Mixed Doubles – The Ping-Pong Nightclub Trend

spin-nyc-table-tennis

 

No longer confined to personal rec rooms and community centers, ping pong has made it into the posh world of urban nightlife. With Ping pong clubs and bars popping up in hot downtown areas from New York to LA, table tennis is fast becoming a hot new way to enjoy social sportsmanship. With ping pong bars started up by celebrities and some pool halls swapping out their billiard tables for ping pong tables, you’re sure to brush up on your table tennis mixed doubles at a hot new night spot near you.

Spin

The most prominent name in American ping pong clubs is Spin. With locations in New York, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles, players from coast to coast can enjoy competitive games while they drink premium cocktails and snack on gourmet food offerings. Co-founded by Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon, these clubs were among the first to popularize trendy table tennis as an option for nightlife. Though critics were initially skeptical as to the potential success of a club devoted to a family friendly sport, Spin has been immensely successful, expanding from its first location in New York to more and more cities. They even have locations in Toronto and Dubai and are regularly featured at special events including the Sundance and Cannes film festivals.

International Clubs

With clubs like SLAM and Chalk in South Florida, Comet Ping Pong in D.C., and Ace Eat Serve in Denver, there are plenty of options for American fans of table tennis. Still, ping pong bars have even more appeal on the international stage. For European fans, there’s Dr. Pong in Berlin, Chmury in Warsaw, and Ping, Bounce, and The Book Club all in London. Of course the best place to find international ping pong clubs is in Asia. The Tasmania Ballroom in Hong Kong, the Yongxing Bowling House in Chengde, and the J.J. Club in Kyoto all offer table tennis fans the chance to socialize, enjoy the nightlife, and brush up on their backspin.

Getting Ping Pong Clubs Started Near You

If you aren’t lucky enough to have existing ping pong bars in your area, it’s easy to get them started near you. Any bar that has billiard tables can easily accommodate ping pong tables. Ask the owners if they would consider switching over to ping pong tables. Let them know the popularity of the sport and consider taking on some of the promotional duties if they’ll dedicate a night or two to table tennis. Then you just have to local ping pong groups know about this new fun nightlife event. In no time you and your doubles partner can enjoy your favorite game with your favorite people in your brand new ping pong bar.

 

Maximizing Your High-Tension Rubber Sheet Table Tennis Tricks

Tricks

 

Tension rubbers for table tennis rackets are rubbers where the topsheet is stretched before being glued to the sponge during manufacturing. This essentially means that the rubbers have tension built into the sponge and top-sheet. This helps reduce the amount of energy lost at the point of impact to produce extreme spin. In essence, high-tension rubbers help turn the speed of your opponent’s shot into additional power for your returning shot for fast speed.

High-tension rubber sheets will wear and need to be replaced as they become used, but it can often be a difficult and costly task. That’s why it’s important to learn table tennis tips that can help maximize the life of your high-tension rubber.

The way the table tennis game is played today, many competitive and touring players and professionals maximizing the use of their high-tension rubber sheets by exploding through the hitting zone with ever increasing racquet speed for a catapult like effect. With perfect ball contact, these athletes are able to generate incredible topspins and are in essence expanding the size of the opposite side of the table tennis table for themselves. In a sport where every millimeter counts, this can become a game changing advantage.

For many beginner and intermediate players however, the emphasis on hitting with power on every shot is often the primary tactic used in order to increase ball speed and spin. However, various table tennis tricks suggest the use of soft hands, reduced grip tension, and increased racket speed in order to achieve optimal ball contact that wears the rubbers while still producing incredible speed and spin.

They key is not hitting the ball but brushing it. For example, if trying to produce topspin, try closing the racket angle contacting the top of the ball in an upward motion. This allows you to still make excellent contact with the ball for speed and topspin while gaining the most out of your high-tension rubber sheet.

Working with an instructor and regular training with this table tennis style can add weeks of life to your rubber. Furthermore, it can greatly improve your table tennis game by improving and accelerating ball contact through the hitting zone.

 

Viktor Barna

A photo of Viktor Barna

photo credit: Hardbat.com

Sir Ivor Montagu once described Viktor Barna as “the greatest table tennis player who ever lived”. Over the course of his remarkable career, Barna captured forty world championship medals and was one of the most successful contributors to the early growth of the sport.

Today, we’re commemorating a fantastic athlete, without whom our beloved sport wouldn’t be the same. From his early years in Hungary, to the barnstorming days of the Three Musketeers, Barna deserves recognition as one of the foundational players of international table tennis.

Early Life and Career: 1929 – 1939

The early days of table tennis were dominated by several powerful Hungarian players. Three of them – Barna, Bellak, and Szabados – were known internationally as the Three Musketeers, having learned the sport and played together inseparably over the course of their careers.

Viktor Barna was born Győző Braun, but changed his name to Viktor Barna to avoid rampant anti-Semitic prejudice in mid-century Hungary. He began playing table tennis as a youth, in the early days of the sport. At the time, most people played on a literal table, affixing nets to dining tables and playing in their homes. The sport was organizing itself as Viktor learned the game; international competitions were well underway by the time he reached his majority.

In 1929, at the age of eighteen, Barna helped capture the Swaythling cup as a member of the Hungarian National Table Tennis team. (At the time, the cup was awarded to the winner of the Men’s World Team Championship.) One year later, Barna  returned to international competition and captured his first world championship, in the Men’s Singles division.

Barna the Barnstormer

Over the next six years, as a member of the Hungarian Team, Barna competed for and won eighty-three table tennis awards.

To popularize the sport, the Three Musketeers embarked on a series of exhibition tours in England and France. During the French tour, Barna was in a serious automobile accident that compromised the range of motion in his right arm, effectively limiting his future Singles career. He recovered quickly, however, moving on to a thirty city exhibition tour in England between 1935 and 36. Wherever the Three Musketeers played, literally thousands of spectators packed the galleries. Barna was the consummate technician of the game, Szabados the powerful and passionate, while Bellak brought down the house with his infamous tricks, antics, and in-game physical comedy routines.

It was in this barnstorming era, most of all, that Barna and the Three Musketeers made their greatest contributions to the growth of table tennis. Their exhibition tours in England, France, and the United States swelled the ranks of table tennis clubs and encouraged a generation of athletes to take up the sport.

In 1939, Barna was in America on an exhibition tour when World War II broke out. Barna returned to Europe and joined the British Army as a paratrooper. He fought mainly in central Europe, in Yugoslavia. In the post-War period, he and his wife settled in London and took British citizenship.

The Post-War Period

Barna’s Singles play never quite recovered from his injury in 1935. (It is perhaps a testament to the demanding athleticism of table tennis that an injury which ends a table tennis career does not prevent one from serving as an elite paratrooper.)

He continued playing after the War, but without the same meteoric success as in first six years of his career. Barna performed solidly, if not brilliantly, through 1954, though he never won another Gold.

In 1952, Barna took a position with the Dunlop Sports Company as a touring representative. He continued in this role for twenty years, touring the world, and giving small exhibitions and lessons along the way.

During an exhibition tour of Peru, Barna suffered a fatal heart attack on the 27th of February, 1972. He was sixty-one years old.

Further Reading

A number of resources exist for further studying the life and contributions of this foundational athlete:

Looking Forward to the 2013 US Open

Las VegasNext week, from July 2-6, is the annual US Open tournament, with prizes awarded for Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles in a range of age and ability divisions. Last year’s Singles winners – Eugene Zhen Wang and Liu Juan– set a truly high standard for their challengers, and we’re all excited to see new heights of athleticism and technique on display this week.

The US Open has been a focus for change and development in the sport since its inception. This year will feature hard bat competition, a trend which recalls the early days of the sport and may forecast its future. It was also a lightning rod for calls for increased professionalism in table tennis competition as early as 1976, when the sport was well underway to its current refinement.

Whether it’s evolving technique, scientific refinement, or sheer athleticism, there is always something exciting on display for table tennis fans at the US Open. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Why Red Shirts Win

Here are two interesting scientific items which may help to improve your rankings: red shirts and bright lights measurably increase performance:

Ever noticed how the Chinese team’s primary playing shirt colour is red? Well, perhaps they have accidentally (or purposefully) chosen a colour that actually makes them more likely to win.

British anthropologists Russell Hill and Robert Barton of the University of Durham in England studied the outcomes of one-on-one combat sports such as boxing, tae kwon do, Greco-Roman-wresting, and freestyle-wrestling matches at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

In those sports, Olympic staff randomly assign either red or blue clothing to competitors. When otherwise equally matched by their opponent, athletes wearing red were more likely to win.

On the subject of lighting, the author cites a German study of the influence of light levels on athletic task performance. Humans exposed to higher light levels – such as the regulation 1,000 lux at the US Open – perform noticeably better on athletic and endurance tasks.

Tim Boggan on the 1976 US Open

Love him or hate him, Tim Boggan’s life and career has mirrored the development of Table Tennis as a professional sport – even extending to when we played Ping Pong, instead. Here, he recounts the contentious 1976 US Open, which was picketed by several players:

At the 1976 U.S. Open, I was at the forefront of a group of players who picketed the Philadelphia venue because we all felt the prize money was grossly inadequate. Back then, and for some time after, I was quite outspoken about what I felt or thought. I remember one player passing me as I was on the picket line who hissed, “You’re disgusting.” But our boycott of this tournament was heard. Thanks to Neil Smyth and Bill Hodge the first U.S. Closed was held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, with 10 times the prize money that had been offered at the Open.

While Boggan’s opinions and play were often controversial, his work chronicling the history of the sport is invaluable.

Return of the Hard Bat?

Professional table tennis is played with sponge paddles, which allow increased control at the cost of power and accessibility. This year’s US Open features a hard bat division, calling back to the days of power strokes and sandpaper paddles. Is this part of a wider movement within the sport?

“For once in my life, I looked backward rather than forward in history, and I found out that current table tennis had no television appeal,” Hearn said. “The rallies are too short. It lacks athleticism. It’s just not big enough.”

Hearn filled Alexandra Palace with booming rock music for the competition, and he made sure the beer stands were always pouring. He wooed top players with a $100,000 prize purse—10 times greater than Table Tennis’s U.S. Open pays its winner. The two-day tournament attracted several thousand spectators and a million television viewers on Sky Sports.

“Guys would make these amazing shots from 15 feet past the table and just smash it into the corner,” Hearn said. “The rallies went on and on. The crowd would go crazy.”

While we applaud the technical wizardry of sponge play, with its layers of spin and deception, we would love to see a return to the packed halls and excitement of the sport’s early days. Is encouraging hard bat play a key part of that revival?

Will Liu Juan Defend Her Title?

While entries for the 2013 US Open are still being processed, it looks like Coach Liu Juan of the New York Table Tennis Club is not (at the time of writing) on the list of confirmed entries for this year’s Women’s Singles Championship.

Last year came down to an incredible match between her and HuiJing Wang, showcasing Liu Juan’s trademark blend of power and spin control:

 

Who’s your pick for Women’s Singles champion this year?

2012 Men’s Singles Winner: Eugene Zhen Wang

Eugene Zhen Wang is a player to watch this year. As we write this, he holds the highest win percentage in the sport (98.48%) and is the current US Open Men’s Singles champion. From his Olympic profile:

Eugene Wang is the No. 1 ranked table tennis player in North America and will be making his first appearance at an Olympic Games at London 2012. He became a Canadian citizen in June 2012, in time to represent Canada in London.

His to date greatest success came on the ITTF World Tour where he finished 5th losing only to World #1 Ma Long of China. Wang recently won the 2012 Butterfly Cary Cup and has been building on an impressive 2011 that saw him crowned as champion of the Badger Open, the L.A. Open and finalist of the U.S. Open.

Table tennis is nothing if not dynamic – watching Eugene defend his position this year should be incredibly interesting.

2013 US Open: July 2 – 6

Table Tennis TournamentThis year’s top players are gathering in Las Vegas at the LVH to compete for international recognition and cash prizes. This week, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most interesting players, trends, and trivia surrounding this prestigious event.

We’ll start the week with profiles and videos of last year’s Singles winners, before moving on to items of historical and scientific interest – including one which may forecast a change at the heart of table tennis, itself. Stay with us!