Sunday 31 May 2015

How To Make Service Practice More Engaging

Service practice is notably one of the most important areas of training, but also one which requires the most discipline and can be incredibly boring, repetitive and lacking in stimulation. So what can be done to make service practice more engaging, especially for young kids and developing players who really just want to be out there playing matches and killing balls? I prepared a few tips which I used to use and still use (though I rarely practice my serves now), for keeping service practice exciting. See more from my Coaching Blog.

How to Make Service Practice More Engaging
Setting Targets:

Setting targets to practice hitting is one of the most popular methods of making service practice more fun. So what kind of obstacles are popular and what can you do at more advanced levels?

Mini Paddle Target: This is more for beginning and developing players, aim for a paddle or for a mini paddles on the table. It is usually fairly achievable with the most basic serves and teaches direction and placement.

Broken Ball Target: A popular choice for coaches is to place broken table tennis balls on the table for students to aim for, this is very popular for long fast serves and usually the broken balls are placed along the baseline or on the corners. This can help increase accuracy and also service depth.

Broken Ball Goals: Create a goal out of two broken balls, it can be as wide as you want (narrower the more difficult). You can also place it on angles or even completely sideways for sidespin serves. The aim is to make the ball bounce through the goal. You can even set more difficult tasks like making the ball go backwards through the goal.

Backwards Targets: This is something I tend to practice more often to maintain my feel and my contact on the ball. I like to set up a basket stood up and facing away from me, I serve backspin and try and curve the ball back around into the basket. See the video below.

Harder Targets: At advanced level you can aim for smaller targets like coins or try and bend the ball around objects. Today I used a roll of duct tape and served so the ball would go backwards through the middle of the roll standing up. This teaches you to command and control ball spin and placement and really focus on developing a quality serve.

Service Challenges and Games:

Serving alone is often one of the main reasons why it is so boring, it feels quite isolated and it's hard to stay focused and entertained. Find a serving partner and play some service games.

Short Serve Sudden Death: Serve for 10 pushups, one serve each. The first player who fails to serve short (2 bounces minimum on the opposite side) has to do the punishment. A missed serve is double to punishment. Sometimes punishments can be fun and it also improves the ability to serve under pressure.

Serve at Reward Targets: When I was a young player growing up, we used to serve at candy targets, if you could hit the candy then you won it. For younger kids this is a great game and it makes them more interested in practicing serves. Offer some incentive! :)

Service Matches: Play matches where only one person serves for the whole match. This makes the server really focus on winning points off their serve and also helps the receiver work on the more difficult task of facing a match without serve.

Hope these little tips are somewhat helpful for those of you out there who find it hard to do plain old boring service practice! :)

Friday 29 May 2015

Expand Your Attacking Range with the Pivot Forehand

The pivot forehand has been a favourable offensive strokes for players for many decades, particularly before the backhand loop became as prominent in the modern era of the game. Watching players execute full table forehand strategies was something to be inspired by. This stroke is simply a footwork manoeuvre around the backhand corner to allow for a forehand stroke to be played. See more from my Coaching Blog.

So what are some important pointers to take on when learning more about the pivot forehand and why is learning the stroke beneficial?

Getting back into training and the pivot forehand off under-spin is a priority

Why To Learn the Pivot Forehand:

As a beginning or developing player usually the development of the forehand as a more offensive stroke is evident. For this reason a player can take the early advantage by learning how to execute their best stroke across different positions in the table.

Players may feel more comfortable attacking with their forehand, they may have more accuracy and have learnt the stroke with the ability to transfer more weight. Learning to dominate more with the backhand can often be difficult, especially in the beginning stages of player development and even later as intermediate players. A prime example of a player who had an incredibly dominant forehand is China's Wang Liqin, 3 time world champion. You can see the video of him below doing a forehand oriented drill where he plays some incredible forehand attacking strokes off his backhand corner.

So what is important when trying to execute a pivot forehand shot?

Ensure You Create Enough Space:

You need to line the ball up in order to have enough space to swing and to line the ball up in your striking zone. This means not being too close to the ball and alternately also not going around the corner too much. As you can see in the videos posted, it is important for the weight transfer into the ball for it to be in the optimum point of contact relative to the body.

Practice Playing Different Placements:

Some players may find it difficult to hit the angle down the line or also the corner angle crosscourt. Be sure to practice multiple placements so that when you take the step around the corner it is difficult for your opponent to predict where you are hitting the ball.

Maintain a Uniform Technique:

As you are moving into a less familiar position it is important to try and maintain your form with the stroke. Ensure you transfer your weight through your legs and turn into the ball contact and follow through after the contact. Often some players may not turn enough when trying to play the outside crosscourt angle, you still need to turn your shoulders to aim for the corner.

Play Smart:

Find the right combination of power and spin along with placement. Remember once you commit to a pivot forehand you are leaving the table wide open for your opponent. It is vital you do not give them control to place freely, avoid hitting to your opponents position, try and aim for space or for the body unless you have the ability to generate heavy spin or have a setup for a more powerful shot.

Be Ready for the Next Ball:

Since you are off the table you need to recover quickly and be ready for whatever will come next. It is also beneficial not to come too far around the side of the table when you go around the corner, otherwise it will obstruct your movement back into the table and steal time for your recovery for any ball which is returned away from the corner.

Drills to Help You:

Basic: Start off hitting one backhand and one forehand on the corner and continue alternating. You can also play backhands and choose any ball to pivot forehand on and attack anywhere.

Falkenberg: One backhand, one pivot forehand, one wide forehand. This is a classic drill for pivot forehand play.

More Advanced Example: Forehand short push to pivot forehand loop off underspin, this can be done from service or as a multiball drill.

Hope this was helpful, this is an important skill to try and master in order to have more weapons in your game! Subscribe to my new e-newsletter HERE

Thursday 28 May 2015

Inside the Life of a Chinese National Team Player: Exclusive Interview with Guo Yan

Few words could explain how much of an honour this interview was, or how humble and open Guo Yan was in an interview which spanned over 2 hours. I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk with her about her career in the Chinese National Team and most of all try and begin to understand the pressure and feelings of being involved in the best team in the world. Please read and enjoy and be sure to subscribe to my e-newsletter HERE

Name: Guo Yan
Date of Birth: June 24 1982
Nation Represented: China
Highest World Ranking: 1

Major Victories: 2006 World Cup Champion, 2010 World Cup Champion, 3 time World Team Champion with China, 2005 and 2011 Asian Cup Champion, 2008 and 2009 Pro Tour Grand Finals Champion.

Former World Number 1 Guo Yan

Equipment Used:
FH Rubber: Hurricane 3
BH Rubber: BTY Tenergy05 FX
Blade: BTY Viscaria FL

How old were you when you first became a member of the Chinese National Team? What feeling did you have at that moment?

When I was 15 years old I made the team for the first time, it was a moment of excitement and glory to have a chance to make it into the Chinese National Team.

At that time did you ever think it would be possible for you to become the top ranked player in the world?

There was no thoughts of being the best or being world champion, it was just very exciting to enter table tennis in the highest institution and the highest level of learning, it was very exciting.

How much more intense and difficult is the training at national level compared to training within the provincial team?

The level of the national team training is very high, it is much higher than the provincial level training. You really have to keep the pace of the training with the team so I had to work very hard.

How long was it before you became one of the stronger members of the national team?

I officially entered the national youth team in 1998 at X years old, I made the main national team in 2001. One year after entering the national team I had already entered the main layer of the team.

When you were in the National Team, what was your greatest love and alternately, what was your biggest fear?

As a top player, the greatest love is when I experienced a very fierce and cruel competition, the final victory of that moment. That kind of joy cannot be replaced by anything.

The thing I feared the most was in a contest going to meet a very powerful opponent, the night before the game there can be a strong fear of failure. There is a lot of worry and fear in the heart and it can cause a feeling of what can only be described as inner torment.

Guo Yan with teammate Guo Yue after team victory
at World Team Cup

Is the fear of failure something which drives players in China? The competition to excel at national level between players must be incredibly intense. How does it feel to be under so much pressure?

Table Tennis in China is the strongest in the world, there are many masterful players in China, competition is very normal, everybody adapts to that level of competition. It is only then through such competition that we can stand out from other players and become the best and earn the right to be the best in the world.

That kind of pressure is as if you are in the face of a fight. You fight for your country's national game, for your honour. This time, passion of heart, we are under a lot of pressure. There is lots to worry about, there is panic and there is fear. But we must remind ourselves that no matter how difficult the front is, as long as you believe you can be the best then you can win the game.

You became world number 1 in 2010 and won 2 world cup titles in 2006 and 2010. Were these in your mind the highlights of your career?

Yes, this is the highlight of my career. My proudest moment was in the World Cup in Xinjiang in 2006 where I defeated the best woman in my opinion, Zhang Yining. I was the best player in the World for the first time.

After you retired from the national team it must have been very emotional. How did it feel for the first short period of time after your retirement to no longer be a part of the team which had been a huge part of your life?

After retirement I feel life now. My line of work is still with table tennis so I am still very happy. I can be more understanding of what table tennis has given me. I gained many friends in China and overseas and I hope to contact them in person again and hope to promote table tennis so everyone will know it is really a great sport. So now I set up my own club and hope I can make many friends who also love table tennis.

Where is your club located and when did you open it? Where can people find more information about it?

I have a public page on WeChat called Young Shine Table Tennis and also one Facebook. (Follow the LINK and be sure to support her there.)

We launched during the summer training camp. We hope foreign hobby table tennis friends can come to China and together we can feel the warmth which table tennis brings us and fight for competitive spirit. I have a strong coaching staff here with me.

Guo Yan wins the 2011 China Harmony Open

A Few Fun Questions

Favourite Food?
I love to eat a lot of things, I like bread and cakes.

Favourite Singer? 

Favourite Travel Destination? 
The United States, France and the Maldives

How does it feel to have more free time now after the team? 
Time is still busy but there is less pressure now.

Thank you again to Guo Yan, one of this generations table tennis champions and a real lover of the sport. Hope you all enjoyed!

Want to read more great interviews with other former World Champions, Cup Winners and Number 1's? Click for MORE INTERVIEWS.

Ping Pong's First Fantasy Novel A Smashing Read!

Larry Hodges is one of the biggest 'students of the game' you could think of when it comes to table tennis. He is incredibly knowledgeable about many things in table tennis, but also happens to be an avid writer of novels. The clash of these two abilities led him to write a new fantasy fictional novel with table tennis in mind. So was born The Spirit of Pong.

The Spirit of Pong by Larry Hodges
Here is the teaser on Amazon:

Andy "Shoes" Blue wants to be a table tennis champion, but he’s just another wannabe American. And so he goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis. He is trained by the mysterious Coach Wang, and begins an odyssey where he learns the secrets of table tennis from the spirits of Ichiro Ogimura (who helped spawn China’s greatness), Rong Guotuan (China’s first world champion in 1959, whose tragic story Andy must relive), and others, and must face the mysterious "Dragon." Can he overcome treachery and learn the final secret of table tennis in time to defeat his ultimate nemesis?

The book really related well to me as a reader. It concerns a 25 year old character by the name Andy 'Shoes' Blue who was the hardest worker in the sport but was struggling to attain his dreams of being US National Champion. Being 25 years old and also trying to work hard and struggling with less than satisfactory results, it was quite close to home.

Andy decides to make a big commitment and take the trip to the powerhouse of table tennis, China. Ironically after the US Open in July, I will also be making my first trip to China for practice, though I can't even hope to have the same experience as Andy.

Andy will head on a mysterious journey with spirits of former champions of the world as he unveils the core secrets of table tennis which have created the worlds best players. The novel is a brief 100 pages long but the story seems so much longer. I began reading at 2am and could not put the book down until I was done at 3:30am.

It has been quite some time since I took the time to sit down and read a book and let me tell you it was well worth it. It is a great storyline and has moments that many table tennis players can relate to, you may even learn a few things along the way.

With some star appearances from former stars, Ogimura, Zhedong and 'the Dragon' along with other favourites like Jonyer, Waldner and Deng Yaping. This book takes the champions of champions and throws them into a fantasy story.

I could write many things to praise this book, but really there is only one thing that needs to be done. It has to be read! It is very rare to come across an entertaining fictional book which involves table tennis, bordering on impossible until now. Be sure to check it out, 'The Spirit of Pong' by Larry Hodges on Amazon: LINK HERE.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Why Do I Always Lose When I'm Winning?

Having a lead in a match can sometimes be some players' worst enemies because they are unable to close out matches. Some players don't understand why they lose when they are winning matches 2-0, 2-1 etc. Here is a brief post on some reasons why players fail to close out matches and what you can do to improve your chances of winning. Remember there is no guaranteed method of success but there are things you can do to swing things more in your favour. See more from my Coaching Blog.

Why do I Always Lose When I'm Winning?

Don't Get Complacent:

A 2-0 lead is still a long way from winning and that's something that every player needs to remember, a lead is not a result. We know from many table tennis matches that things can swing and turn around in the blink of an eye and many famous comebacks have occurred. One of the big mistakes of players is to lose focus when they have a significant lead and play either looser or with more risk and go for more low probability shots. Before you know it you have thrown away enough points and perhaps it's 2-1 or 2-2. Now that you have loosened up a lot and are more relaxed than you should be, it can be very difficult to bring your focus back into the match in order to finish it off. Remember also the pressure in the 5th is much more pressing than when you have a 2-0 lead.

If you Start Strong, Finish Strong. If you have the chance to win 3-0, take it, don't fool around or let your foot off the pedal. Play with peak concentration all the way through, your opponent will take any chance they can get at 0-2 to get back into the game. Don't let them back in or get momentum in the match on account of not being focused enough.

Take Time to Manage the Pace of the Match:

When an opponent starts coming back into the match, things can start happening fast and everything gets out of control. When you are facing a comeback, it is important to take your time and not let things overwhelm you. Make sure you take a little time before your serve and between points, use your towel breaks or a timeout if necessary. Don't lose on account of being rushed into throwing away points or before you know it the match may be over and you will have lost.

Keep A Winning Attitude:

Often we experience loss in matches from a lead, sometimes it starts a vicious psychological cycle. One I have experience myself. This is about confidence, you need the confidence to know you have the ability to win the match. Let's face it, if you can win 2 games, why would you not believe you can win 3?

Many players suffer from repetitive losses from leads and begin to doubt their ability to win, this is a dangerous barrier for all sports people. Doubt is a one way trip to loss in many life situations. You will lose confidence in your strokes, your game plan and your belief in your ability to win. Usually after a score of comeback losses, many players will assume a loss early on once they begin to lose from 2-0 or 2-1 up and they accept the loss early as 'it always happens'. This is a losing attitude.

Never Give Up on the Match, Never Expect to Lose. Confidence is one of the most powerful weapons in sport, a winning attitude throughout a match will aid your ability to win. No matter who you are playing, always believe in your best effort, never accept loss as a possibility especially when you are leading. Usually if you believe you will lose a match then you also let go of the possibility of winning, fight to the very last point. Even if you lose, you will gain valuable experience for future matches.

Always Fight to Win, Not to Hold On:

This is a very common rule in sports. Fight for the win, never try to hold on to a lead. What does this mean? Well they are not the same. You need to focus on winning, not on stopping the other person from winning. If you play your best tactics to win and they are successful then the other player will not have success in the match.

Some players shut down their best game plans in order to play safe and try and cling to their lead, this is one of the biggest downfalls of many players who 'choke' in matches. Playing safe only gives the opponent more options to execute their game plans. Always continue to play your best tactics with 100% confidence that they will carry you through.

Adapt Your Tactics:

Part of the reason players lose from a lead can be due to changes in the tactics of their opponents, or awareness of the tactics being used against them. You may have the best set plays in the world, but eventually even the most inexperienced of players may begin to evaluate what is occurring in the match. Be aware of your opponent's changes.

If your opponent has tightened up their game a lot to stop you from attacking, you need to adapt. The loss of points and inability to execute the shots which build your confidence can be a huge advantage to the opposition.

So Be Aware of changes made by your opponent, especially if you see a change in the momentum of the match. Adapt your strategy constantly unless it is still working to great effect.

So those are 5 key pointers to help you have a better chance at having victory in matches where you work hard to secure a lead. It also helps to concentrate on each point and not so much on the match score overall.

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Monday 11 May 2015

Pro Tip Blog: Bilenko on Modern Defence

The defensive game has always been an entertaining and professional style in table tennis and remains so to this day, but attack is becoming more prominent even in the defensive style. More and more we hear about the phrase 'modern defence' a careful balance of defensive strokes with opportunistic attacking. There are not many traditional defenders left. In this Pro Tip Blog I spoke to Tetyana Bilenko about modern defence and the importance of attacking.

Pro Tip Blog
Tetyana Bilenko on Modern Defence
Players like Joo Se Hyuk and Masato Shiono have embraced the ability to combine their defensive style with a reasonable backhand attack and in many occasions, a world class forehand attack. The forehand of Joo could be matched with many attacking players on the international stage. The real key to balancing attack and defence is patience and shot selection. There are a few elements to consider if you are a defensive player trying to attack more frequently:

- The stage of the game, is it more important to achieve the element of surprise at crucial parts of the game and try to swing for attacking strokes more?

- Is defensive play working against your opponent or do you need to make more attacking strokes to keep the pressure on them and keep them wondering and on their toes?

- Are you giving up big attacking opportunities and taking the more passive route to trying to win points? 

The key is to develop reliable attacking strokes and know when the best time to use them is, sometimes it may be possible to set up attack on the 3rd ball, sometimes you might be able to launch a counter-attack and on other occasions you may find yourself chopping and gradually moving into position to fire off an attacking stroke. Here is what Tetyana had to say:

"I think now for defensive players it's more important to have a combination of attack with defence. Now just with defence we don't have a chance. 

You must know when to choose the ball to attack and be able to also setup the attack. Sometimes you must be patient, sometimes attack after the serve, you must have these skills. Using the skills depends on the situation and the player who you will play against.

It is also important to have some variation and range to attack, sometimes good and hard, sometimes fast, sometimes good placement, again depends on the situation." - Tetyana Bilenko.

Thank you Tetyana for contributing your thoughts on the growing age of modern defence! :)

Friday 8 May 2015

Post-Suzhou 2015: Tetyana Bilenko

Following on from my last interview in the series with Liam Pitchford, we head into the world of outstanding defence. Tetyana Bilenko was one of a handful of players who represented Ukraine with amazing performances in this World Championships. She went the furthest in the women's draw making the last 16, playing fantastically on the way. Representing the females of table tennis, here is my interview with Tetyana!

Tetyana Bilenko in defence mode
Image from

How did you feel about your overall performance at the World Championships in Suzhou?

I am very happy with my performance! I think I gave every match my best and I won against some top players and made the top 16, it's just amazing.

You were able to beat Ai Fukuhara who is ranked 8th in the world. What did you do specifically that you think worked well against her?

After my results at the Qatar Open, where I performed well, I got a lot of confidence , for sure it helped me with Fukuhara. It was like why not? I just tried to do my best, I played well and finally I won. Tactically I tried change the game all the time, spin, no spin, attack, it worked very well!

You are constantly flipping between smooth rubber and long pips. Do you think this makes you more difficult to play than regular defensive players?

I think yes for sure it's more difficult for all players.

What is it that made you develop this unique style of defence, is it something you have gradually introduced into your game?

Before my game was very simple and everyone was very comfortable playing with me. I think it comes from experience and also the coaches from the Academy helped me lots to try and complicate my game more for my opponents.

How important a role has the Werner Schlager Academy played in your successes as a player?

I think a very important role, the professionalism of the club gave me a push and lots of self-confidence.

What's your next big goal moving forward?

I will prepare well for the European Games in Baku and also my dream, the Olympic Games in Brazil :)

Best of luck for your preparations and congratulations on your awesome results and entertaining play in Suzhou! :)

Post-Suzhou 2015: Liam Pitchford

Before we begin make sure you checked out the 2nd interview in the series with India's Soumyajit Ghosh. Continuing on to my 3rd interview from after arguably the best World Championships ever, I took a moment to interview Liam Pitchford who is looking strong and back in the top 50 after his stellar performance in Suzhou.

England's Liam Pitchford in Suzhou
Image from
What was you preparation for the WTTC like? Where did you train and was it different to you usual routine?

I was at my club Ochsenhausen in Germany. We had 3 weeks after the last match to start preparation. It was a little bit more structured because we had a bit longer to prepare so I could incorporate a bit more physical work into my programme. It was slightly hampered by a shoulder injury I got but I was confident heading into the tournament that I could perform well.

How did you feel about the draw going into the first round? Did you feel Kreanga was a reasonable draw for you?

I felt like it was a reasonable draw. I know he is a good player but I was confident that if I played well that I had a good chance to win.

How did it feel to come out on top in that match with Kreanga and get through the first round?

It felt great, I was quite nervous at the beginning. Probably still some thoughts about my shoulder problem in the back of my mind but once I relaxed I started to play some good stuff.

Your next round was against your former Ochsenhausen team-mate Tiago Apolonia. How did you feel you played in that match?

I felt I played quite solid, it was a bit of a scrappy match probably because we both know each other's game. I sense he was more nervous than usual so I was happy I could take my chance. 

In the third round you ended up losing to Joo Se Hyuk. What do you think the main factors were in your loss? What could have changed the result looking back on the match?

I think after the first 2 sets he became accustomed to my game. He was putting a lot more balls on the table. I think I was trying to hit the ball a little bit too hard and probably not playing with enough patience as I probably should have. It's all a learning curve and I will have a better idea about how to play him if I play him again! I think if I could have converted the set balls in the 1st set it might have been different but who knows.

Great to see you back in the top 50, what's the next big focus for you now?

Thanks! European Games in June is massive, I will play the Croatian Open in a couple of weeks to get some match practice but that is the big one!

Thanks so much Liam, great to see you back in good form and best of luck for the European Games!

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Post-Suzhou 2015: Soumyajit Ghosh

This is the second short interview in my post World Championships 2015 series. My first was published yesterday with Patrick Franziska. This time I had the chance to ask some questions of a rising star in the sport, Soumyajit Ghosh from India. It was a pleasure, enjoy the questions below!

India's Soumyajit Ghosh
What was your preparation like for Suzhou? Where did you train and how was it different to your usual training regime?

Before Suzhou I was in India for the National Training Camp and I was in Sweden playing for a whole year so I believe both places helped me with my performance and results. I was just fresh before Suzhou and telling myself to give my best in all of my matches. I had a normal every day schedule before Suzhou also, I think it's a continuing process.

You had a fantastic win early on against Quadri Aruna from Nigeria. How did it feel to beat Aruna and was that a huge boost to your confidence?

Yes I was in shape in the last few months and I have been playing ok table tennis and beating good players around the world, so I had good confidence for playing Aruna. Also I know him well because we practiced in Qatar a few months ago so I was prepared and had tactics to catch him and it went well. I was happy to beat him.

In the first round India's players had some great results. What do you think is helping improve India's level on the World Stage?

Yes this is the first time that 3 Indian players are making the main draw and then also 2nd and 3rd round (with Kamal). I think we are improving and we just need to focus on bringing high level table tennis in India. I believe if India is good at table tennis then we will receive more help as I know we are good at badminton now so financially World Badminton is growing very fast because of India. I believe India is a big country so from there many things can happen but we need to perform, only then will it happen.

Congratulations on making the top 100 players in the world for the May Rankings. How does it feel to make the top 100 players in the world at position 95?

Yes I feel good and the same time I feel I have more responsibility and hope on me. That's telling me to enjoy the journey and to work harder. It was nice journey and I think I can go ahead consistently to top 50 which is my target now. I just need to give it 100% every day and enjoy table tennis journeys.

Moving on from WTTC is top 50 your next goal? What is your next focus?

My target is to reach the top 50 as soon as possible. I will play the Philippines Open and Australian Open at the end of May and try to improve my world ranking there and win these tournaments.

Best of luck in Philippines and Australia Soumy and we look forward to seeing you in the top 50 players in the world in no time! :)

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Post-Suzhou 2015: Patrick Franziska

Germany's Patrick Franziska reached new heights at the 2015 World Table Tennis Championships in Suzhou, China by reaching the last 8 players in the draw. Patrick had suffered an ankle injury at the European Championships at the end of September 2014 and had gone through a long rehabilitation process prior to his short buildup to Suzhou. I took a moment to ask him a few questions about this World Championships.

Patrick Franziska makes last 8 in Suzhou
At the European Championships you suffered an injury. Can you explain your injury and how long the recovery process took?

A band broke in my foot. I needed surgery and they put a screw in my foot. The whole process including the surgery and rehab lasted about three and a half months.

What were your hopes for the World Championships knowing that you had just recovered from a serious injury? Did you expect to make the last 8?

I didn't expect anything. I just wanted to play my best table tennis and it worked ;)

How did you feel about your draw for the World Championships?

I wasn't that happy with the second round match with my team mate Steffen Mengel. We are team mates and good friends and it is always difficult to play against each other. But that's sport.

You ended up 2-0 down against Ukraine's Kou Lei in the last 16 match. What were you thinking at the end of the 2nd game and what helped you come back to win?

I was relaxed. I just tried to focus on every single ball, that had helped me in my other games a lot. I tried to change my game and play smart, not hard on every ball.

Suzhou was a stunning result for Patrick, being one of the last 3 European players left in the draw. He was beaten by Fang Bo 4-1 who went on to beat defending two time champion Zhang Jike and make the final. Thanks for taking the time Patrick :D

Monday 4 May 2015

New Coaching Rule is A Strange Move by ITTF

A new coaching rule has arisen as a result of the board meeting by ITTF prior to the World Championships and will be implemented in October 2016. The coaching rule will allow coaching in between points. Not much detail has been released about how far the rule goes, but you can only assume it means that all side coaching will become legal. The rule has been trialled in a couple of leagues in Europe, notably the German league.

Coaching between points to be legalised October 2016
I don't know how many other people feel about that but I think it takes away an element of professionalism from the sport. To have coaches on the sidelines constantly able to give tips and advice to their players when they come near the barriers or walk to pick up the ball doesn't really sound good to me. We don't need a greater involvement from coaches in matches, there is enough already. This rule will push some more dependence on coaches to help win matches and possibly involve on  occasions, more interference by coaches during matches.

This is an individual sport and the player should have to develop the necessary skills to hold their own during each set at least. This is why table tennis becomes intellectually stimulating and challenging, tactics are constantly updating and changing. We don't want puppets out there at the table with their coaches shouting commands between points.

This is, as with most political things, a matter of opinion. I feel it is not really going to produce much benefit for the sport. I'm not saying it will completely ruin the sport, but I don't see it as a necessary change to the rules. I'm very interested to hear what other people think of this change, especially reasons why it may be of value to include in the rules.

Coaching between points is currently considered an offence, punishable by yellow or eventually red card and removal from the vicinity of the playing area. So you have to ask really, why would this suddenly become ok?

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Was the New Ball More Entertaining Part 2

I wrote an article after the Men's and Women's World Cup Events last year about whether the new ball had produced longer rallies and was more entertaining. It had been said prior to the release of the ball that the rallies would be longer, it was all for spectator benefit. At the time I wrote this article, 'Was the New Ball More Entertaining?'

At the time the players were just beginning to get used to the new ball, some players couldn't handle it at all, it really didn't suit their style. There were a lot of unforced errors and questionable plays. Now we are about a year from the introduction of the plastic ball and perhaps things are starting to look up a little. Sure at club level and even national level we still kind of hate them. But the real question is, are they more entertaining to watch?

I watched a lot of the 2015 Qoros World Table Tennis Championships and there were some stunning rallies. Some of them I would say were up there with the better rallies I have seen. This world championships had many great matches. Lee Sang Su played incredibly against Ovtcharov and there were plenty of good rallies in that match and also Jung Youngsik against Mizutani which may have been the most rally-packed match I have seen in a while.

How much of the WTTC did you watch? Did you think the rallies were more entertaining than usual? The same as with the old ball?

One thing is for sure, the international players are starting to get a good feel for the new ball and they are looking as unstoppable as ever. The DHS Top 10 Video from ITTF from the tournament had some truly spectacular points and we saw some amazing power demonstrated by the players, notably Ma Long and Fang Bo. The new ball has not crushed our spirits entirely and we are finding that it is relatively playable.

One thing I didn't see much of was breakages. I don't think I saw a breakage of a ball in a livestream match during the tournament. Did anyone see many balls break?

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