Just so I’m not misunderstood – Average players rarely beat great players. Good club players don’t beat elite players. I’m sure it’s happened; but, don’t count on seeing it too often. The idea for this blog came from hearing baseball great Greg Maddux explain a major turning point in his pitching career. He began fully concentrating on making good pitches and quit trying to make great ones. I can’t hear something like that without relating it to the sport I coach. It wasn’t much of a stretch to see how this applies to table tennis.
Every now and then, coaches will be introduced to players who can make spectacular shots but struggle with easy ones. This is far more common than you would expect. The very nature of a great shot is that it is improbable and risky. Players who manage to land 50% of their great shots and miss a high percentage of technically easy ones rarely win. A lot of this issue seems to be psychological. It’s not that these players can’t make easy shots. They complicate them by trying to make them all great.
Frequently, players with these issues grew up playing but never got a good foundation of the basic shots that every player needs. Their muscle memory is locked in on impressive speed but bad form. Sometimes, these players will get tremendous spin with their wrists but fail to use the rest of their body or move efficiently. Years of playing this way and having success against inferior competition, reinforces their bad habits.
It’s almost embarrassing to beat players whose shots are so amazing by just using generic blocks and pushes. A good serve, good serve return, a consistent loop, and a good understanding and mastery of the basic shots is more than enough to win against flamboyant but inconsistent players. You don’t need to be great – just good.