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How Low Can You Serve in Table Tennis? 0

Most beginner/intermediate table tennis players think about isolated shots.  Most professional table tennis players think about shot sequences.  These two mindsets are poles apart.  When serving, professionals know that setting up the sequence in their favor begins with a serve, maybe not an ace, but controlling the rally from the very first touch.

With a strong short serve that is deceptive and low, what options will your opponent have?  Can he smash?  Not likely!  Can he push?  Sure!  Can he flip?  Absolutely, but the speed and quality on his ball won’t be as much!  It is hard to generate as much forward speed because of the net being a blockade. Also, it is harder to generate spin because the table somewhat limits that backswing capabilities.  So a low serve can still be flipped, BUT usually the speed, spin, placement, and variations won’t be nearly good enough to hit past you.  A 60 mph flip at 5000 rpms is difficult to loop.  But a 30 mph flip at 500 rpms is much more manageable.  The next table tennis skill in the sequence that you need to develop is a quick loop that applies pressure to your opponent.  The next skill is another follow-up loop to continue putting pressure on your opponent.  Do you understand the mindset here?  It isn’t that your low serve is going to get you 5-6 more aces per game!  It is the fact that it will make your opponent more limited on his returns making it easier for you to keep him under pressure.

I often hear beginner table tennis players talking about…

“I pulled out my secret serve at 9-9!”

“I knew his backhand was weak, so I just pushed there 2x at the end and he choked!”

“I was fearless, I just swung big with my forehand and nailed it at 10-9 to take the title!”

Do you hear this language?  It is all referring to one isolated shot.  If you are going to make progress, you need to begin thinking in sequences.  How can I serve in such a way to get a weak flip and begin my attack against his middle?  How can I block his loop low enough to his wide backhand to stop his forehand loop and implement my counterattack?  How can I work the point long enough to expose his wide forehand and push him away from the table so that I can control the point?

My latest invention, the TT-Serve®, isn’t going to improve your game 200 points overnight.  It is called TT-Serve® not TT-Miracle.  But it is guaranteed to lower your serve, which gives you a stronger 3rd ball attack which gives you a better 5th ball attack which gives you a better 7th ball attack and strengthens your GAME SEQUENCES.

Samson Dubina

Losing in Table Tennis 0

I have received this particular question from over 50 of my followers.  I decided that it was time to answer it.  This week, Luis Sergio Chavez wrote, “It would be great if you could cover also the mental strength aspects or techniques to mentally recover from 0-4 where you are the one who made 4 mistakes in a row.  I would love to learn from your experience and knowledge on how to get back on track.”

This is an interesting question.  As I said, many table tennis players are asking this.  It is similar to saying, “I don’t know the answer to the first 4 questions on my math exam, can you please tell me the answer?”  Of course, I would say, “Please tell me the problems, and I’ll give you the answers.”  You see, without me being there and knowing HOW you lost those 4 consecutive points, it is absolutely impossible for me to give you a solution.  Furthermore, do you even remember how you lost them?

Many table tennis players say, I was winning 10-6 in the 5th game and lost six in a row, what did I do wrong?  I always respond with, what happened?  They don’t know.  They don’t remember what they served, how they received, what shots they used, or where they hit.  Here is the key…  If you want to stop a momentum swing in the score, you need to realize what is going on.

Did you change your placement and start feeding his forehand?

Did he suddenly start lobbing?

Did he change his serve?

Did you lose confidence in your attack and begin full table backhand pushing?

Once you can understand the problem, you are then on the right track for finding a solution.  Consider reading a previous article that I wrote last year called “The Think Circle.”  Check it out below…

The Think Circle

Between pitches in baseball, the batter steps out of the batter’s box to re-focus.

The same thing is true in table tennis; the pros often call this the “think circle.”

Between points, step back about 4-6 feet away from the table and draw an imaginary circle around yourself and collect your thoughts in your think circle.  Every professional athlete has a different method of processing the points, relaxing, and gearing up for the next point, but I’m going to give you the method that I personally use.

#1 Ask yourself the question, “What just happened?”

While the point is fresh in your mind, you should replay the details of each hit.  If you can’t remember how you messed up, you will likely make the same mistake again.  If you can’t remember how you scored, then you won’t likely be able to capitalize on your opponent’s weak points.

#2 Remind yourself of your primary tactics.

From the first few points of the table tennis match, you should be forming some specific tactics based on your strengths and the opponent’s weaknesses.  Point by point, you should be willing to adjust your primary tactics, especially if you are losing.

#3 Breath deeply.

Deep breathing has a calming effect allowing you to forget about that missed smash, calm your anger, and come back focused for the next point. 

#4 Ask yourself the question, “What’s next?”

If you are serving, first determine exactly what you plan to serve and what the possible returns will be.  If you are receiving, then ask yourself how you plan to deal with fast serve, how you plan to deal with short backspin serves, how you plan to deal with no-spin serves.  Remember, you must stay fairly neutral when receiving and be ready for anything while at the same time, having general tactics against various serves.

This method that I briefly explained is the method that I use to analyze the point, remind myself of the plan, calm myself down, and get to the specifics.  I would encourage you to develop your own method and be consistent at using it during drills, club play, leagues, and tournaments.  As with any skill, it takes time to develop, but it is definitely worth the effort!

Samson Dubina

Devastate the “Smart/Dumb Guy” in Table Tennis 0

Some table tennis players know how to anticipate and adjust quite well during a table tennis match, usually these players are viewed as being “SMART”; while others don’t anticipate and don’t adjust well.  On the surface, this article might seem like common sense, but there is much more depth here.  Let’s dig in…

Here is the dictionary definition of anticipation:

The action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction.

“Smart” Guy

An anticipating table tennis player might serve short topspin, get his racket up a bit, expecting to loop the fast flip coming.  This same player might push deep to the backhand, move in, and prepare for a fast block against the predictable loop.  This same player might play to your wide forehand and adjust his ready position to cover his wide forehand angle. You see, these players anticipate the most likely return and prepare properly by playing the odds.  Against this player, you might need to take some risk.  You might need to push his topspin serve, you might need to loop to different locations than normal, and you might need to vary the spin, speed, height, and depth more.  This same opponent might adjust well to your serve.  You serve heavy backspin and he pushes into the top of the net.  After the point, he steps back and ponders for a moment and preparing to adjust for the next serve.  In this case, you might want to change your serve because he has mentally made the adjustment.

“Dumb” Guy

A table tennis player who doesn’t anticipate well might stand in exactly the same position for every shot.  He plays to your wide forehand then makes a beeline back to the middle of the table; he serves long and has no idea that you might possible loop; he tries to mentally stay completely neutral for every shot.  In this situation, play your best shot – if he serves an angle, then play the angle sharper back.  If he pops up a high ball, then just smash your best smash crosscourt.  There is no sense in trying to be tricky if your normal plays are working.  Also, if he doesn’t adjust well to your serves, then be willing to repeat them.  If your deep serve to his backhand is working and he continually power blocks it into the table, keep repeating it.  If he is that dumb that he doesn’t make a single attempt to adjust, continue to use your main tactic again and again.  About 1-2 years ago, Han Xiao wrote an article about Not Changing For the Sake of Changing.   I totally agree with Han.  If something is working and your opponent isn’t adjusting, then continue winning points with what is working.  There is no reason to continue experimenting with something that might, possibly, maybe, could work.

I’m going to conclude with a few summary thoughts…

Your Approach

So how can you identify your table tennis opponent as an anticipator or a non-anticipator?  Does it have to do with age, hair style, glasses, rating, equipment, or personality?  No, no, no!  You don’t need to identify them at the start of the table tennis match.  Just play your best and think about it carefully as the match progresses.

Your Game

At the start of the table tennis match, the main thing is to play your best game.  Use your good serves and your strong loops, continue to move and play your best.

Analysis

If you are winning, then don’t worry about labeling him.  If you begin to lose, then ask yourself some questions.  When I hit a normal loop to an obvious location, is he waiting there ready to return it?  When I hit a tricky loop to an awkward location, is he surprised?  When I win a point with my serve and serve it again, does he miss it the second time in the same manner?  As you begin asking yourself questions, then you will know on whether to play normal consistent shots or if you need to be “tricky”.

Your Comfort Level

If you can’t win with your normal game and you must play “trickier” than normal, you must remember your comfort level and try to stay within your range of consistency.  I have seen many table tennis players who tried to do so many weird things each hit, that they just beat themselves. 

Training

After the table tennis tournament, when you get back to the training hall, ask yourself the questions as to which quick tricky strokes you should be developing.  Even during a normal drill in practice (like two backhands and two forehands) you should try to add some variations – faster and slower, higher and lower, deeper and shorter, more spin and less spin, right lateral sidespin and left lateral sidespin.  During the practice sessions, you should develop some tricky variations.  That way, you can feel confident to give variations in your table tennis games at the right time.

Score

This article might be very confusing for some table tennis players.  If you have no idea if you are playing an anticipator or not, then just do this one thing for me…  If you are winning, stick with your main tactics.  If you are losing, then look to make necessary adjustments.  That’s it!

Samson Dubina

Devastate the “Cheater” in Table Tennis 0

In competitive sports, there are always athletes who want to win so badly, that they will do absolutely anything to accomplish that goal.  Yes, there are cheaters in the sport of table tennis too.  Instead of giving you dozens of examples of how cheaters get away with it, I’m going to give you a more general perspective on how you can properly handle any situation that arises.

The number one most important aspect when dealing with a fair-playing opponent or a cheater, is to give your best!  If you say, “I was playing great until he did this…. or that…”  You need to be mentally strong, shake it off, and re-focus on the task at hand.  If you say, “It was a close battle, BUT when he started cheating, I got mad and crushed him!”  Then you need to have the same level of determination and focus regardless if your opponent is cheating or playing fair, regardless if you are up against a competitor, a practice partner, or a complete stranger.

Here are some closing comments that might help you through the situation.  The first two comments are pre table tennis tournament ideas, the next four comments are in-the-moment ideas, and the final comment is a post table tennis match idea:

#1 Expect Some Drama

As you prepare for a table tennis tournament, just expect some cheating from your opponent.  In the upcoming weeks and months leading toward the U.S. Nationals, you need to mentally be prepared for it.  Like I mentioned (without being specific), there are dozens of different ways to cheat.  You need to expect it and actually ask your coach to apply some of the cheating methods during your table tennis training sessions.

#2 Evaluate Yourself

Sometimes you might not even realize if you yourself are cheating.  Take an hour to read through the official table tennis rules, applying each rule to yourself. 

#3 Stay Calm

During the table tennis tournament, if someone is cheating, try to stay calm.  Most cheaters want you to get worked up, tight, angry, trying to muscle the ball because you are mad.  Go back to your think circle, think about your tactics, and play your best.

#4 Evaluate the Advantage

This is one of the main points.  If the cheating doesn’t give any advantage, then why get all worked up over the cheating?  You are in a match against a 3’ tall kid who is wearing white shorts.  He always stays close to the table and the white shorts are never visible during the point.  Ok, what is the big deal?  Why are you red-in-the-face angry about this six-year-old cheater who isn’t getting an advantage from his white shorts.  Evaluating the advantage is basically stepping back and saying, “Is he getting any advantage to his cheating?”

#5 Seek Help

If your opponent is getting an advantage, then ask for a tournament umpire.  The umpire will know the rules and will deal with the situation.  Please keep in mind that the umpire will be evaluating both of you.  There are many situations where the umpire comes and finds both table tennis players to be cheating.

#6 Agree With the Decision

This is the toughest point.  Once the umpire has made a decision, agree with it.  You might not like it, but agree with it.  If you stay positive and agree with his decision, you will be able to regain your focus and continue playing well throughout the tournament.  If you keep fighting with a bad call in your mind, it will mess up your match and possibly even mess up your entire tournament.  Many bad performances can be traced back to one bad call.  Let it go, agree with it, and perform your best!

#7 Forget It

After the table tennis match, should you remember it or forget it?  In every match, you need to be able to somewhat remember the main tactics and briefly analyze your performance.  On the other hand, you need to forget about the cheater and forget about the incident.  If you continue racing around the tournament loudly declaring what that guy did to you and how much of a cheater he really is…  then it will not be good for you, not be good for your performance, not be good for the cheater, and really not be good for the sport.  Forget it, move on, and play your best in the next match.

Samson Dubina

Another Successful Year for Florida Table Tennis 0

Brad Woodington, President of the Lakeland Table Tennis Association, and Director of the Florida Orange Blossom Table Tennis Series and the Mid-Florida Table Tennis Tour, is excited about the growth and development of the wide variety of Table Tennis activities in Florida, especially in middle Florida. The area stretching from Clearwater, Florida, on the west coast, to the Cocoa Beach, Florida area on the east coast and all the locations in between, has become a hot bed for Table Tennis.

A coalition of Table Tennis clubs have joined together to provide an excellent base for USATT sanctioned tournaments throughout the entire state of Florida and beyond. The wildly popular Florida Orange Blossom Table Tennis Series, held in beautiful Lakeland, Florida attracted almost 500 players from all over the state, several other states and international players for the four excellent tournaments held during the 2015 season.

In addition to the series, the fabulous Mid-Florida Table Tennis Tour was also held in several locations in Florida. Events were scheduled for Clearwater, Lakeland, Orlando, and Cocoa Beach, Florida with several other locations being considered for 2016. The six tour table tennis tournaments also attracted almost 500 players to the events.

Woodington has a vision to include all USATT sanctioned tournaments within the state of Florida into the tour, expanding from the middle of Florida all the way to the far north and panhandle region and also southward to Miami. Players earn Tour Points at each tournament in which they compete. The points are accumulated during the year and prizes are awarded at the end of the tour. Many players attend all the tournaments with the goal of finishing high in the standings at the end of the season.

One of the main sponsors of the Florida Orange Blossom Series and the Mid-Florida Table Tennis Tour is the great Newgy Industries. Newgy manufactures and markets an extremely popular line of Robo-Pong Table Tennis Robots and other great Table Tennis equipment. Players at all the various tournaments are acutely aware of the opportunity to win prizes donated by Newgy. Several websites highlight the accumulating Tour and Series points as the season progresses. At the end of the events, the points are totaled and special award ceremonies are held on a rotating basis at the various clubs that participate in the Tour.

Plans are now being made for the special Awards Presentation for the 2015 winners of the Tour and the Series. Woodington is also poised to begin the 2016 season and is lining up clubs throughout the state to take part in the Tour. The Lakeland Table Tennis Club will also hold the Florida Orange Blossom Series in 2016 with four USATT sanctioned tournaments already scheduled.

Woodington is optimistic that several additional clubs may join in the Mid-Florida Tour and thus the need to change the name to the Florida Table Tennis Tour instead of Mid-Florida. At any rate, Table Tennis in Florida is alive and thriving.  Players are already anxious to get started all around the state. It looks to be another exciting year for Table Tennis in Florida.

Table Tennis Players/Students – Avoid This Word 0

I “can’t

On a daily basis, many of my table tennis students say the words, I “can’t” as it relates to learning a new stroke,  learning a new serve, enduring through physical training, and many other table tennis related activities.

As a table tennis coach, when I hear a player say these words, here is what I’m hearing:

I

Certainly

Am

Not

Trying

Often, when a player has declared that he can’t do something, then he will stop giving his best effort or give up all together.  Therefore, I no longer allow my students to use these words.  Instead, I ask them to say something like: I haven’t fully developed it yet and I’m working toward my goals!

Positive thinking equals positive results in table tennis.