Game Management

Rowden March 2018

In our sport it’s not necessarily the best player who always wins. It is the player who manages the game best and who is able to adapt and change to cope with differing opponents and situations.

To do this effectively requires focus and attention, to actively assess exactly what you have to change to cope with constantly variable circumstances. This means of course that you need to be calm and unruffled in attitude; if you are afraid, irritated, angry or upset it becomes much more difficult to stand back and to estimate objectively which is the most effective course of action that will work to your best advantage.
So what changes may we need to bring in to win games or cause maximum problems for the opposition? For a start what is the style of your opponents and which type of game do they prefer to meet? Do they like a fast game so they can use the speed against you? Do they play steadily and wait for you to open so they can counter? Do they use various spins to create openings so they can kill the ball and win points? And from your side of the table, which parts of your game are they comfortable with and which aspects cause them discomfort? Once you’ve identified how your opponent likes to play and what he/she doesn’t like about your game, then you’re in a position to start to make changes.
So just what types of change are available to you, to create advantage for you and put pressure on the opponent? Placement is of course the obvious choice. Most top players don’t play several balls to the same place, they don’t set up patterns which the opponent can use against them; instead they are unpredictable, wide angled balls off the side of the table, straight balls down the lines, balls to the crossover/body and there is of course constant change of direction so the opponent doesn’t get the opportunity to settle and plan counter-measures. Next is change of pace, hard and soft, short and long, so that opponents are not able to settle to a constant length and instead are obliged to move in and out in relation to their table position. Also do not underestimate the value of sidespin with the plastic ball and consider the use of the slower ball, which often does not come through to the opponent or stops short over the table.
But of course most important of all it is necessary that you have the weapons to be able to change things. If for example your opponent can’t handle short serves this doesn’t give you any advantage unless you are able to actually serve short! It is therefore vital that you have alternatives in all aspects of your game and that you are capable of initiating change when required and have the capability of playing differing types of strategies in differing situations. For example against short serve you will need short touch receives, long quick pushes with and without spin and attacking flicks from differing timing points, against long serves, topspin, drives, the full variety of differing blocks and even some chop returns. Again alternatives are required in the rallies too; against attackers, the ability to counter with topspin or drive, to use varied blocks, sidespin and even chops; against defenders the ability to spin slow or fast, to drive hard or even push off the bounce with or without spin to create openings.
But above all it is more important than anything else that you don’t fall into the habit of playing as you WANT to play: WINNERS do what they NEED to do to win.

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