One of the biggest differences between players at any level and players a little below them are their blocking skills. When watching two attackers of about the same level play, often the quickest way to judge who is the stronger player is by whoever handles the other’s attack better, i.e. who blocks better. Or watch the best players in the world, especially the Chinese, and when they aren’t counterlooping, watch how proficient and consistent they are blocking. Spectators often see the flashy attack shots, but often the biggest difference between these top players and those a level weaker are their blocking games. Here are twelve tips on improving your blocking game. (These are primarily for inverted and short pips players.)
Tahl Leibovitz first picked up a table tennis racket at the South Queens Boys Club when he was 14 years old, but his talent in the sport did not come easy. With benign bone tumors throughout most of his body – including his playing arm, it was difficult for Leibovitz to play. “Table tennis kept me out of trouble, and it had a strong mental component that I continue to enjoy.” Leibovitz says he will continue to play by this motto: “In order to succeed, one must dare to fail.”
Once a player has mastered all four aspects, he might feel that he should be in good position for every shot. This is merely wishful thinking! The world’s best players have perfected all four of these footwork elements, yet they are still often caught off-balance. However, when they aren’t in perfect position, they are able to adjust their technique to fit the shot.
It’s a common mistake for beginning players to develop their attacks, but not their defense. You need both. The problem comes about because a beginning player usually starts out learning to hit forehands and backhands, and once developed, these are primarily offensive shots. These are important shots when attacking, but what about when the opponent attacks?
About a month ago I picked up two sheets of Q1 XD from Tibhar to try them out. I had played with the Q1 original sheets before and the sponge was too soft for me. When I played with XD, which has a harder sponge, I was really impressed with the consistency of the trajectory that the ball enters and exits the rubber. I was also impressed with the amount of spin the rubber generates, even though it doesn’t look or feel grippy.
Yahao Zhang, 2012, U-21 US National Champion tells how how important matching the right table tennis equipment to the style of game you want to play. In order to play your best game, you’ll need to know how your equipment will affect the ball. In this article Yahao will focus on the thickness and hardness of sponge and the way it affects your shot quality.
Overall, I’ve learned an important lesson. I’ve learned that the decision to continue playing is yours. Regardless of the environment or playing conditions, if you want to keep playing table tennis, then you will. It’s easy to come up with excuses to not practice. You could say that you’re too busy and that you should focus on school or try out new things. But the reality is that playing a couple hours every week won’t take away much of your free time, and if you hadn’t practiced, you probably wouldn’t be spending that time meaningfully anyway.
A loop against backspin comes at you differently than one against block or topspin. At the lower levels, the loop against backspin is often the only loop they see, but as players reach the intermediate level and beyond, more and more they face loops against just about any deep ball.
And yet most players practice mostly against loops off block or (at the higher levels) counterlooping. Much of the reason for this is how easy it is to do drills where one player loops, the other blocks. You can do a continuous drill in this way, facing a loop something like every second, and rapidly become proficient at blocking (or at higher levels, counterlooping) such loops.
One of the best ways to improve is to make a game that zeroes in on your weaknesses and forces you to improve them. There’s nothing like a little fun competition to bring out your best!
For example, suppose you have a weak backhand counter-drive. Here’s a game I’ve played with students for years, spotting points to make it competitive. I put a box, towel, or other object around the middle of the table so that my opponent has to aim for my backhand to keep the ball in play. Then we play backhand-to-backhand games, where either of us starts the rally by serving straight topspin, then we go at it, backhand-to-backhand. If the ball hits the box or towel, or goes to the other side of it, then they lose the point. If a player plays anything other than a backhand drive, they lose the point. The rallies become fast and furious – and the backhands improve!!!
What is a chop block? It is a block with backspin. Since long pips and (usually) hardbat automatically returns topspin as backspin, it is the norm for those surfaces. But with inverted (as well short pips to a lesser degree), a topspin ball is normally catapulted back with some topspin.
But what if the inverted blocker were to chop down on the ball at contact, thereby returning the incoming topspin as backspin? That is a chop block, and it can cause havoc with an opponent’s timing.
Someone recently asked me why it was important to block loops quick off the bounce. He thought that taking the ball quick off the bounce made it harder for the blocker to react, and made the shot more predictable for the opponent. However, it’s actually easier and more consistent to block a loop off the bounce, and the lack of variation from this only happens if the blocker doesn’t vary his block.
You do want to block loops off the bounce. If you take it late, you have more ground to cover (often with little time to react, depending on the speed of the loop), as well as having to predict the ball’s fast and low bounce off the table. Even more important, blocking quick off the bounce allows you to both rush and angle an opponent. If you take the ball late, your opponent has time to react to your shot, and the block loses its effectiveness.