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What Makes Timo Boll So Good (Skill-wise)?

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TheWiseMan View Drop Down
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    Posted: 05/08/2020 at 4:19am
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Timo Boll! We’ve seen his matches, we’ve watched him play, and we’ve all heard about the greatness of Timo Boll. Over his career, he’s managed to solidify his title as a table tennis legend. He has a variety of accolades fitting his reputation, such as winning the 2002 World Cup and holding the world ranking of no.1 in his prime. But... how? How (technically) did he manage to find such success in the sport? What skills did he possess that allowed him to distinguish himself from the thousands of table tennis players before him? What made Timo Boll so great?

I’ve posted something similar on another forum, but let’s start a deep philosophical discussion here! I’m curious to hear your thoughts! Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blahness Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/08/2020 at 5:32am
Apparently he has amazing eyesight even compared to other pros haha....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chongqinghotpot Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/08/2020 at 5:58am
among the non Chinese players, he has the best serve return and short game.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Twiddler Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/08/2020 at 8:47am
The main weapon that he has that differs from others is his FH is a little inside out- instead of normal outside in. When he was young this was his weapon. Now over the years his BH has become very strong.
He also grew up in the German system - second only to China so all the resources needed were there.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DonnOlsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/08/2020 at 10:51am
Hi,

Timo had a similar background to the great Werner Schlager; he was developed and received extensive support from his father in the earliest years.  [There is a term for this type of player in Germany, those primarily developed through a family structure instead of an institutional structure.  The term used is "Papa player".]

A key distinctive feature with Timo is his responsiveness, his ability to respond to strong offensive shots at a standard higher than typically found in Europe, a continent somewhat imbalanced in its emphasis on the allocation of training time to offensive skills.  The special Samsonov elevated this responsive capability to noteworthy effectiveness. This resulted in much reward for Samsonov, however at the neglect of a sufficient offensive complement that is needed to perform in full flight at the very highest level of the sport.  

Timo both brilliantly developed the high level offensive capability and the elegant integration of the two qualities with supreme play dynamic judgment.  His execution sophistication is one of the beauties of the sport and permits him extended competitiveness deep into his career.

Thanks.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kolevtt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/08/2020 at 6:58pm
Timo Boll has excellent discipline, he is also very, very motivated during trainings.
He has very skilled eyes, that's probably kind of talent. He estimates the level of spin better than many other players, that's why he is able to make sense on the table.
As technique ...I am not sure his technique is the best, but it is effective for him.
Same technique won't be enough effective for another player or players, everything is individual.
Another and maybe biggest + for him is he was born in Germany. If he was born in Gambia or Honduras......I doubt that topic would exist.
He was able to play in the national team early with several TOP players world class players.
Yes, his father played with him, but most important is that he started very early to visit national championships where his sense for the ball was noticed by the correct people.
He was able to play in the 2nd strongest championship in the world after China, I think he played his 1st games in Bundesleague when he was 15 or 16 years old.  Later he played also in China, of course.
He was supported from the start by the most popular brand in the world for tt products and his equipment always been at top level.
Many good specialists worked with him about his physical condition, also to develop his strong mind and to become even more stronger in time.
Never messed with scandals, but that's connected with his discipline too.
Not on last place, he is still in good shape because of his partners - Keinath, Filus, Roskopf and so on.
So, the key words for Timo Boll's success are DISCIPLINE, TALENT and LUCK.
Smile

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote smackman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/08/2020 at 8:07pm
I think having the last name similar to ball helped him
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 1dennistt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/08/2020 at 9:39pm
His adapability has played a part also, he's seen some major equipment changes and taken them in stride.  Part of that is his support system, part of it is his mental ability, discipline and feel for the ball.  Staying at the top so long is not an easy thing to accomplish (and of course he has not been alone in doing so.)  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote stiltt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/08/2020 at 11:45pm
I think his athleticism, mental strength, intelligence and dedication made him somebody who would have succeeded in any sport given the same conditions: parents able to offer a solid family framework and a well developed national association.
His superior eyesight is news to me; so he has better genes too! he could have been a great formula one racer I bet.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JohnnyChop Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/09/2020 at 12:05am
https://youtu.be/5rKVJ3NVOyM

Sorry don't know how to hyperlink but I remember watching this series and they had other pros talk about why boll is strong. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nonsmoker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/20/2020 at 9:34pm
There's one particular situation in rallies against the chinese that showcase Bolls strength.To understand this, a few principles of table tennis have to be kept in mind: The player that is able to place the first offensive stroke most likely wins the rally (at least among professional players). If the player who is faced with the opponents offensive stroke (read: topspin) still wants to win the rally, then he has to play a counter-topspin, which is very difficult to execute (especially if this happens close to the table) but the chinese have mastered this like no one else. When they see the opponent swinging the arm backwards they'll likewise move into position and begin the counter-topspin movement. At this point, they've anticipated the trajectory, placement, spin etc. from the opponents stroke even though the opponent itself has barely completed his topspin. Mentally and physically an extraordinary accomplishment. Once this has been successfully executed, the opponents reaction time is extremely slim. There is one loophole though and Boll has been trained to take advantage of this: Once anticipated, there's no "going back". Boll suptly amends the stroke as late as possible and after the chinese have already "made their guess". As a result, their judgement and therefore the execution of the countertopspin goes haywire. If you watch older yt-clips between Boll and the chinese (especially Xu Xin) you can see how they counter-hit the ball hard into the net or over the table and look completely baffled (I'm hoping to see a youtuber making a compilation of these shots). I always loved to see that - it's a bit like James Bond using nifty technology and clever thinking against the mighty supervillains. Smile

Edited by Nonsmoker - 05/20/2020 at 9:44pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Simon_plays Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/21/2020 at 3:28am
Originally posted by smackman smackman wrote:

I think having the last name similar to ball helped him
Yes, this has to be it. Similar to how Schlager's name is very close to the German for 'bat' (Schläger) no doubt helped the Austrian progress, especially in his early years. 

Nominative determinism can also be seen, for example in the Swedish team where Persson is the more personable player, a real people- person  player, whereas Waldner was always known for his forest-like stoicism.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rollko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05/31/2020 at 4:19pm
Twiddler,

Can you please explain the difference between inside-out and outside-in?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ingo_Ger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/01/2020 at 8:59am
Originally posted by blahness blahness wrote:

Apparently he has amazing eyesight even compared to other pros haha....
True!

For me, eysight is really neglected throughout all racket sports. I'm more or less witnessing the other end being short-sighted and having really bad eyesight. 
My assumption is that the top players either in Tennis, Badminton, Squash and especially Table Tennis have all exceptional eyesight. This really seperates the top 10% from the rest of us.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote benfb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/02/2020 at 2:46am
Originally posted by Ingo_Ger Ingo_Ger wrote:

Originally posted by blahness blahness wrote:

Apparently he has amazing eyesight even compared to other pros haha....
True!

For me, eysight is really neglected throughout all racket sports. I'm more or less witnessing the other end being short-sighted and having really bad eyesight. 
My assumption is that the top players either in Tennis, Badminton, Squash and especially Table Tennis have all exceptional eyesight. This really seperates the top 10% from the rest of us.
Is there a translation of this video?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Skynet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/02/2020 at 4:51am
Originally posted by benfb benfb wrote:

Is there a translation of this video?


Not sure if there is an official translation to this, but I could give you a brief summary.

First of all: This clip is from about 12 years ago when Timo was 27 years old.
Timo is introduced by the narrator, some statistics are mentioned (speed up to 150 km/h, more than 4000 rotations per second).

Timo first says that you really have to concentrate at the table and you need to get into some sort of "tunnel vision", then you would be able to focus on the important things like the stamp on the ball for example.
By focusing on the stamp he is able to identifie the kind of rotation and adjust the angle of his arm in order to make a good shot. This needs to be done in a split second.

Then a professor from Ruhr-University in Bochum/ Germany is introduced. He tested Timo's  eyesight with the conclusion that he has the "Magic Eye". The results showed that Timo has an astonshing "movement perception". His eyes can focus the ball very quickly, follow it and therefore asses (anticipate) the ball flight path (correctly), which allows him to react to the actions of his opponents accordingly. His "movement perception" is roughly 50-60% higher than that of an average person.

Regarding the exercise with the ball on the rope: With slow movements his eyes just slide with the movement similar to what the average person does (or can do). When the movements get faster however, the eyes need to "jump after the ball"; regular persons "lose" the ball. Timo is still able to focus on the ball and process the movements fast(er), so that he can anticipate the spot where the ball goes next. Essentially what Timo can do is more effective (compared to an average person) and allows him to perform a good shot.

The exercise with the robot: Three speed levels, stamp on the balls were replace with numbers from 0-9. Opponent is a 21 year old hobby player (Landesliga-player in Germany, which is about the 7th league depending on the state you live in).
1st level: Timo: 4/5, opponent: Result not mentioned, just that he mastered the level...
2nd level: Timo: 3/5, opponent: Result not mentioned, just that his result is 20% below Timo's (so 2/5???)
3rd level: Timo: 2/5, oppenent: 3/5; he changed tactis a little bit and hit the ball very late allowing him to have a look at the ball a little longer...

Last but not least a fighter pilot (and his duties) is introduced. Timo, the fighter pilot and the young dude were brought to a test room at the Ruhr-University. There is a long halfcircled screen and the exercise is to focus the middle of the ring/circle that goes from one side to the other. Apparently a command of some sort is necessary. The unit of measurement is degree per second...I'm not really sure how this works from a technical point of view and it is not explained in detail...
Average person: 180 (equal to 50 km/h)
Hobby player:     205 (young age + training as a tt player allows him to perceive movements fast)
Fighter pilot:       180
Timo:                  330 (equal to 90 km/h) => lots of talent and lots of training...

At the end the professor explains that the visual motor skills are "easily" trainable. Athletes like tennis players or volleyball players already use exercises to improve their skills regarding "dynamical focusing".


Edited by Skynet - 06/02/2020 at 6:43am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DonnOlsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/02/2020 at 6:39am
Hi,

Thank you so much for the note.

Last but not least a fighter pilot (and his duties) is introduced. Timo, the fighter pilot and the young dude were brought to a test room at the Ruhr-University. . . . . 

John Glenn - astronaut, engineer, U.S. Senator - said the best bomber pilot in World War II he ever saw was Ted Williams - the greatest baseball hitter in history - due to his exceptional eyesight (20/10).

Thanks again.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote benfb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/02/2020 at 2:53pm
Thanks for the translation.  It's fascinating and really, important for our sport.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote stiltt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/02/2020 at 5:36pm
In addition to regular fitness machines so people can stay warm while waiting to play, I wish clubs have that kind of machine that formula 1 drivers train their eyesight and reactive time on. It would be interesting to know how does Timo compare with those athletes.

Of course, chances are clubs will always have something better to spend money on...

It could be a social endeavor too, people could pay 25 cents arcade style to play and their friends will cheer, it could be a wash financially and even a money maker.

edit: and while we are at it, let's order a couple DDR machines, that goes so well with tt too.



Edited by stiltt - 06/02/2020 at 5:55pm
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