Let’s be clear. Nobody wins the warm-up. If you are hitting winners before the match starts, you’re not really warming up. If any credit was given for not hitting the ball off the table before a match, I could be in the Olympics. It doesn’t matter. You can’t win the warm-up. It’s pretty remarkable that there are players who have been playing for decades that don’t make the best use of their preparation time before a match. Consider a few guidelines that will be beneficial for you, and show consideration for your opponent.
- Preparation and warm-up starts before you face your opponent. You are really only supposed to warm up with your opponent for two minutes before a match. Try to get in twenty or thirty minutes preparing with a friend or teammate. Play out some points. Get used to your surroundings. Practice all the shots you expect to use. Decide what serves you want to use. Do some light stretching or jogging.
- Once you do step up to the table, you have a chance to evaluate your opponent. Hopefully you’ve already scouted them, but once you are actually hitting with them you can get a better feel for their shots.
- Remember that you only have two minutes. This is the time to cooperate with your opponent. Hit some forehands for a minute, and some backhands for a minute. Focus on control and getting into a rhythm. Take turns looping and blocking, if you have time. Many players will try to stretch this time out, and some will hardly want to warm up at all. Neither of these approaches is really appropriate, or fair to your opponent. Stick to two minutes.
- Neither player is obligated to warm up with any particular side of their paddle. If your opponent is using anti-spin rubber, you should already know this, even if they never hit with it during the two minute warm-up. Inspect their paddle before the two minutes begin.
- If you are playing a left handed player and you are right handed, it’s a good idea to hit backhands while they are warming up their forehand, and hit forehands to their backhand.
- Minimize time spent picking up the ball. Start the warm-up at a speed that both players can handle. Pay attention to how you put the ball in play. If you are planning to hit topspin shots, don’t start the rally with underspin. Save your smashes for the game. You’re not helping yourself, or being respectful to your opponent if you attack all the balls that they are purposely making easy for you.
If you are still in doubt about whether you are warming up right, take a look at how professional players warm up with their opponents. Nobody wins the warm-up, but everyone should warm up to win.