Welcome to the PingSunday table tennis blog. Today I show you our “Special Ping Sunday”. I will talk about the fundamental concept in table tennis tactics and strategy that every coach and player should know. Master table tennis tactics and strategy is the key to advance to the next level. Chinese players win and win consistently because they have the best methods to win. So it’s not tricky, it’s science!
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Why are tactics so important in table tennis?
These are my 2 notebooks where I note my coaching experiences since 2012. There are many many matches that my players are about to lose (0-2), but with good tactics, I have changed the outcome, the result of the match (3-2).
I quickly identify the problem, and gave my players the simple tactics and tips:
- where to return the ball,
- serve short or long,
- without spin or topspin,
- how to return the tricky serve of the opponent,
- where to attack,
- make the aggressive time-out in the close situation,
- how to gain control,
- mental coaching,
- identify the player’s weakness and more.
In my opinion, good coaching is very important in table tennis. My tactics not only help my players win more but also give my players confidence. I still remember some funny memories, in a match when I made a time-out and started to coach. I have seen that the opponent started to be anxious and worried so much. Lately, his partner came and said to me,
“you are like a PC (computer), it’s like the program is well defined before”. 🙂
In my notebook, I also noted how to play and counter various playing style, how to counter hitter, counter blocker, counter left-hand player, or tactics against long pimples and anti-rubbers, or the best moment to time-out, or how to control the pace of the match, many many my own observations.
I highly recommend you, if you want to improve in table tennis seriously, you should note your playing in a real match like me. Note your error, note your emotion, note why you lose, why you win. You will discover and learn many things. My notebook is considered my personal book about table tennis tactics and strategy.
you should note your playing in a real match like me if you really want to improve!
A very good book about tactics
I don’t have enough time to edit my personal books. But there is already a very good book out there. Coach Larry Hodges (USATT Certified National Coach, Professional Coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center) has written 3 very good books about tactics. I highly recommend you read these books if you want to go pro in table tennis!
- Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Paperback – February 6, 2013 (Check price/ Read review)
- Tactiques de Tennis de Table pour Pongistes Penseurs (French Edition) Apr 07, 2015 (Check price/ Read review)
- Table Tennis Tips May 17, 2014 (Check price/ Read review)
- More Table Tennis Tips Mar 16, 2017 (Check price/ Read review)
Tactics are vital at the high level
That’s is for the low playing level. At the high level, the tactics are even more important, where the techniques gap between the players is very small, the pace of the game is quicker. That’s the tactics and the experiences of the coach will decide the outcome of the match.
Without Liu Guoliang, the China Team can’t get such success for a long time.
That’s the reason why Liu Guoliang is back! China wants to prepare to win all medals for the next Olympics. At a high level, the pace of the game is even faster! Without a good tactic, you will never win!
The difference between Strategy and Tactics
The strategy is the training method for the long term, and it is used to develop your play style. For example, if you want to be a forehand topspin attacker, you should focus on the topspin and counter-attack techniques at mid-distance. The coach should have a strategy to improve your strength and reduce your weakness in the long run. It depends only on your playing style.
While the tactic is the optimal way to win in a real match. It depends not only on your playing style but also on the opponent’s playing style. The coach should quickly identify the weakness of the opponent, and give you the best tactics to win the match. A tactic is only for a specific situation. Chinese coach is well known for his quickest adaptation to the tactics variation in the real match.
The fundamental concept in table tennis tactics
In my previous Ping Sunday “How to serve”, I showed to you that the Forehand dominant players want the ball returned to his left side. It seems illogical to most of you.
Dawid asked, “if you are the forehand dominant player, you want the ball to go to your forehand”.
So let me introduce to you the fundamental concept in table tennis: “the potential situation”. In table tennis, there are 3 situations that you should know.
1) The neutral situation: It’s the situation of the exchange between your weakness and the opponent’s weakness or your strength counter the opponent strength. Such as Forehand to Forehand, or Backhand to backhand rally. So if the two players are at the same level, no one has a higher potential, higher chance to win.
2) The favorite situation: It’s the situation that you will use your strength (for example Forehand) to play with the opponent’s weakness (using Backhand). So you have a higher chance to win the point. It’s like the electrical potential in physics. You are at a higher position, and gain an advantage over the opponent.
3) The domination situation: It’s the situation, that you have an absolute higher chance to win. For example, you attack while the opponent is out of position, or you smash the ball, and the opponent is in the defend situation. So that is the moment that you will win the point.
Example of good serving tactics in table tennis
Now, come back to your question. Why Ma Long prefers that the ball returned to his left side rather than on his right side? Why the best-attacking shot of the Forehand dominant player is the pivot attack at the left corner? It’s because he wants to keep the favorite situation.
You can clearly see that Ma Long has changed from the “favorite situation” (attacking with his Forehand) to the “domination situation” (smash kill the ball to finish the point).
Bad serving tactics
So what happens if you are the forehand dominant player, and you use the reverse pendulum serve to make the ball returned to your wide forehand (as the logic of some players).
Now, the ball goes to your forehand, and you must move and attack the ball with your favorite forehand. But then, if you can’t win the point, and the opponent will block/ drive the ball to your wide backhand.
And now, you are in trouble. You return the ball with your weakness (your backhand) and the opponent is in the “favorite situation” and controls the rally. He continues to attack and has a higher chance to win the point while you are in the defend situation.
Correct serving tactics
Now if you use the pendulum serve like Ma Long, and make the ball returned to your left side. You pivot and attack the ball with your Forehand. Then, no matter where the ball is returned (to your left or to your right), you can always attack the ball with your Forehand. That’s the way that you are always in the “favorite situation”.
Potential Situation – Basic tactics concept
In Chinese philosophy about tactics, there are 2 principles that you must know.
1) Once you are in the “favorite situation”, you should keep this situation as long as possible. That means, once you attack first with your strength (your forehand), you should use the forehand for all of the next rallies. In fact, you can use your forehand to cover a wide range of the table.
2) If you are in the “favorite situation”, you should finish the point by changing the “favorite situation” to the “domination situation”. Look at this example, to do that, attack to the wide forehand, and then, the next shot to the wide backhand. And you are in the “domination situation” now.
With the concept of “potential situation” in table tennis, you understand why I have said that “using the pendulum serve if you are the forehand dominant player”. This service will make the ball returned more to your left side, and you are always in the “favorite situation”.
If you are the backhand dominant player, you will want to use your backhand (your strength) to cover a wide range of the table.
You might think that, hey, I will use the pendulum serve, so the ball is returned to my wide backhand and then I will attack with my backhand. Wrong! Because if you can’t win the point directly, the opponent blocks the ball to your wide forehand, and then you are in a bad situation and will lose the point later.
The correct tactic is using the reverse pendulum serve, so the ball is returned more to the right side, to the middle of the table where you are standing. And now, you are in the “favorite situation”, you can use your backhand attack continuously until you win the point.
Why Chinese players are so strong
Now, you understand why the Chinese players always have a higher chance to win the match. Because they master situation tactics. They are always in the “favorite situation” first. And slowly, from “favorite situation”, they convert to the “domination situation” to win the point. Slowly but surely.
This is the fundamental concept, and very important. That’s why this Ping Sunday is a special edition. If you find this tutorial has high coaching quality that you can find nowhere on the Internet, you should share it with your friends, your teammates. I hope this video is the first step that leads you to understand the amazing tactics in table tennis.
See you, coach EmRatThich.
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