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Improve your game with Coach Samson Dubina!
We are proud to have Samson as part of the Paddle Palace family. In recent years, Samson has achieved many titles while traveling to Europe, Asia, and throughout North America competing in nearly 400 tournaments over the last 20 years. Currently Samson is training, competing in tournaments, coaching the top players in the state of Ohio, and is now coaching the top players in America as a US National Team Coach.
More from Samson.
Good technique should feel right. If it doesn’t, there’s probably something wrong with it, and you should probably have a coach take a look at it. Good technique feels right because it is, almost by definition, the simplest and most efficient way of doing that particular stroke to maximize speed, spin, and/or control.
Massimo Costantini’s lesson series continues with this second installment. He talks about the importance of anticipation, how to scout your opponent and how a good ready position will protect your weak areas.
What is the proper ready position? It’s the position that’ll allow you to react most rapidly to the opponent’s next shot. It’s extremely important in a sport as fast as table tennis. And yet many players have very poor ready positions. They stand up too straight, their feet are too close together, their weight isn’t on the balls of their feet, and their non-playing arm hangs loosely at their side like a dead snake.
Serving low is one of the most underestimated skills in table tennis. The problem is that while some opponents will attack slightly high serves, more often it simply gives the opponent more leeway for their returns, making both controlled and aggressive serve returns much easier. Players at the beginning and intermediate levels often get away with slightly high serves for a time, especially if they have otherwise good serves (i.e. spinny or deceptive), but inevitably, at some point, they will lose winnable games because of these serves, often without realizing the problem. A low serve forces the opponent hit up on the ball instead of driving the ball forward, making most receives more difficult.
An exercise I sometimes recommend to players is to stand to the side of a match between a very strong player and a much weaker one and see the contrast. You may have to watch several match-ups as there are relatively strong players who don’t serve super low just as there are weaker players whose serves almost skim the net. Watch the world-class players and see not only how low their serves cross the net, but how low the ball bounces on the far side.
Australian Olympian William Henzell received a proto-type of the new plastic table tennis ball at the 2012 World Championships in Dortmund. This excellent video shows his frank and thorough review of his test of the ball. Everyone is curious about the new balls and there are many questions that William addresses such as, “How differently will they play?”, “Will there be less spin?”, “Are they going to be faster or slower?”. Also included in this Paddle Palace blog is a written transcription of his review.
One of the more subtle ways of turning an effective serve into an ineffective one is to telegraph it. Players often telegraph their serves for years and never realize it. They get away with it because most players don’t pick up on it, and so don’t realize the server is essentially signaling the serve in advance. However, as you reach higher levels, opponents pick up on these subtle signs more often, often subconsciously, and the server doesn’t realize it – he just thinks he’s playing stronger opponents who return serves better. The most common example are servers that telegraph whether they are serving long or short.
As an example, I recently played a top player, rated about 2350. He would serve short most of the time, but about every fourth serve he’d switch to a deep serve to my backhand. I could see it coming every time (and would step around and loop it with my forehand), but it took two games before I figured out what was giving it away – whenever he served deep, he’d set up with his racket slightly farther back and more closed than when he was going to serve short. I beat him three straight, and then told him what had happened.