In competition players go for the shots they are the most comfortable with, the shots that we have mastered, as well as the shots that expose your opponent. Tactical conflict is created when the players doesn’t acknowledge that the shot they are playing is not being effective. This will result in a bad string of points, as well as playing in a way that benefits your opponent. Adjusting Tactics is one of the skills you have to master, and it is not a technical or physical skill. It is by far a mental and emotional skill that needs to be developed. This blog post will take you through the process of implementing tactics, surveying the outcome, and adjusting tactics. These are the major 3 aspects that create the language behind HOW you get to 11 points before your opponent.
Implement Tactic: Attacking Opponents Forehand
In this tournament match, the tactic that I’m implementing is attacking the opponent’s forehand. In the vast majority of tournament play, most players consider the counter-attack a high risk shot, especially if it is an attack that has a high amount of power. So they revert to blocking instead of attacking, which leaves a position open with regards to controlling the sequence of play. If the player is reluctant to counter-attack you know that in the heat of the moment, their first instinct is the use the block.
In this clip you will see that attacking the forehand first forces the player to continue to stay in defense mode that resulted in 2 more blocks before losing the point.
In this clip the forehand position is being attacked off of the serve, which catches the opponent off guard. Also observe that the player could only reach their arm out to attempt a block, which has him in defensive position.
The physical cue that you need to observe that identifies that your opponent will block instead of attack, is the racket position. When the elbow is lower than the racket angle the only position to move the racket is down, and the only play to be made in that position is the block. You can observe that racket position at the point of contact.
This is another clip where you observe the elbow is low, and the racket position is high.
This can be an ideal tactical situation that favors you, especially if the opponents are playing just won’t attempt a counter attack, or their first instinct is to put the racket above the elbow.
Surveying Tactical Response: Counter-Attack Return
If your opponent is not going to block, then the only other return you will encounter is the counter-attack. This can be a paralyzing shot if you aren’t prepared for it, or if you are expecting the opponent to block. Once you are up against a player that will counter-attack, you have to gather enough tactical data to be assured that attacking to the forehand is not the ideal play.
In this 1st game against this elite player, making an attack to his forehand was not the best tactical play. I lost this game 11-7, and I lost 4 points as a result of my opponent counter-attacking my forehand attack.
In this situation the only thing that you can is to confirm that what the player was doing was not luck. So the first point of game 2, I attempted another counter attack to the forehand just to confirm that the player is committed to counter-attacking. You will see that the opponent’s racket is in the opposite position as the player that will block.
Without a doubt this player is committed to counter-attacking any ball that goes to his forehand. There were enough plays that were made in game 1, and there was a confirmation play in game 2. This is the ideal situation that would merit the mental and emotional choice to adjust tactics.
Adjusting Tactics: Attack Outside of Attack Range
At this point, I don’t know where the cold spots are for my opponent, but it is confirmed where the hot spots are. I won’t downgrade my shot selection to another shot, but what you will see is my attacks get placed outside of my opponent’s attack range to the backhand.
The only other safe position to attack on the table that keeps the ball out of counter-attack range, is to attack the middle. In this series of clips you can see that the attack to the middle was much more effective than any other position.
The end result was me winning 3 straight games to take the match. The primary reason for the turn around in the match was the mental and emotional choice to change the placement of the forehand loop. Attacking to my opponent’s forehand is a play that I am comfortable with, as well as a play I like to do. But at any point that this play is not effective, there was no conflict with making an adjustment.
It is important to be tactically aggressive and tactically ambitious, but it is much more important to be tactically flexible. This will make you a much more effective player in tournament play.
My name is Brian, and I’ll see you on the table.