March 2, 2015 - When Should You Go for a Winner?

All players need good put-away shots, whether it be forehand or backhand loops or smashes. But when should you use them? Here are four theories on this.

  1. When the ball is high. Patiently work until you get that high ball, and don't get impatient and go for a crazy shot.  
  2. When the ball lands toward the middle of the table, depth-wise. These are often easy to put away or at least attack strongly. It's why coaches stress keeping the ball mostly short at the start of a point (by serving or pushing short) and mostly deep once the rally begins. Most soft topspin and backspin shots that don't go deep but don't die over the table (i.e. backspin balls that would bounce twice given the chance) should at least be attacked pretty hard, and by the advanced intermediate level they should be consistently put away.
  3. The 51% Ogimura Doctrine - if you have a 51% chance of making your put-away (assuming your opponent can't return it), you go for it. If he may return it, you need a higher percentage.
  4. Flashbulb Theory of Larry (FTL). With experience, there'll come times when a little flashbulb goes off in your head that tells you that you have read the ball perfectly and are in perfect position. The ball might be low and deep, and ripping it might be seemingly difficult, but if that flash bulb goes off, then you should probably take the shot. In fact, not taking the shot could throw you off due to indecision. Of course, the key here is having an accurate flash bulb that only goes off when you really have read the ball and are set to take the shot - and that takes experience. And even when that flashbulb goes off, you don't have to hit the ball Faster Than Light, just hard enough to win the point.