And that ball is usually spinning. The spin(s) alone can clock in at 150 revolutions per second. So, spinning shots or no, who is gonna win the Liebherr 2014 Table Tennis World Cup in Düsseldorf Germany October 24th to 26th? Can Xu Xin, winner of the Liebherr 2013, repeat?
And why do Xu Xin and his Chinese compatriots mop the floor with other countries’ competitors in this sport? Discipline and dedication are partly why the Chinese “kill” in Table Tennis. Talent is a huge factor and a tradition of excellence also helps. And...
Now GET UP. Breakfast is at 7:30am, then warm up for 20 minutes, then train for 2 hours and 10 minutes, then train again for 2 hours and 10 minutes in the afternoon - then practice 2 hours in the evening – and you’ll have completed a typical day at the Chinese National Table Tennis Training Center, in Hebei province, as an international student, looking to improve. You’ll have trained 6 hours daily. For 15 days. All it cost was $1,490 - some sore muscles, stuff ligaments, tender tendons, and a bruised ego.
Now just think what they’ll do to you as one of their promising youngsters or nationally ranked players…
Table Tennis played recreationally or exceptionally, is topnotch. We can play it forever. It’s good for us. But what are we talking in money?
We’re talking some. If you are in the top 50 globally, you’ll be making between 50K to 100K $US. Not big chips. But if you’re presentable, and speak well, you’ll make more from endorsements, tournament appearance fees, lectures, and so forth. Plus, there are tournament prize winnings. The dough beats what an average schmo makes.
As of 2014 things improved financially. The ITTF World Tour replaced the ITTF Pro Tour. In 2014 there are 20 events on the tour. The biggies, in prestige and publicity, are the 6 Super Series events. The minimum prize fund for a Super Series event is $200,000. If, over the year as a singles player, you’ve amassed enough points to be in the top 16 of your sex and played in at least 5 tournaments, you’ll be competing in the Grand Finals for the winner’s share of US$100,000. Right now, only the Ukrainian-born German fellow Dimitrij Ovtcharov took 1 of the Super Series 6 events. Chinese guys took the other 5.
The game is so fun to play, and simple to watch, it’s easy to forget all the elements involved with battling and batting the ball around. Greg Letts as a player, coach, and umpire knows his Table Tennis. He shares the “basics” here:
You have Power, Work, Time, Force, Displacement or Distance, Mass, Acceleration, Velocity, Initial Velocity, Torque, and Radius. (Please don’t ask me for the formula, there’s no one sitting beside me in physics class I can lift it from.)
Now how about reaction time? How fast are these players thinking, and moving? According to Greg we react to sound faster than we do to sight. (0.14 versus 0.18 of a second.) The top players’ measurable differences in reaction time are in 1/1000ths!
And they’ll be facing a plethora, easily more than 15 types, of possible serve types, such as the old “forehand tomahawk backspin/sidespin serve.” And within this one serve the mix between the back and the side spin will vary, just to mess up the enemy’s head.
There are lots of enemy’s to choose from. One guess estimates that 300 million dabble in this sport, but as you climb the trestle of Table Tennis, you’ll reach and run smack dab into the top ten – of which these 6 Chinese chaps: Xu Xin, Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Fan Zhendong, Wang Hao, and Yan An are included. In fact, competition is so fantastically and ferociously fierce in China, many of the near best, like Chen Xinhua, moved to other countries so they could qualify, after the suitable legal niceties have been met - like waiting anywhere from three to seven years before being deemed eligible - for the Olympics or Worlds.
No matter the venue, it’s amazing to watch a player lob a sky high return from a forehand smash. Their footwork is faster than a bunny rabbit on bennies. Knee joint injuries are quite common. Watching in Slow motion Xu Xin’s shotmaking allows one to discern the deftness behind the forehand and backhand flip, the dead ball (a shot with hardly any, or no, spin) the backhand loop, forehand loop, or the chop, block, or lob.
It’s pretty safe to say, spin or no spin, and nobody’s spinning here, that the Chinese will set the table and fight it out for first place in the Liebherr 2014 Men's World Cup. History is a hard indicator to toss away. Still, upsets do happen in sports and possibly the German, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who has been ranked by the International Table Tennis Federation as high as fourth earlier this year, could thrill the hometown fans and throw the other 19 competitors, including the Chinese, for a loop – with, if not lots of loop shots, or glorious lobs, then with that “hand-dance” serve he invented. That weird and wonderful serve was voted one of the top 50 inventions in 2008 by Time Magazine.
Time will soon tell what happens this year.