The Attacking Mindset in Table Tennis

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If you are an offensive table tennis player, there are two aspects of the game that you need to master.

The first aspect is - Creating the opportunity to attack first.  I hear many table tennis club players telling themselves throughout the night, “Just use your attack!”  Well that sounds nice, but how are you going to create the opportunity.  There are several ways.

  1. Try to loop long serves
  2. Try to loop half-long serves
  3. Try to serve short and push short so that your opponent can’t easily loop first
  4. Try to loop most of the long pushes
  5. Try to loop most of the flips

After you make the opening attack, try to continue attacking by following up with another ball and another ball.  Against a good table tennis player, it will likely take 3-4 strong attacks to win the point.

The second aspect is - Being consistent in your attack.  Even if you can create the opportunity to attack, that doesn’t mean that you will win; that merely means that you have the ability to attack.  Your target should be to make 80-90% of your attacks on with both your backhand and your forehand.  If you are making 100% of your opening attacks on and still losing, then you possibly need to give more spin variation, speed variation, and placement variation.  If you are inconsistent on your attacks, then consider adjusting your technique in the following ways.

  1. Try to move into position better
  2. Try to read the amount of spin that your opponent is giving you
  3. Try to adjust the height of your backswing based on the spin and based on the height of the ball
  4. Try to adjust the length of your swing based on the speed of the ball
  5. Try to adjust your racket angle based on the spin on the ball
  6. Try to focus on spin as your primary weapon and use speed as your secondary weapon

You should significantly see your attacking game improve if you focus on these key areas. Good luck!

Samson Dubina

 

 

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You Don’t Play Well in Table Tennis Tournaments Because…

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You don’t adapt quickly enough!

Playing well in table tennis tournaments involves two major factors – being able to perform under pressure and being adaptable to the situation. This blog will focus on the second factor – being adaptable to the situation. There are five things that you can do to learn to become a tough tournament player!

1. You must learn to adapt to various playing condition quickly.  I would recommend practicing in various places on a regular basis – large courts and small courts, high ceiling and low ceiling, 1” ping pong tables and 3/4 “ ping pong tables, wood floor, cement floor and rubber floor, practice table tennis balls and 3-star Premium table tennis balls, bright lighting and dim lighting.  But you might say, “Won’t better conditions make me play better and poor conditions make me play worse?”  Not necessarily.  It all becomes a matter of what you are used to playing with.  Try to play at various table tennis clubs, try to use all the different types of tables at your club, try to play at various tournament venues, try to play at different friends’ houses, and try to play at various rec centers and learn to quickly adapt to each facility.

2. You must learn to adapt to various table tennis tournament times.  If you play in the U.S. Table Tennis Open this July, you might have a match on Wednesday morning at 9 .am., then you might have a match on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m.  For the table tennis players living in California, playing a 9 a.m. match at the U.S. Open in Michigan will actually feel like 6 a.m.!   The point is you must be able to perform at your peak at various times of the day.  So vary your practice times.  Wake up at 7 a.m. and have an 8 a.m. practice session with the Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot.  Go to a friend’s house at 9 p.m. and play some late-night games.  Prepare your mind and body to adapt!

3. You must learn to adapt to various warm-up levels.  Here is the biggest excuse for losses in table tennis tournaments, “I didn’t get enough warm-up!”  Often, you might go to the training hall with a practice partner, jog and stretch for 20 minutes, practice basic forehands and backhands for 20 minutes, do two footwork drills, do two serve-and-attack drills, and then wrap up with some games.  At the end of the session, you are feeling good and everything is warmed-up for the games.  In tournaments, you might not have a table available for warm-up.  You can warm-up you mind and warm-up your body with jogging and stretching. BUT you might not have a practice table available for your normal routine.  For this reason, I would recommend regularly playing some practice games in the beginning of your training session, so that you can learn to adapt quickly and perform well, even when you don’t feel great.

4. You must learn to adapt to various fatigue levels.  Here is the second major excuse that I often hear, “I was just too tired.”  Really?  You are going to lose that final table tennis match because you were just too tired.  Well, you certainly need to work on your table tennis conditioning so that doesn’t happen again!  You should do some intense workouts prior to your table tennis matches so that you learn to play with fatigue.  Go for a 4-5 mile jog then go to the club and play four hours of matches.  Do 30 all-out wind sprints, then serve a few short, low serves.  Do 50 push-ups, then play a 9-9 game against your rival at the club.  Train tired and learn to adapt even when you feel that you are completely out of energy.

5. You must learn to adapt to various table tennis opponents.  This is the biggest challenge in tournaments.  You might first play against a looper, then a long pips blocker, then a lobber, then a lefty, then a short pips smasher, then a chopper.  You can’t apply the same strategy to each opponent.  This is the main point in winning tournaments!  You must go into every match like a detective, trying to find every clue possible about your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and you must be able to QUICKLY adapt to heavy pushes and light pushes, strong loops and weak loops, fast blocks and dead blocks.  I would recommend playing with as many different players as possible on a regular basis.  Instead of merely practicing with the same two people at the club, be willing to move outside of the norm and play with lower or higher rated table tennis players.  By playing a wide range of various styles, you will learn to adapt and become a well-rounded tournament player.

Samson Dubina

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What to Do When You Can’t Stop Your Opponent in Table Tennis

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Your table tennis opponent is attacking your short serve and you are frustrated that you can’t stop him or her from attacking your serve.

What should you do?

Well, you must realize that with modern equipment and modern strokes, he or she will likely be able to attack all of your serves - regardless of how spinny, low, or short you serve. 

The first key is to serve in such a way that he or she can’t tee-off hard on your serve.  By mixing up long, short, and half-long serves it will be very difficult for him or her to attack strong.  Also, if you serve very low, heavy backspin short to the forehand, your opponent probably won’t be able to produce much spin on the flip.  If you serve to the backhand short, your opponent might be able to generate spin using the wrist – similar to Zhang Jike.

The second key is to learn how to attack the flip.  If you merely block the flip, then your opponent will likely finish you off with a strong loop.  If you are able to start your racket high, shorten your backswing, and loop with good control, then you will likely take the attack away from your opponent and he or she will usually block the next ball.  Avoid blocking flips AND avoid hitting too hard against flips.  Because the flip is so close to you, you don’t have much time to adjust to the various speeds, spins, and trajectories.  So, watch where your opponent is flipping, adjust with your feet, start your hand high, and loop with control to a good location.

There is no reason to get frustrated trying to completely STOP your opponent from flipping your serve, instead, serve in such a way that he or she cannot flip hard and BE PREPARED to attack their flip.  A good example of how to attack flips can be seen in Dimitrij Ovtcharov’s match against Zhang Jike at the 2014 World Table Tennis Championship.

Samson Dubina

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Winning Deuce Table Tennis Games

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There are several key factors that you must remember when playing deuce games in table tennis. 

1.) What you did right - You have won 10 points during the table tennis game and you must have a clear memory as to which serves won the point outright and which serves setup your game best.  You also must have a clear memory about which locations worked best and what game patterns worked best.

2.) What you did wrong - You have lost 10 points during the game and you must have a clear memory as to which serves didn’t work well to set-up your game and which serves or patterns that your opponent used to win points.  Step back and ask yourself, “If my opponent serves that same tricky serve again, what would I do differently to return it?”

3.) To stay within your means - Don’t try something that you aren't capable of and don’t try something that is extremely risky.  Play your best game and perform well, but don’t overplay.

4.) To take your time between points - Winning close games is mostly about your mental performance.  You have already showed that you can perform at the same level as the other player during the last 20 points.  If you are able to take your time, think clearly, and play smart, you should be able to win.  Also, consider taking a timeout near the end of the game.

5.) Winning ugly is o.k. - You don’t have to finish the match with a jaw-dropping, standing-ovation, counter loop roller around the net.  Do what you need to do to win.  Don’t try to play for the crowd and don’t try to play for the highlight film.

6.) Have fun - Think of close table tennis games as a challenge.  Instead of fearing deuce games, enjoy them!

Samson Dubina

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That One Shot in Table Tennis

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There is one shot in table tennis that will really hurt you.  But before I tell you what the shot is, I’ll first make a couple of observations about your body positioning.

If you attack with your forehand from your forehand side, it doesn’t really matter where you attack.  You should mix up your placement – wide forehand, wide backhand, and middle transition.  Because your body is centrally located in relation to the ping pong table, you will likely be able to recover quickly for the next ball.

If you attack with your backhand from your backhand side, it doesn’t really matter where you attack.  You should mix up your placement – wide forehand, wide backhand, and middle transition.  Because your body is centrally located in relation to the table, you will likely be able to recover quickly for the next ball.

However, if you step around the backhand side and use your forehand, your placement is absolutely critical.  Most Ohio club table tennis players step around the backhand side and use their forehands to go down-the-line to the opponent’s forehand.  If the opponent doesn’t touch the ball, this works.  However, if the opponent does return the ball, it is very difficult to cover the wide forehand.  When you step around the backhand side to use your forehand, I recommend that you hit a winner.  Go for it!  If you want to hit a weaker ball, then stay with your backhand.  And when you do use your forehand from that position, make sure that you are very, very tricky on your placement.  If not, your opponent is sure to catch you on the wide forehand.

Samson Dubina

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Table Tennis Ratings vs. Skills

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Often times, table tennis players will mistakenly associate ratings with skills.  Just because your table tennis opponent has a certain rating doesn’t necessarily mean that your opponent possesses a certain level of particular skills. 

For example…

I asked my 1800-rated table tennis student why he wasn’t attacking his (2100-rated) opponent’s half-long serve.  My student responded by saying that because his opponent was rated 2100, he assumed that all his serves were short.

I asked my 1200-rated student why he kept hitting to his (600-rated) opponent’s backhand.  My student responded by saying that his assumed that all low-rated table tennis players have weak backhands. 

I asked my 1700-rated student why he kept trying to smash every ball against his (2300-rated) opponent.  My student responded by saying that he assumed that he probably couldn’t return any balls anyway and decided just to go for high-risk shots in the table tennis match.

These hypothetical situations demonstrate that you can’t assume a certain set of skills is used by certain player levels in table tennis.  You must approach each opponent individually instead of categorizing players by rating. 

Samson Dubina

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Concentration in Table Tennis

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I have a little homework assignment for you.  Stand two feet away from a 5-gallon bucket and toss a penny into the bucket.  Easy, right?  Now stand two feet away from a gallon of milk (with the lid off) and toss a penny into the milk container.  This requires more aiming and more focus, right?

The same is true in regards to your table tennis game.  The amount of concentration that most table tennis players use is directly related to the task at hand.  A very spinny push to your middle might require some fancy footwork and some good concentration to successfully loop.  A sidespin counter loop wide to your forehand might require perfect timing and good concentration to counter loop back around the net.  Everyone puts good concentration on these difficult shots.  HOWEVER, many players lose focus on “easy balls” like a short high-ball that could easily be smashed for a winner.  As soon as they lose 5% of their focus then these players usually don’t move well, become sloppy, lose their spin, miss the “easy ball”, and then become frustrated.  Approach these “easy balls” as being difficult balls.  Approach these balls with 100% concentration.

The same mental flaw is true in regards to playing lower level table tennis opponents.  The amount of concentration that most players use is directly related to the task at hand.  Even when playing lower-rated opponents, bring out your best game with 100% focus and you will have no regrets in your table tennis matches.

Samson Dubina

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The Tournament Mindset

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During practice, most table tennis players focus 100% on themselves.  They think in detail about their own footwork, their own strokes, and their own serves.  They rarely consider their opponent.  In table tennis tournaments, they are mistakenly focused on themselves, wondering why they can’t win.

By performing beautiful forehand loops, your opponent will not drop dead.  You can’t win a match based on your awesome footwork.  The only way to win a table tennis match is to beat your opponent!  In matches, you should be 95% focused on your opponent and only 5% focused on yourself.  At the elite level, there are many detailed strategies.  I’ll deal with them in a future article.  For now, here are 10 basic questions that you should be asking yourself between games and between points!

Does my opponent prefer backhand or forehand when attacking?

Does my opponent prefer backhand or forehand when defending?

Where is my opponent’s middle (the transition point between backhand and forehand)?

Does my opponent win the majority of the points from strong attacks or does my opponent win the majority of the point from my mistakes?

Does my opponent feel more comfortable close to the table or far away from the table?

What are the most common serves that my opponent is using?

If my opponent has a particularly tricky serve that I continue to miss, what other options do I have to return it?

Does my opponent attack my short serve?  Does my opponent attack my long serves?

Does my opponent have any particular trouble with a specific serve?

Does my opponent have any particular trouble with a specific shot that I’m using or does he have trouble with a particular spin or particular location?

If you go through this list between every game, you will be able to better form strategies throughout the entire table tennis match!  Remember, winning is not just about great playing, winning is about making your opponent play poorly!

Samson Dubina

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Newgy Cincinnati Open 4-Star Table Tennis Tournament – Results

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Congrats to all the winners of the Newgy Cincinnati Open 4-Star Table Tennis Tournament this past weekend!

Open Giant RR
1st Samson Dubina
2nd Tapabrada Dey
3rd Hesam Hamrahian
4th Danny Dulkin
5th-8th Ali Khatami, Alex Averin, Seth Pech, and John Allen

U2400 Giant RR
1st Danny Dulkin
2nd Seth Pech
3rd-4th Nick Snider and Tapabrada Dey

u2000 Giant RR
1st Harsh Khandelwal
2nd Kosal Tith
3rd-4th Willians Calipo and Greg Smith

U1600 Giant RR
1st Chad Ryan
2nd Kevin Swan
3rd-4th Joe Ciarrochi and Yi Yan Xue

U1200 Giant RR
1st Yueling Zhang
2nd Newell Millard
3rd-4th Matt Seeds and Lin Wang

U1000 Giant RR
1st Laura Paglin
2nd Aubrey Morris

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The Right Balance in Table Tennis

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Most club table tennis players can’t train 40 hours per week due to work, school, family commitments and just life in general.  However, most players can dedicate around 10 hours per week to improve their table tennis skills.  For my training students, I ask them to work hard to produce the best possible 10 hours that they can do.  I ask them to do 4 hours of table tennis matches, 1 hour of serving practice, 1 hour of physical training, 1 hour of video analysis, and 3 hours of training with the Newgy Robo-Pong 2050 table tennis robot.

Playing matches against various playing styles is an important part of a weekly training program because it “tests” your table tennis skills.  You should be able to properly regulate WHAT to practice based on how you perform in practice matches.

Serving practice is one of the fastest ways to improve.  If you can score 2-3 more points each game, that is a major improvement.  Even if you can’t win the point outright, a good serve should set you up for the next ball.  When serving, focus on keeping the ball low, with good spin variation, and good placement variation.  Try to develop a very similar motion while giving slight changes in the spin – heavy sidespin, sidespin backspin, no spin, and sidespin topspin.

Physical training is a vital aspect that every table tennis player needs to work on to move to the elite level.  At your current level, physical training might not seem very important.  However, at the elite level, it is critical.  I would recommend focusing mainly on speed and flexibility exercises for the legs and core.  Top table tennis players say that 70-80% of their looping power comes from the legs and core (not the arm).

Video analysis is the most neglected aspect of table tennis training in the US.  Without visualization of your strengths and weaknesses on a weekly basis, you are probably training incorrectly.  Record at least one session per week and take some time to watch it slowly while taking notes.  Ask a friend or coach to watch it with your and take a somewhat critical approach to analyzing your game.

Table tennis robot training has helped me tremendously and I’m sure that it will help you too.  Instead of thinking about the score, you can focus on the areas of your game that really need to improve.  You can focus on making changes to your footwork, short game, blocking, looping, smashing, chopping, and serve return.  Start the drill very slowly with +50% wait adjust so that you can perform them correctly.  As you become more consistent at that speed, slowly decrease the time between balls by 10%.

Here is a sample weekly table tennis training program from one of my students:

Monday:        Robot (1 hour) and Physical Training (30 min)

Tuesday:        Club (2 hours)

Wednesday:  Rest

Thursday:       Club (2 hours) and video analysis (1 hour)

Friday:             Robot (1 hour) and serving (1 hour)

Saturday:        Robot (1 hour) and Physical Training (30 min)

Sunday:           Rest

Samson Dubina

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