July 20, 2020 - The Importance of Lobbing

One of the strange things top players and coaches often notice is that beginning/intermediate players who "goof off and lob" during practice often improve rapidly. There is a reason for this.

When a beginning/intermediate player backs up and lobs, he develops mobility and footwork, and learns to react to hard-hit shots. Later, as he becomes more advanced, his off-the-table play, especially covering ground for counter-looping, or simply reacting to hard-hit shots, is much better than it would have been otherwise, and plus the habit of moving is more developed. This gives him an advantage, as long as he doesn't overdo it and make a habit of backing off the table too easily. Another advantage is that by lobbing, you better understand a lobber's strengths and weaknesses, and so better know what to do when you play a good lobber.

There are two classic cases of this. Sweden's Jan-Ove Waldner and Mikael Appelgren were sometimes called "uncoachable" as juniors due to their tendency to "goof off and lob" during practice. Both went on to be ranked #1 in the world, with two-time World Men's Singles Champion and Men's Singles Olympic Gold Medalist Waldner often called the greatest player in history. These days players tend to play a bit closer to the table than in the past, but the principle still holds, as long as it isn't overdone.