Playing a Quick Attacking Game
by Han Xiao
Playing a fast attacking game is one of the best ways to apply a high degree of pressure to an opponent. This style requires some very specific skills in order to be successful, and can also be risky and inconsistent when executed poorly. To give an example of how the style is executed at a high level, we can watch the play of Timo Boll from Germany:
There are some things we can take from Boll’s play that are characteristic of a quick attacking style, as well as some ways we can be more effective playing this style:
- The quick attacking style is characterized by consistently attacking the ball on the rise or at the top of the bounce. Of course, there are some exceptions to this general characteristic to this playing style. There are times when you have to defend, as well as times when the best choice is to take the ball a little later and play safe. However, in general, this playing style relies on taking the ball at the top of the bounce or slightly earlier in order to exert pressure on the opponent. Using this timing forces the opponent to react more quickly and seeks to not allow the opponent to play with full power. Instead, the opponent is cornered into making weak returns and scrambling to recover in time to react to the next shot.
- Playing the quick attacking style requires excellent positioning and judgment of neutral position. Since this style plays primarily close to the table whenever possible, you give yourself less time to move into position despite giving the opponent less time to react as well. Always being in position means that you don’t need to move as much to cover the angles. Quicker reaction time is also an added bonus.
- When executing this style, it is not necessary to play with full power most of the time. Pressure is put on the opponent based on the timing and placement of the ball. Medium power attacks are sufficient to exert this pressure, whereas playing with full power and early timing will ensure that you make a lot of unforced errors. Being able to play with heavy spin can also be a bonus, both to add consistency as well as to force the opponent into errors. Placement of the attacks is also key. When playing against an opponent with a glaring weakness, placing the ball quickly into that area and taking the ball early ensures that the opponent does not have time to move and avoid using his/her weakness to play the ball. For example, taking the ball early and pinning the opponent in the elbow and wide backhand prevents a strong forehand player from making strong forehand attacks.
- Since there is not much time to react when playing a high pressure, quick attacking game, playing set patterns can be very effective. These are patterns that you have drilled in practice and can be executed naturally with little to no thought when the opportunity presents itself. For example, attacking the first ball to the opponent’s elbow, then the next ball wide to a corner is a classic pattern that is very effective. Another pattern is dropping the ball short on the opponent’s serve, then following up with a flip or attack to the body. One more basic pattern to try is pushing the ball out wide to the opponent’s forehand, blocking the subsequent ball to the opponent’s backhand, and then looking to attack. These are all patterns commonly used by players who play this quick attacking style, and can be easily executed subconsciously once drilled in practice.
- It is necessary when playing this style to be comfortable using the pace on the opponent’s shots in order to block quickly or counterattack. Since playing this style thrives on pressuring the opponent with timing and surprise, using the opponent’s pace to counterattack is a great way to gain the initiative. Additionally, being able to cover angles well when the opponent is attacking is a great way to win points even though attacking is the main scoring tool, since many times blocking with quick timing will put the opponent out of position and open up the table for open court winners.
- Finally, one more tip is that this playing style thrives when winning the serve and receive battle even more so than other playing styles, since getting the first attack is key to putting pressure on the opponent. When unable to get the first attack and being forced to defend, the quick attacking style is a lot more vulnerable. At high levels, this usually means having a great controlling short game, a solid service, as well as being able to control the early stages of the point with the backhand side if necessary.
The best way to counter someone who is playing this type of game is the not allow them to do some of the things we’ve discussed so far. For example, attacking slowly and steadily with good spin and good placement can really stifle the counterattack of someone who wants to attack quickly, as attempting to block quickly or counterattack a slower, heavy loop can be quite risky. Repeated heavy, spinny attacks put the pressure on the quick attacker, and can cause a lot of unforced errors. Winning the serve and receive battle is also a good method to slow down a quick attacker. Finally, a good defender is the ultimate counter to this style of play, as a quick attacker does not rely a lot on power to finish points and can have trouble putting the ball away when the opponent can defend especially well away from the table.
Hopefully, these tips have helped you learn about the quick attacking style, including how to execute the style more effectively as well as general ways to counter this style. We saw a clip of Timo Boll executing the style earlier, so to round things out I encourage you to watch a slightly older video of Liu Guoliang playing a different variant of the quick attacking style using short pips and playing penhold. Despite the difference in grip and equipment, a lot of the general concepts are constant, and you should be able to spot some of the points we emphasized about the overall playing style. Enjoy!