Vitali Klitschko

January 17, 2012

One-year Anniversary

Yes, it was on January 17, 2011 that I did my first blog entry here. That's was mostly an intro to the site, with a few coaching news items. The January 18, 2011 entry was where things began to take off! ("The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Table Tennis Players," "The Backhand No-Spin Serve From the Forehand Court" (see the context), and a couple of other news items.) And then on January 19, 2011 we covered "Closing Out a Match" and "The Carrot and Celery Diet" - yes, that's when I started on my diet, going from 196 lbs to 174, which is my current weight.

And here we are, 248 blog postings later!

Drive-Smash Day

Yesterday was "Drive-Smash Day" during my coaching, with three sessions with three semi-beginning junior players. This is a drill where the player hits a regular drive, and then smashes, and then another drive, then a smash, and so on, alternating. The drive gets the rally back under control and helps the player work on his stroke, and then he gets to practice smashing. It also helps develop timing as they play at different speeds. It's done both forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand, and either crosscourt or down the line. (One variation I just thought of I haven't done is they drive down the line, then smash crosscourt, or perhaps the reverse. Have to try that one.) 

A variation for more advanced players is to do this looping - something I plan to introduce to some students next week, both with regular drills and multiball. In this case the player does a regular loop, and then loops one very hard, and continues alternating.

A key for this drill is not to press too hard on the forehand smash or hard loop - let the naturally body rotation provide the power. Many players try to muscle the ball, and end up with a sort of jerky or spastic shot as they try to power the ball mostly with the arm. One thing I like to demonstrate is that you should be able to smash or loop at near full power while carrying on a conversation. (I say "near" full power because you shouldn't think of using "full" power as that leads to trying to muscle the ball. You actually get full power by letting the body swing naturally into the ball on the forehand, but it may seem like less than full power.)

Another article on Vitali Klitschko

Yesterday we linked to an article on world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko and his table tennis. Here's another one, this time with a picture!

World-class table tennis in slo-mo

Here's a video of world-class play in slow motion (1:49).

Austin Preiss training in China

Here's a video of Austin Preiss training in China (2:34) at age 7 in 2002, ten years ago. He was only rated about 1100 at the time. He'd spent much of the next decade touring with his father, Scott, who does exhibition shows full-time for a living (see

Judah Friedlander

Here are five things you didn't know about him - see #3! I've coached him on and off over the years when he's been in Maryland, usually on holidays - he's actually from Maryland, though he lives in NYC where he stars in the TV comedy 30 Rock and does standup comedy. He has a USATT rating of 1515. Part of his standup routine is that he's the "World Champion" at everything, including table tennis. Here are some pictures of him playing table tennis: photo1 photo2 photo3 (with Spider-man) photo4 (Anna Kournikova on right) photo5 (L-R: Table Tennis Superstar Mikael Appelgren, Friedlander, Actress Susan Sarandon, Table Tennis Superstar Jan-Ove Waldner).


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January 16, 2012

Tip of the Week

Larry's Law.

Back problems

It's Baaaaaaaack!  Some of you may remember I spent much of last year suffering from serious back problems which were muscular related. I finally had to take a month off (getting locals to do my hitting for me when I coached), underwent major physical therapy with a physical therapist, and began a strict regimen of weight training and stretching. The back got better, and all was well. Then, after the Nationals in December, I figured my back problems were cured, and I stopped the weight training and relaxed the stretching routine to just basic stretches before and after playing. BIG MISTAKE. The back has been tightening up over the last couple weeks, and now I'm struggling with my play again. After an hour or so of coaching, the back is back to agony again. So starting today, I'm back on the weight training and stretching regimen. Alas.

Serves and Strategy and nothing else

Here's a lesson for all of us - how to win when you are not playing well, and how to win ever more when you are playing well.

On Friday and Saturday, besides coaching, I played in a pair of two-hour match sessions. Until my last match on Saturday (where I lost a close one) I had a dubious distinction of playing perhaps the worst I've ever played at the club and gone undefeated. My back was titanium stiff, my forehand was like a hummingbird with a broken wing, I moved like a crippled snail, and I had the reflexes of a napping sloth. And yet I kept pulling out matches against players at or near my level, almost exclusively on serves and placement. I beat a 2200 player with two basic strategies: short sidespin serves to forehand (both types of sidespins) which he missed or popped up over and over, and quick pushes to the middle off the serve, where he kept making mistakes as he'd hesitate on whether to use his forehand or backhand. Then I beat a 2150 player by cycling serves and quick hitting his serves off the bounce. ("Cycling serves" is my term for throwing every imaginable serve you have at the opponent, essentially cycling through them all and then starting over.)

Now if I can only do this when my back gets better! The lesson here is that players often forget how to win when they are "playing well," and instead rely on (drum roll please) playing well. Instead, when you are playing well, imagine that you have to do whatever it takes to win, and at the same time actually play well, and watch how much better you play.

The Tong Tong Gong of Ping-Pong in the Baltimore Sun

Here's a feature article on USA Cadet Team Member Tong Tong Gong in the Sunday Baltimore Sun. The print version has a much larger version of this picture. I'm quoted in the story several times - I'm one of Tong Tong's coaches.

Timo Boll serve

Here are slow motions of Germany's Timo Boll's serve (1:30), both forehand pendulum and forehand reverse pendulum. They are shown from two angles. If you are a righty, you can mimic the version on the left of the lefty Boll's serve by being a mirror image. (Boll, currently #4 in the world, was #1 for three months last year.) 

Sport & Art Educational Foundation

The Sport & Education Foundation features table tennis to help senior citizens, in particular to help offset Alzheimer's and dementia. See their intro (where they say, "Current research by renowned psychiatrists has confirmed that ping-pong is the world's best brain sport") as well their "Why Table Tennis" page, and then explore the rest of their web pages.

Senior citizens,

World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Vitali Klitschko

Here's an article about boxing champ Vitali Klitschko and how playing table tennis daily prepares him for fights.

Top Ten Shots of 2011?

And here they are (3:47)!

Table tennis commercial

Here's a humorous table tennis commercial, though you don't find out what the commercial is for until 1:24 into this 1:40 commercial - it's for some sort of 24-hour Energy Drink. Actually, I don't think it's advertising any real drink, just a satire of one. Make sure to see the deadly warning at the end.


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