Rowden Fullen 2009
Many European girls need to be much more multi-dimensional. They tend to try to play positively but predictably and often too hard and without understanding the values of the incoming ball. The ball which bounces long on your side can be hit with power and spin, the ball bouncing mid-table can only be hit hard if you drive/kill flat and early; if you leave this ball late you must use much more spin.
They need to train multi-ball against a variety of lengths and spins till the reading of the incoming ball and the response are fully automated. Unfortunately we have very few feeders who can do this effectively. Another exercise which is very good for building automated responses and speeding up ‘reading time’ (developing adaptive intelligence) is to train v players who can play fast hard drive-play and also stop-block off the bounce with both heavy backspin and float. Again even in our National Academies we have few if any coaches/sparring players who can do this.
Further areas where girl players must develop dramatically to match the top Europeans and the Asians are in serve and 3rd ball and in short play. With serve I would suggest working much more with the high throw and trying to develop differing spins, speed and direction. Another multi-ball exercise to help with short play is as follows; one or two long push balls to BH, one or two short chop balls to middle or FH. Then change to one or two long to FH and again short etc. In the short ball situation players must try to do different things, short drop balls, flicks and long pushes with and without spin.
In all of this you have to bear in mind that in Western Europe we only aim to produce women in the top 80 to 300 in the world rankings and we don’t have any higher ambitions. We will never produce players in the top 30 in the world until we focus on the types of style which can get there and the requisite training methods. We also need to ensure that the appropriate sparring is available.
It is not possible to produce world class players in a vacuum but unfortunately few of our coaches are prepared to spend 100’s of hours studying the top women in the world and working out how and why they are successful. Instead many are locked into outdated methods which will only ever have limited success. Only one or two countries over the whole of Europe (mainly the Eastern bloc) are having any real measure of success with girls/women — Romania, Czech Republic, Russia and former satellites and Hungary. Some of their technical areas of development are quite radical and of course Western coaches in their wisdom refuse to accept that these can ever produce success.
The ‘proof of the pudding is however in the eating’ and over the last four or five years the only top youngsters (European born) to have gone on to world success in rankings are Pota (Hungary) and Dodean and Samara (Romania). More recently the Czech girls Vacenovska and Strbikova have had great success playing a more Asian close-to-table style. Interesting what?