Defensive play

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mts288
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Joined: 03/05/2011

Now and then in club play and in tournaments I get driven off the table.  I usually drop back 10-15 feet from the table and play defense.  I try to put the ball deep to the middle of the table.  It's not a high lob, but something that may bounce shoulder high.  I find that if I watch my opponents stroke I can tell where the ball is going.  I usually get to the ball and place it back to the middle of the table again.  Most of my opponents get frustrated after 4 of 5 returns and kill the ball into the net or off the table.  If they try to drop it short I usually read it in time to get to it and flip it for a point. 

I'm thinking of increasing my use of that style a little (not more than 5-10%).  I play at a 1650 level.  What risks do I run playing players under the 2000 level?

Willis
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Joined: 01/24/2011
Re: Defensive play

At your level you will find more players who know how to do flat smashes against your lobs rather than trying to loop a ball from shoulder height. I was taught a valuable lesson by a 75-year old Chinese CPEN player (even though I play shakehand). We were actually practicing my return of lobs and he can put ANY kind of spin he wants on the lobs so that they bounce extra high or jump two-feet to either side when they hit the table. So just staying focused and watching the spin so I could get in proper position was a significant challenge. But even though I could loop these high balls, they just bounce high and die giving the lobber plenty of time to get to them.

However, the technical adjustment to my grip he suggested makes a world of difference. That is, when trying to hit any high ball over the table, rotate the racket in your hand a bit almost into a Seemiller-style position. I don't change the position of my wrist, just the racket itself. Then, don't try to loop it, just smash the #$% out of it. You can hit rockets this way and the ball skips low off the table without losing much speed. This method doesn't work as well on deep balls, so wait for those to come down below shoulder height and loop them. But watch for a ball that may come in a  bit short, rotate the racket, then smash it off the bounce. Very few of these will get returned.

 

Larry Hodges
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Joined: 11/19/2010
Re: Defensive play

Hi mts288, there are a number of players who get pretty good with their game centering on fishing and lobbing, though most include looping to their reperoire. Lupulesku is a prime example at the 2750 level. In the 1980s and 1990s, James Therriault developed a 2300 game by lobbing almost every point. And there's a penholder at my club who plays close to 2100 level by fishing and lobbing almost every point. 

As you note, the key is depth - as long as the ball is deep on the table with good topspin, a good lobber or fish can get almost every ball back. Try to add sidespin as well to force mistakes. 

As you play stronger players, they will become both more consistent and powerful. And yet, as long as you keep the ball deep, you'll be able to stay in many points. The bigger threat is that they will also hide the direction of their smashes better, and they will also place them better, often going after the middle, or wide angles when they see an opening. 

One thing you might try is lobbing at wide angles with good topspin, and ideally sidespin breaking into the wide angle. It's very hard to smash these down the line, and you can almost take control of a rally by lobbing to a wide angle, knowing you mostly only have to cover one side to return smash after smash. Try lobbing to the angle opposite your stronger side so that you'll get smashes to that side. 

You should also develop a strong counter-attack from at least one side, almost always the forehand side. Make it so the opponent is scared to go to your forehand, and then you'll get predictable smashes to your backhand. 

Here are articles I wrote on Lobbing and on Smashing Lobs. Hope this helps!

mts288
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Joined: 03/05/2011
Re: Defensive play

Thanks Larry.  Unfortunately our practice facility has a 10 foot ceiling so it's hard to do much lobbing.  I don't have much trouble with wide angles since I am able to put the ball to the deep middle.  I'm sure my practice partners will start changing paddle angles soon.  I'm able to loop from both sides and will start using sidespin.  I assume if I use sidespin I will also see more wide angles.

I've found that fishing against kids works well since they get frustrated sooner than adults.  It also works well against seniors because they don't hit high balls well due to limited shoulder mobility.

I live in Northern California and have seen and played against James Therriault many times.