Coaching tip of the week: Style Disadvantage or Tactical Problem?
(By Larry Hodges)
Many players do not know the difference between a style disadvantage and a tactical problem. My experience is that style disadvantages are relatively rare, as any sufficiently advanced player has developed enough shots to reach his level so that he can compete with almost any other style at his level. There are exceptions, of course, but they are rarer than most believe. And when there is a seeming style disadvantage, most often it’s not really a “style” disadvantage so much as one player not being used to playing a specific style. That’s a different thing.
But the reality is that style disadvantages are not that common. What is common, besides not getting to play a specific style often enough to get used to it, is the problem of getting into the habit of tactically playing certain styles the wrong way, without realizing it. Related to this is not developing the often simple techniques that beat a specific style.
For example, you may get blocked down over and by a good blocker, counter-hitter, or chopper because you can’t get through their seemingly impenetrable defense – and never realize that it’s because you are reflexively going to the corners instead of the playing elbow, where such defenses often fall apart. Or you might be unable to deal with a looper’s serve and loop, and never realize you are feeding him by just pushing long over and over, often to the same spot. (Other options: pushing short; aiming for one corner and at the last second going the other way; flipping; and at minimum making your pushes relatively quick, fast, heavy, low, and deep.) Or you might struggle with an opponent’s heavy push receive – and never realize it’s because you are using the same backspin serves over and over, and not giving him low, no-spin serves, which they not only will tend to pop up, but will be unable to generate nearly as much backspin against them. (Learn to do “heavy no-spin,” where you fake backspin but serve a low, short no-spin serve.)
There are many examples – but the first step to overcoming this problem is to realize it exists, and deal with the problem.