Defensive Play – When to Do It and How to Do It Effectively

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With ping-pong® balls exceeding speeds of up to 70 mph, from sometimes less than seven feet away, table tennis players often find themselves moving further away from the table to have more time to react. Although the chances of an attacking player winning points while on defense is low, here are a few tips on play away from the ping-pong® table:

 There are two main types of defensive play when away from the table (topspin and underspin).

 Topspin Defense

Lobbing –  When extremely far from the table, lobbing the ball 10 to 20 feet in the air can prove effective if deep enough on the opponent’s side. For example, if the ball lands close to the net, it’s quite easy for the opponent to use power and smash the ball anywhere on the table. However, if deep enough, the ball will be more difficult to contact and hit with power. To add a greater jump to the ball, spin should be applied when lobbing.

Fishing – Another form of defensive play, fishing, is used when at a medium distance from the table and can be described as “carrying the ball” back onto the table. As opposed to a lob, a fished ball’s trajectory is much lower and should not give the opponent the same opportunity to finish the point as a weak lob. 

 Underspin Defense

The Attacker’s Defensive Chop – Often times when put out of position (most likely one ball wide to the forehand and back to the backhand), a low, no-spin chop can be used to work your way back into the point.

In the highlight video from the 2012 U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Team Trials below, I tried to list the times in the video where each of the techniques described is illustrated:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HffBi0p6wvU

Lobbing: 2:47

Fishing: 0:00, 3:05,

Defensive Chop Transitions: 3:28, 4:14, 5:07, 6:18

Good Luck!

Michael Landers

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A New Year of Table Tennis

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As 2012 just wrapped up and a new year is upon us, I would like to take a moment to reflect on this past year and say thank you to my friends, family, table tennis coaches and sponsors for their support. You inspire me to push myself to limits that I didn’t think were possible and are an important part of any success that I have had in the past or will ever see in the future. 

Although I have begun a new chapter in my life by deciding to attend college instead of training full time, I feel that table tennis will always be one of the main focuses of my life, whether it is practicing, competing, or spreading the word about it.

As many others have done, I would like to share a few of my resolutions and goals for the New Year!

My New Year’s Resolutions/Goals for 2013

1.     Find more time to balance schoolwork with table tennis practice

2.     Get on top of my cardio training and stay in shape

3.     Play at least five USATT/ITTF table tennis tournaments

4.     Continue to help, teach and introduce others to the sport of table tennis with Robo-Pong!

Michael Landers

 

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Warming Up with Michael Landers

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I find that one of the questions that I am asked most frequently is how to properly warm-up for a table tennis match. Although everyone has their own methods of preparation, here is what my match warm-up schedule would look like for the highly despised 9:00 a.m. matches, along with a few extra tips:

7:00 a.m. - 20 minute jog to wake up, loosen up my muscles, and prepare for the day ahead

7:20 a.m. – Breakfast! I usually eat about 1 ½ - 2 hours before the match, to make sure that everything is properly digested before starting to play table tennis

7:45 a.m. - Arrive at playing center, take a light jog around, and stretch

8:00 a.m. - Start basic warm-up: forehands, backhands, etc.

8:15 a.m. - Footwork drill: For the first match of the day, the problem that I often see with table tennis players is their inability to get their feet moving. Some will try playing practice matches to get warmed up, but I find that the only thing I need before a match is to make sure that my feet are quick and nimble.

8:30 a.m. - Serving drill (Serve, and then random blocks anywhere): Here is what incorporates the feeling of playing the match into your warm-up routine.

8:45 a.m. - Serve and attack: The final stage of warm-up before match play to get feeling and prepare for the upcoming match.

9:00 a.m. - Match

So, really the most important thing for me is to be able to get the blood flowing and my legs moving before my first match. From there on, like many others, things become much easier as the day progresses.

Try some of these tips and see how they work out for you at your next table tennis match!

Good luck!

Michael Landers

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An Update from Michael Landers

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This past weekend I travelled to Columbus, Ohio to compete in the first annual Butterfly Thanksgiving Team Table Tennis Championships. Although I haven’t competed in a while, the tournament was a great deal of fun and our team ended up finishing in second place in the A Division.

Overall, the tournament was very well run and placed an emphasis on its players, which I felt was incredibly important. The lighting was superb, each court had its own barriers and was completely separated from the others, and each table had wet towels next to them to provide extra traction for each player’s shoes on the floor.

Although it was a great way to spend my Thanksgiving vacation, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to practice too much in the upcoming weeks due to the massive amounts of work being assigned in classes and the approaching finals. Hopefully the next time you hear from me will be when everything returns back to normal!

Michael Landers

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Tips for Playing Against Choppers in Table Tennis

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For many, defensive table tennis players can often be frustrating to play against. Although there is no foolproof way to play against the defensive style, here are a few useful tips and strategies that I always keep in mind when matched up against a chopper or defensive player:

- Aim at the elbow: Aiming your shots into your opponent’s elbow is always a smart thing to do, however it could prove itself even more effective when done properly against defensive players because of their large strokes.

- Be patient and find the winning strategy (even if it means winning ugly): Patience is incredibly important when playing against someone whose goal it is to make you miss. Frustration often causes table tennis players to rush and try avoiding long rallies, which usually leads to poor decisions and mistakes. Try to play high percentage shots on the table and select which balls can be strongly attacked and which balls should just be played carefully back on the table.

- Variation, Variation, Variation!: This perhaps is the key to playing against choppers. By playing without any variation at all (i.e, looping everything with the same speed, spin, and placement on the table), you’re directly playing into your opponent’s game. Against choppers especially, varying the placement, speed, and spin of the ball is vital. Keep in mind that placement includes the depth on the table (how close the ball is to the net and end line) as well as width (whether the ball is on the forehand or backhand side). Many players forget about varying the depth of their shots and only focus on the width, which only benefits a defensive player’s game.

- Getting them out of their comfort zone: Though this should be your ultimate goal when playing against any type of player, it is especially important when playing against a defensive player in table tennis.

By implementing the above tips into your game, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a defensive player’s worst nightmare.

Good luck and have fun!

Michael Landers

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An Update from Michael Landers

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I must say that October and November have been pretty crazy for myself and everyone in New York. I’m so grateful that the power just got restored in my apartment building in Manhattan after being out for an entire week thanks to Hurricane Sandy. Though the storm has passed, the aftermath from it on the east coast is devastating and has left many homeless. Luckily, my family and friends and I are safe, and our house in Long Island is still intact.

In other news, the NYU Table Tennis Team had its first divisional tournament a few weekends ago, and although we ended up finishing in second place, it was a positive learning experience for the entire team. Although I haven’t practiced for almost two weeks because of schoolwork and the hurricane, I’m going to resume my training in a few days in preparation for the upcoming Butterfly Team Table Tennis Championships in Ohio. I haven’t competed in a while and am greatly looking forward to an awesome weekend with my friends and fellow competitors.

Michael Landers

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The Importance of Balance in Table Tennis – Michael Landers

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An often overlooked, but very important aspect of table tennis is balance.  The fact of the matter is that your body’s stability is the foundation for every shot, so each and every stroke depends on the body’s positioning and balance. This, of course, brings up the question, “How does one learn how to balance his body out for a sport like table tennis?” Well, biomechanically speaking, table tennis is just like any other sport; balance comes mostly from your core, legs and technique.

As for technique, take a look at this video of Ma Long, #2 Ranked World Table Tennis Champion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qYkOZJYoUA&feature=related

As you can see, during each of his strokes, he uses his left arm as a stabilizer by keeping it out in front of his body and guiding his right arm through the ball, as opposed to flailing it around at his side like many amateur table tennis players do. His stroke is extremely compact and uniform.

You can try to achieve the same effect by placing a small beach ball between your hands instead of a table tennis racket and practicing your strokes without any ping-pong® balls to learn to stabilize your body. In addition, try doing some core and leg exercises like sit-ups, medicine ball twists, or frog jumps to help strengthen the vital parts of your body.

Hopefully, if you have the patience and dedication to follow these instructions, you will see significant changes in your table tennis game.

Michael Landers

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An Update from Michael Landers

jena

School is going great, but the workload at times is completely overwhelming. I’m trying to keep in shape by practicing table tennis at least twice a week. Plus, midterms are coming up, which doesn’t make life any easier.

My next table tennis tournament will be the Butterfly Thanksgiving Team Championships in Ohio. So I’m really looking forward to preparing and competing for the first time in a few months.

Lastly, I’m excited to announce that sometime during the month of October, Kellogg’s will begin mass producing boxes of Corn Flakes, around the country, featuring ME, Michael Landers, Table Tennis Player! So look for me in the cereal aisle next time you’re at the grocery store.

Michael Landers

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Using the Robo-Pong as a Teaching Aide – Michael Landers

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After discovering the ping-pong® table in the bottom floor of my apartment building for school, I decided to bring my Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot down there to see if anybody would be interested in learning how to play table tennis.

Surprisingly, about 10 people asked me to teach them a few things. In the past I’ve found that it can be quite difficult to try to teach someone proper strokes in a one on one situation because it’s impossible to guide someone’s arm while feeding them balls. Usually what happens is that I show them how to hit the ball and then let them try themselves as I hit balls to them. However, with the Robo-Pong, I am able to stand behind the person and literally guide them through each stroke by holding their hand while the robot continues to feed balls out. I’ve found this to be incredibly efficient, as I can let the person feel the correct way to hit and spin the ball.

After about 30 minutes, I had all 10 kids hitting consistent forehands on the table. They thought the Robo-Pong was the coolest thing ever and can’t wait for another lesson!

Michael Landers

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An Update from Michael Landers

jena

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the North American Table Tennis Championships this year because of school. However, I’m happy to say that I will have enough time during the year to maintain a steady practice and workout schedule. The table tennis team at NYU meets two or three times a week for three hours a practice session. I’m thinking about bringing my Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot to the practices so both the team and I can do multi-ball training without a coach. I look forward to starting classes next week and am looking even more forward to practicing!

Michael Landers

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