Tip of the Week
Attack the Middle or Lose
Coincidental to this week's Tip of the Week, I watched two top players play this past weekend at the MDTTC Open. (See segment below.) I was coaching on a back table for much of the tournament, though I did get to coach a few matches of students of mine. One match in particular caught my eye, between what should have been two evenly matched top players whose names I won't mention.
One of the players is basically a blocker, though he can attack as well with a very orthodox game. The other was a vicious two-winged attacker who rarely backs off the table. (That describes a lot of top players.) What stuck out was how the two-winged attacker kept attacking at wide angles, and the blocker kept blocking back at wide angles. This put the attacker out of position while the blocker controlled the points. Result? The blocker won three straight.
There's a simple dynamic here that many don't understand. While loopers dominate against blockers at the higher levels, in a battle between a looper and blocker where the two go just corner to corner, the blocker is completely at home. He has little time to react to the looper's shots, but if the shots keep coming to just his forehand or backhand, he can react to those with quick blocks. But if the looper goes to the middle as well, that's too much, and the blocker just can't react. When he does, he has to move out of position or contort his body for the shot, and his blocks are weaker and the corners open up. Suddenly, instead of the blocker moving the looper around like a marionette, it's the other way around, except the blocker is more like a Raggedy Ann as he struggles to react to these loops to his middle and wide angles that jump like grasshoppers as they hit the table.