(by Tom Lodziak)
Tactics to beat a much stronger player
A situation you can’t avoid in table tennis is playing someone of a much higher standard. At some point in a league match or a tournament you will face someone who is simply a lot better than you.
I remember once playing Sherwin Ramata, a Phillipines international player, in the bottom division of the London table tennis league.
This was a crazy experience. The standard in the bottom division was not great and here I was facing an international player (I think Sherwin had only just moved to London and was happy to play anywhere, for anyone!).
How did the match go? Did I pull off a famous victory? Ha! No chance. I got completely and utterly thrashed and he wasn’t even trying.
But over the years I have had some really competitive performances against players who “on paper” were much stronger than me. Most of the times I still lost but occasionally I have pulled off a shock win.
So what’s the best approach when playing a much stronger player? Is there any way of winning? Is it really possible to cause a major shock?
Maybe, just maybe. But you need to approach the match in the right way. Here’s some things you can try…
Embrace the situation
Ok, you are unlikely to win against a much stronger player. I think it’s important to acknowledge this. The other player may be better than you for numerous reasons – better technique, better shots, better placement, better consistency, better tactics. Or he may have 30 years of playing experience and you have only been playing for 2 years.
But this is fine. It doesn’t matter that you are unlikely to win.
If anything, this means you can play without pressure or expectation, which is quite a liberating feeling.
Treat the match as an exciting opportunity to play against someone of a higher standard. Don’t be overawed or give too much respect or give up before the match has even started. Try to show off your skills.
There really is no pressure. If you lose badly, no one is surprised. The result has gone to form. If the score is close, but you lose, you’ll probably feel really happy and others will congratulate you on a good performance. If the unexpected happens and you actually win, you’ll be jumping for joy for the rest of the week.
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