Table tennis is a very quick sport. It is common to feel rushed, resulting in a mild panic during play. The urge to guess where the ball is going is huge because of the small amount of time between shots. But, you must resist this urge.
Often players can look completely comfortable in continuous regular exercises only to break down in irregular practice or a match. This happens because the player is guessing rather than reacting. You must train yourself to react to each ball. Not to rely on guesswork.
If you guess then you are depriving yourself the chance to improve. Guessing takes away the opportunity you have to react to what’s in front of you. If you want the ability to react early and look like you are always in the right place at the right time, you must train to do so.
Next time you have a training session, try this. Start with a simple regular exercise such as 2 backhands, 2 forehands. Don’t go too fast and build a really solid rhythm. You should be getting 10 – 20 balls on the table nearly every rally. When you feel this is super comfortable, change to 2 backhands, 1 or 2 forehands or if that is too easy 1 or 2 backhands, 1 or 2 forehands. Aim to have the same rhythm and be getting similar numbers of balls on the table with both exercises. Resist the urge to guess where the ball is going. Just watch and move. You may miss more to begin with because your reactions have not been trained. With time you will begin to react quicker. Your brain will begin to pick up the cues from the other player about which direction they are playing subconsciously. As your reactions improve, increase the speed slightly. Still aiming for 10 – 20 balls on the table.
This process can be used in many exercises. Your ability to ‘read’ the game will drastically improve if you stop guessing. You will become Waldneresque in your ability to control the table. You will play quickly but appear to others to have loads of time.
Just stop guessing…