“You’re just blocking.” I’ve said it myself. When players first start learning, their first shots are typically blocks, especially on their backhands. It’s important that every player develop shots beyond basic blocks. But just because blocks are the most basic of table tennis shots, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. While some players need to get beyond excessive blocking, others need to utilize strategic blocking, at least occasionally.
For those who have been blocking for years and built their game around it, there is hope. It’s not easy, but it is possible to play a blocking game at a pretty high level. Part of the problem blockers have is that some don’t realize that they are blockers. A good test is to have someone track your matches, preferably against opponents who are at least at your level. See how many points you are getting off of attacks, and how many are made from opponent’s mistakes. If you are mostly winning points from well placed blocks and counter driving, and losing most of your points when you attack, it might be time to reevaluate your game. This doesn’t mean you stop attacking, but it does mean you should either develop better attacking shots, or choose your moments carefully.
To play as a blocker doesn’t mean that you play passively. It takes quick hands and an alert mind to fend off strong attacks. Even if your game is built around blocking, you’ll still need to have some complementary strengths, if you want to survive. Serves, serve returns, good footwork, and excellent control are just as important as with any style. Given that your goal is to win by forcing mistakes or outlasting your opponents, it’s important to remember that there are lots of different types of blocks. You’ll probably need to utilize all of them. Consistent blocking with the exact same block every time, might get you to the lower levels of intermediate table tennis. Blocking with multiple unpredictable speeds, spins, and placements won’t necessarily get you in the Olympics, but it might take you further than you would expect. It might also drive your opponents crazy in the process.
Despite what some players might think, equipment is not the key to being a great blocker. It’s a skill that can be developed using smooth rubber, antispin, or any kind of pips. Some players use fast blades, and some find it easier to use a slow setup. Whatever direction you go with equipment, it is important that you feel confident in your ability to return multiple shots. The key is to keep your opponent off balance and out of position. With this in mind, your approach has to be that you try to change every shot in some way that is somewhat unexpected. Your opponent should not just feel like they are competing against a wall, but against a bumpy wall that creates some strange bounces. I’ve included a video with some great blocks by players who have learned how to use blocking at the right time, even if their game is not just blocking. I’ve also included one with players who block almost everything with antispin rubber. There’s something to be learned from both of them. Enjoy…..