I played a match this weekend with one of our up-and-coming junior girls. For two games, we battled it out, my steadiness versus her vicious hitting. On her serve, I’d either topspin the serve back and start countering, or push it, she’d loop, I’d block, and we’d be countering. On my serve, I’d mix in side-stop serves which she attacked, or backspin serves, which she’d push, I’d loop, and she’d jab-block or hit so aggressively I stopped using them. In most rallies, within two-three shots I’d be back fishing, then lobbing, and she wasn’t missing.
She won the first two games. It finally dawned on me that no matter how steady I was, I simply wasn’t going to out-counterhit her. Since counter-hitting wasn’t going to work, I decided I had only one option, and went all-out physical and switched to all-out forehand looping. (I actually had another option, chopping – I can win that way, and might have gone that way in a tournament – but I wanted to win with topspin. I was determined!) It was physically exhausting (I’m 51 in a week), but once I made the decision to unhesitatingly go for the loop, the loops became stronger and steadier, and in particular deeper (thereby making them harder to attack), and I won three straight. The down side – now I dread playing her again, because it’s so incredibly exhausting!
The Moral of the Story…
Sometimes you have to make a major strategy change. If you do, commit to it utterly. This doesn’t mean doing only one thing. It means having complete confidence in whatever you decide to do tactically, and look to do it every chance.
Larry Hodges is an accomplished coach and a USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer. Learn more about Larry Hodges.