January 19, 2015 - The Lost Art of Messing People Up

When I throw chop blocks or sidespin pushes at my students, they complain, saying "Nobody does that!" And that's the problem - few players do these type of things anymore, and so when faced with shots that mess them up, instead of learning to do these shots themselves they point out that nobody does it - and so nobody does it!

Why don't players do these type of shots very often? Because the very best players in the world only do these shots occasionally. But that's because they players they are competing against are also the very best players in the world, and if you are one of the best players in the world, you have fewer problems with these types of shots. And yet many top players still do these type of shots. At the finals of Men's Singles at the recent USA Nationals, down 5-1 in the seventh, Jim Butler did three sidespin blocks the rest of the way, and won all three points. And if you watch the top players when they push serves back long, you'll be surprised at how often they do so with sidespin.

Sure, you could robotically attack every ball with the same straightforward shots that everyone uses. Or you could get a little creative, and mess up your opponents, and become a better player. It's great fun - both the messing up opponents and becoming a better player!

Here are some ways to mess up an opponent.

  1. Chop or sidespin block. Here's how.
  2. Push long with sidespin, usually so the ball curves out to the corners. Here's how.
  3. Last-second changes of directions with pushes. Here's how.
  4. Dummy loop, i.e. a loop that looks spinny but isn't. Here's how.
  5. Changing directions at the last second when looping. Here's how.
  6. Attack the middle. Here's how.
  7. Mess them up with deep, tricky serves. Here's how. Here's more.
  8. Vary your receive against short backspin serves. Here's how