Sample Video Analysis #1
By Larry Hodges
Dec. 8, 2010
Subject is 19, rated about 2150 (USA ratings), shakeshands with inverted on both sides.
Point 1: In the first few seconds, you push two long pushes back. Then you block with the forehand rather than counterloop. Need to loop any pushes that go long, and counterloop on forehand whenever possible. There was a good backhand and a good loop, but need to jump on those earlier balls.
Point 2: Started rally by again pushing a long serve and a long push.
Point 3: You are now serving. You use a forehand pendulum serve, but are serving from over the table. You should serve from farther over to the backhand so you can cover more table with your forehand. (You didn't do this in other matches.) You then follow with a loop, but when he counters it, you block instead of looping again. You win the point with a sharp forehand block - a good shot, but you should reflexively be looping those if you want to compete with 2300+ players.
(We miss a few points as camera moves about.)
Point 4: This time you backhand loop the serve, and follow with a forehand loop to win the point. Right idea, but the backhand loop is way too soft. A stronger player would attack that. The forehand loop is good, with placement to the middle.
Point 5: You push serve back short - right idea, but too high. Opponent is too slow to react and pushes it back. A better player would have hammered that. You follow with one good loop, then two very weak loops that a stronger player would also hammer, but the opponent misses.
Point 6: This time you set up to serve outside your backhand corner, as you should. You follow serve up with a very weak loop that a stronger opponent would hammer.
Point 7: You follow your serve with an excellent loop, get a weak return - and soft loop it! You need to rip balls like that.
Point 8: You backhand looped the serve, but rather soft and toward the middle of the table. When you go to the middle, you need to be aggressive. A stronger opponent would hammer this ball, but your opponent misses.
Game ends here. I'm going to skip ahead to Part 4.
Point 1: Good short receive, follow-up backhand loop is too soft. You're guiding the ball instead of letting it go, and so not getting much spin.
Point 2: The opponent returns the ball to your backhand. You step around, but rather than go all the way around and making a strong loop, you come to a stop and lean back the rest of the way. You need to go all the way around so you can both make a better, balanced shot (more power and consistency), plus your power will actually drive you back to the table. Notice how you end up following through off balance and leaning toward your left? You recover quickly, but only the weak return of the opponent allows you to get to the next ball. After making a good loop, you stand up straight for a second (!), leaving you slightly off balance when you try to recover for the next shot, leading to an easy miss.
Point 3: Long serve. Don't do this too often! (It's not fast or spinny enough to be effective; a stronger player would have attacked this easily.) He attacks to your wide forehand. Rather than move to the ball, you reach, leading to a miss.
Point 4: Opponent serves into net. Good receive! But there's something to be learned here. The serve was definitely going long and toward the middle, and you were already moving to your right to receive with your backhand. Your forehand loop is much stronger than your backhand loop; you should be favoring that against long serves.
Point 5: He serves long to your backhand; you return with a soft backhand loop. You need to be more aggressive with your backhand loop. It doesn't necessarily have to be a lot faster, but you can't get away with just rolling back a deep serve against a strong player. He returns it softly, and you loop a soft forehand. That was where you should have gone for a winner. Instead, you set him up for a strong counterloop that wins the point. You should still be able to counterloop his last shot back; you were slow in moving wide. Footwork drills!
Point 6: You have several chances here to loop hard, but only soft loop. You need to be more aggressive when you get a weak ball to your forehand. Your first loop is actually pretty good. You then have a weak ball to the backhand. You step around, but again don't go all the way, stopping and leaning. You have plenty of time to get around if you simply continued moving instead of stopping. So you make a soft, off-balanced loop. After that, you have a weak ball you could rip with your forehand, but instead do two soft backhands in a row.
Point 7: You go for a serve and loop, but miss. Play it slowly (or one frame at a time) and watch your left foot. Rather than going around the backhand corner, thereby rotating your body back and into position, it goes almost straight sideways, to your left, leaving you in an awkward position to loop. You predictably miss the shot. You probably have made that shot a lot, but it's like playing with two strikes. It'd be a lot easier and more consistent if done properly, which will also leave you in a better position for the next shot.
Point 8: The first short push is popped up, and would be hammered by a stronger player. The second one is much better. Then you follow with a very soft backhand roll. You need to work on that shot, turn your backhand loop into a real loop. You have a decent backhand loop stroke, and I'm pretty sure you have a nice backhand loop when you let it go. You need to use it.
Point 9: You step around to flip with your forehand. First, it's a long serve, and you should have looped it. Second, as in point 7, your left foot goes sideways rather than rotate around, leaving you in an awkward position. Predictably, you miss. When flipping with the forehand, you need to be balanced and leaning over the table, not leaning back.
Just before Point 10: A ball rolls by. This may sound silly, but watch how you pick it up flat-footedly. You need lively, active feet. If you start the point like that, you probably aren't really set to move quickly. Let's see if you move your feet the next point.
Point 10: The return of your serve is long and right to the middle, and yet you reach over and make a soft backhand return. Why not loop an aggressive forehand? Now watch your feet the next three shots - a backhand, an awkward forehand, another backhand. Your feet are actually somewhat lively (see your mini-bounces between points), and yet they barely move! See especially the forehand loop from the middle, where you lean over instead of moving the feet. Then, after the strong backhand, you step around the backhand to loop a forehand, but again stop before you are all the way there, and your left foot goes sideways instead of around the table, leaving you in an awkward position to loop. You make the shot, but it isn't pretty! See how much you have to lean left to make the shot instead of moving. The interesting thing is you had an easy forehand loop on the first shot of the rally but didn't take it, choosing instead to go for this far more difficult one.
If you watch your feet, they are actually somewhat lively and bouncy - you just aren't using them to their best advantage. You are set to move, but you aren't thinking aggressive in the rally, and so just stand mostly in one spot (until the last shot) when you should be moving and attacking. In other matches you are much more assertive in moving your feet to attack with the forehand. This needs to become habit.
Point 11: A nice serve & loop, but you miss. It's actually the right shot to go for - you were there. Again, it would help if your left foot went around the table instead of almost straight left.
Points 12: Very nice touch receive to the forehand. But what is that forehand follow-up? He set the ball up nicely for you, but your feet weren't lively, and so you didn't move to end the point, instead making a weak backhand. A stronger opponent would have ripped that. He missed, and so you won.
Serves: Your serves are a bit simple, and often bounce too high. (The opponent here didn't take advantage of it.) I think you are mostly giving straight backspin & sidespin, perhaps some no-spin (hard to tell on the video). I saw a few inside-out forehand serves, but they did not look spinny - you need to really go into them. I didn't see any fast & deep serve variations.
Match #2 - Against Mark Hazinksi ("Why did he beat me so bad?" you asked.)
Point 1: Now you see why you can't get away with such soft backhand receives. You return the serve soft, and Mark rips it. (Mark is actually caught off guard, and does the shot awkwardly - he's looking a bit lazy since he's probably 400-500 points better than most of his competition - but at the higher levels that's an easy shot.)
Point 2: You misread the serve and push into the net. Understandable, considering how good Mark's serves are, how heavy his backspin is, and how strong his follow is - you were probably a bit leery of that! See if you can develop a backspin serve that's that heavy, and then vary it with no-spin and sidespin serves, all with the same motion. (If you develop a spinny serve, with contact toward the tip, all you have to do is contact near the base for no-spin, using the same motion. It takes practice to really sell it, but will end up as a great combo to set up your attack.)
Point 3: Notice how Mark keeps you pinned down awkwardly on the backhand? He's taken your forehand away on your own serve with a simple down the line flip - something I never see you do - while teeing off with his, though he misses an easy shot at the end. You backed up rather than go for an angled block. You don't want to back up unless you are going to counterloop. Use Mark's pace against him with quick blocks if you can't attack.
Point 4: You get away with a really weak loop here. Mark's not used to that, and lazily misses. In a big match, he (and other top players) wouldn't let you get away with that.
Point 5: Good receive - see, you can backhand loop serves aggressively! Good point, just need to make that counterloop at the end. You made a good forehand block, but probably should have counterlooped that. You have a good forehand block, so maybe it was okay in this situation, since it blocked Mark slightly out of position and you immediately went to counterloop the next ball.
Point 6: He serves fast and long, you returned soft, he hammers it. Have to attack deep serves. In this case, an aggressive, angled backhand would have been good. Watch your feet as Mark serves - you actually step to the right, favoring your backhand, and leaving you out of position when the serve goes deep to your backhand, forcing the awkward return. If you'd stayed in position, you could have backhand looped, perhaps with a shortened swing.
There's nothing wrong with backhand looping serves to the backhand, but you have to do so aggressively.
Point 7: Your serve is a little high, and he flips it away.
Point 8: You serve long, and Mark rips a backhand loop. You gave this one away with a serve that could only be effective against a weaker player. Two lessons: 1) If you are going to serve long, it needs to be fast and long, unless you have really spinny, breaking serves. 2) Long serves should be attacked, as Mark does automatically.
Point 9: His serve is slightly long, but you passively push, and so he has an easy attack. You're tenacious in keeping the ball in play for a couple shots, but Mark has complete control because of the weak serve return. (But he misses - but you were lucky, since he had an easy shot. He's getting a bit lazy.)
Point 10: His serve is a little high, and you are in perfect position to flip to his wide backhand, as he did to you in point 3, or perhaps at his middle. Instead, you go for a weak push, and he rips it.
Point 11: Nice side-top serve, Mark flips off.
Point 12: Another good serve. Mark still attacks it, and you catch him in the middle. Mark's middle is his biggest weakness, but this is the first time you've exploited it. The best way to get at it is to serve short to the forehand to bring him in, and then attack the middle. But any short serve can do this.
Point 13: He serves long to the middle, you receive backhand again. Actually, it's a good receive, but I cringed when I saw you move to your right to receive backhand against a long serve. From what I've seen, you are more a forehand player, and are doing that because you're not comfortable looping serves with your forehand. But it's a good point - you get him in the middle again (second point in a row), and have an easy backhand kill - which, alas, you miss.
Point 14: He serves long to the middle, and you finally loop a forehand! Nice return. He blocks to your backhand - and (watch closely) you are already moving toward your forehand! So you miss an easy backhand. Weaker players almost always forehand block crosscourt; stronger players can block it anywhere. You are instinctively playing as if your opponent is too weak to do a simple down-the-line block, and so are playing to beat weaker players, not stronger players.
Note that all of your forehand blocks have been crosscourt. Replay what Mark did here, and learn that block.
Point 15: Another long serve that Mark easily rips. This is the type of serve you probably rely on against weaker players, but won't work if you want to go up a level.
Point 16: Nice flip, but right to Mark's waiting forehand, ending the match. Why not flip to his backhand or middle? Throughout the match (and in the others I've seen), your forehand blocks and flips almost always go crosscourt. In this match, notice how Mark tied you up by simply doing these down the line to your backhand, and you didn't do it to him, or to others in other matches.
Point 1: A nice rally. The key shot was your third loop, which should have been much more aggressive, since you had lots of time. You were too far off the table to really catch him in the middle, which is where you looped. Instead, you should have either ripped down the line for a winner, or aggressively to his wide forehand, which would have either won the point or set you up for another forehand. If you were closer to the table, then the shot to the middle would have been effective.
Point 2: This time you do rip to the forehand, and win the point. His shot wasn't very wide to the backhand, so you didn't have to rotate around the table much, a problem you had in other matches.
Point 3: He serves long and slow. Instead of looping, you passively push, and he loops a winner. You have to attack those serves!
Point 4: He throws a deep tomahawk serve at you. Rather than handle it aggressively, you just pat at it, giving the spin maximum take on your racket, and popping it way off the end. You absolutely have to be aggressive against serves like this. Keep your racket high - players tend to drop their racket as they chase after the ball as it breaks away - and contact a little on the inside. It might be easier looping down the line. But you can't learn to loop this serve unless you actually loop it, even if it means missing at first.
Point 5: You serve backhand, the first time I've seen this. It's actually a little high, and opponent attacks it, but misses. This serve needs to be very low to the net to be effective. You need to develop either this serve, or your reverse forehand pendulum serve, or both.
Point 6: You get a ball to loop away, but don't go all the way over, and so loop awkwardly. This costs you power, and allows opponent to return it and win the point. It was a good deep serve, though it needs to be faster to be effective at the higher levels. See Mark Hazinski's deep serve to you at point 6. Deep breaking serves can also be effective as a variation, but only occasionally at the higher levels.
Point 7: He does the tomahawk serve again, and you just roll it back, letting him smack a backhand. You have to be more aggressive against all deep serves. If you can't loop it, then take it off the bounce and quick hit it.
Point 8: He serves long, and you push it back, giving him the loop. You have to loop long pushes! (Opponent doesn't loop the ball hard, but he should have.)
Point 9: Pretty good long serve, I think a dead serve. (Hard to tell on video.) Fast, dead serves to the middle are deadly, and should be used far more often, in combination with short serves.
Point 10: He pushes to your forehand, and you just roll it back. Loop it aggressively.
Point 11: Another long tomahawk serve, you return soft, he rips. (I think he misses, but he shouldn't.)
Point 12: (I think it misses a few points here.) You serve backhand, but it's high, giving him an easy flip. If he'd gone down the line, he'd have an easy winner. Instead, he flips right to your waiting forehand, and you rip a winner. This is exactly what your forehand flip normally does, sets up opponent's forehands, except now the tables are turned. Imagine how more difficult that would be if he'd flipped down the line.
I'm going to move to the next match.
Match #4 (against a lefty)
Point 1: This is where your left foot costs you. You step around to loop, but since the left leg goes almost straight left, you follow-through to your left, and are rushed to get back for the next shot. When looping, imagine a pole going through your head, and rotate in a circle around that pole. That allows you to give full power and still stay in position for the next shot.
Point 2: You loop a strong forehand, but follow with a soft backhand. You either have to move in and hit that backhand, or make a strong backhand loop. If all a person has to do is go to your forehand and back to your backhand to get a weak ball, you're in trouble! I think you should favor your backhand hitting. You need to do drills where you alternate forehand loop/backhand hit. Or you could focus on developing a strong backhand loop, but that'll take a lot of work.
Point 3: You misread the serve. However, note that you are again going crosscourt, and opponent knew it, and was stepping around way early. You need to establish the down the line threat so he can't do that.
Point 4: Again, you flip crosscourt, and he's waiting.
Point 5: He pushes really wide to your backhand, and you are a bit slow in getting around. You have to wait until the last second to move, since he's a threat to go after your wide forehand. But when he serves short to your forehand, you don't threaten his wide forehand with a down-the-line flip, and so he has no trouble stepping around in time. (Ironically, he doesn't flip much to your wide forehand, but just the threat keeps you from moving too soon, while you don't give him a similar threat. Or perhaps you can move early, as he's doing to you, until he shows he's willing to go to your forehand.)
A key thing here is that when he pushes long, he does so at extreme angles. When you push, you push to the middle backhand, making it easy for the opponent.
Point 6: Again he goes wide to your backhand. You cover the ground well to get to his block to your forehand, but miss. But it shows you can move!
Point 7: He serves long to your backhand, and you push. You have to attack that ball! I think he misses an easy loop - can't tell on the video.
Point 8: He serves to your forehand, and you finally go to his forehand, but only push, giving him the attack. You should have flipped. You win the point when he misses an easy ball.
Point 9: He gets you with another angled receive to your backhand. See how far your left leg goes to your left? (It's great positioning if you are looping to a table off to your left!) It's an awkward position to loop from, and it's no wonder you are missing. You need to step around the backhand corner, not step way to the side.
Point 10: You serve & loop to his wide forehand, good point.
Point 11: His serve is slightly long to your forehand, but you push, giving him the loop.
Point 12: He again serves slightly long to your forehand, this time you step over and pop up a backhand. These serves are loopable, but he's discovered he can get away with these serves. If you aren't going to loop, need to flip, since it's almost impossible to push this ball short, and if you push, you can't really angle it, and he's got lots of time to wind up and go after your push. You have to be more aggressive.
Backhand in Rallies
First, if you really want to improve, you have to understand what's needed to move up a level. Read this article, which I wrote years ago: http://www.usatt.org/tip_photo/110501.shtml
In particular, see #5 in the article above. To reach any level, you need to have something threatens players at that level, while at the same time not having any obvious weaknesses they can take advantage of. I've covered the weaknesses above. Any 2300 player is going to find many of these weaknesses, so until you fix them, you'll have great difficulty competing with them.
In general, you have to raise the level of the shots you use. Pushing long serves; serving long, slow serves; slightly high short serves; slightly high short pushes; rolling the backhand with light topspin; holding back on the forehand loop; playing soft off the table; blocking on the forehand instead of counterlooping when possible; steady crosscourt blocks and flips rather than trickier down-the-line shots; these all work at lower levels, but not if you want to reach a higher level.
Now let's look at your strengths. What are they? You don't really threaten players with your serve or receive. Your backhand is steady, but isn't a point-winner. You block well, but not well enough to dominate strong players. Your forehand loop should be a threat, but often you hold back on it, playing way too soft.
So what can you do to develop weapons that really threaten your opponents?
Forehand: First, you absolutely have to turn your forehand loop into a weapon. You need a point winner, and that's yours. (See #4 in the article above.) This means not just practice, but also committing to using it as a weapon, not getting soft and just keeping the ball in play. Make the commitment, and the shot will get stronger and stronger. Look to counterloop whenever you see the shot.
But strong forehand loops are a dime a dozen at the higher levels. You need something that sets it up. Here are your options.
Serve: Develop really tricky serves. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to set the forehand up with short backspin/sidespin/no-spin serve combinations. At the world-class level, the short no-spin serve is the most popular serve. It's hard to push heavy, hard to push short, and if served low, very hard to flip. (Meanwhile, a backspin serve is easy to push heavy or short, and is often easier to flip since you can turn the backspin into topspin. And sidespin serves are easy to flip.) So develop this. I think your game is already going in this direction. You often were very good at following up your serves with a forehand loop - but notice how few easy ones you got? Let's take this to the next level. (Note that no-spin serves are most effective when you have the threat of spinny serves. It's the spin threat that makes the no-spin serve so difficult to return react to.)
Receive: When Todd Sweeris was training for the Olympics back in the 1990s, he was stuck. He was a solid 2500 player, but had no real weapons that threatened the best players. So the year before the 1996 Olympic Trials he focused on return of serve. When the Trials came, he had just about the most dominant receive in the country, second only to David Zhuang. And with that as his main weapon, he made the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Teams. How did he do it? He found anyone with good serves and practiced receiving. He looped all long serves, period, no hesitation. Against short serves, he learned to push short and long, and to flip to all parts of the table. He thought of receive as a weapon, not just getting the serve back.
You should do the same. Key phrase: No hesitation. (This should be true of all your shots.)
Backhand: You have the potential to have a good backhand loop against backspin, and a good backhand hit - I've seen it. But you need to really practice these shots, and get into a mind frame where you USE these shots over and over, without hesitation. Since you have a strong blocking game, you can stay at the table and win both by blocking and backhand hitting, and use these to set up your forehand loop.
One last thought: any serious player should be able to write a book about their game. If they can't, then either they have no game, or they don't know their game. I think you have a game, but you haven't quite figured out what it is, or developed all the parts needed to make it work. Work on the parts, and you'll find your game.
Here's a sample practice session you could do with your lefty practice partner, or someone else. Feel free to come up with your own variations. Adjust the drills as needed when practicing with a righty. In some of the drills, I've specified you hit backhands. Feel free to loop the backhand if you want to work on that. I recommend you really focus on hitting that backhand in rallies until you have that shot down. Then you can experiment with more backhand looping against block.
I'm not counting serve practice or match play as part of the training session. For the training session, I've got warmup (15 min), multiball (50 min), table drills (85 min), a total of 2.5 hours. Don't forget to do some easy jogging and stretching before you start, perhaps for five minutes before the session begins.
WARMUP - 15 minutes
Do a roughly 10 to 15 minute warm-up. Spend about two minutes on each shot, such as:
MULTIBALL - 50 minutes
Multiball sessions are more intense physically than regular table practice. That's why they are so valuable. But it also means you do shorter drills, but get to do more. They are a great way to develop the shots and footwork, and to push yourself to the next level.
Do each of these drills for 2.5 minutes at near full speed, alternating with your partner. Feel free to vary the drills, or to add ones of your own. Also feel free to repeat a drill or two, if you think it needs more work. When a drill ends, try to switch the feeder and driller quickly so you can get the next drill started. (At five minutes each, nine drills, that's 45 minutes, and I've only scheduled 50 minutes for this, so it might run a few minutes over.)
Side-to-side forehand footwork, looping versus backspin. (When looping from wide backhand, make sure to rotate body about all the way, don't just go sideways with left leg way off to the left.) Make sure to loop to various spots, not just crosscourt all the time. For example, you might loop the first 1/4 of the drill crosscourt, the next 1/4 down the line, the next 1/4 to the middle (opponents elbow), and the last 1/4 anywhere.
Here are three variations:
Repeat the above but against topspin.
Alternate backspin to backhand, topspin to wide forehand. You loop all forehand, aggressively, especially against the topspin.
Variation: Backspin to forehand, topspin to backhand. You loop all forehand.
Backspin side to side. You alternate forehand and backhand loops. Focus on strong shots, perhaps 80% full power. Occasionally step around and rip a forehand from backhand corner. Make sure you spend part of the drill looping to each part of the table.
Fast topspin, side to side. Loop forehands relatively close to the table, hit backhands. All shots should be very aggressive, perhaps 80% full power. For this drill, go mostly crosscourt the first half, then do variations.
2-1 drill (Falkenberg). Two topspin balls go to the backhand, one to the forehand, then repeat. You hit backhand, step around and loop forehand, then loop forehand from wide forehand.
Variations: Can be done with backspin as well. Or one backspin followed by two topspins.
First ball is topspin, randomly to either the forehand or backhand. You loop forehands, hit backhands. Second ball (also topspin) goes to middle; you loop forehand. Repeat. Play aggressive.
Random topspin to whole table (wide forehand, wide backhand, right at elbow). You loop forehand, hit backhands. On balls to the middle, try to loop forehands. Take the ball a little late if necessary. Play aggressive.
Alternate short ball to the forehand, and a random topspin. You flip the forehand, then attack the next ball. On the flips, practice going down the line. On second shot, sometimes favor forehands. Other times play forehand and backhand equally, and develop backhand attack.
I'll assume you have 85 minutes for these, enough time for five drills (15 minutes per drill, 7.5 minutes each, except where indicated otherwise). Adjust based on time constraints.
Make sure to do drills where you block your forehand down the line. You need to work on that.
Footwork drill #1. There are several options:
After you've been doing this for a few sessions, and if you feel comfortable, start the drill off looping against backspin, then continue with topspin.
Footwork drill #2: Choose another from the list above, or come up with your own.
Random drill. Either random to whole table, or alternate one to wide angle (random) and one to middle.
Counterloop for 10 minutes.
Serve and receive practice, ten minutes each. Partner serves his best serves, you practice receive. Play out the points as if it were a tournament, but the focus should be on the serve and receive.
Serve & Attack. Practice your best serve & attack patterns, mixing it up. Work in backhand loop against backspin as well. (Part of the drill you can have the receiver push to the backhand so you can work on backhand loop.) Play out the points as if it were a tournament.
Try to find 3-4 times/week where you can practice your serves for 10-15 minutes. This can be just before or after a training session, or any other time. You should also practice and experiment in matches.
When playing matches, focus on:
Hope this helps!