The importance of the 5th ball

5 replies [Last post]
deriderj
Offline
Joined: 03/20/2011

I've been reading several articles by several different coaches and they all discuss the importance of the 3rd and 5th ball attack.  I'm guessing the 3rd ball attack has been discussed to death, but my question is about continuing to attack on the 5th ball. 

Watching many matches over the last 12 months, both amateur and professional I've noticed that the 5th ball is missed quite often when the 3rd ball attack is against under spin.  I don't know the exact reasons why, though I can guess that amount of spin necessary to loop or loop drive an under spin ball varies considerably depending on the spin of the push and results in a wide variety of spin and speed when blocked or countered which becomes the 5th ball.  Assuming any of this makes sense, and I'm close to correct on the physics, what are the coaching recommendations on striking the 5th ball under these conditions?  For a specific answer; I am an offensive player and can loop and/or counter drive from both sides though I favor looping with my forehand and counter driving with my backhand.

One coach I read said that you never attack hard against the 5th ball under these conditions (3rd ball was against under spin), that you must hit a controlled offensive shot and that the 5th ball is all about placement.  I'm wondering what can be done to ensure consistency and tactical advantage when striking the 5th ball when the 3rd ball was looped off of an under spin push.  I think this also applies to any 5th ball, but as I understand it the biggest variation comes when the 3rd ball is looped off of under spin. 

Any thoughts?  I'd love to hear what coaches on the forum have on this but I'm also open to any articles that have been written on the subject, so providing links to those articles would be appreciated.  I'm also looking for recommended drills that will provide a more consistent approach to hitting that 5th ball when the 3rd ball is looped off of under spin.

Thanks!

Larry Hodges
Larry Hodges's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/19/2010
Re: The importance of the 5th ball

BTW: I clicked on what I thought should be a link to the previous article you mention in your response but the link is invalid and so is the link back to what I think is supposed to be my original question.

I don't know how that happened, but I fixed them. Thanks for letting me know!

mjamja
Offline
Joined: 01/19/2011
Re: The importance of the 5th ball

Is 5th ball attack planned or a reaction to very good serve return?

Before I start to serve should I be planning just a 5th ball atack or should I plan a third ball attack and  plan for a control 3rd ball and a 5th ball attack if serve return is particulary difficult?

What can I really plan for a 3rd ball or 5th ball attack considering all the options my opponent has in making different shots and in making different quality execution of those shots?   I always feel that if I make a "Plan" I lock myself into what turns out not to be taking the highest percentage shots, but if I have no plan I I miss shots because I am having to make fairly complicated choices in the middle of the point.   If I had 10,000 hrs of training behind me I am sure I could make the right choices in the limited time available, but for a recreational player who is never likely to make USATT 2000 what is the best approach to planning?

Mark

 

Larry Hodges
Larry Hodges's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/19/2010
Re: The importance of the 5th ball

Hi Mark,

This is actually a complicated subject, but the simple answer is to have a flexible plan. For example, if I serve a low, short, heavy backspin serve, many players push it back deep, but usually the push is low. So I may plan to serve and loop slow, deep, and spinny, and then put away the fifth ball. If I happen to get a weak return of the serve, I might change and go for more. On the other hand, I might mix in a no-spin serve disguised as heavy backspin ("heavy no-spin"), and expect a slightly higher return with less backspin. In this case I'd look to end the point on the third ball. But if I get a low, heavy push return, I might switch to a slow loop and then try to end it on the fifth ball.

It helps to have a flexible plan because if you get what you expect, you can be really ready for it. The key is not to get caught off guard if you are surprised. It's important to judge what the possible returns your opponent might make, and be ready for all of the more likely ones - while being ready to go after certain weaker or predictable returns.

Of course, if having a plan will mess you up if you are crossed up, then put that aside, and simply plan your serves tactically, and react to the the returns as they come at you. If you get a low, heavy, deep push, loop it slow, spinny, and deep, and look to end the point on the fifth ball. If you get a weaker return, take the shot.

The problem with serves that tend to give weaker returns, like sidespin and no-spin, is they often are also easier to attack and lead to more unpredictable returns, while more conservative serves like heavy backspin are hard to attack and the returns are more preditable, but aren't usually popped up or missed. So choose your serves wisely!

deriderj
Offline
Joined: 03/20/2011
Re: The importance of the 5th ball

Larry,

Fantastic response and interesting that there is some credibility to the "control" of the 5th shot but maybe the issue of hitting a controlled shot 5th ball is a non-issue for the majority of players that are not world class or at least don't have the ability to rip the 3rd ball on a regular basis.  I sometimes forget that tactics and strategy change considerably as the level of play increases. 

Controlling the 5th ball in a game whose points rarely go past the 4th ball in retrospect, after reading your response, doesn't make much sense to me.  I prefer your stated strategy which if I have it correct is to use the 3rd ball to setup the 5th ball when you cannot win outright on the 3rd ball. 

The 5th ball is a ball that I struggle with but I will keep the shoulder in mind during practice and hope that will make it easier to keep the 5th ball on the table.  In my case my mistake, as you mentioned is most common, is that I hit the 5th ball off the end of the table.  Sometimes I know that it's because the ball came back too quickly for me to handle and that's a personal problem that cannot be resolved by coaching, but the other times, when I am in position and quick enough I need to stop missing the 5th ball so often.

Again, thanks for the well thought out response, and yes feel free to use my userid or name for anything related to this forum.

BTW: I clicked on what I thought should be a link to the previous article you mention in your response but the link is invalid and so is the link back to what I think is supposed to be my original question.

Joel

Larry Hodges
Larry Hodges's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/19/2010
Re: The importance of the 5th ball

Hi deriderj,

This seemed like such a good topic I made it my main blog entry today. Great question! (Let me know if I should identify you in the blog by your user name.)