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 Post subject: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2015, 10:52 
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This blog will be about my training, with some really dull video. I live in a small town with a tiny, twice-a-week, four table club. The best player here is ~1820. A few of us drive 120 - 250 miles R/T on weekends to get some better competition and variety. It's what NL calls a TT poverty zone. So I mostly train with a robot, unfortunately.

Most of the tournaments here use the giant RR format, which means I see the same people until I can play my way out of a group. I have spent the last six events in the group that spans roughly 1620 - 1720, and I would love to move on. Given the limited TT resources here I am going to have to redouble my training effort to accomplish that, so maybe this blog can help with advice, motivation, or just venting.


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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2015, 11:04 
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So recently I read this blog entry by Ben Larcombe on experttabletennis.com http://www.experttabletennis.com/what-is-the-number-one-weakness-in-your-game-right-now/

And I had a good think about it. There are so many to choose from, but this one bothers me the most: I don't transfer my weight during a pendulum serve properly, so I can't recover for the third ball. Some coaches I respect a lot have said that it is not as big a deal as I think, which I appreciate. However they are wrong wrong wrong, in this instance. Here is a video to illustrate. It shows six different service points from club matches with a freezeframe in each point. I froze the first one when my serve hit the other side, the next one when the ball was on my opponent's bat, and then when I was in full ready position. That sequence repeats for the second set of three points. Anyway, the link
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5APHj9GVBg


Look at my body position when my opponent hits the ball! Look where the ball is by the time I am finally ready! It's freaking appalling. This kind of thing is why nobody wants to video themselves. It's too depressing.

NL has commented before about how much time players actually spend working on stuff. So I am going to spend 20 hours solely on practicing my pendulum serve weight transfer. I don't even care what happens with the serves, I just have to make the proper recovery automatic. Here is 16 minutes out of the first hour. (I said the video in this blog would be really dull and I wasn't kidding.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCQcje9dj44


19 extremely tedious hours to go. Then I will re-evaluate and start the second set of 20 hours.


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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2015, 13:01 
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It might be weight transfer...but I just see you ball watching after the serve, like I'm sure you do in practice.

Probably easier to just practice serving and getting into the ready position.

You need to know what likely will happen with the serve you just gave and get ready!

Edit: I missed the link to the second video. Looks like you are on your way to fixing that.
I even think you could go further and position yourself better after the serve, since you know what the serve is.
Good example is if you give a deep top spin serve - probably get back a bit and prepare for a topspin return.


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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2015, 14:33 
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I think you should consider watching a player you respect execute what you are trying to achieve and copy them.

Your serve is not really a pendulum serve - it's a backspin serve. You also don't serve it consistently enough to make recovery a focus. And you should probably practice no-spin or weak spin as a variation.

You are serving to the short forehand and anticipating a return to the backhand. This is possible but likely to be the weaker return so after this serve placement, you should cheat to the forehand. Focus on the stronger return. You should be serving to the opponent's backhand if you want a return to your backhand.

IMO, your serve is all arm. Some higher level players transfer their weight through the serve and have their momentum bringing them to ready position. However, this is neither here nor there.

Finally, you really need to get this consistent before you start practicing recovery. The first thing that makes recovery important or relatively unimportant is the quality of the serve and bad serves do not restrict the returner's options. Practice it with a real person if it is such a big deal.

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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2015, 14:40 
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Good on you for starting a blog BRS! :up: :up: :up:

I've embedded the videos for you so they're easier to watch. Edit your post to see how it's done. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2015, 22:22 
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NextLevel wrote:
Your serve is not really a pendulum serve - it's a backspin serve.

I meant any serve from that position off the BH side. True pendulum serves have the same trouble.

NextLevel wrote:
You are serving to the short forehand and anticipating a return to the backhand. This is possible but likely to be the weaker return so after this serve placement, you should cheat to the forehand. Focus on the stronger return. You should be serving to the opponent's backhand if you want a return to your backhand.

This goes to wilkinru's post as well -- a competent opponent can return my underspin or no spin serves to any location. The sidespin ones do tend to pull back more to my backhand side. However side-top can be pushed back heavy by a good player, maybe because it bounces too high and they can chop down on it. So I am not really anticipating anything, but that is a secondary problem.

I just can't get square to the table in time.

So I am not able to cheat to the FH. I am not ready for any offensive shot off any receive, expected or not.

Seriously, try serving so that you finish with all the weight on your back foot, enough so you could stand on that right foot (for right-handers) alone. Then play out a point. That is what I want to unlearn. When you try it you will see why.

I could hide this flaw up to about 1650 level. I could win more on receives, or just start the point on the 5th ball when I was set. But now I get hit with 4th ball attacks, and that stinks.

NextLevel wrote:
Finally, you really need to get this consistent before you start practicing recovery. The first thing that makes recovery important or relatively unimportant is the quality of the serve and bad serves do not restrict the returner's options.

This may be true for most. But this advice does not work for me and I am not going to keep at it. I have practiced these serves for hundreds of hours over more than two years and they are still terrible. In fact they are probably worse than if I had never practiced them alone, because I wouldn't have developed the awful habit of watching the serve if I had just played matches. I'm sure an in-person coach could teach me to serve at least a little better, but there isn't one within 100 miles.

So for this off-season which runs to February, one major goal is recovery to a decent ready position in time for the third ball, wherever it goes.


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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2015, 22:35 
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Okay, BRS. If you know how you best learn, let us work with that. However, I strongly doubt you have practiced the serves properly. For the mast part, I have improved the quality of my serves over time in response to the level of pressure from the opposition. I don't remember ever spraying this many serves into the net. Whatever you are doing, you are missing way too many serves. Just don't do this serve if you miss this many.

These serves are fairly common serves and there is little point in trying to reinvent the wheel here. Watch better players and see how they do it. Then copy and repeat that, even if you don't exactly get that right. The way the Chinese or Brian Pace step into their pendulum serves was one thing that had me doing mine the way I do it.

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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2015, 22:50 
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A well placed and paced serve is always harder to return short or aggressively where there is less table. If you aren't getting this impression, the problem is your serve quality for the level of opposition you are playing and it is almost always the level of spin or the height.

In any case, I think that it takes the right kind of feedback and other than watching your own matches and getting statistics, I wouldn't know what else you can do. I would hardly consider this problem the biggest one in your game that needs to be addressed (I think the real issue is that you don't have enough experience with your serve to figure out what will typically happen and how the quality impacts it and it keeps slowing you down because you are trying to anticipate everything).

That said, recovering faster is not a bad thing and will definitely improve your game. But again, fix the serve. It's all over the place. The first bounce on your side is so inconsistent and that does not speak well for proper practice as that part of your serve should be locked down.

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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2015, 23:25 
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NextLevel wrote:
Okay, BRS. If you know how you best learn, let us work with that. However, I strongly doubt you have practiced the serves properly.

I agree 100% with this. If I was practicing properly my serves would not suck to this degree at the level of effort I have put in.

I need a coach's help because I am not getting usable feedback on my own. Watching videos hasn't worked. Maybe one day I will have access to live coaching. The facts being what they are for now, I have to try to move on with what I have.


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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2015, 23:38 
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Agreed and fair, BRS. The one thing I do know about you is that you are generally consistent. You faithfully reproduce what you are shown. In this case, you need to lock down the serve. You have served enough quality serves that you should have a good light backspin serve now. You should know where your optimal first bounce position is. Serve that as often and consistently as possible before and when doing this drill. Doing this drill with a bad serve is pretty similar to drilling in footwork with bad control/strokes.

Mark the spots on your table you are aiming for with tape. Then serve to those spots. You will whiff far less if you do this.

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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 30 Oct 2015, 01:10 
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From the first video, it appears that you're putting your weight on your right foot which makes it difficult to pivot to a neutral position. Practice putting your weight on your left foot, lift your right foot on the backswing, pivot and plant your right foot so that your body is in a neutral position as you make contact with the ball.


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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 30 Oct 2015, 01:18 
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Glad to see you have a blog BRS. I'm subscribed. And hey, at least you actually practice your serves. That's better than what I do.

This conversation is all above my level, but I want to throw out something to give you food for thought. I think one of the problems with your recovery has to do with your body position on the serve itself. Pause the video at 2:33 for example and notice just how upright (vertical) your back is at the moment of contact on your serve. Your eyes are just way, way too high. When your back is that vertical on a pendulum serve and your eyes are that high, you have a lonnnngg way to go to get your eyes back down into a good ready position.

Now here is what Ma Long looks like just a moment after contact. So yeah, maybe try not to be so upright at the moment of contact and just after contact. It's probably not the major gist of your problem, but being that upright during your serve will lend itself towards being too upright in the recovery.

I have the exact same problem.


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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 30 Oct 2015, 01:39 
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So what would you say about my pendulum serve, Ringer84? Just curious.

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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 30 Oct 2015, 01:55 
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Since my pendulum serve is not my strength, I am not going to strongly recommend that BRS model mine, but I will point out again that as long as the upper arm and shoulder are stable throughout the serve (and Wang Liqin and Samsonov are the people I generally think of when I think of my serve), there is no reason you cannot rotate your body to get extra energy from it while serving to turn into the serve and end up in the final position facing the table like Gman411 said. IT should feel somewhat similar to how you feel when you loop.

That said, you have to control the serve. As much as I know how people learn differently, it is better to consistently execute a bad serve but one that you know what will happen to when you do it than to continue to practice spraying balls all over the place. Half long serves are not consistently attacked by all players - in fact, I serve long/half long far more often than I would like to because I serve to the short forehand and while certain players consistently punish me for it, some take my serves early and others just dink or push the ball back. So please, stop finding reasons to miss the serve. Just make the serve and keep the first bounce location consistent.

The bounce location for serves to the short forehand is closer to your end line than the bounce location for short serves to the backhand. So practice the serves and mark the spots before practicing and your serves will improve. I will call you out for it if you don't have marked spots on the table when practicing your next set of serves.

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 Post subject: Re: a BRS blog
PostPosted: 30 Oct 2015, 04:33 
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NextLevel wrote:
So what would you say about my pendulum serve, Ringer84? Just curious.


It looks good to me and I doubt I could read it. You have much better control over the contact height and the location of the first bounce than BRS and I do. Of course your motion is not explosive enough and your hand speed is not high enough to deceive better players, but I think overall it is quite good.

You mentioned about keeping the upper arm out of the picture and using rotation for additional power. I would just mention that it is easier to express power through rotation when there is more forward lean at the waist, as William talks about at the 3:19 mark of the Basic Body Position video on TTedge. I can't see why this principle wouldn't also apply to serving, in addition to rallying. But maybe I'm missing something.


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