September 13, 2011

When to go for winners?

There are two times a player should go for the big winner, especially with a loop. The first is obviously off a weak ball that pops up, or often a lower ball that lands in the middle of the table (which is easy to loop kill). However, we all have seen top players rip winners off what seems to be effective low serves and pushes. Shouldn't we try to do that as well?

The key is whether you are both in position for the shot, and not only have read the ball's spin perfectly, but know you have read it perfectly. (Nobody really does anything "perfectly," but you get the idea.) Top players are almost always in position and almost always read the incoming ball, and so they can go for a big shot. (Plus, of course, they are top players, and so are skilled at making big shots.) If you have a good loop or smash, and are sure you have read the incoming ball very well, then you can go for the shot. This doesn't mean ripping it like the pros, but you can go for perhaps 80% power. That, and good placement, should generally be all that's needed to win the point. For most shots, if a little light bulb doesn't go off in your head that tells you that you have read the ball perfectly, then you probably should focus on aggressive, well-placed steadiness and save the winners for another shot.

Aggressive, well-placed steadiness

Think about it. Aggressive, well-placed steadiness, combined with opportunistic putaways, good serves, and good tactics - put these together, and you have quite a game. (I toyed with adding "controlled receive" here, but that really comes under the "aggressive, well-placed steadiness" banner. A well-controlled receive is actually aggressive as you aren't giving the opponent an easy shot to attack.)

Focus on basics

Yesterday I did a 90-minute lesson with a 1300 player who was about 60 years old. I normally spend perhaps 10 minutes on each shot when working with someone, to give them variety. This time we spent the first 45 minutes just hitting his forehand to my backhand (he's a lefty), with me sometimes playing forehands from my backhand. (He did the last five minutes of it doing side to side footwork.) His forehand really, Really, REALLY improved! We then spent the next 30 minutes with me just hitting my forehand into his backhand - and his backhand hitting really, Really, REALLY improved! Then I looped for ten minutes to his backhand, and after all those backhands, his backhand block became a wall, and (yeah, one more time) really, Really, REALLY improved! So sometimes it's good to really focus on one thing for a long time. (We finished with five minutes practicing serves, for those doing the arithmetic.)

The Table Tennis Museum

Why not take an online tour of the ITTF Table Tennis Museum? Lots and lots of great stuff there. Here's a short video tour of various rackets on display (2:09).

Lobbing point

58 shots!

Timo Boll from age 4 on

This video has been posted before, but in case you haven't seen it, here is Germany's Timo Boll (former world #1, current #3, European #1) playing at ages 4, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15. (5:48)


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