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November 27, 2007

Service Return Tips

Last night I had my second lesson with Ivan, and this time he helped me on a major downfall in my game: returning serves. I honestly lose two thirds of my points because I cannot read the spin, nor can I craftfully return heavy sidespin.

Dealing with long serves:
If the service is long (it only bounces once on the table), the best return strategy is to loop the shot back (if it has heavy underspin), or to hit it at the apex of the bounce and treat it as a normal forehand or backhand topspin shot. Sometimes the server will hit a quick ball to your backhand. If this happens and you are unprepared, simply block the shot. Do not risk swinging and missing because as soon as the ball bounces it is going to pick up speed. If you are unprepared for this serve do not try to be fancy, just react with a block.

Long serves deserve to be punished with an attack. Do not push them or chop them unless you are out of position.

Countering Short Serves:
If the serve is bouncing close the net, you cannot loop it. Instead, you perform a short push on balls with underspin (make sure not to snap the wrist). Try to land the shot close to the net- you don't want the server to have a ball that he can attack. If you are receiving sidespin, do a quick topspin shot to the opposite side of the table. Pushing a sidespin ball will cause it pop up in the air- Ivan slammed all of my returns when I would push. The goal with this shot is to quickly attack the open side of the table.

Short serves need to be approached with caution, remember this.

Be sure to practice these return strategies if you have been struggling with heavy spins like me. If you need help judging the spin on the ball, be sure to read this article from ehow.com

Posted by djablons at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2007

My First Lesson

Yesterday I finally set out to accomplish one of my more recent goals- to take a private table tennis lesson. For the past two years or so I have been wanting to take my game to the next level. I just felt that i had reached a plateau and wasn't getting any better at the game. Well, I finally found an instructor in the area after networking through the Wolverine Table Tennis club and I scheduled a lesson.

Last night, I met "Ivey" the semi-pro table tennis player. During warm-ups I could not believe how good he was- any slam, chop, or loop was returned with ease. We had a rally last for well over 100 shots! He kept count, I was too busy slamming every shot hopelessly trying to force an error which never happened. Another note- I always read "ping-pong facts" on the internet about the game being one of the fastest in the world with balls traveling upwards of 90 miles per hour and I thought that it was a statistical error. After seeing Ivey take a full few forehand swings at my high balls I can say that those numbers are accurate. Getting hit by those slams can really sting. I still have some markings on my hand.

Anyways, that is enough of me drooling over talent. My lesson was primarily focused on drills involving looping- a highly exaggerated swing that generates a lot of topspin. With a supply of fifty balls we drilled on looping underspin serves, pushes, chops, as well as countering loopy slams as well with blocks. The two things that I really had to focus on were waiting longer to hit the ball for a loop and to pay attention to the amount of spin on the ball. It is important to wait until the ball has reached the apex of the bounce and is falling to hit it, otherwise you cannot generate the necessary spin to land the shot. As far as blocking shots goes, paying attention to the amount of spin determines how much you have to close the paddle at the point of impact.

Overall I am very pleased with how the lesson turned out and I look forward to taking more in the future. Talking about the lesson has also inspired my friends to take the game more competitively. Just recently we purchased a bulk amount of balls. We hope to drill on our own, just like in the video below (watch it from the two minute mark on to understand why).

Posted by djablons at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2007

Places to Play, round 2.

Last week we covered some tables that were in more recreatonal settings. This week I want to focus on tables designed for competitive play, where the familiar game of ping pong transforms into the intense sport of table tennis.

In the labryinth-esque basement of the CCRB there is a table hidden in one of the racquet ball courts. Although it rarely gets used, the setting is perfect for playing. The entire racquetball court is dedicated to just one play table which means you can finally play twenty feet away from the table and not trip over another player, furniture, or bump into a wall like you would in any other setting on campus. This allows for rallies to incorporate more forehand slams and topspin loops creating an athletic game of table tennis. Also, because the table is in a court, the lights are high above the table, perfectly lighting the court and not creating any irritating glare. Overall the playing conditions are one of the best on campus.
Pros: Perfect court conditions.
Cons: There is only one table so you may have to wait.

The Sports Coliseum
Most people on campus will never even know what or were the Sports Coliseum is. For the record, it is the old warehouse building on the corner of Hill and Division. Most people pass by it every football saturday, but few are ever in the area aside from those game days. Despite its lack of fame, this is where the best table tennis players meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the school year. Each time, nine competition style tables are set up for the Wolverine Table Tennis Club to compete. Here you will see the highlight reels from ESPN brought to life watching ranked players compete againse each other. Although some of the tables have minor blemishes, the Sports Coliseum has a great facility for playing table tennis. Just watch out for your opponents, they are not your average players. The table tennis club meets from 7-9, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Pros: Great Competition with lots of room to move
Cons: Expect your ego to disappear and to lose all confidence in your game after facing the competition.

Pictured above are players from the Michigan Club team, Etienne Bandelier, Rohan Khubchandani, Bhargav Avasarala, and Vincent Lam, the reigning champions of the Ohio National Table Tennis Tournament.

Posted by djablons at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2007

Places to play

During my first experience at the University of Michigan- freshman orientaion- I was shocked that I could not find a ping pong table. I was also told that in college I would find a plethora of ping pong competition and I would be able to take my game to the next level. Well, for orientation and most of first semester, I was let down.

I always knew there was the Table Tennis Club that met in the Sports Coliseum, but I also wanted other places to play that were more convenient. Getting to the Sports Coliseum on the corner of Hill and Division from Markley was never fun. Over the course of first semester, however, I started finding new places to play in many different locations.

The two tables at Markley were the first I played at on a regular basis. Two halls decided to buy tables for their lounges, and after that, there were always people playing on the tables. Although the lounges were large enough for the ping pong tables, the furniture is not allowed to leave the room so it crowds the playing space. Also, there are times where the room is in a very rough condition from the night before. I've seen all kinds of bodily fluids around the ping pong table.

Pros: Very convenient locations with good lighting.
Cons: Expect to see some awful things if you play before the cleaning crew gets to the room.

East Hall, Math Lounge
Math majors have the best student lounge on campus. On a balcony two floors above the atrium they have a great Butterfly Roll-away table with lots of natural lighting and plenty of room. Everything about the place is perfect, except for the guilt you feel from ruining the eerie silence of the lounge.
Pros: Awesome table.
Cons: The table feels out of place nestled among the students sleeping during their class breaks.

Be sure to check these places out if you are looking for some more playing time!

Posted by djablons at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)