More Agility, Shorter Strokes

Input from Blasczyk, Schimmelpfennig and Dr. Kondric 2008 — 2009

At the Worlds, Asian players showed especially in the longer rallies, just how perfect their physical preparation is; most European players were not prepared so well and in most cases they lost longer rallies against Asian players! As we have seen with China, Asian players pay much more attention to speed in their physical preparation, while this kind of preparation is often neglected in Europe. We get the impression that physical preparation in Europe is mostly based just on elements of the physical side such as muscle power, maybe coordination, but agility and specific table tennis quickness are not practised enough. We saw this in the match between Bojan Tokić and the Japanese Yoshida, in which Tokić was not able to parry the speed of the Japanese. We have to work much more on speed, there is no alternative and we have to improve in this area. Asian players compared with European players are much faster in coming to the ball, the effectiveness of their shots is therefore much better. Our advice to European players must be not only to practise specific speed on the table but to practise as well basic speed and speed endurance, but above all to pay much more attention to agility. Agility is in particular important when a player has to change the type of stroke which is quite often the case in modern play.

Physical preparation must be good enough in order to enable the player to come to the ball fast and therefore be able to produce a technically correct stroke. Without perfect physical preparation good stroke technique in the game is not possible. When we compare the training of top players in Europe and Asia we must come to the conclusion that Asian players spend significantly more time having top quality training than is the case with European players. The length of training is maybe the same but the intensity and quality of the training are not and these aspects are obviously better in Asia. How this problem can be solved is a task not only for coaches, but for European players as well.

As a result of the world-wide ban on the use of speed glue and boosters, new rubbers have generally lost speed and spin. The strokes and especially the smashes, are not as hard as they used to be. In order to compensate for this, it is necessary to learn to play using the entire body. This is especially important with the forehand-topspin technique, which depends not only on the movement of the hitting arm, but also on more hip and shoulder rotation and on the player’s weight being shifted forwards in the direction of the shot particularly when back from the table. Improved smash techniques are therefore considered one of the most important priorities for training at all levels in the year 2009.

After so many years playing with speed glue we have automated techniques adapted to the game with glue and it is extremely difficult to change such automated movements. There is so little time to react and to hit the ball, but when the ball has a rather different trajectory or bounces unexpectedly then we try to change the stroke in an extremely short time and try to abruptly change the direction of the movement, which brings the danger of injury. The adaptation time to the new game could last even one whole year but even after that will we have as attractive rallies as we have now? The ball will be slower as topspin duels with speed glue will be sadly missed. When the players get used to the game without glue maybe we will have very long rallies but it is doubtful if the spectators will appreciate this aspect. However in the current situation will it even be possible to have long topspin rallies? If somebody like Timo Boll or Vladi Samsonov has a good slow first topspin attack it is extremely hard to do anything now with this ball.

After the Olympic Games when players started to practice without speed glue and boosters all the time they had muscle inflammation as they had to use a technique of executing the strokes which they were not used to! As they were trying to put into the ball as much speed and rotation as possible but without the help of speed glue they had to use more power and a different technique — the end result was that they were injured, which in many cases had never happened before.

Because of the speed of the game and the need to play and stay closer to the table the strokes are now shorter and more abrupt leading to more injuries anyway. This was the direction of modern table tennis even before the big ball and the banning of glue and boosters. But it is unfortunately the case that these measures have accentuated the situation without really making the game more attractive to spectators and the media as was originally hoped.

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