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    1. Top | #1
      Matt Hetherington is offline
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      Styles Are Conforming, Is Table Tennis Getting Boring?

      I'm very passionate about this topic, and have spoken to top players like Korbel, Persson and Primorac about their thoughts on it.

      You can read my article here for more context:
      - Is Conformity of Styles Killing the Sport of Table Tennis

      Click image for larger version. 

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      Pimple players, penholders and choppers are rapidly vanishing from the international stage - two winged aggressive players are the norm. Is there enough style diversity to keep the sport entertaining or is everything becoming too linear?

      Also consider that if everyone tries to play that style, will the world ever catch China? It's likely the Chinese Dominance in table tennis will continue for longer, if someone is training 4 hours per day in European system and trying to play a similar style with China who are training 6 hours per day in Chinese system - the outcome is obvious.

      What do you guys think about this and it's impact on the future of the sport? Do you still find table tennis as entertaining as before? Do you think there are things we can do to encourage more style diversity again in table tennis?
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    3. Top | #2
      Baal is offline
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      I agree and part of it is the 40+ ball. I understand why a change of materials was a reasonable decision but they also made them larger and heavier. That was not necessary.

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    5. Top | #3
      lasta is offline
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      Rules change and there's no point fighting it. Yes, touch play is not as nuanced as before, and maybe it didn't achieve the original objective of lengthening points. But every style had to adapt equally.

      Personally, I play penhold single side short pips. I'm nowhere near international level, but I don't feel any more disadvantaged than before. If anything, the 40+ balls are easier to smash.

    6. Top | #4
      Matt Hetherington is offline
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      It's interesting someone I spoke to today thought they could trial a 38mm plastic ball. I thought that would certainly make for an interesting idea to try out!

    7. Top | #5
      Matt Hetherington is offline
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      Quote Originally Posted by lasta View Post
      Rules change and there's no point fighting it. Yes, touch play is not as nuanced as before, and maybe it didn't achieve the original objective of lengthening points. But every style had to adapt equally.

      Personally, I play penhold single side short pips. I'm nowhere near international level, but I don't feel any more disadvantaged than before. If anything, the 40+ balls are easier to smash.
      My issue is more with whether the growing lack of diversity is making table tennis less entertaining for spectators to watch than anything else. Of course from a playing perspective it's not a gripe at having to play with the plastic ball, I got way past that years ago and just got on with it.

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    9. Top | #6
      lasta is offline
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      Ah, yes, you are right.

      I would love to see a He Zhiwen vs Fan Zhendong video!

      But style convergence and divergence is cyclical. Short pips hasn't been the de jure in China for more than 30 years. Even at Liu Guoliang's peak, he was a minority.

      It took a few years before someone else with short pips broke into top 10, but nowadays we have Mima Ito and Matthias Falck. When they retire, someone else with a less than traditional approach will come around. The rarity of the style is it's advantage and provides an accelerate path for those who use it. They will never be mainstream, but there will always be one or two around.

    10. Top | #7
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      The problem is that other styles just aren't as effective anymore. If you're anything besides a two winged shakehand looper it's just not possible unless you're really talented and experienced. (like xu xin)

    11. Top | #8
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      MaTT is correct of course, this has been evolving for some time.

      Also, in related news, somewhere on a beach, presumably with a Corona, or with Corona, or with both, S-Jan is smiling at this thread.
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      If you watch the 87-91 worlds, you will see such a crazy variety in styles. Some players would retrieve like Applegren, some would play like maniacs hyped up on 1000 cups of coffee like Lindh, there were backhand oriented players like Grubba and the Mazunovs, some of the Chinese like Xu Zengcai and Ma Wenge would try to run around and hit forehands all day, Carl Prean and Lo ChenTsung would try to junk the living daylights out of anyone they played. I could go on and on named different styles and these different styles of play produced interesting match ups. Now everyone plays about the same with a few minor variations. Even the modern penholders loop from both sides. I am not sure if things are better now or not but they definitely aren't as interesting.

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    14. Top | #10
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      I only started following table tennis in the last few years so the good old days were before my time. However, as much as I love watching matches between all types of players, basically anything from the hidden serves era I simply can't watch since so much of the skill on show I can't relate to. Maybe it's to do with the quality of the recording as well but from my perspective the most watchable table tennis is from the last 17 years or so.



      As for styles all diverging towards being the same, this may be the trend at the very top but as soon as we step down to the second row there are players like Gauzy, Filus, Falck, Ma Te, Ouaiche who all play in different and spectacular ways.

      Familiarity makes it easier to deal with something and whilst it does seem as though two-winged looping trumps all, I'm sure there will always be room for a good unique player. Especially at national level.

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    16. Top | #11
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      Probably more of a local trend but a lot of young players here in Sweden has picked up SP after Falck’s success. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same would apply to Japan as well due to Ito. There’s way more diversity in the women’s game at pro level (Ito, Sato, Batra, Kim Song I etc). Why is that?

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    18. Top | #12
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      I think there is also a knowledge gap among many coaches about how to use and play with other rubbers than inverted. Less players with other materials than inverted reach the top proably because they are such a minority. Hou, Falck, ito, Batra and so on show that it is possible to become good with other kind of equipment. But i think that it is proably easier to become good with inverted and proably some coaches Do not see the reason to change if the players are already becoming good. But make our strengths stronger by using other equipment might be good to catch up to the chinese.

    19. Top | #13
      Matt Hetherington is offline
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      Quote Originally Posted by Lula View Post
      I think there is also a knowledge gap among many coaches about how to use and play with other rubbers than inverted. Less players with other materials than inverted reach the top proably because they are such a minority. Hou, Falck, ito, Batra and so on show that it is possible to become good with other kind of equipment. But i think that it is proably easier to become good with inverted and proably some coaches Do not see the reason to change if the players are already becoming good. But make our strengths stronger by using other equipment might be good to catch up to the chinese.
      I like this point a lot about the knowledge of coaches and perhaps there not being the same expertise as these styles fade out. Well made!

    20. Top | #14
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      Tennis also witnessed a change in and convergence of styles with the advent of synthetic strings. I don't think anyone is blaming that for lower interest in tennis, though I know a few people who wish tennis would go back to the good old serve and volley vs baseliner days.

      I have always felt equipment, ball size and table changes are a chance to build out more events and a more diverse sport. There is too much focus on one brand of table tennis rather than building out brands and styles that may appeal to more players.
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    22. Top | #15
      Takkyu_wa_inochi is offline
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      I don't see that at all. ITO style is unseen for a long time (looks a bit like FUKUHARA but much improved), it seems there was a Chinese player like that long ago, but not from my fan generation.

      IMHO, FZD has been here for a while, and copied for example by LJK, but he really pushed the athletic dimension to a new extreme. one can say HARIMOTO's style -of staying at the table - is different, even though now he's been evolving more towards more classicism.

      I'm pretty sure we will see new styles in the coming years with new players emerging

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    24. Top | #16
      Baal is offline
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      Quote Originally Posted by Matt Hetherington View Post
      My issue is more with whether the growing lack of diversity is making table tennis less entertaining for spectators to watch than anything else. Of course from a playing perspective it's not a gripe at having to play with the plastic ball, I got way past that years ago and just got on with it.
      You are right. It is more uniform, and I think less entertaining.

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    26. Top | #17
      Baal is offline
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      Quote Originally Posted by NextLevel View Post
      Tennis also witnessed a change in and convergence of styles with the advent of synthetic strings. I don't think anyone is blaming that for lower interest in tennis, though I know a few people who wish tennis would go back to the good old serve and volley vs baseliner days.

      I have always felt equipment, ball size and table changes are a chance to build out more events and a more diverse sport. There is too much focus on one brand of table tennis rather than building out brands and styles that may appeal to more players.
      Equipment was part of it, and they definitely made courts slower, which also contributed. Tennis is also less interesting now.

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