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Thinking Ahead by Samson Dubina

Samson DubinaThis year, set some high goals in table tennis and work consistently to reach these goals.  Look ahead to the competition 200-rating points ahead of you and think about your previous matches against them in tournaments.  What shots worked?  What shots didn’t work?  Did you need to alter your strategy? 

Being in Ohio, I play against many lower-rated players.  There are strategies and serves that I can use against them that might not be effective against stronger players.  I need to train for the next level by thinking about the particular strategies that will work against Damien Provost, against Timothy Wang, against Wang Zhen and others.  If I’m going to reach the next level, I need to start thinking, strategizing, and training at the next level.  The same is true for you, my reader. 

I want you to take out a pen and paper and spend about 10 minutes writing some notes.  When you play against players who are 200 points higher than you at tournaments…

Which serves worked?
Which serves didn’t work?
Which serve returns worked?
Which serve returns didn’t work?
Which offensive strokes worked?
Which offensive strokes didn’t work?
Which defensive strokes worked?
Which defensive strokes didn’t work?

When you are competing against a lower player, sometimes your long spinny serves will win the point outright.  You might even be able to win 5-6 points each game from just your serve!  However, when playing against a higher-level opponent, he might easily return ALL of your serves with strong loops.  For this reason, choose the serve the best sets up your game (possibly a low, short serve). 

When you are competing against a lower player, sometimes blocking one ball to the backhand will cause your opponent to miss outright.  However, when playing against a higher-level opponent, he might return ALL of your blocks.  For this reason, block the first ball with good placement then look to counterloop the next ball. 

When you are competing against a lower player, sometimes smashing the ball to the forehand with full power will cause your opponent to miss outright.  However, when playing against a higher-level opponent, he might step back from the table and fish it back to the table.  For this reason, look to focus on placement with your smash, not just power.  Also, you must prepare the smash multiple balls.  It might even take 5-10 well-placed smashes in order to finish off this lobber.

When you are competing against a lower player, sometimes pushing deep and heavy to your opponent will cause him to miss outright.  However, when playing against a higher-level opponent, he might be able to loop your heavy push.  For this reason, be ready to block his strong loop; or, better yet, find ways to attack first by pushing short or flipping.

 When you are competing against a lower player, sometimes using a sharp angle will cause your opponent to miss outright.  However, when playing against a higher-level opponent, he use your sharp angled shot against you by hitting a wider angle.  For this reason, learn to better anticipate the cross-court ball.  Also consider other placement variations like playing against his elbow – the transition point between forehand and backhand.

As your work toward reaching your goals this year, start thinking ahead to the higher competition.  Even when playing against lower players at the club, play your new strategy.  Playing at an elite level starts with thinking at an elite level.

Updated: April 15, 2014 —
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