I had my first game at the club yesterday and played against a very good topspin player who was strong on both forehand and backhand. It was a waiting game of aggressive pushing with backspin mainly to each other’s backhand on a table that was very fast and kept the ball kept very low over the net. To try and open up the rally I used my backhand topspin brush stroke to lift the ball over the net. The ball tended to slide over the surface very speedily so when the ball crossed the net it was slow enough for my opponent to take the ball very early (just after it crossed the net) and use my spin and speed against me. Changing the direction of my pushes to my opponent’s backhand to his forehand didn’t have much effect as his push stokes were very consistent.
I decided to change tactics and instead of using heavy topspin to open up the rally (on the backhand) i flattened the bat to almost horizontal, used a medium paced stroke and turned the wrist 90 degrees with a more upward follow through to lift the ball over the net. (This was more a flatter hit as the ball had more of the bat to contact as opposed to the brush action which I normally used.)
This seemed to help. Although the speed of the ball crossing the net was just slightly slower, my opponent did not have the same spin to use against me and so gave me a weaker return which then allowed me to gain the advantage with my next attacking stroke from my forehand or backhand.
While it worked on this occasion I wondered if there was another tactic I could have used which would help overcome an opponent who takes the ball very early (like Harimoto).
I look forward to hearing your views
I’ve coached many players in this type of situation before so understand exactly the issues you mean. What’s important in this situation is variation, and I mean not only when you attack in the pushing rally by changing the speed and spin as you mentioned. But also in the pushing, so trying to move them around but also in and out with a shorter push and then a longer push. This will help you engineer a chance to attack more quickly.
So when you do attack sometimes the slower shot with less spin players find more difficult as you mentioned. I feel the key is keeping things unpredictable so mixing up these shots in with the faster heavy spin ones so the opponent always has decisions to make. Also I would say the placement of this first attack is crucial, if they are counter attacking quickly, Harimoto style, then it’s vital to place the ball into the body or perhaps wide into the forehand when you attack. It’s very hard to counter quickly if your ball placement is strong. Finding the elbow/crossover is so often overlooked and not done enough and I think in this situation would really make a difference.
Also another quick tip is against players where you find yourself getting stuck in a lot of pushing rallies, be sure to throw in some long fast serves as a surprise and to open out the points straight away and avoid the pushing exchanges. Again really it’s all about variety and keeping your game unpredictable 🙂
One thing I did notice which backs up what you said about unpredictability was that, on one occasion, I threw in a ‘Strawberry push’ which took him by surprise…and I won the point! … I had forgotten about that. Also the serves which you feature in some of your videos has gained me a lot of ‘golden points’ (i.e. a service which either gains the point outright or sets the ball up for a clean winner on the next attacking stroke.) Most of those were fast, spin serves (e.g. reverse side spin) intermingled with short heavy backspin / side spin serves to different areas of the opponent’s side of the table.
I will keep in touch to let you know how I progress with various styles of different opponents.