As often happens when I am debating what to write each week, several events converge to point me towards a interesting subject. Two of the events happened on league night. I was observing two players that I coach, who just happened to be playing against each other. I am very aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Upon seeing the results of their match, I began to think about what it would have taken for the results to have been reversed. Both players have similar ratings, but different approaches. It hit me that the only way the losing player could win next time was to change his tactics.
The other event had to do with my own league matches. The players in my group were players that I had known for about fifteen years each. We had won and lost to each other hundreds of times. Our ratings were also very similar. It was likely that the winner of this group would be the one who used the best tactics. It’s interesting that players so often know the right tactics for a particular opponent, but forget to use them. The tactics for each of my opponents were not complicated. I still needed to figure out which serves were working best. For one of my opponents, I needed to play to his forehand. For the second opponent, I was looking to block his opening attack. My third opponent required a change in strategy in the fifth game, that involved me using a third ball attack after a no spin serve.
The day after playing league, tactics were definitely on my mind. I decided to do a little research and stumbled upon an excellent podcast that took my understanding of tactics to a new level. Larry Hodges discusses such subjects as the difference between tactics and strategy, and what to think about between points. Not only did I learn quite a bit, I also felt more confident about my own tactical approaches. I would highly recommend listening to it, as well as checking out Larry’s book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.
Tactics are often the difference in winning and losing, yet so many players don’t give them enough thought. You should be thinking about your tactics before you step up to the table. Each opponent will require a different approach. A good time to think about tactics is anytime other than in the middle of a rally. Now, you’ve got a lot to think about.