Hi guys – thanks for joining me. In this video I’m looking at a question from one of the forum members, and what he’s talking about is relating to the essentials of playing close to the table, and he says:
As a long range chopper, I feel that I lose a lot of reaction time when close to the table. I often resort to pushing or blocking and I’m unable to take an aggressive approach.
Now as he’s saying he’s a long range chopper I’m going to assume that he’s using inverted on one side and a long pips or antispin on the other side, simply because most long range choppers are using some sort of combination bat. And the other thing I’m going to assume is that he’s talking about being aggressive when he’s already started in at the table, not from when he’s been way way back and is then running in and trying to be aggressive, but he’s already at the table, maybe after a serve, after a serve return, and he wants to be aggressive from there. So I’m going to make that assumption as well.
If you find in this situation that you are having to push or block a lot up at the table when you are really looking to be aggressive, there are a couple of things that could be causing that, a couple of things that could be going wrong.
Firstly with the pushing, you might be getting stuck pushing because your opponent has simply put the ball too short and too low, so you can’t actually take a swing and get a topspin in, you have to push it or maybe flick it. So that could be a problem. If that’s the case, the problem is leading from the quality of the ball before, you have to do a better shot the one before so that your opponent finds it difficult to get it short and low. That would be one solution there.
The other problem that it could be is that the ball is actually long, it’s long and attackable, but you find it too difficult to attack for whatever reason. Perhaps it’s too wide, into your hip, too much backspin, too fast, something like that, so it could be attackable , you can get a swing, but for some reason you can’t actually make the attack. And we’ll deal with some of the problems and solutions of that a little bit later.
Dealing with blocking – if you’re find you’re stuck up at the table and you’re blocking a lot, that’s also a problem, but it’s a slightly different problem, in that as a long range defender why would you be blocking up at the table? You really shouldn’t be doing that unless you are doing it on purpose as a variation. So that leads into the fact that if you’re caught trying to be aggressive and you have to block when up at the table, that’s because your opponent made too strong a shot that you probably weren’t expecting, and you let him get in a strong shot. And you should have realized when you played your shot before that your shot wasn’t that great and could be attacked by your opponent, and you should as a defender probably already be on your way back. So that’s not the problem of being aggressive up here, that’s the problem of making a weak shot, not realising it’s weak, and staying close thinking you can attack, when in actual fact your opponent is about to attack you and now you’re stuck blocking. You should have seen it was a bad shot and started to get back in defending position. So you’re trying to be aggressive at the wrong time, yup? So either hit a better shot, or when you hit that bad shot, don’t try and be aggressive, get back and start defending, so that’s a couple of options there.
So that’s just a couple of quick things on if you are getting caught pushing and blocking. Let’s talk a little bit now about what is going to determine how aggressive you can be when close in to the table, and there is a few factors that I’m just going to touch on and have a brief mention of each.
What Determines Your Ability to be Aggressive
Your ability to be aggressive could be determined by:
- The quality of your serve or the quality of your serve return. Can you force your opponent to put the ball where you want it, and how you want it? And if your serve and serve return is good, you will more often be able to get the direction of the ball that you want, and the type of spin that you want, so that you can play the shot that you want, play the attack that you like. So the better you serve, the better you return serve, the more likely that you can force what you want coming back.
- Another thing that will determine how aggressive you can be is how fast you can twiddle. So if you’re very quick at being able to see a ball coming and twiddle to the side that you want, you’ll be able to attack more balls. So that is pretty simple, it gives you more time to react, twiddle, play the shot that you want with the side that you want.
- Another thing that ties in with that is the ability to attack with both sides, to attack with the inverted, and to attack with the antispin or long pips. If you have the ability to play attacks with either side, you’re obviously going to have more options, more ability to attack balls. So if a ball is coming to your forehand with backspin, if you’re able to attack it with the inverted with a loop, or if you’ve got the pips you can roll it or shovel push a quick push attack – if you have all those options then it doesn’t matter what side you’ve got your bat on, you can still attack. So being able to attack with both surfaces will also allow you to be more aggressive.
- Your ability to actually attack from either side of your body, so can you play attacking from your forehand as well as your backhand side, that will help you as well, so it doesn’t matter which side the ball goes you can still play that attack.
- Your mobility and ready position/stance, if you are able to move quicker, and if your stance is good and allows you to stay balanced and play attack, you’ll also be able to attack more often.
- And your ability to attack against different spins, so if you are able to attack whether it’s a heavy backspin, a float, a topspin, sidespin – if you are able to handle all those and attack regardless, that’s going to allow you to be more aggressive as well.
So those are the things that are going to affect how aggressive you can be.
Problems that Could be Making it Hard for You to Attack
Now, possible problems that could be causing you some problems and holding you back from attacking.
The first things that come to mind:
- Standing in a backhand stance, as a right hander with my right foot forward, if I stand this way, I can attack backhand, I’m hurting my ability to attack with a powerful loop off my forehand because I can’t get the body rotation. So my stance could affect my ability, could affect your ability to be aggressive from both sides. So watch the stance. You can always pretty much play a backhand with the left foot forward no problem, and then have your forehand. Hard to do it the other way around.
- If you’re slow at twiddling, if your twiddling is slow and you’re not very quick, that will restrict how often you can attack with the side that you like. I’m a very quick twiddler, so if I get, normally I’ll have my inverted on the forehand playing, chopping, pushing, if I get a weak ball to my backhand though, I have a very fast twiddle, so it’s very easy for me to go twiddle hit and it’s done. So the fast twiddle allows me to be aggressive off my backhand side whenever I see a weak return – I can take advantage of it with the inverted. So if you’re slow, it’s more difficult to do.
- If you wait on one side of the body a lot, so if you serve and wait here, you’ll hurt your ability to attack off the backhand. Similarly, if you serve and you wait like this, it’s harder to get the forehand in. If you return serve and recover (to the backhand side), you’re gonna hurt your forehand. If you return serve and recover here (to the forehand), you’ll hurt your backhand. So stay neutral and that will allow you to attack and stay more aggressive.
- If you decide to attack too early, and this is important, especially as a defender we have lots of options, we don’t have to attack. So if you serve and think I’m going to attack it, before you’ve even seen what quality of your serve, how good your serve was, before you see what your opponent is actually planning to do, if you’ve already decided to attack it, then you’re committed regardless of the quality of the return, that can catch you out. So watch for that.
- Picking the wrong ball to attack can also hurt you. So if you’re weak against very very heavy backspins, you need to pick that. If it comes very very heavy, don’t attack that one, push it it back. The idea is if that’s the case, if you’re weak against certain types of balls, you want to practice that more often, get better against them, but also try to stop your opponent from being able to give you that type of return. Make it hard for him to get into that weakness of yours, cover it up. It’s better to be able to train it to to play the shot, but if you can’t, try to stop your opponent getting at it.
- The last one I had here was basically failing or having a bad serve of return serve – making a weak shot and then not noticing and trying to be aggressive anyway – that will get you caught out.
That’s probably enough without going into overwhelming detail. The idea again is that if you are a long range defender and you’re finding it hard to be aggressive when you’ve started up at the table, what you’re gonna probably find is that it generally relates to your own abilities, how well you can topspin and attack off both sides, use the inverted and long pips, but it also relates quite a lot to the quality of the ball that you give your opponent. So if you play something strong, the next ball is going be easier for you to attack. If you do a weak serve, or a weak return of serve, it’s going be very difficult for you to be aggressive. So generally the problem leads in from not the fact that you got caught here trying and couldn’t attack it, but because of the ball you hit before was too weak, long, high, no spin, easy for the opponent to attack, and now you’re trying to attack a ball coming at you very fast, too hard. You drop shotted it, so the opponent drop shotted it back and now you can’t attack it, things like that.
So those are a few thoughts on playing (aggressively) close to the table (for defenders in table tennis), a few suggestions on how you can be more aggressive more often, and if you need to, if there is something you want a little bit more clarification or detail, let me know and I’ll give you a little bit more on it, OK? Thanks.