February 2, 2015

Develop the Five Types of Rallying Shots

There really are only five types of rallying shots, and you should perfect them all. If you can't, your game is not complete and you'll never be as good as you could be. So what are these five types of shots you should develop?

  1. Opening Attacks
    There are your first attacks in a rally. Against a ball that goes long this usually means looping, though you can also do a more simple drive. Against a short ball this means a flip (usually called a flick in Europe). A surprising number of seemingly defensive or passive players actually have good attacks once they are into the rally, but they don't have effective or consistent opening attacks, and so they are usually on the defensive.
  2. Continuing Attacks
    It's not enough to open with an attack; you have to continue the attack. At the higher levels this usually means to loop over and over. You can also continue your attack with regular drives, which is especially common the backhand. This is often the most physical aspect of table tennis as you are forced to move quickly to keep up an attack.
  3. Putaways
    If you can't end the point when the shot is there, then you are severely handicapped. This means loop kills and smashes. (One of the best way to develop your putaway shots is with multiball practice.) 
  4. Consistency
    The game isn't all attack. Consistency shots include regular drives, blocks, steady loops, pushing, as well as defensive off-table shots chopping, lobbing, and fishing. There is overlap here with "Continuing Attacks" as a steady loop can fit both categories. Consistency shots are best used at the start of the rally to return serves (such as pushing or a soft-to-medium-speed loop) and to withstand an opponent's attack.
  5. Tricky Shots
    These are the often unorthodox shots, ones where you throw something different at an opponent to make him uncomfortable. Examples would be a change of pace, drop shot, no-spin shots that look like spin, an unexpectedly heavy spin (such as a very heavy push), an unexpected sidespin (such as a sidespin block or loop, both of which you can sidespin either way), or a last-second change of direction. You probably don't want to center your game around these types of shots, but if you don't have at least a small arsenal of tricky shots to throw off an opponent then you are handicapping yourself. Even all-out attackers use such tricky shots on occasion, such as on receive or with sidespin loops, or sudden changes of direction.

Now examine your game, and ask yourself which of the above are you very good at? You can develop your game around these shots. However, the more important question is probably which of them are you weak at? (Rather than rate them relative to your current level, rate them relative to the level you are striving to reach.) Now you know what to work on. Go to it.