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Coaching Corner

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.

Read and enjoy!


A personal account by Paddy Shephard

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 Ovtch​rov, 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.

Dimitrij Ovtch​rov

P​anagiotis Gionis

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 P​anagiotis 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 chop.

A great few days!