Plastic and Change

Rowden November 2017

Top players change things. They are not winners by being predictable and allowing opponents to settle and play their own game. They are winners by being different! Many lower level players unfortunately don’t learn this lesson early enough in their career or think they have a good enough game that they can impose this on anyone and in any situation.

In any match it’s vital to be tactically aware, to understand (and quickly) where you are winning and losing points and above all to pinpoint the critical moment when you need to change. It goes without saying that you need alternatives, if you only have one game and your opponent absolutely loves this, then you will find it almost impossible to win.
A number of players fail in certain key areas:
1) They only use a small number of serves and try to make these as dominant as possible. However with the plastic ball and the easier receiving scenario this often leads to less success. Fewer serves mean that:
● Your alternatives are limited and also your opportunities on the next two balls. Therefore you are less able to cope with tactical changes from the opponent and less able to create significant change yourself.
● Your overall development slows down. This will occur because you are fixed in too narrow a game plan and create a habit of restriction, which limits your flexibility in thinking and in considering other courses of action.
2) They don’t use their best weapons at the right times and are not tactically aware of what is needed. Or if they are, they are not capable of using the required techniques effectively to create change and advantage. They need to be able to:
● Use the opponent’s speed, spin and power more. By using the opponent’s strengths to your own advantage, you change the form of the rally and the plastic ball behaves differently after the bounce and in ‘slower’ situations.
● Change the pace, play hard and soft, long and short, fast and slow. This again brings a different dynamic to the rally and uses the different characteristics of the plastic to maximum effect.
● Place the ball better, straight, to the angles and to the body. Use all the table not just one or two easier and more comfortable channels.
3) They need to be much better in short and over the table play. Touch and the linking play between the serve/receive and the first opening ball which leads into the full attack, need to be much more tightly controlled with the plastic if players are to get an advantage. They must be able to:
● Vary push and touch play, using differing timing, early to late, fast and slow, with spin and without. With the plastic you have to make life as difficult as possible for the opponent to get in on the first attack.
● Open earlier with the BH over the table and with variation, fast topspin/sidespin, drive, slow roll and from differing timing points. Also use all the table when opening, so that you are equally comfortable directing the ball to any part of the opponent’s half.
These are areas which need to be addressed if you wish your level to improve. Bear in mind too that restricted techniques and tactics will soon form habits which will later be very difficult to change.