secret weapon

March 22, 2012

What's your secret weapon?

What do you do when you absolutely, positively have to win the next point? How do you serve and follow, or receive, when the game is on the line?

Note that this is somewhat of a trick question as you should be using these plans throughout a match, often to keep you from actually reaching a point where you absolutely, positively have to win the next point. And if you do reach that point, you should have tried out so many of these plans that you'll know which ones work.

Here are my "go to" plans, the secret weapons I pull out when I absolutely, positively have to win the next point.

On serve:

  • Short forehand pendulum serve with a big downward motion that looks like backspin, but actually has sidespin-topspin. With a subtle snap of the wrist at contact, the inner part of the paddle moves up on contact, creating topspin. Opponents pop it up or return it weakly over and over, setting up easy smashes and loop kills.
  • Deep breaking forehand pendulum serve into the backhand that jumps away from the opponent. If the opponent doesn't have a good backhand loop, or can't step around and forehand loop it (and still cover the wide forehand on the next ball), then this serve sets up many easy smashes and loops. Because it goes so deep I have time to get my forehand on the next ball over and over.
  • Heavy no-spin short to the middle. ("Heavy no-spin" means that I fake lots of spin but put no spin on the ball.) As long as I keep it very low to the net, I almost always get a relatively weak ball, usually a push, that goes deep, setting up an easy loop. It comes back with less backspin than if I served backspin, and flips off it are usually softer than off a sidespin serve.
  • Forehand pendulum serve with heavy sidespin-backspin, short to the forehand. As long as I hang back toward my backhand side this tends to get returned to the forehand or middle, setting up an easy forehand loop.
  • Fast no-spin to the middle (opponent's elbow) with my forehand pendulum motion. The opponent has to decide quickly whether to return forehand or backhand, has to swing harder than usual to overcome the no-spin (as opposed to a fast topspin serve, where the topspin makes it jump off their paddle), and they usually end up returning it into the net. If they do return it, they are out of position (from covering the middle), and so usually open to an attack to the wide corners.
  • Forehand tomahawk serve short to the forehand. Most opponents make weak returns to my forehand, setting up an easy forehand loop.
  • Forehand tomahawk serve deep to the forehand. This works against players with weaker loops. Since it breaks away from them, they often lunge for the ball at the last second, which means they both lose control and lower their racket (meaning they will lift the ball too much, usually off the end).

On receive:

  • My favorite go-to receive is to receive anything on the backhand or middle with my backhand, right off the bounce, and topspin to the opponent's deep backhand. This usually takes away their serve advantage and forces a straight backhand-to-backhand rally. (And I'm confident that NOBODY can beat me straight backhand-to-backhand. This might not be true, but as long as I'm convinced of it, I can outlast most opponents with my steady but not-too-powerful backhand.)
  • Against short backspin serves either drop the ball short or quick push wide to the backhand, sometimes deep wide to the forehand. In either case I try to aim the ball one way and change directions at the last second. This is effective on both short and long pushes. On short pushes, I generally aim to the backhand, and at the last second drop it short to the forehand, where players are generally a little slower reacting to. On long pushes I mostly go long to the backhand, often aiming to the forehand side until the last second. But since many opponents anticipate this, I can get a couple of "freebies" in many games by switching directions at the last second and going to the forehand.
  • Against someone who consistently serves long, just loop the serve, but focus on spin, depth, and consistency.
  • Against a forehand pendulum serve (or other serves with spin that breaks away from me on my backhand) I have a pretty good forehand loop, and I see the serve coming, even under pressure I can often step around and loop it away with my forehand. I would normally only do this against a player who not only predictably serves long, but doesn't have much variety on his serve. Against someone who has great spin variety looping too aggressively is usually too risky.

Korean table tennis movie?

This video (1:06) seems to be a preview of a historical Korean table tennis movie. Can anyone translate what it's about? Added bonus - go to 0:32, and you'll see two Chinese women playing doubles on the far side. The one who starts on the right (while the other woman is hitting the ball), and then moves to the left is Gao Jun, former Chinese star (world #3, 1991 world women's doubles champion) who emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1990s and was USA Women's Singles National Champion nine times.

The table tennis fantasy tour

While we're on the subject of table tennis movies, here's an article I had published in Fantasy Magazine three years ago on fantasy table tennis in movies and on TV.

Nominations open for U.S. Olympic Foundation’s George M. Steinbrenner III Award

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2011 George M. Steinbrenner III Sport Leadership Award, which annually honors a member of the U.S. Olympic family who has made outstanding contributions to sport.

Day off

After coaching table tennis eight straight days and 18 of the last 19, I'm off today. The bad news: I'm going to spend all day working through my todo list. It's long. Really long. Really, really long. (Will I have enough energy left to see a midnight showing of "The Hunger Games"? We'll see. I read all three books.)

Marty Reisman in slow motion

Yes, now you can stretch out those few seconds of Marty bliss to a full minute and a half!


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