Butterfly Online

Sample Video Analysis #2

Sample Video Analysis #2

By Larry Hodges

January 7, 2011

Subject is a lefty, mid-40s, rated about 1750 (USA ratings), shakehands with inverted on both sides.

Point-By-Point Analysis

MATCH #1 (vs. Asian kid)

GAME ONE

Point 1: First point actually starts in mid-point (the one where you hit a backhand into the net), so we'll ignore that and start with the opponent getting ready to serve.

Notice as the opponent serves how straight you are standing? This hurts your mobility, your strokes, and ability to see the serve. The lower you get, the easier it is to see the serve, which is why many players crouch down very low when receiving, then stand a little straighter the rest of the point.

Standing this straight affects your loop. Notice how far down you had to go to loop the serve? This probably cost you control, leading to the missed loop. A lower stance would make the stroke shorter, easier, and more consistent.

Point 2: He serves long to the forehand, and you make a double mistake: 1) You push it; 2) You push it to the middle. This gives him an easy loop to the forehand. You block awkwardly off the end. Again, the high stance could be making the shot awkward. A lower stance might put you more in line with the ball. Some blockers do stand up straight, so this isn't a given, just something to experiment with. But I think the closer you are to the ball when blocking, the more control, plus there'd be less tendency to lift up on the block, as do slightly here.

Points 3&4: You give identical tricky serves, but both are high. See how high your contact point is? It needs to be much lower, preferably around net height. A stronger player would have ripped that serve. However, the opponent pops both up. (But he would have popped it up just as much if the serve had been lower.) You smash the first with your backhand. It might have been better to smash this with the forehand, as you did with the second, since you had time, but either way works. Jim Butler would have used his backhand as well. But you have to serve lower. Again, a lower stance might make this easier.

Point 5: Opponent serves, throwing the ball back illegally. However, the main result of this is that it gives you more time to react, and the serve goes slightly long to the middle. You probably should loop this serve, but it is borderline. You make a good push to his wide backhand, taking away his forehand. He does a soft backhand loop toward your middle. However, you block the first ball passively, and are stepping off the table. You should block this aggressively, and be moving in, taking control of the table.

Point 6: He serves off. Good receive!

Point 7: The serve is still high, but the opponent misses an aggressive flip. Need to serve lower. The problem with this serve is that its deceptiveness lets you get away with serving too high. Serve it low, and watch how many more mistakes you'll force as opponents are forced to lift the ball from a low position.

Point 8: Another high serve, another misread by opponent. I'm seeing great potential in this serve, but it needs to be LOWER!!! Also, notice how he's so worried about this serve to his forehand that he's already moving to cover it, and gets caught when you serve to his backhand? In general, you should go about ¾ to the forehand, and then nail them ¼ of the time to the backhand like this.

Point 9: Another illegal throw-back serve by the opponent, but it goes long. (I won't comment on his illegal serves much anymore.) You should attack it, but instead push a weak ball that pops up a bit and that he easily attacks for a winner. Note that he attacks to your forehand, and rather than stick the racket out for a solid block, you take a full swing - not a good idea here. As soon as you see him attacking, jam the table and block. Don't back up on the first ball; if you are forced to back up, it should after the opponent attacks several balls, and against hitting, not looping, which should be blocked.

Point 10: The serve goes a touch long, and you probably could loop it. However, you make a great push to the wide backhand, and opponent misses. There's a huge difference between a push to the backhand side and a push like this that's both low and goes at or just outside the backhand corner. If that push were six inches in, he'd have been a lot more comfortable on this shot.

Point 11: Another nice serve that opponent misses. Still a touch high, but better than the others. It's more of a driving serve, a good variation since the previous ones were shorter. If it were a touch lower, and perhaps a little wider (outside the corner instead of right over the corner), it'd be a very high-level serve.

Point 12: You serve to the backhand, this time with backspin. Opponent is already moving to cover the forehand, and pushes into the net. You win game one.

I'm going to jump to GAME THREE (go to 6:42).

Point 1: Very nice angled push to the backhand, followed by an angled block to the backhand. You've got him locked up on the backhand in an awkward position, and so he misses. A strong part of your game is to make the opponent cover the wide forehand (either by serving or attacking there, or threatening to do so), and then going after their backhand. As in this case, the opponent was nearly frozen, guarding his forehand, and so his backhand was weak.

Point 2: Nice serve! Still a touch high, but a classic breaking into the forehand serve outside the forehand corner that few players will handle well. The only weakness of this serve is if you overuse it, opponents will learn to control it, even loop it strongly. But it's difficult to do much with the serve other than to try to loop to the wide backhand. Most will do so soft; here the opponent was a bit more aggressive, and wasn't even close to making the shot. Vary the depth, keep it low, and you have Richard Lee's serve.

Point 3: Another nice serve, this time short to the middle - good variation. Your follow-up backhand attack nicked the net, but opponent makes a surprisingly good loop to your middle to win the point. You'll win this point 2/3 of the time. Notice how you are moving to attack with your forehand as he's looping, and so get caught by his loop? You should stay centered and use your backhand in such a topspin rally - no need to force a forehand here. You probably thought he was going to pop it up, but if so, you could kill it just as well with your backhand. In general, in topspin rallies stay centered.

Point 4: He must have thrown that serve back three feet! Jeez. It's a sidespin serve, you push it high, and are lucky he misses. You should attack this serve with your backhand, probably to his wide forehand, but instead push from the backhand side with your forehand. He's been serving this serve so much to your forehand and middle that when he served to the backhand, you were already thinking forehand receive when your backhand receive is stronger. You should jump on serves like this.

Point 5: Now that's a world-class receive! That's what you should have done to the previous serve. This was a straight topspin serve, while the previous one was straight sidespin, but either was open to an attack. This one was more obvious, however. Good angle. (Look at the expression on the poor kid's face as he retrieves the ball; he's not happy.)

Point 6: Nice serve to the middle, he backhands it about 100 miles off. A little lower, and this could be a 2200 serve.

Point 7: Good serve (still too high) and attack, forcing a weak ball to the forehand, which you miss. I think his trajectory messed you up, as he returned the ball late and flat (not topspin), and you were camped out there waiting for the ball to jump at you rather than going after it. This put you slightly off-balance as well.

Point 8: Opponent pulls out the reverse pendulum serve, which you misread. I don't think you could see contact on this serve; it's a hidden serve. His motion said topspin, and that's how you reacted, but it was a sort of fast backspin, and so you went into the net.

Point 9: He serves side-top, and you push it very high. You were lucky he missed the easy putaway. Need to attack that serve. In general, you are too passive returning serves. Because you tend to push, you are vulnerable when the opponent serves sidespin, side-top, and probably no-spin. Only push when there is definite backspin on the ball.

Point 10: Very nice serve into the backhand, opponent backhands it about ten miles long. This is the definition of "serving someone off the table."

Point 11: You serve, he pushes long toward the middle . . . and you push!!! You have to attack that ball. It needs to be second-nature. The only question is whether you use your forehand or backhand, and how hard. (Focus on steady attacks, and harder when you see the chance.)  You also push to the middle, and the opponent makes you pay. But even if you'd pushed at an angle, there's only so much you can do when pushing against a long ball to the middle.

One interesting thing to note. Watch how on the last two serves, you served and immediately moved to the middle of the table. On the first one (point 10), this was a good idea, since you served topspin. On the second one (point 11), you served backspin, and anticipating a push return, should be staying in a slight forehand position so you can loop any pushes that aren't well toward your backhand side. If you were looking to serve and backhand attack, that'd be okay, but you instead pushed with the backhand.

Point 12: I can't tell for sure if your backhand hit or not. I think it went slightly long, but the opponent reacts as if it hit. Either way, you needed to be more forceful with the backhand receive, not a soft roll.

Point 13. Opponent served and went into a backhand stance for some reason, so the push to the backhand might have been effective. You popped it up; it was a sidespin serve, and you need to attack that ball. However, he misses.

Point 14: Your serve popped up, but opponent misses easy loop, and you apparently win this game. Lucky! However, that's the advantage of tricky serves; when you pop them up, you can sometimes get away with it.

I'm not sure what you were trying to do with this serve. It wasn't fast enough to challenge the opponent's middle. It was deep, so it was an easy loop. Serves to the middle generally need to be either short, tweeny (second bounce right about the endline), or fast. (I say "generally" because it might be effective against a player who doesn't loop.) This serve was dead on arrival; send it to the ash heap of history unless you are playing a non-looper.

Synopsis of Match One

You won on your serves, and sometimes on well-placed pushes. Need to serve lower, and to loop the long serves. The latter will take time to develop, but is necessary if you want to beat 1900 players and challenge 2000 players. However, you don't need to loop them all; a slightly-deep backspin serve to the middle gives you a good angle for a quick push to the opponent's backhand, which can be effective against many or most players. Often it's the serve to the middle, where opponent has to guard against a sudden push to the forehand, that freezes an opponent if you quick push to the wide backhand.

I'm going to jump to MATCH #2 (14:10, though the video has an automatic jump there.) It starts in mid-point (ending with you hitting a backhand long), so we'll again go to the first full point.

MATCH #2 (vs. heavyset man)

GAME ONE

Point 1: You can really see how this serve breaks into opponent's forehand, causing a miss. Nice serve.

However, I can't see as well on this side, so I'm going to jump to game two (18:40) with you on the other side.

GAME TWO:

Point 1: You miss your first serve. Notice the high contact point, and how it hits the net on the rise, and then goes off?

Point 2: Nice serve to the middle, and notice it's low? This rushes the opponent, who actually reacts pretty well in making a decent loop, but you are all over it with your newly improved forehand!

Point 3: Now this is one of the more . . . interesting points I've seen. It's actually the first long point you've played. This shows that you tend to make opponents uncomfortable so they miss early, but it also means you may miss too soon.

Here he serves a straight backspin long to your backhand. You have to attack that. It needs to be a habit - any deep backspin serve gets looped, period. In this case, you should backhand loop. You push - right to his middle, what should be an easy loop! But he also pushes. I didn't see much of game one, so perhaps he doesn't have much of a loop, and so you saw you could get away with this? We'll see. (Note - we later establish he can loop - see point 5.) The rest of the point is you getting a net, him lobbing, and you smashing until he misses a counter-smash. Nothing special here - you went mostly to the backhand as you should against a lobber, going to the forehand only when you had an extreme angle, which he somehow managed to return.

Point 4: After the let serve, he serves long backspin to your forehand, and you push it! Into the net! No!!! Have to loop that ball every single time. You should vary your receive against short serves, but against deep serves, especially backspin serves, you loop, period. You still vary it, but with placement, depth, spin, speed, etc.

Point 5: You serve long but slow toward the middle, and he rightfully rips it. Retire that serve to the ash heap of history. If you do this same serve outside the backhand corner, he'd have far more difficulty. Mix the depth up, and throw occasional ones to his backhand, and you'll eat him up.

Point 6: You serve long to his backhand, and he makes a strong backhand loop. If he can do that effectively, you don't want to do that serve - it'll need to either be faster or shorter. You make a nice block, and he misses.

Point 7: Again he serves long backspin to the backhand, and you push back. If you loop it, you have the initiative on his serve. You give the initiative back by pushing; he gives it back by pushing to your forehand where you are standing and ready, giving you an easy loop. (Merry Christmas.) But you loop soft and awkwardly, and so give the initiative back. Then you back off the table, and he wins the point easily.

This point was a mini-lesson things to do. Loop long backspin serves. Aggressive with the forehand loop against backspin when you are in position.  Stay at the table when possible. You also have to decide if you are going to focus on hitting or looping on the forehand. When he blocked to your forehand, you missed a loop. If you were at the table, it might have been an easy smash.

Point 8: Very nice backhand attack against his topspin serve, followed by another nice backhand. You pin him to the backhand and end the point there. Remember this point whenever someone serves topspin or sidespin to your backhand. Part of the problem is you tend to attack only obvious topspin serves, while often pushing (usually high) sidespin serves that should be attacked.

Point 9: Very nice serve into the forehand, where you switch to backspin, and he flips to the bottom of the net.

Point 10: Another nice serve to the forehand, though it could be wider. You follow with a nice forehand loop and then the backhand winner to the middle. Nice point.

Synopsis of MATCH #2

He's giving you lots of long backspin serves, where you could loop them and take control, but you are pushing way too much. Need to be more aggressive on receive, especially against long serves. Your serves are still too high, but you get away with them here. If lower, they'd give stronger players trouble as well, and cause even more havoc here. Forehand loop tends to be too soft, often awkward. Need a little more forward motion, not so much just a soft lift. Part of this is because you are sometimes standing too straight, but it's mostly because you tend to start rallies out passively, and only get aggressive when you get into a topspin rally.

I'm going to jump to MATCH #3 (32:43), the balding guy.

MATCH #3 (vs. balding man)

GAME ONE

Point 1: Good try on backhand looping the serve. It looks like you were trying to guide the ball, and underestimated the backspin.

I'm going to jump to GAME TWO (37:17) where I can see better.

Point 1: Good serve and attack.

Point 2: Nice serve. You actually served long sidespin, and he pushed it back, chopping down on it so it didn't pop up too much. You won't see that too much at the 2000 level. In this case, you should probably follow that one with a forehand loop. Notice how you actually moved to your left to use the backhand. Off a deep backspin ball, when the ball's in the middle, you should generally favor your forehand. You miss off the end because you lift too much. Need a little more forward motion.

Point 3: Good backhand loop attempt. You lifted like it was heavy backspin, but it was light backspin. Part of the problem is that you are pushing so many serves you might not have gotten the groove yet for attacking them.

Point 4: This time he's wide open on the backhand, and so you push effectively to his backhand, setting up your own backhand loop into his open backhand. This is a classic rally; he's frozen guarding his forehand side, and so you nail him on the backhand.

Point 5: He pushes your deep serve to the middle back, setting you up for an easy forehand loop. (Stronger players will attack this serve - it's not a good serve, slow and deep backspin to the middle.) However, you move left to use your backhand. I'd rather see a forehand loop, but you can get away with this sometimes. In this case, when you do a backhand, the opponent is over-guarding his wide forehand, and so is wide open on the backhand when you do this, so you can take it there with your backhand. If you forehand looped, he'd be guarding the backhand side, so the backhand attack is a good variation, even if from the middle or slight forehand area. (You get a net ball to win the point.)

Point 6: You mess him up with a nice serve to the wide forehand, which he pops up. You end the point with an angled backhand, but really should have hammered it; he could have gotten that back. You can't let opponents get away with pushing topspin serves and popping them up without creaming the next ball.

Point 7: You pushed his long sidespin serve off. Need to attack this. Your backhand is your strength, and he gave you a ball to attack with your backhand, and you didn't take it.

Point 8: He so liked the missed return on the previous point that he gave you the same serve, even deeper - and goes off the end. But he's noticed you are passive on that return.

Point 9: Nice serve, sets up your forehand loop, but you baby it into the net. Drive into that ball with power - spin and speed. Let the shot go; don't try to guide it.

Point 10: You totally catch him off guard with a sudden fast down-the-line serve - but serve off. See how high your contact point is, and how the ball is still rising as it crosses the net? A lower contact point would make this serve much easier to do at fast speeds. Combined with your other serves, this would be a great variation, but you'll have to practice it.

Point 11: He serves slightly long to your forehand, and you awkwardly flip into the net. Notice you are standing up straight and off-balance? Need to work on this. I think this is the first low ball you've tried flipping. However, this serve looked loopable.

Point 12: Decent push return, since you know he's not going to attack, setting you up for a good point-winning loop. However, few 1900+ players are going to push that ball to you; your opponent should have had an easy attack.

Point 13: Nice serve, forehand loop setting you up, and what should have been a good backhand, but you miss your strength. Notice how after the forehand loop, you sort of just stood there? You needed to move into a ready position quicker. Because of this, you were slow to move to the backhand, and that's why you missed. However, this was the second point in a row where you had a nice forehand loop, so remember those two.

Point 14: Nice serve and backhand loop to the middle to win the point.

Point 15: He serves long to the forehand, but you push it back. Again, you need to make a habit of looping that, but in this case, since your opponent rarely follows up his serve with a loop, you can get away with it a bit more. But the result was instead of an easy forehand loop off his serve, he quick-pushes to your backhand and you miss an awkward backhand loop. He's uses his serve to set up that quick push to your backhand; you can't let him get away with that. Loop the serve.

Point 16: Nice aggressive return of serve, setting you up nicely, but you babied the next ball off the end. I think you were trying to guide the shot when here's where you should have just let the shot go. It didn't need to be an all-out kill, just a very strong shot that would either win the point or force another weak ball.

Point 17: You switched to a backhand serve, and got what should have been an easy backhand loop, but miss. This time you were driving too much forward against his rather heavy underspin. With multiball, you can make this a very strong shot.

Point 18: Good serve and smash. It looked a bit tentative, however. Let the shot go. However, opponent apparently returns on the edge, though I couldn't see it.

Point 19: He serves side-top long to the middle, and you forehand loop it tentatively off the end. Need to get on top of that ball. Since he's serving from the backhand corner and has an angle into your forehand, I'm surprised you didn't return this backhand, but you probably anticipated a long serve. Either way, it was a good "surprise" serve that wins him the game. You need to get on top of that ball.

Synopsis of MATCH #3

The opponent played passive, and let you make mistakes. Sometimes it seems okay to push back a long serve because the opponent isn't going to attack, but this just lets him go for a quick angled push that gets you into deeper trouble. He mostly took your serve out of the equation with a rather awkward forehand chop block/push return, and you didn't punish him with strong serve & loops. When you did loop, they were a bit awkward and soft, and inconsistent. This was a classic case of a match where one player seems to dominate (you), but the other guy keeps scoring without doing much except being consistent and keeping the ball down.

I've seen enough to go to analysis.

Analysis and Game Development

Serves

  • I was impressed by your serves, other than the rather serious problem that they were almost always too high. It reminded me of Jim Butler, whose game revolved around his serves and his backhand.
  • Your contact point is too high, leading to the high serves. You get away with this because the serves are tricky, but higher-rated players will make you pay for this. It won't always be obvious, but even if they don't attack the serve, the higher serve is much easier to return than the low one, where they have to lift the ball up and over the net, with little margin for error. Try and contact the ball below net height. You can actually contact the ball a little higher than that, but if you go for below net height, you'll at least get close.
  • Retire the long, slow serves to the middle against anyone who can loop.
  • Focus on varying spins and depths to the wide forehand (outside corner), short or fast & deep to the middle, and varying serves to the backhand (short, fast & deep, sometime slow, spinny & deep). Dominate on your serve.
  • Develop the fast & deep serve. Your contact point is too high, which is why you have trouble with it. Contact the ball about two feet behind the endline, just a few inches above table level. Then serve it to the wide corners and middle.
  • Consider developing a reverse pendulum serve, especially to the backhand.
  • When you serve topspin, get centered, since most returns will be topspin.
  • When you serve backspin, be ready to either cover 2/3 of the table with your forehand, or for a backhand loop.

Receive

  • Way too passive against long serves. You need to make it an absolute habit to attack any serve that goes long.
  • Tweeny serves (where second ball bounces near the endline) you need to attack if it's mostly sidespin or topspin, not backspin. If it's backspin, and you think it's long, spin it. If you push it, push it quick off the bounce and angle the return. If it's not backspin, be aggressive.
  • You have a nice angled push against short serves. When you do this, you need to make a quick judgment on whether the opponent is going to attack or not. If they are going to attack, then stay at the table and jump on their shot with well-placed, aggressive blocks. If they push, be ready to loop from both wings. (This is not a time to force the forehand loop, since you will be a bit jammed at the table, open to a quick push return, so you need to be ready with backhand loop as well.)
  • Against short balls to the forehand, when you flip, you stand up too straight and don't look balanced. Need to practice that. I think this is could be a strength, though I'm leery of you focusing on short balls here since you need to get in the habit of looping the long ones.
  • You missed a lot of backhands because you lifted against sidespin serves. Drive more, lift less. Be aggressive against these serves. This should be a huge strength, but you're not using this except against obvious topspin serves.
  • Try staying lower when receiving.

Ready stance

  • You tend to stand up too straight, especially when returning serves. Try to get lower. One of my eye-opening experiences was playing Jim Butler, who's 6'5" tall. When I was serving, I was looking down on him. Even Dave Sakai crouches extremely low to return serves, with his eyes literally at net height.
  • After you forehand loop, you tend to freeze. You need to get back to ready position quickly and smoothly.

Forehand loop

  • Against backspin, it looks to me that you are trying to guide this shot, and so you sort of lift it up soft and awkwardly. You need to use more force, contact the ball a little more on top, and drive a little more forward. Let the shot go. Use your legs and body torque. The exception is if you are going for a very slow & spinny loop against a heavy underspin, in which case let the ball drop more, contact the back of the ball, and let the shot go. Never guide it or try to consciously control it.
  • When you are expecting a long push, especially off your serve, you should go into one of two modes. Either cover 2/3 of the table with your forehand (and probably push if the ball is angled into your backhand), or go into two-winged mode, and cover half with forehand, half with backhand.

Forehand smash

  • Need to use it more. In topspin rallies, opponents surprisingly played your backhand at the start of rallies. However, you were often quick to back up, which pretty much took your forehand smash out of the equation.
  • Look for chances to loop from either side against backspin, or to attack quick with your backhand. All of these force balls that, if they stray toward your forehand side, you should smash.
  • Since your backhand is so strong, I wouldn't try to cover more than half the table with the forehand smash, unless the ball is obviously high. It's better to be very good with it for half the table - even 40% - then not as good but covering more of the table, since you have your backhand to cover the rest of the table.

Backhand drive

  • Along with serves, your strength. When you missed, it was usually because you were out of position, often because you didn't recover from a forehand loop.
  • Because opponents are guarding against your crosscourt backhand, you often lock them up on the backhand, and they struggle to keep the ball in play or pop it up. Make this a recurring pattern.
  • See note above about backhand receive against sidespin serves.

Backhand loop

  • This is a shot you should develop against backspin. I saw great potential for this shot. When you serve backspin, and they push deep to your backhand, this is your shot. If you push a serve back, and they push it long to your backhand, this is your shot.
  • Most loops are blocked back the way they come. So when you backhand loop, most returns will be right back to your backhand, your strength. Either way, when you backhand loop, your opponents really have no good options.

Staying at table

  • Stay at the table whenever possible. You are too quick to step back when opponent is attacking.
  • When opponent is hitting, there is some justification for stepping back, though it's way over done. However, when the opponent is looping, you should stay at the table, even if they are going for a loop kill. This gives you a chance to block it back effectively by just sticking your racket out. If you step back, the ball is jumping away from you, the topspin is arcing, and it's an almost impossible return unless you are a counterlooper or chopper.

Drills

  • Lots of service practice so you can lower your contact point. Turn your serves into a powerful weapon. Every time you play a game you should be practicing this.
  • Lots of receive practice. You can do this in games or just play out points. Key is to make a habit of looping long serves. Much of this is 1) learning to recognize long serves quickly, and 2) letting the shot go, rather than guiding it.
    • A great drill is to have your partner serve long or tweeny serves to your forehand, you attack, and play out the point. Variation: they mix in sudden serves to the backhand. Or just let them use all their serves, i.e. just play out points.
  • Lots of multiball to develop forehand loop and backhand loop. Need to drive into the forehand loop more with more leg and torque. Two types of drills:
    • Random backspin to 2/3 of the table, you loop all forehand.
    • Random backspin to entire table, you cover half with forehand loop, half with backhand loop.
  • Drills where you open with a loop, and follow with smashes/hitting from both wings. This includes getting back to ready position quickly.
  • Random topspin drills where you focus on staying at the table and play aggressively.
  • Lots of physical drills (live or multiball) to get into better physical shape.

Hope this helps!