Table Tennis is not a beauty contest
My personal roadmap to winning
I want to win my Table Tennis matches. Not lose them.
So, how can I win? I am technically and physically inferior. I am 55 and before I started with table tennis a few years ago I had never done any regular physical activity in my entire life. I haven’t yet had many hours of good table tennis training. I am competing against 12–13-year-old upcoming kids or grown-up players that some years ago started to play again after a 15–20 years break. They all have splendid technique, good game perception, and strong shots. So, how can I win?
I early realized that I need to be an odd fellow. I cannot compete with the same style as my superior opponents have.
I don’t care about what my game looks like or what other people think about me or my game. I just want to win.
Fair play is very important to me. This has to be said.
If I am going to win, the best would, of course, be if they’d just — kind of — gave up. Wouldn’t it?
What would make my opponents give up? My opponents also want to win, like myself.
My opponents would only give up if they realize it is hopeless. When they have no hope left, they’d give up.
What can I do, to remove their hope?
I am not technically superior. There must be other ways. I am @ttdementor.
They’d lose hope if I could make them apathetic. In a state of gutlessness. In the state when they don’t dare to use their strong strokes. The state where they know that if they try, they will fail. And where they cannot see any other valid options.
I don’t only need to make them afraid. I will have to destroy their game completely. To make them unable to perform. To make them unable to re-work their tactics.
And first I will have to make them frustrated, to put them off balance.
I need to disrupt, disturb, deceive.
Disrupt, Disturb, Deceive.
How can I do that?
- I’ll need good control of my own strokes
- I’ll need to use the right material and the right style of play
- I’ll need to use spin and pace or tempo, and placement very well
- I’ll need to control the course of action of the rally
To get good control I’ve selected a defensive blade. It gives good control and well enough speed for any shot I’ll do.
To use spin well to my advantage, I’ll need the best spin generation possibilities. And the best spin manipulation possibilities.
So I’ll use the two extremes:
A high friction rubber to be able to generate lots of spin, at one side of my bat.
And a low friction rubber on the other side of my bat. This to be able to manage incoming spin and to manipulate spin in a deceptive way. I have selected a low friction long pips-out rubber. The pimples allow for good manipulation opportunities, such as reversing and amplifying spin.
This allows me to deceive. The best would be if I can make my opponent confused, not understanding what is happening, what to do, how to solve it, how to return safely.
If I don’t get good spin to work with, I can generate spin that I’ll get back again, that I can work with.
I’ll need to be able to vary spin, speed, height and placement very well. Otherwise, I won’t be able to break the rhythm, disturb and disrupt.
It is about micro variations, subtle variations that are difficult to see, but matters. This to provoke errors from the opponent.
And also big variations that forces my opponent to change position or stroke.
With the long pips I can also make completely different strokes to generate almost the same spin, and of course I’ll vary between them. The stroke movements might be deceptive.
On the playing style, I have chosen a defensive style but with some attack elements. I have a mix of play near the table and a bit away from the table, depending on my tactics. And to get as odd as possible, I use the long pips on my forehand, and the inverted rubber on my backhand, which is not common to do.
Game systems (or game schemes) are important to get control of the course of actions during the rally. Game systems are preplanned, verified and well-practiced combinations of strokes, given by probabilities, possible angles and how spin works. Technical stuff, but on the rally level, rather than on the stroke level.
Offensive players with strong strokes might play well just by improvising. But to succeed I’ll have to work out my plan of the rally. And my plan B. For each point. Improvisation is my last option.
I probably will need to work out 20–30 different game systems. At service, what serve, what spin, where? What do I then get in return? What do I do with that? What will I get back? And so on.
I need to know what can happen, what probably will happen. I need to know how I will win the point. I’ll have planned it all, so I’ll be prepared. I need to control the rally. I need to take charge, be in charge, stay in charge.
Tactics are also important as I’ll have to dynamically adapt my style and my use of game systems and strokes to the style, strengths, and weaknesses of my opponent, and to my opponent’s change of tactics during the game.
I will also have to work on my mental strength. Especially the concentration at each and every point of the match is demanding for me. I’ll have to work on my physique to strengthen my mental capacity. They’re connected.
Training, Practice and Skills development
I’ll have to improve a lot in all those areas to succeed with this approach, this part of my strategy. It is not easy to play with long pips. And it is not easy to work out the game systems and to perform them. Tactics is also not an obvious area, it is a deep cave that needs exploration. But what I don’t have in body physique I’ll have to have in my brain instead.
I’ll have to move my performance from my body to my brain, as much as possible.
I’ll move the success factor from reaction time to the mind.
So, my match plan is something like,
- Probe my opponent
- Work out my tactics
- Disturb and disrupt to make the opponent frustrated and mentally off balance
- Turn on my brain on max power
- Use deception to make the opponent gutless
- Concentrate for no mistakes — any unforced error is a no-no
- Play my tactics point by point
- Control the game
- Destroy all attempts from the opponent
- Have more willpower and persistence than my opponent
Future will tell if I’ll succeed with this strategy.
I know it works to some extent, but excellent technique is difficult to beat.
Step-by-step improvement using an individual strategic action plan is the key.
Good theory and good preparations help, but there are no short-cuts to getting the required skills. Practice, practice, practice.
This won’t be easy, but the alternative, to play like the kids do, is not an option for me. It is even more difficult, if at all possible. Some things you’ll have to learn as a kid. And the body is becoming slower with age, much slower. I just can’t do a fast and powerful forehand counter-loop with perfect timing.
As my technical skills develop, and my style develops in parallel, my competitive strength increases double-fold.
That’s a plan. My plan. What’s yours?