developing their game strategically so they can later have the weapons to use tactically) to intermediate players (who can execute many of the shots the best players do, at a lower level, and need to both find ways to maximize their tactical performance with the tools they have, and to strategically develop new weapons) to top players (who can use this book to develop - or further develop - the habit of thinking strategically and tactically).

Richard McAfee and the Micronesian Month

USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee just finished his month-long coaching excursion to the Federated States of Micronesia, where he's been coaching at the South Pacific islands of Kosrae, Yap, Chuuk, and Pohnpei. Here's the ITTF article. I will make no jokes about Richard fitting into a place called Micronesia because it's never good to make jokes about a person who is bigger than Micronesia.

ITTF Museum Newsletter #26

The ITTF Museum released Newsletter 26. The issue includes:

o   Their first royal visitor
o   Kjell Johansson remembered - his personal 1973 racket donated
o   ITTF Museum exhibition at the China Open in Suzhou
o   Jean Devys (FRA) donation:  Budapest 1950 World Ch. program
o   The Final Relay - arrival of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic torch
o   Colin Clemett visit, with previously unknown World Ch. scores

Video of the Day

Here's Table Tennis Spectacular, Part 1 (3:27).

Top Ten Political Excuses for Losing

  1. "I'm part of the 99% . . . the ones who don't win tournaments. Occupy Court One!"
  2. "During my match with Zhang Jike, the teleprompter was telling me how to play Timo Boll."
  3. "There's this third reason . . . I can't remember it. Sorry. Oops."
  4. "The "trickle down theory of rating points" hasn't work for me. I'm more of a ratings creator, and then they just trickle down to whoever I'm playing."
  5. "I'm a Democrat, my opponent was a Republican, and he waterboarded me."
  6. "A billion dollar stimulus program didn't bring me a single rating point."
  7. "The accusations that I harassed four opponents are absolutely untrue. It was my righty forehand that harassed them. But I still lost because they kept hitting to my left, my backhand."
  8. "I absolutely deny that in Massachusetts tournaments I was pro-choice on long pips, no matter what the videos say. I've always been against long pips, and I always will, as long as Republican primary voters are against them, or at least until the general election."
  9. "To help finance my training, I hired a Greek economist."
  10. "Unlike Trump, Bachman, Perry, Cain, Palin, Christie, Mother Theresa, the ghost of Ronald Reagan, and a plumber from Ohio, I haven't yet had my fifteen minutes as the conservative alternative to Romney."

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