(by: Larry Hodges)
Push-Button Matches – Playing the Scary All-Out Attacker
Ever have one of those matches where you felt like the opponent completely dominated with their attack and controlled everything, and yet you won? I call those “push-button” matches. In matches like that, the opponent basically attacks everything, no matter what you do. If their shots keep hitting, they win. Since there’s nothing you can do to stop them from attacking or counter-attacking, your job is to tactically make sure their attacks are low percentage. How do you do that? Here are ten guidelines.
- Try not to change your own game too much. You need to focus on quality shots, and your best chance of doing that is if you play your normal game, even if the opponent is trying to attack everything.
- Attack first. The best way to stop an opponent from attacking effectively is to attack first. This doesn’t mean going for wild shorts of forcing an attack on balls you can’t make a good shot on. But it does mean looking for every chance to attack first, especially on your serve, and forcing the opponent to go for a wild counter-arrack. If he’ll push your serve back, then serve backspin (mixed with no-spin serves) and attack.
- Keep the ball deep. Most often when a player is counter-attacking consistently it’s because the shot he’s counter-attacking against isn’t going deep. Loops and drives that go deep on the table are much harder to attack than ones that land shorter.
- Vary the spin. In fact, use every spin, from heavy backspin to no-spin to heavy topspin. This will throw off the attacking opponent’s timing.
- Push effectively. You don’t need to make great pushes, but your long pushes should go pretty long, normally to the wide corners, with last-second changes of direction, and be low, heavy (or varied), and somewhat quick. If you do all of these pretty well, your push is hard to attack strongly. If you do all of these well except one, that’s the part that gives the opponent an easy attack.
- Rush them with your first shot. If they are quicker than you, then don’t try to take them on in a quickness battle. But for the first shot of the rally, perhaps an aggressive block, you should often be able to get in a quick short, and if well-placed (to a wide corner or at the elbow), it’ll force a lot of mistakes from the opponent.
- Place your shots. If the opponent is mostly a forehand attacker, go to the wide corners. If he attacks equally well from both sides, go at his elbow.
- If there’s a certain winning shot the opponent keeps making, then force him to make different winning shots. Don’t let him beat you with his best shot – make him beat you with his second or third best shots.
- Throw in some varied deep serves. If the opponent is overly aggressive, he’ll likely make mistakes if you serve, for example, fast no-spin at the elbow or wide backhand; big breaking sidespin serves to the wide backhand; or sudden fast down-the-line serves to the forehand.
- Don’t panic if the opponent makes a few great shots. Players who go for great shots over and over will tend to make a few great shots. It’s all about percentages – so make sure the percentages favor you as much as possible. Playing all-out attackers is psychologically tough, but if you stay focused and play smart, you will often win matches where you felt the other guy dominated every rally.