No matter how much you train you will sometimes find yourself out of position and having to reach or lunge for a shot. It’s not something you want to do; it’s something you have to do in those hopefully not-too-often situations. Most players understand the importance of trying to keep the ball at least low in these situations. But there’s a lot more you can do to win the point.
Just getting the ball back weakly might work at the lowest levels, but it doesn’t work beyond that. Instead, you need to do something to make the shot tricky for the opponent so that he doesn’t have an easy winner. Here are five ways to make the opponent uncomfortable. Some players will automatically argue that they are just trying to keep the ball in play and can’t do any of these, but that’s because they haven’t tried and are still thinking like a beginner.
- Depth. By keeping the ball deep you keep the opponent farther away from his target (your side of the table) so that he’s more likely to miss, you give yourself more time to react to his shot, and you cut off the extreme angles the opponent can attack to. That’s a triple whammy.
- Angled placement. Even if you are reaching or lunging, you can aim your paddle to a wide corner, forcing your opponent to move and thereby increasing his chances of a mistake.
- Last-second change of direction. If you aim for one extreme angle, the opponent will likely move in that direction, and then, at the last second, you can go the other way, completely messing him up. Often this means aiming crosscourt, then going down the line.
- Spin. Even when lunging you can spin the ball. Putting a good topspin on the ball can be tricky for some, but even when reaching or lunging for the ball you can give the ball a good backspin. You can even put some sidespin on the ball. In some situations you can even let the ball drop below table level (where the opponent might not even see your contact) and sidespin the ball back, perhaps even faking the opposite sidespin after contact, which can catch the opponent off guard.
- Heavy no-spin. If you fake backspin but just meet the ball so it has little or no spin, you’ll be surprised how many players lift it right off the table.