Every opponent has a weakness relative to their level. Even Ma Long, often considered the greatest of all time, was “weak” to his wide forehand – but only relative to the rest of his game. I’ve written many tips about how to find and go after these weaknesses.
But one common issue that comes up is when a player says, “But this tactic will only work against this one player, so using it won’t really help my game.” But that’s missing the point. I once played a guy with a tremendous backhand, and he obliterated me in backhand rallies. I finally just served fast down the line to his forehand every time I served, and amazingly, he couldn’t do anything with it – and it set me up every time while taking his backhand out of play. I don’t think I’ve ever played a competitive match against anyone else where this specific tactic would have worked – but that’s not the point. I may never use that specific tactic again – but the habit of finding the weak shots and spots to go after works against everybody. And it was that habit that led me to serving fast down the line over and Over and OVER, and turned a difficult match into an easy win. (And note that you usually don’t want to overuse a successful tactic – variation is key.)
It won’t usually be something as unusual as serving deep to a person’s forehand over and over. But once it becomes a habit to look for every opponent’s weak shots and spots, it becomes easy to find. I played a guy who had no trouble with my usually very effective serves – until I discovered he couldn’t do anything effective against a simple short, low no-spin serve. Another difficult match became an easy win. Another player drilled me in rallies – until I discovered how weak he was against a big breaking serve to his wide backhand. Others had trouble with specific ball placements or shots. I beat one very strong player by attacking the middle and following it up with a shot to the extreme wide backhand. She covered the middle well but didn’t get back into position quickly enough for the wide backhand shot. Another lost against quick pushes to the wide backhand. Another fell apart when I started slow looping. Another telegraphed his usually effective long serves so I was ready for them when he tried to “surprise” me. And so on. Make a habit of finding them, and you’ll find them. And that habit will work against everybody.