How creative is your game? Are your shots predictable? Are they always the same speed? Do you always loop crosscourt? Does your opponent know what you will serve before you do? Is there anything unique about the equipment you use? It’s a good thing to be creative in table tennis, as long as you’ve got a good foundation of basic shots and fundamentals. I wrote about this three years ago in Spin Art or Spin Science? Whether you are an artist or a scientist, there’s room for creativity in your approach to table tennis.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut if you don’t add something new to your regular routine. Hours of training create the muscle memory that allows for making shots automatically, without having to think creatively. See Embracing Routine Shots. Once you are able to make the standard shots, it’s time to add some innovation to your game. A good place to start is with some experimentation with serves. It’s not necessary that you create a serve that’s never been attempted. The idea is to try something different, something unexpected, and then see how your opponents respond.
Some players need to explore playing shots at different speeds. I’ve found myself comparing winning table tennis to driving a car. You should be accelerating into the ball. Don’t step on the gas too soon. Players who drive/play slow rarely win, but players who play too aggressively tend to drive off the road, and frequently miss the table.
It’s hard to play a creative game without good placement. Strategic placement can be the difference in winning and losing. Good placement, along with changes in spin and speed, can keep you in the game, even against seemingly superior opponents. Using a racket that best allows for your unique brand of creative shots is essential as well. The best players I know have given a great deal of thought into what type of blade and rubbers they use. Equipment doesn’t mean everything, but whatever racket you choose, it should compliment your playing style.
Creative table tennis requires imagination. It definitely requires taking some risks, and trying something new. If you’ve been playing exactly the same way for years, you’ll have predictable results. If you are brave enough to try some original strategies, you’ll also need to be smart enough to evaluate their effectiveness. It’s possible that most of your ideas won’t be great, but occasionally you’ll discover a new approach that’s a keeper. You’ll be a better player for it, and no one will think you’re predictable.