How To Play The Bomber: The Player Who Tries to Blast Every Shot

By Larry Hodges

Have you ever had one of those matches where your opponent clobbered every ball past you? Where you spent more time chasing balls than actually hitting? Where you got a bad back just from bending over to pick them up? If you won the match, you probably didn't mind; there's nothing you can do about an opponent who clobbers (and misses) every shot.

Unfortunately, every now and then you meet a player who clobbers ball after ball, and they keep hitting! This type of player also goes by the name 'National Champion' or 'U.S. Team Member' or even 'World Champion'. There's not much you can do when you play them.But what if he smashes and kills and clobbers every ball, and when the game is over, he's just barely won by making 51% of his shots? Some players will say, "There's nothing I could do; he just got hot." This response is usually from a player who will lose to this same player over and over because "he just got hot."

Believe it or not, you can beat players like that, even if they get "hot." In fact, there are four ways of beating these players, who I will call from here on "The Bomber." (Five, if you count "outplaying them.") You can:

I. Keep them from attacking

II. Make them miss their attacking shots

III. Return their shots

IV. Match them, shot for shot

You will have to decide which methods will work best for you, based on what you do best. After all, if you are better at what you do than your opponent is at what he does (blasting the ball), then you should win.

I. Keep them from attacking
There are two ways to keep a player from attacking. The first is to keep the ball short and low. Serve short, push short, and most players won't know what to do. Loopers can't loop short balls, and if you keep the ball low, hitters can't smash. Usually they will push the ball back, go for a wild shot or use a weak attacking shot. Of course, if they do push the ball, you have the option of either attacking or pushing yourself. If you can push, you're right back where you started from. So, whenever you are given the chance, attack!

Which leads us to the second way to keep a player from attacking: attack first! You don't have to blast the ball – just a well-placed attack of any sort will make them do what they most want to avoid: defending. Loop or drive against deep pushes. Flip against short serves and pushes, and our Bomber opponent will get twisted up in knots. 'The "Bomber hates it when his opponent attacks.

Of course, if they are like most all-out attackers, they'll probably go for a wild and crazy shot when you attack. An easy point for your. (Usually!)

II. Make them miss their attacking shots
The second way to beat The Bomber is to make him miss his shot. One way to do this is to attack first, as mentioned above, and force him to go for a difficult shot.

Basically, to make a player miss a shot, you mix up the spins, speeds and placements. Keep the opponent off balance. If he hits in a winner on one shot, make the next shot different. Above all else, do not let The Bomber get into a rhythm! Throw everything at them: slow topspins mixed in with faster ones; angled off shots or hard drives to the middle; heavy backspin pushes with a no spin push suddenly thrown in; medium speed drives and then a faster, quicker one as a surprise; all are effective ways to force The "Bomber into a mistake. Use your imagination in finding patterns that force The Bomber to short circuit.

III. Return their shots
The third way to beat The Bomber is to return his shots. Some may stare at these words in amazement: How can you return what you can't see?

The solution is preparation and anticipation. This doesn't mean guessing where the opponent is going to hit the ball and waiting there. Even a dumb Bomber will then hit to another spot. It means watching your opponent, trying to tell where he is going on the next shot, and then the instant he is committed to the shot, moving to it.

The key is moving neither too soon nor too late. Study players and learn when they are committed to a specific shot. That is when to move. Any earlier and the opponent will change directions. Any later and you won't have the maximum time to react to the shot.

You may also be able to tell where a player is going with his shot even before he is committed. If a player has hit his putaway shot cross-court the last seventy three times, guess where the seventy-fourth is going to go? Don't move too soon and alert him to your intentions; just be ready to pounce on the ball when it goes where you expect it to go. Don't anticipate in advance except against a putaway shot, where you couldn't possibly react to it otherwise, and even then, don't move until the last possible instant. (Of course, top players can often react even to "putaway" shots, and so should anticipate even less.)

If all else fails, and you still cannot react to the opponent's shot, try moving away from the table. It is best to stay near the table when possible but it is better to back up than give up the point. Lob, chop, make diving returns – whatever it takes to keep the ball in play. You'll be surprised how many easy shots The Bomber will miss. He's not used to having his shots returned, and one or two miraculous returns (but not so miraculous due to anticipation) will usually win the point.

IV. Match them, shot for shot
The final way to beat The Bomber is to match him shot for shot. This is not recommended for the fainthearted. This means that you yourself are a Bomber merely looking for a better way to bomb. Well, there is nothing wrong with being a Bomber. It's like being a football player. The stereotype is that of being a dumb jock, but this isn't true, at least in your case. (Or you wouldn't be able to read this!) And there are few things scarier than a Smart Bomber.

Basically, a Smart Bomber knows that the winner between two Bombers is the one who bombs the most. So he will be looking for as many shots to put away as possible, while not giving any to his opponent. This gets us back to the part covered earlier on attacking first. It really all comes down to serve and receive.

The Smart Bomber serves mostly short and either pushes serves back short or places his flips and long push receives. The Dumb Bomber often does serve short but rarely returns serves short and so is constantly handicapped. The result is the Smart Bomber attacks first and, when the match is over, he is victorious. Of course, he still can't win, since all the spectators saw was a bunch of wild attackers, being Dub Spectators. And so the Smart Bomber wins the tournament but contributes to the stereotypes of the Dumb Bomber. Oh well.