Playing stategies against defensive players that "fish"

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deriderj
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Joined: 03/20/2011

I truly have problems playing against players that "fish" the ball back, these are defensive players that can attack a weak ball but for the most part hit topspin or topspin / side spin 6+ feet away from the table.  I struggle most when the player returns the ball with excessive side spin off their forehand side (still a topspin shot but with lots of side spin); the addition of side spin often makes it difficult for me to respond with a strong offensive shot and the point often times deteriorates from there.  I've found that these players are generally very good at moving side to side and the younger ones are reasonably adept at moving in and out.  In all cases, young or old, I struggle against these types of players. 

A player that fishes can be 200 points below me in the ratings and I will have to really work hard physically to defeat that player.  It just feels like I'm working too hard, that there must be better strategies or tactics that will help.  I've talked to several higher rated players (2300 and up) and all I've really been told is that you have to play with a lot of energy against these types of defensive players or you will lose.  There is little offered on any definitive strategies or tactics.  In fact, the last player I asked could only offer that if I lost 45 lbs I would still have to work the same but I wouldn't be so tired when I was done (he's probably right, but that's not really what I'm looking for).

This problem for me is unique to defensive players that fish the ball back.  I love playing choppers and I have great success against them relative to my rating.  What really irritates me is that there is nothing in the play of a defensive player that fishes the ball back that should cause my games problems, and yet here I am, confused, defeated (I just lost a practice match to an 1800 fisher and its not the first time) and I am humbly asking for help.

So my question is, and maybe working hard is the only answer; what are the best tactics and strategies when playing a defensive player that fishes the ball back?

 

 

PingPongPom
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Re: Playing stategies against defensive players that "fish"

I always find that when I play against players who fish I like to loop wide angles to their backhand and try and push them further out to open up space, playing consistently around 70-80% power until the shot down the line opens up. The other option you have is to play hard and move them back from the table and then change the speed of the shot, so play 4-5 faster balls and then a slower spinnier one which can force errors or open up further opportunities. Also of course you can play the short dropshot OR you can choose my favourite choice which is far less energy consuming which is to slap instead of looping, I would usually play one loop and then follow up with a very hard fast forehand slap either to the body or wide.

Playing fishers should be fun though I always feel like I've had a good workout when I'm done :)

deriderj
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Joined: 03/20/2011
Re: Playing stategies against defensive players that "fish"

Today, in our local Saturday tournament, I absolutely dominated the two "fishers' that I've described in my previous posts.  They are not great players, but they always seem to play great against me, but I did not let that happen today.  I stuck to my newly learned strategies against fishers (thank you Larry), played very hard and dispatched both of these nefarious individuals with relative ease. 

Beaming with what I thought was confidence, but turned out to be over confidence;  I then went out and lost to a very solid 1950 blocker at 10-12 in the fourth game in the semi-finals of Class A.  I coulda/shoulda won, but at 10-9 my lead he got a net, at 10-10 he got an edge, and at 10-11 he got another net (sigh).  As expected, I received no sympathy post match as the only coaching tip offered was that I should not have let him be close enough that luck mattered (nothing but stern practical player/coaches up here in the Minnesota). 

Larry Hodges
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Re: Playing stategies against defensive players that "fish"

There are only two weapons against nets and edges: hustle like crazy (i.e. return some of them and win the point), and getting a large enough lead that they won't affect the match. Glad the strategies against fishers work; half the battle is knowing how to beat them, the other half is having the confidence that you know exactly to do - they prey on uncertainty. USATT Magazine asked if I could submit a coaching article, and so I sent them that article a few days ago. 

deriderj
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Joined: 03/20/2011
Re: Playing stategies against defensive players that "fish"

Oh man Larry, I cannot wait until I get a shot to play a fisher!

Waiting on the short ball, are you kidding me?  That's too simple, too elegant and so very far from anything I would have thought of.  Once again, pure gold.  I will bet your students really enjoy it when you can coach them during matches.  There are times when I read your coaching material and I feel like I must be a drooling idiot because you make it sound like common sense and yet I cannot get there on my own. 

I mentioned that I have asked other coaches and players for help against fishers and I know they tried to help me but I think its possible that in this case and in other cases where I was asking for help with tactics and strategies that my own skills may have hurt me.  I think that because I can do so many things at the table, hit so many different shots and people say I look good doing it; that when I ask people questions on tactics and strategies they assume I have incredibly advanced knowledge about the game and they don't take the time to break it down to the basics the way you do in your writing.  Just because I have a great forehand (well, at least a forehand that looks great) doesn't mean I have a clue when to use it and I have definitive proof of that in many of my losses to weaker players. 

Thanks for the splendid response to my question.

Joel

Larry Hodges
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Re: Playing stategies against defensive players that "fish"

Hi Joel, we'll have to play sometime. I do a LOT of fishing when I play, partly because most of my matches are as a practice partner with junior players who play table tennis at speeds far in excess of light speed. Often I have to back up to around Russia to return a shot here in Maryland. I can fish most of them down, but then either me or one of the other coaches opens his big mouth and tells them to smash at my middle as well as my backhand or some other tactic other than "kill every ball as hard as you can," and suddenly fishing isn't so easy. 

deriderj
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Joined: 03/20/2011
Re: Playing stategies against defensive players that "fish"

Larry,

I printed out your tip of the week on strategies against fishers and brought it with me on Saturday.  I'm not sure I call it being lucky, but I had a 1750 fisher in my preliminary RR an 1850 fisher in my final RR.

I read through your tip of the week again to make sure I wasn't missing anything and then went out to play against a 1700 fisher that I have struggled with in the past and who has beaten me but only rarely.  I started out by opening to his backhand and he killed it past me.  On the next serve I opened more strongly to his backhand and he killed it past me.  Obviously just reading about a strategy doesn't make it work.  I adjusted my opening to hit more into his body / elbow (which he returned awkwardly with his backhand) and then pounded my shots wide to his backhand until I got a short ball which I attacked strongly usually putting the ball away.  Piece of cake.  I defeated this fisher very easily in three games and I wasn't even breathing heavy.

In my next round I was playing an 1800 fisher.  Forearmed with perfect "fishing" theory and practical "fishing" experience I entered into my match supremely confident.  Jumping ahead, it's now 9-9 in the 5th game and not only am I breathing heavy I'm considering the need for oxygen.  After what felt like two points that went on for 2 minutes each I raised my arm (too tired to raise both arms) in victory!  The fisher I was playing said that he was playing fantastic and he was surprised I beat him.  I wasn't quite as surprised but I do know that without the proper strategy in play I would have gone down to defeat in less than 5 games. 

I was hoping for a strategy that would allow me to win with little or not effort (pipe dreams are my specialty), but as it turns out, I had to work very hard even with the keen strategies that you so graciously supplied.  I don't know if it is just me, but when I can go out to the table and be confident that my strategies are correct I am a much more relaxed and as a result I'm a better player. Now that I've played a couple of matches against fishers using a solid strategy that I know has merit, from this point forward against fishers I will be more relaxed and confident, and that, is a very good thing.

Larry Hodges
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Re: Playing stategies against defensive players that "fish"

Hi Deriderj,

I probably should have put something in the article about playing a fisher that warned players that no matter what you did, playing a fisher *is* going to be tiring. (Ah, the tribulations of playing a sport!) That's central to that style, since they are going to return ball after ball deep on the table, making you play many more attack shots than you normally would. Unlike a blocker, where sometimes you might just exchange countering shots, against a fisher you often are attacking every shot in a rally, which is far more tiring. But it's much better to work hard and win due to good tactics than to work hard and lose because you didn't!

As you quickly learned, every player is different; the first fisher you played apparently had a strong backhand counter-attack, but not from the middle. As a coach, I always tell players who can play strong defense that the goal is to make the opponent fight to get them on the defense (and thereby make many mistakes and lose many points), and then have to get past the defense. So the basic strategy against a fisher who can also attack (or counter-attack) is to find the simplest, easiest way to get them on the defense without losing man points in the process. 

Larry Hodges
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Re: Playing stategies against defensive players that "fish"

This week's Tip of the Week is Playing Fishers - hope this helps!

AnnikaSanchez
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Joined: 07/25/2011
Oh man Larry, I cann

Oh man Larry, I cannot wait until I get a shot to play a fisher!

Waiting on the short ball, are you kidding me?  That's too simple, too elegant and so very far from anything I would have thought of.  Once again, pure gold.  I will bet your students really enjoy it when you can coach them during matches.  There are times when I read your coaching material and I feel like I must be a drooling idiot because you make it sound like common sense and yet I cannot get there on my own. 

I mentioned that I have asked other coaches and players for help against fishers and I know they tried to help me but I think its possible that in this case and in other cases where I was asking for help with tactics and strategies that my own skills may have hurt me.  I think that because I can do so many things at the table, hit so many different shots and people say I look good doing it; that when I ask people questions on tactics and strategies they assume I have incredibly advanced knowledge about the game and they don't take the time to break it down to the basics the way you do in your writing.  Just because I have a great forehand (well, at least a forehand that looks great) doesn't mean I have a clue when to use it and I have definitive proof of that in many of my losses to weaker players. 

Thanks for the splendid response to my question.

Joel
plaque vitroceramique

Larry Hodges
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Re: Oh man Larry, I cann

Hi Joel, and thanks for the kind words! Glad the Tip helped. I have the advantage of 35 years playing and 30 years coaching, and of all the aspects of coaching, tactics is my favorite.