(By Larry Hodges)
It’s great to develop great mechanical proficiency like the top players, who often seem to play like machines. As noted in last week’s tip, “They make even difficult shots with such seeming ease and consistency that they make it look easy.” But while you are developing that mechanical proficiency, you can be an artist as well.
Instead of blindly looping, driving, blocking, or whatever every shot, sometimes throw in something more creative. Throw an opponent off by hitting a softer shot. If an opponent backs up, drop one short. Aim one way then go to another spot to catch the opponent going the wrong way. Throw a sidespin shot at the opponent – perhaps a sidespin loop or sidespin block, or sidespin a serve back. Or maybe a chop block. Vary the spin on your shots, especially loops and pushes. Throw an occasional chop at the opponent, maybe even a no-spin chop that they’ll loop off. All of these variations are the “trick” part of table tennis, where you artistically do something to mess up the opponent other than just pounding him into commission with sheer power or consistency.
Even Ma Long, now considered by most as the greatest player of all time with his two-winged power shots (and perhaps the greatest forehand of all time), is known for throwing in chop blocks that tie opponents up in knots, as well as great placements with his attacks. Jan-Ove Waldner, the player most commonly called the greatest of all time before Ma Long, developed much of his game around throwing opponents off with his constant shot variation and changing of pace, spin, direction, and depth. Ma Long is a machine who can also be artistic; Waldner was an artist who was also a machine.
So, are you a machine or an artist? Be both!!!
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