(By Larry Hodges)
Few things are more frustrating than missing an easy smash that costs you a game or match. Especially under pressure, it’s easy to miss them. But if you follow three rules, you will never miss another one. Really! The three rules for never missing a smash are simple.
Until the point is absolutely and completely over:
- Expect every ball to come back. So often a player thinks the point is over only to have an opponent get one more ball back. It’s an easy smash, but because you thought the point was over, you aren’t ready, and so you miss it. Perhaps even more often, when faced with an easy smash, a player realizes the point is about to be over, and subconsciously lets up – and so misses.
- Stay down. When faced with an easy smash, where you think the point is about to be over, many players subconsciously stand up a little straighter. (This is closely related to #1 above.) Even if it’s only an inch, this completely throws off your stroke. It also raises your racket, which changes the trajectory of the racket towards the ball, which throws off your timing. Since you can often still make most smashes despite this slight straightening, players often don’t get the feedback from missing from this enough, and so they continue to do this, and continue to wonder why they miss – especially under pressure – more than they should.
- Strive for perfect execution. If the focus is on winning the point, then it’s easy to get nervous about missing. Instead, focus on perfect execution. Perfect execution leads to winning the point, so you don’t need to worry or even think about the latter. And since you have more margin for error on most smashes (since it’s normally against a higher ball), all you really have to do is get near-perfect execution, so there’s no pressure on getting it perfect. Note that “Strive for perfect execution” implies that you must also practice smashing easy balls with perfect execution, since how else can you do so? (Some players loop-kill instead of smashing, even against relatively high balls – if so, then it’s the same thing, you must practice it.)
Did you notice that “Stay focused” is not one of the three? That’s because if you follow these three, staying focused is the natural result. If you expect the ball to come back, stay in a natural ready position (which cues the mind that the point isn’t over), and strive for perfect execution (which implies focus), how can you not be focused?
Did you notice that none of the rules are about things NOT to do, but about things TO DO? It’s much easier to execute something you need to do than to execute something you aren’t supposed to do.
And finally, did you notice that part in #3 about practicing the smash? This is true of every aspect of the game, including seemingly easy shots like smashing a high ball. (And if smashing a high ball isn’t easy, then you definitely know what to practice.)