The Secret Life of the Table Tennis Counter Driver

You don’t hear a lot about  the counter driving playing style. Perhaps the last time it was really addressed was in a 2002 article by Richard McAfee. It can be found buried deep in the Newgy Coaching Archives
Richard did briefly work with me on my game. Apparently it didn’t take too long for him to identify me as a counter driver. He must of known what he was talking about. To this day, players occasionally compare playing me to playing against a wall. This style is not as popular as aggressive looping. It isn’t as interesting as classic or modern defense. It is so rarely identified that it appears to not really be a style, or a odd mix of several styles (See The Table Tennis Jackass)
One misconception of counter drivers is that they are primarily blockers. Blocking is certainly a big part of this style, but many shots are made with a full stroke. Counter drivers may loop when given the chance. They might also chop, but not enough to be labeled a true defensive player. More than any other style, counter drivers base their shot selection almost entirely on their opponent’s shots. True, all players have to do this, but it seems to come very naturally to the counter driving player. If you are playing someone with this style, expect your rallies to last a bit longer than the typical five shot average. 
Counter drivers aren’t known for having strong attacks, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t attack at all. Their attacks will more likely be well placed than overly powerful. They are typically very patient with their attacks, and when given an obvious attacking situation rarely miss. They tend to deplore high risk shots, and will usually take the shot that they are most in position for. Good counter drivers thrive against lower rated players, who lack the patience to win against this style. Against higher rated players, it is possible to have some success, but as attacks become more aggressive and consistent, playing as a wall becomes far more difficult.
The most difficult opponent for counter drivers is often another counter driver. One of the players usually has to partially abandon their style, and find a way to win when their opponent is not providing enough energy for counter attacks. Most players attempting to play this style can benefit from practicing attacking shots and gradually incorporating them into their game. Another option is to develop a unusual or unique skill that compliments their steady blocks and counter drives. 
Just as the counter driver can benefit from learning to attack, attackers can greatly improve their game by learning something from these more defensive types. An attacker that can also block is a far more versatile and dangerous player. Playing a counter driving game is not the same as playing a passive game. Playing longer rallies and absorbing a barrage of forehand loops requires a lot of energy. Counter drivers have quick hands, and while they may not cover a lot of territory, their feet need to be quick as well. Some players just have the right temperament to play this way. It is difficult to win as a pure counter driver, but it’s even harder to win without counter driving skills.  
Theme song for counter drivers and blockers – You’ve Got Another Thing Coming  

2 Replies to “The Secret Life of the Table Tennis Counter Driver”

  1. First of all…thanks for the picture. Since I never learned to loop, nothing gives me more pleasure than BLOCKING a loop. Another thing you mention is patience–something I have a whole lot of and that has served me well. At age 74, my style of no wasted motion drives young players a bit nutty. I often hear, “Why don’t you sweat?” Great article–you rock!

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