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Areas of Trouble
Many developing players ask me questions and ask other coaches questions about how they can improve or about things they are struggling with and 90% of those questions fall within these 4 fundamental areas of the game. Master the 4 areas and you will find competitive table tennis gets much easier.
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The serve is a crucial part of table tennis and one often overlooked. I wrote an article on 'Why a Strong Service Game is Important'. Service helps create an advantage and is the first stage of structuring a point plan. It is usually the forerunner to strong tactics in a game and can also be the easiest way to win 'free points'. Mastering a great serve requires focus in these areas:
- Learn to Generate Heavy Spin (How to Generate Heavy Spin on the Pendulum Serve)
- Learn to Vary and Disguise Spin
- Have a Range of Serves of Different Lengths (Short, Half-Long and Long)
- Have a Range of Serve Speeds and Directions (Fast, Slow, Deviating, Kicker)
- Learn to Understand Probable Responses to Different Serves
Building reliable serves and understanding the probable responses is important for developing 'set plays' you can read more about them in my old Table Tennis Master article on Training Set Pieces/Plays.
This goes hand in hand with the serve, being able to initiate the offensive or take control of the point (not all players are offensive players). It essentially means taking initiative with your game plan and tactics in the point. This could be a third or fifth ball attack or a well placed flick or deep push. There are many different combinations to consider for each service or receive in a point.
Here are some tips for practicing:
- Confidence is Key: Decisiveness and confidence will add a level of effectiveness and quality into your strokes when you initiate. Always back your decisions and strokes in a match.
- Look for Attacking Opportunities: The aggressor often has a greater chance of winning the point in a match between two offensive players. Either look for opportunities to attack or try and create opportunities. Sometimes you have to create an opportunity to initiate out of a play which doesn't seem attackable.
- Initiative Doesn't Have to Be Overwhelming Power: Remember the first opening can be effective without being an absolute winner. Good spin and placement on the opening ball can cause just as much havoc for the opponent especially if you have a strong follow up planned.
This is an area of problem for many players. Where the advantage can lie with the serve, a player's unwinding can be in the receive of serve. Learning to master serve receive can be one of the most difficult areas of training and matchplay. Here are a couple of articles to help with your serve receive!
Another important skills is learning to read the spin on serves. Having confidence is important in your receiving strokes but knowing what serve is coming to you is paramount in launching a good quality serve receive. Here are some tips below from Pingskills on Options for Receiving Serve!
Attacking players often overlook the need for defensive strokes especially in matches. Always focusing on looking for initiatives and opportunities to attack can let the match get out of control. Sometimes defensive plays are needed too. Here are some pieces of advice for first defence plays.
- Know When To Defend: Sometimes a defensive play might be the most effective option or you might not be able to create as many opportunities to attack straight away in a point. It is important to know when to attack and when to be patient.
- Make Your Defence a Pressure Play: Don't let defensive plays be passive plays. You can still make defensive plays with spin and pace variation as well as killer placement to win points or setup for counterattacks. Always make sure you are trying to keep the pressure on your opponent. Never give away free points.
- Practice Defensive Matches: You can practice matches where you are not allowed to attack and have to rely on non-offensive skills to win you the game. These is perfect for developing passive-aggressive strategies and perfecting touch and defensive variations.
Other Fringe Areas:
People will also say that footwork is a fundamental of table tennis but this is what I would consider a foundation skill like the strokes you learn. Footwork and technique are necessary basics which a beginner needs to learn to advance. These 4 fundamentals are what will shape a player with the basic range of footwork and strokes into a good table tennis player. As you learn and experience more matchplay you will constantly develop these 4 areas of your game to continue to improve.
I hope this has helped some of you looking to take your table tennis to the next level! If you want to know how to use this site to benefit your learning the most, check out the post below!