Monday, November 19, 2012

how to make watching table tennis in TV really awesome

Unless you're living under a rock, you know all the good matches around the world are transmitted live in the ITTF homepage (terrible quality, by the way) or posted short after in YouTube.

You probably also know the reason why the ball size was increased from 38 to 40 mm was because the ITTF wants table tennis to be easier to follow on video. Also, matches were shortened to 11 points and 2 un-hidden serves per person to accommodate short attention spans and reduce the difficulty of following the game.

Ping Pong (or table tennis) is fast, tactical, and complex. Each paddle motion imparts both directional momentum and rotational speed, not in 8 directions but in all possible combinations of a sphere (360° by 360°!). Reading spin is one of the most important aspects of the game and very difficult to grasp unless you play the sport.

What I want in TV broadcasting (and possibly in game screens for the live public) is a ball that has sensors (or from which data can be measured with optics) and transmits the information so that every stroke has its spin and speed recorded. A minuscule sensor on top of each player's blade could also be used to measure the stroke speed and angle shift.

In real time, I would love to see a live data, in the lower right corner of the screen, telling me the amount of spin and its direction on the ball, and the force applied by the paddle at the moment of contact. This would give fans who play the sport all sorts of insights into how the pro's play and their capabilities and strategies.

Can you imagine? Almost overnight, you would know who has the spiniest and most powerful shots and serves. It would revolutionize the sport for spectators forever - you would know exactly what happened and why, or could deduce it with some time.

I know technology isn't ready for this - but it will be someday. I'm sure within my lifetime.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chinese over the table backhand loop

As most people have noticed, table tennis has changed in the last years thanks to the "over the table backhand loop" that Petr Korbel perfected and the chinese team so effortlessly use. There was a very good article in the usatt magazine detailing it not long ago.

It is a complicated technique, involving stepping into the ball, leaning your elbow forward, using a very small window of contact, and trying to hit the ball on the perpendicular of the direction of the incoming spin to minimize the effort; the revolutionary concept was that having the paddle in a very closed angle could be offset with a very fast twist. Notice in the videos the angle of the blade's handle just before the snapping starts, and how fast this snapping motion is.

Some great links I have found are:

(if only I understood chinese)



Monday, August 20, 2012

2012 achievements so far

While I am still far from my goal of reaching a USATT level of 2000 in 2012 (and honestly it's probably impossible in Colorado, since the USATT ranked tourneys are over; but I'm looking more at the playing level than the actual score), I wanted to post my 2 big achievements so far.

In the bi-monthly round robins at top spin, I managed to place first in the medium category. It was not easy but it was a good day:

In the 2012 Rocky Mountain state games (which was a USATT ranked tourney) I managed to win the under 1700 tourney. The picture actually has my good friend and coach Angelo Gandullia, who won the Open in an exciting final.

However good these achievements are, the really unsatisfactory performances in bigger tourneys have instilled in me a greater urgency to gain fitness and practice more the attacking style. More on that in another post.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

I hadn't posted but... Zhang Jike is olympic champion and fastest grand slam winner!

At age 24, Zhang Jike is the world's number one, reigning world champion, world cup champion and Olympic champion, breaking all known records in table tennis! Zhang Jike has set a new standard and made another milestone in his career that will be written in table tennis history.


I told you back in April I was cheering for him. He's young and still hungry, still looks like he has something to prove.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

one of the most amazing Zhang Jike matches

That show his tremendous willpower and courage in the face of adversity

On producing spin

One of the most difficult things to master is producing spin.

A beginner to intermediate player will think spin depends solely on the rubber characteristics. This is not so; the rubber characteristics dictate maybe half of the final spin.

Advanced players know that spin depends more on incoming spin, motion, tempo, velocity, contact depth and grip. 

Sure, you need a good rubber to produce massive spin, but it's akin to having a good weapon - you need to know how to extract the most out of it. This is why an advanced player can produce deadlier shots with seemingly inferior equipment.

the following covers mostly inverted rubbers; long pimples and anti spin normally can only add to spin, not counter it.

Incoming spin:

This is perhaps one of the easiest to understand principles. When you successfully counter or add to strong incoming spin, you are using the potential force of the ball already to your advantage. Knowing how to return strong spin, and how to add to strong incoming spin, are two different matters altogether, though. the following techniques are needed to add to strong incoming spin.


You have to know the correct motion for producing the most spin. It normally is a more parallel trajectory, in regards to the table plane, than normal reason would say, with a slightly longer follow-through. When you achieve the best motion, you are countering and adding spin. The motion is thus longer and more fluid, with a higher velocity. When facing incoming spin, you are effectively slicing it more than the original slice.


You normally want to hit the ball in its apex or at the point that gives you the most dwell time. For chops, it can be from bounce to apex; for loops, from apex to fall. You have to look for the biggest range of motion (which helps the final velocity of the movement), and lowest height in relation to the net.


The velocity at which your paddle slices the ball must be higher than the incoming spin. incoming spin varies your angle, but the velocity of your paddle must be as high as possible. Normally big movements allow for the most velocity, and grip "seals the deal".

Contact depth:

merely grazing the ball will not be enough, but you cannot allow for the wood to come into play at the time of contact either. you want to use the flexibility of the rubber topsheet and let the ball "dig into" the rubber to create the maximum potential "spring rebound" effect (think of a tightened coil), while maintaining a perpendicular motion to the point of contact of the ball.


In grip there are 2 aspects to mention:

- The wrist must act as the tip of a whip. When you start contact, your wrist must be tilted (sideways always, not to front and back) to your back; and when the motion finishes, it must be tilted towards your opponents side. The wrist effectively moves also in the direction of your movement, adding tangential momentum to your final stroke. the momentum of your wrist performing this movement adds to the final productive spin your rubber imparts.

- the grip must be soft at the beginning of the slice, but be very hard at the end. this neutralizes the harmonics of your force and consolidates them into one strong motion. Consider the catapult effect of something in motion tightening, like when brakes are applied on a car - the rubber responds to the concentrated force at the moment of impact. Note this only refers to the grip of the paddle - your wrist must remain loose. the timing for when to tighten grip is at the moment of contact.

These tips will improve your chops, serves, loops and other variants where maximum spin is desired. Note also, that when performed correctly, the ball has also great velocity and will normally dart in a very direct manner - the spin curve will only be seen over greater distances. thus, learn to adapt this in your game.

another Zhang Jike video

this one is multiball backhand training.

simply amazing!

I'm also beginning to hold Xu Xin in high esteem. Ma Long is awesome too but he's not at the level of those other 2 yet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Zhang Jike wins Korea Open :D

That was an awesome match - real high level and also a spectacular end. Now just the China Open and London, baby!

I'm getting that shirt for sure!

Friday, May 25, 2012

theory for best serves

These are my initial 10 best tips for table tennis serves.

1. give the opponent the serve that is most uncomfortable for them at all times.
2. serves must be very low over the net - as low as possible, for every style.
3. the apex of the first bounce should still be on your side, meaning the ball barely passes the net after the apex; this ensures that the maximum rise of the ball, after the 2nd bounce, will be the most inside the table as possible. Only when you want deep serves should the first bounce be closer to the net.
4. do the serve legally, but perform it in a very fast manner, always starting with the same motion. This makes it so that the last few instants decide what serve it is - not allowing your opponent to pick up the service type from the initial motion.
5. practice, practice, practice. imagine or recall serves you needed and could not perform in tight matches, or which ones you missed, and work on perfecting them.
6. always practice going into the standard position after the serve, thinking of what are the options your adversary would have, so that you can be ready for a return.
7. if you identify a serve your opponent clearly misreads, use it in the most important points. they will learn it, but it will take them some tries before they know it.
8. on spin: learn how to vary your serve's spin by at least 3 degrees: dead, normal, intense. Retain the same motion when doing the serves with different spins. grip and wrist speed are what varies.
9. always take into account the adversary's position before doing the serve. challenge their speed and reflexes and be ready for unexpected returns.
10. know your weapons. rubbers react differently to the same motion - know when a rubber is better for a particular serve and use it to your advantage.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Zhang Jike

I know Ma Long is #1 - but the player I'm most interested this Olympics is Zhang Jike.

He's amazing. There is so much dark energy brooding inside that boy's mind! It's a confidence that he is much better than the opponent - pure power coming in every shot with a killing intent. I can't say anything bad about his forehand, but his backhand just doesn't stop - it's such a dominating technique!

If there were such thing as chakra meters, he would be the equivalent of Sasuke! (forgive the comparison...)

I'll paste a couple videos I found today. Another great one is when he won the world championships and ripped off his shirt. Pure ping pong power :)

This one he makes Ma Lin look like a bad player:

And this one, he and Mizutani go into superhuman mode and have a great match!

Aaaand yes here is the world championships final (4 of 4 though, in a playlist)

Enjoy :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

They are changing the ball again?

I mean really ITTF. First 38 to 40mm. Now celuloid to plastic?

Maybe Wang Liqin is already training with the new ball. Maybe that's why he lost to #82!

Still - great game to Noshad Alamiyan - he lost the next game to Japanese Maharu Yoshimura - let's get back to this plastic ball mess.

Different bounce? You can't keep changing stuff on everyone. Table Tennis depends so much on reflexes that are trained; everyone uses 3 star balls to guarantee this uniformity. Might as well use any ball that shows up with all these differences.

At the very least I'm pretty sure it won't burn the same. Heh.

Farewell Desto F2 - cherished friend, backhand

When I came back to table tennis, and picked up the paddle I had finished building around 2002, I immediately noticed 2 things:

The first, that although my rubbers were 10 years old, they were still in playable condition. I managed to play 3 tournaments and several gaming sessions without noticeable equipment failure. A loop or block failed here or there was probably 70% bad technique and 30% failure of the rubber sheet.

2nd, that my rubbers needed replacement and I couldn't stall on that much, because you can't expect to train and compete with equipment that's functioning barely at 50% of where it should be. Upgrading was inevitable.

Forehand was not so bad - that rubber had easily 50% of its original qualities still - but backhand was another story. Cleaned, it behaved like a normal rubber, but touch it, and you realized this was maybe at 20% of where it should be.

And I can honestly say I know there was still life in them - they could easily have been someone else's first rubbers. I know what you touch and what you can do with it are different matters. But, if I'm going to be serious, I should not be cheap.

So, with a calm heart, I started shopping around my old haunts: and .I even checked the usatt to see if new guys had come along in these years, but I didn't find someone else with a big enough inventory or better prices.

Gee whiz, have rubber prices changed. I remember my first rubber, a red tackiness, was $20. $80 for 1 rubber sheet, butterfly? $50 for "tensioned" rubbers, practically everyone else? Wow.

But hey, they did last me 10 years. If you take that into account, $50 is nothing.

I honestly loved my 2 rubbers. Even if new and "faster, spinnier" rubbers had come around, Tibhar Rapid D.TecS and Donic Desto F2 worked fabulously for me - apart from being the right speeds, they were perfectly balanced on my Kong Linghui Euro, and when I pressed spin on my adversary, he always felt it. So with great dismay I learned they are both being discontinued...

Alas, this put me in quite the predicament. There was no one in North America with a black 2.0 F2. Rapid D.TecS 2,0 red was available, and at a discount, since it was being pushed out of inventory. Perfect, I thought, I can at least get one and that won't change my game as much.

After much study I decided that my next backhand rubber would be a Tibhar. I had proven durability and game results with the Rapid D.TecS, but I knew it had to be lighter. I especially like rubbers that are tacky and controllable, but when you give it force, you get a rewarding *crack* and a woody feeling - but, funny enough, I don't enjoy rubbers that are too soft, and that ruled out most "sound" rubbers. In a word, I knew I wanted factory speed-glued :)

I would have honestly given another Rapid D.TecS a chance for backhand, but it is a heavy rubber, and would have needed to decrease thickness. Plus, it's being discontinued - in 3-5 years time I wouldn't know what to choose, and would need to change both rubbers at the same time.

You really can't compare manufacturer numbers; in the end the best help I found was in . These were my 2 previous rubbers:

Rubber NameSpeedSpinTackinessOverall
Donic Desto F28.

Tibhar Rapid D.TecS9.

Notice that 0.7 tackiness score. That's bogus. I could lift balls similar to a chinese rubber with it, when it was new. I won't say it was super tacky, but it is not that different from the Rapid D.TecS. Not that it matters anymore :'(

My final decision was a normal Tibhar Aurus, but 1.9 (a bit reduced speed and weight). I am happy to report to Desto F2 followers: it is a GREAT replacement for it. Albeit a bit faster, and definitely spinnier, it *feels* the same, and I can do most of the shots I could do before, which for a spin-based player like me, was important.

Tibhar Aurus8.

I can also tell Rapid D.TecS users, Aurus rubber has the good characteristics of the rubber we love, but is faster, and I think spinnier too. The feeling when serving or looping is excellent - another rubber I've tried that is similar is the Tibhar Genius. Aurus 1.9 is faster than a 2.0 Rapid D.TecS - I would choose the 2.1 with caution.  I know the numbers above say otherwise but that is what I'm feeling so far.

And so, I now have updated my weapons, and hopefully, when I come back to recharge, I can still find Aurus in the market. Again, Desto F2, you were sensational and will be missed. Rapid D.TecS, though your new brothers are well prepared, there is something about you that I love, and will suffer greatly when our time is done.

In the next months, I'll try a Butterfly Roundell hard 2.0 that I bought for my wife, and post a review and comparison with these rubbers.

Butterfly Roundell Hard9.29.11.0

My start in the USATT

My starting points for USATT were 1600. After a so-so first performance, I'm determined to reach 2000 as soon as possible.

For you to get an idea, at this post's date, I'm barely an intermediate player (points are the horizontal axis, with how many players have that rating as vertical axis):

This blog will have videos of my games, training, reviews of equipment I personally use, and training routine. Since this is my only serious sport, I decided to make a separate blog to track my progress.

Wish me luck!