Paddy Shephard, head coach at South Wonston Table Tennis Club has just returned from the World Cup in Sweden (October 2015),
where 20 of the world's top players have been battling it out.
Paddy's report was written from a coach's point of view, so it includes many hints and tips that any of us can benefit from!
You don't have to be a
superstar to recognise the value of preparation, warming up, taking your time over serving and so on.
I hope this will be the first of many articles like this by Paddy.
MEN'S WORLD CUP HALMSTAD
SWEDEN OCTOBER 2015
A personal account by Paddy
I travelled to Sweden and
spent three days watching at close quarters some of the world's best
players hoping this would help when coaching young players. I learned
a lot. Some comments on my experience.
The speed of the Chinese
players is awesome. Dimitrij Ovtchrov, the world number 5, was
demolished 11-4, 11-2, 11-7, 11-4 by Ma Long in the semis. It was
like Barcelona taking on Bournemouth. In his post match interview
Otcherov observed he struggled in the beginning, the middle and the
end of the match. When the Europeans play faster the Chinese play
faster still. Many times a non-Chinese player would play a
magnificent shot which he obviously thought was a winner to see it
not only returned but with interest. The point was not won until the
fat lady sang - and the Chinese had rewritten the rules regarding
when she should be allowed to start singing.
Non-Chinese players may be
second best but they smile. The Chinese don't. The only time I saw Ma
Long and his fellow star 18 year old Fan Zhendong smile
was when they received their awards. World no 6, Jun Mizutani, having
just lost his semi to Fan Zhendong, spent 15 minutes signing
autographs, posing for selfies and chatting to young fans. His
opponent disappeared in seconds ignoring his fans. The Chinese have
to learn how to better treat those who fund their winnings.
On a different matter
young players take note. Do not play a match unless you have warmed
up. I managed to visit the practice hall where all the top players
warmed up and watched at close quarters Ma Long undertake his
warm up. He took at least 45 minutes and covered every situation he
would face in his next match. His routine was meticulous. It meant he
could start his match at full speed immediately.
I thought I would see
amazing sidespin services from these top players. Not true. Mostly
it was safe shortish sidespin/backspin services which
encouraged either a short push return or a slow topspin return which
would allow the server to initiate an attack. There were some
fast long services to keep opponents on their toes. Poorly-placed
services were punished severely. During the three days of play I saw
fewer than half a dozen examples of players serving in the net or off
the end of the table. No one rushed to serve - each player took time
to ensure he was in precisely the right position
before attempting to serve.
Most games would normally
follow the same pattern - service, short push or topspin return. Then
a sudden explosion of speed and power sometimes each player hitting
topspins as hard as they could at each other until one relented. Very
little build up to the rally.
The great majority players
were attackers so when we saw Panagiotis Gionis, the Greek
world number 23, we were treated to a totally different
style, chopping on the backhand with pimpled rubber, topspin
defending or killing loose balls on his forehand. He
had to retire through injury but there was the delight seeing his
opponents wearing themselves out against such a relaxed backhand
A great few days!