(By Larry Hodges)
There’s nothing an experienced player likes better than facing a player with big shots . . . but little else. On the other hand, there are few things scarier than an opponent with big shots . . . and little else, i.e. without the “little” shots to set the big shots up and to withstand an opponent’s attacks. If you are one of those players with big shots, and feel you dominate many matches – and still lose – perhaps it’s time to stop thinking about these big shots and develop the “little” shots. Here are a few of these “little” shots and tactics that you might want to develop. Even if you are not a “power player,” these are things you should develop to set up your own attacks, and to look for when playing a power player – if he can’t do one of these things, take advantage of it.
- Short, low serves. It’s difficult getting your shots into play if your opponent is attacking your serve. Long serves get looped, slightly high short serves get flipped or pushed aggressively.
- Backspin/no-spin serves. A no-spin serve is just as effective – often more effective – than a spin serve, if the opponent isn’t sure it is no-spin and it’s very low. Mixing up backspin serves and no-spin serves (with other serves thrown in for surprise and variation) is a great way to set up your big shots. Both tend to get pushed back deep, and the no-spin serves tend to be popped up slightly, and with less backspin.
- Short Receive. A short backspin serve is relatively easy to return short; if you push it long, your opponent can attack, taking away your big shots. Meet the ball right off the bounce, with a light grazing motion.
- Well-placed flip. You don’t need to flip every serve or short push for a winner; instead, learn to flip to all three locations – wide forehand, wide backhand, and to the middle (roughly the opponent’s playing elbow). Placement and consistency are key. The placement will often set up your follow-up attack.
- Quick, aggressive push. If not overused, it’ll catch opponents off guard, and set up your big shots.
- Blocking. The single most effective way of beating power players is to loop first with a steady loop, forcing them into many mistakes. If the power player makes one good block against the opening loop, he’ll often get a shot he can go after on the next shot. You can also counterloop these opening loops, but if you try to force the counterloop too often and too predictably, an experienced opponent will force you into mistakes by varying his loop’s speed and placement.
- Judgement. This might be the biggest one of all. Know when to play a set-up shot and when to unleash the big shot.
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