(By Larry Hodges)
Tip of the week: Weapons to Allow Opponents to Beat Themselves
Most players, especially in their developmental years, spend huge amounts of time developing direct weapons for winning – serves, footwork, and of course a big forehand or backhand. Or perhaps something more subtle, like a steady aggressive backhand, quick blocking, or steady looping that wears down an opponent. These are all direct weapons for beating an opponent.
But experienced players also develop weapons that allow an opponent to beat himself. For example, suppose your opponent likes to attack with his forehand from the backhand corner. You could attack yourself, thereby making his attack more difficult and the match might turn into a bashing contest. And most of the time a strong attack does win. However, you should also sometimes do something simple and yet high-percentage to win the point with less risk, especially when the opponent is serving. In the example here, perhaps just aim to his backhand side, and then at the last second – as the opponent begins to step around – change directions and do a simple push or block to the wide forehand.
There are many ways of allowing an opponent to beat himself. If he loops very fast all the time, he has little margin for error, so all you might have to do is vary the amount of spin on your push, and watch him miss as you go from light or no-spin to super-heavy backspin. Or change your contact point, sometimes taking the ball later, other times quicker, to throw off his timing. (A quick push can especially rush an opponent and create “unforced” errors.) If your opponent constantly counter-attacks, then simply vary your own shots dramatically so he can’t get his timing, and watch him beat himself as he misses against your barrage of varied pushes, blocks, and loops. If he’s strong on both wings, rather than feed those powerful wings you might simple go to at least somewhat aggressively to his middle, and watch his shots struggle, plus put him out of position for the next shot. And, of course, if he’s over-aggressive on receive, give him a barrage of varied serves.
There are many ways of allowing an opponent to beat himself, but you can only learn them by trying different things out and seeing what works. It comes with experience, but only if you experiment.
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