Samson Dubina: Devastating John Doe

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Devastating John Doe

By Coach Samson Dubina

 

The tournament published the draws the night before the event.  You found out

that you are going to play against Hou Yingchao in your opening match of men’s

singles at 9am.  You immediately take out your pen and paper and write down

some note of how to play him.  You arrive in the gym at 7:45am and train

accordingly.

 

Just then…

 

Without warning…

 

You hear a tournament announcement for you to play your opening round

against John Doe.  What?  You had mentally and physically prepared to play

against Hou Yingchao.  Who is John Doe anyway?  What style does he play?

What should be your tactics?

 

There are basically two main elements to beating an unknown opponent –

knowing your game and learning your opponent’s game!!!

 

Your Game

The main things that I always remind myself are that my serve is good, I am very

confident in serve return, I have very spinny loops, I can move very fast, I can

block with excellent placement, and can rally longer than anyone.  With a bit of a

pep talk to yourself, you can learn to play with confidence and force your

opponent to adjust to YOU.  Hesitation (especially on serve return) will make you

inconsistent and not very threatening to a new opponent.  If you can play without

hesitation and strike hard from the beginning, the fear of your shots will bring out

more errors from your new opponent.

 

Your Opponent’s Game

The second element is knowing your opponent’s game.  From the time that you

greet him to the middle of the first game, you should know the following…

 

#1Equipment

Regardless if he has pips or inverted, inspect the top sheet to see if it is grippy or

not.  Also inspect the sponge to see the thickness, hardness, and speed.  All of

these elements will help you begin forming a general impression.  If you

opponent has a recreational paddle with absolutely no spin, then from the very

first point, you realize that you don’t need to lift much on the opening loop.  Every

aspect of the equipment is a slight indication of what the player and cannot do.

 

#2 Handedness (right or left handed)

This should be so obvious – I don’t even want to comment on this.

 

#3 Shakehands Grip (forehand or backhand oriented)

If the racket is shifted more towards the index finger, this is called a backhand

grip.  If the racket is shiften more towards in the thumb, this is called a forehand

grip.  Typically, backhand grip players tend to play more towards your forehand

side of the table.  Typically, forehand grip players tend to play more towards your

backhand side of the table.

 

#4 Penhold Grip (traditional or reverse)

Traditional penhold players use only one side of the racket mainly blocking and

pushing with the backhand while attacking with the forehand.  Modern reverse

penhold players use both sides of the racket attacking from the wings – these

players are usually a bit weaker from the middle.  Even in warmup, you should be

able to tell if they are traditional or reverse penhold.

#5 Overall Style – offensive or defensive

Within the first few point, you should be able to tell if this opponent is looking for

the power shot or looking to be consistent and keep the ball in play.  This is one

of the main things that you need to know – this will put you in a tactical direction.

If he is a power player, you need to stop his weapons.  If he is a defensive

player, you need to work the point, be selective, and your play game at the right

time.

 

#6 Forehand or backhand dominant

The grip doesn’t fully tell you if he is backhand or forehand dominant.  As the

match progresses, evaluate if your opponent likes his backhand or forehand

better.  It may be that he like forehand better for some shots (like looping and

smashing) while liking backhand better for other shots (like pushing, blocking,

and serve return.)

 

#7 Near the table or far from the table

If your opponent likes to play near the table, then look to play some sharp angles

to take him away from the table.  If he feels comfortable away from the table,

then consider using some variations to move him in closer then back deeper.

You don’t want to allow your opponent to get in the groove, in a comfortable

position.

 

As the match progresses, you should be forming a clear picture in your mind of

your opponent’s serves, returns, preferences, tendencies, and game patterns.

However, don’t get too caught up in changing your game.  Play your dominant

game with your best serve, strongest shots and play with full confidence.  As the

match progresses, you can adjust if necessary.

 

samson2 You hear a tournament announcement for you to play your opening round against John Doe.  What?  You had mentally and physically prepared to play against Hou Yingchao.  Who is John Doe anyway?  What style does he play? What should be your tactics?