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Don't call it ping-pong...

Two new DVDs from Xtreme Table Tennis provide training for the aspiring pro. But don't worry: there's also plenty of advice for the weekend warrior.

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Table tennis has come a long way in recent years, from dusty basement ping-pong to mainstream Olympic competitive sport in 1988. Two new DVDs from Xtreme Table Tennis are aimed directly at the aspiring pros among us – "Forehand Smash Mastery" and "Forehand Loop Mastery." Based on instruction from pro-coach Tao Li, these no-nonsense teaching tools are full of useful drills at various levels and designed to be practiced carefully and repeatedly before moving on to subsequent levels. Each includes a detailed game analysis at the end. The DVDS are tailored for the serious athlete, who has the patience and desire to improve specific "killer apps." However, there are some tips the occasional player might find useful. I learned a better return smash to try out on my teenage son and, in the process, discovered a new fondness for the game. The key? Practice strokes without a ball first (this helps particularly if you don't want to endlessly retrieve practice balls) work on arm movements and, finally, feet placement. And, for the semiserious player with some extra cash, get a really good table tennis robot. According to the videos, nothing is better for oscillating return shots. Plus, they're much more patient than a human practice partner. Grade: – Gloria Goodale

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