What better way to prepare for your upcoming tournament or league match than by playing some actual practice matches? Getting some match practice in is vital to bringing all your hard-earned improvements in training together. Although, just repeating standard best of 3, 5, and 7 games with your regular training partners can get stale quickly. Instead, try these match play variations to keep you on your toes and prepare better for your upcoming matches.
Match Variations in a Pair
If you are practicing with just one other person there are a few ways that you can mix things up. Firstly, changing the score which you start each set from. For example, try starting each set from 9-6 up or down. There will be pressure on the player who has 9 points to close out the set, whilst the player with 6 will need to start well to catch up. Play about with different score lines and see what works for you and your partner.
Another great way of increasing the intensity and pressure in practice matches is to start each set from 10-10. From here all you need to do is go 2 points clear and you win the match. Due to the shorter nature of these games, set a time limit of 10-15 mins see who has won the most sets by the end of the session. If you want to add even more pressure why not place a small wager.
Keeping the matches competitive is often difficult when one player is better than the other. If this is the case why not play games with a handicap for the stronger player. One way to do this is to start with a normal game from 0-0. Every time a player loses set, they begin the next set with 2 extra points. If the player wins a set, they start the next set with 2 fewer points. This is a great way of evening out one-sided matches.
Finally, try mixing up the serving. A useful game for putting pressure on the server or receiver is to only change serve when the receiver wins 2 points in a row. Serving then becomes a prize to be won making each player relish their opportunity to serve and strive to take the point when receiving.
Match Variations in a Group
If you are practicing in a group there are lots of different ways to be creative with your match practice. Here are just a few.
A classic game of Top Table is a fantastic way to get variation in your match play and add a more competitive element to practice games. If you are unfamiliar with the game it is played on multiple tables with each pair playing a game to 11 points. The first pair to finish shout change, if you are winning at the call then you move up towards a designated ‘top table’ and if you are losing you move down towards the bottom table. This game requires a fast start so is great practice player that are slow to begin matches.
If you really want to turn up the heat in practice why not play a game of Pressure Points. This game is played on one table in teams of two or more. Each team decides an order for the players to play in and a game is played on the table with each team supporting for their teammates. Players take it in turns to play points for their team. If a player wins a point they can stay on for an additional point. However, each player can only play a maximum of 2 points in a row for their team. The added pressure of playing to win for your teammates and in front of a small crowd is a great way to inject the kind of pressures that you may experience in a real match.
Finally, a simple game of winner stays on is fantastic way to increase the competitiveness in practice matches. You can play longer or shorter games to suit you and your teammates. Additionally, why not add a time limit and see who has secured the greatest number of points after the time limit is up. Or, set a target number of points and see which player can be the first to reach that target.
As always go away and find out what works for you and get creative. Let us know your favourite ways to spice up your match practice and prepare for your upcoming matches.
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