Often players and coaches harp on creating quality shots, as they should. However, what about minimum-quality shots? These are shots where your opponent has made you uncomfortable - perhaps with his attack, his serve, or something else - and so all you are trying to do is get the ball back in a way that he won't cream it past you.
Minimum-quality shots can be tricky to pull off correctly. First, you have to judge whether it's time to go for one. Second, you have to judge just how weak you can make your shot - to maximize consistency - and still get away with it. And third, you have to be able to something with the ball to give the opponent some trouble, such as angling the shot, going to the opponent's weak side, keeping it deep, changing the direction at the last second, changing the spin, etc. This last part is almost an art form. Ultimately, you don't want to try to win with your minimum-quality shots, but they will often keep you in the point. And some decent players pretty much base their whole game on just getting the ball back like this, though not at really high levels.
Often players don't distinguish between incoming shots that they have read properly and are in position to attack, and ones where they are not, and so blindly attack both. While they sometimes pull off a nice shot this way, and it might actually be good practice to raise you level by attacking shots that you are not really comfortable attacking, it's not usually the percentage thing to do, tactically.
One of my favorite strategies is to just keep taking the ball right off the bounce and returning it really, really wide to the opponent's backhand, but not too hard. You'd be surprised how much trouble they have doing anything with this shot. It's way too far over for most to use their forehand (and they are wide open on the forehand side if they do), they can't really hit this ball down the line very hard, and I give them no pace to work with, and so all I have to do is be a brick wall on my backhand side until they miss. This works especially well for me in returning serves, in backhand-backhand rallies, and for wide-angled pushes. The first two here are especially well underutilized by most players.
Getting back in shape for table tennis
I've decided to devote the next two months to getting in great table tennis shape. Besides the usual hitting with students and practice matches Fri-Sun (mostly with our local juniors as a practice partner), this means about three training sessions/week, plus lifting weights at a gym three times a week, plus daily stretching. (This is on top of going from 196 lbs in December to the current 173.) Here's my new weight training regime, which I started yesterday, with ten reps each, three times each, weight set so the last few reps are a slight struggle. I start and end each session with stretching. Right now my arms are very, very tired, but the rest of me seems okay.
- Triceps: Arm Extension
- Biceps: Arm Curl
- Chest: Chest Press or Fly Machine
- Back: Pull Down or Row
- Shoulders: Overhead Press
- Hamstrings: Leg Curl
- Quadriceps: Leg Extensions
- Other: Leg Press
- Abs: Ab Crunch or Abdominal Machine
- Torso: Torso Rotation (both ways, so this is really two exercises)
Table tennis videos
Can't get enough videos? There are lots of ones in the TableTennisCoaching video section. I've just added the ITTF video page. Or just type in your favorite player (and perhaps the words "table tennis") into youtube, and you can pretty much find anybody.
Table Tennis University
Table Tennis University opens for enrollment on Thursday, Sept. 29. It's an online table tennis school. I've linked to a number of their videos, but haven't otherwise been involved with them, but (from the videos and table tennis resume) they obviously are knowledgeable table tennis people. (I have my own video coaching at TableTennisCoaching.com.)
My favorite sport is now penny-pong. (Patience - it takes about a minute to get into it in this 4:42 video.) But why does this remind me of the rickety bridge scene from Balls of Fury? Except they have, apparently, learned backhand.
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