July 27, 2020 - 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 force rallies to go the way you want them to go, and so make your opponent adjust to you. It doesn't matter if the opponent plays very orthodox or has an unusual or weird style, you can often force them into the type of rally you want. A few examples:

  • A backspin serve often forces a backspin return.
  • A topspin serve often forces a topspin return.
  • Fast & deep serves often get you into a fast exchange, and can back players slightly off the table. Forehand loopers are often forced out of position by fast, deep serves.
  • A fast but dead (spinless) serve not only forces many mistakes, but is often returned softly.
  • Short & low serves often set you up for a first attack, often a loop. Short backspin serves are usually pushed, while short sidespin serves are either pushed back (usually high) or attacked relatively weakly (assuming the serve was low).
  • Slow but deep sidespin serves, against an opponent who doesn't loop, sets you up for all sorts of attacks.
  • A short and low no-spin serve is hard to either attack or push heavy and usually gives you a ball you can attack.