November 23, 2015 - When Playing an Unfamiliar Player, Focus on Serve & Receive

When you face a new and unknown opponent, you aren't sure yet how the rallies are going to go. But you can control how the rallies start. Learn to use serve & receive to start rallies the way you want them to go, and so rather than you adjusting to your opponent, he has to adjust to you. It doesn't matter if the opponent plays very orthodox or has an unusual or weird style, you should be able to at least start the type of rally that favors you. A few examples:

  • If you are good at attacking backspin, then a short, heavy, and very low backspin serve often forces a backspin return that you can attack.
  • A short and low no-spin serve, as a variation to spin serves (especially backspin serves), is hard to either attack or push heavy, often giving you an easy ball to attack.
  • If you serve a lot of short backspin serves and your opponent keeps pushing them back heavy, throw in short side-top serves and you'll likely get pop-ups.
  • If you are good in fast topspin rallies, then a topspin or sidespin-topspin serve often forces a topspin return that you can attack. Mix them up with big breaking side-top serves as well as short ones.
  • Fast & deep serves, strategically placed, often get you into a fast exchange, and can back players slightly off the table, giving you time to set up your attack. Forehand loopers are often forced out of position by these serves. Focus especially on side-top serves that break away from the receiver, fast no-spin at the elbow, and sudden quick ones down the line.
  • Slow but deep sidespin serves, against an opponent who doesn't loop, sets you up for all sorts of attacks.
  • If your opponent keeps attacking your short serve with his backhand, serve from the middle or forehand side so you have an angle to serve into his forehand, and force him to receive forehand.