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How to Win Against Ping-Pong Players You Hate to Play

Beating those Pesky Ping-Pong Opponents...


Photo of table tennis player yelling

Aargh! I Can't Take it Anymore!

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As you progress in your table tennis career, you will occasionally come across a player who you hate to play. That doesn't mean you hate the player! It's just that playing against this particular person's style is less than fun.

For me personally, as a combination bat defender who uses long pips, there's nothing I hate more than playing players who use short to medium pips to attack the ball with little spin and with medium power. There's not enough spin for my long pips to work off, so my long pips chops tend to float back, and there is just enough power in their shots to make it hard for me to attack consistently. Things can really become a repetitive battle of attrition. Yuck!

Despite the fact that I have a few local opponents who play in this manner, I still have a winning record against this style that I hate. Here's why:

How To Win Against Players You Hate to Play

  • Have a plan. You need to have a clear tactical plan of what you are going to try to do to win, and what you are going to do next if that doesn't work. Don't get sucked into mimicking your opponent's style of play, you must play in the manner that maximizes your chances.

    My plan A is to continue to play safe, floating my chops back with my long pips or inverted rubber, until I receive a ball that I can comfortably load with backspin. This heavy chop will drag the ball into the net if my opponent is not careful. I will also look for an occasional loose ball to put away, to stop my opponent from feeling too comfortable. And if my opponent attempts to dominate play from his backhand corner with his forehand, I will switch play to his wide forehand to break up his rhythm.

  • Give your plan a chance to work. During your match, check that you are sticking to your plan. Why bother working out a plan if you aren't going to at least give it proper go?

    Occasionally, I'll find myself behind at the start of the match. I have to be careful not to to change to my plan B too soon. I may be behind because my opponent has hit a few great (or lucky) shots, or I might not have stuck to my plan closely enough.

  • Pay attention. Although you have a plan of action that you are following, stay alert. If you do something different during a rally that works better than you expected, you should file that piece of information away to try again in a few points. If it works again, then you've found another successful option to add to your plan. Likewise, if something isn't quite working as well as you'd like, you can tweak your plan a little to adjust for that fact.

  • Start with small changes. Sometimes all you need to do is tweak your original plan a little to find a successful formula, so try that first before making a dramatic change. Think about what is working well, and what isn't, and see if you can slightly modify your original plan to take this factors into account.

  • Know when to switch to Plan B. During the heat of battle, it's not always easy to recognize the right time to give up on tweaking your original plan and go to your Plan B. Before you start your match, think carefully about when you will be prepared to change tactics completely. In a best of 5 match, you might decide to go to Plan B if your opponent gets to 5 points first in the last game he needs to win the match. Or maybe if you are 0-1 down in games, and your opponent is more than 3 points ahead in the second game.

  • Kick it or stick it? If you are neck-and-neck with your opponent coming to the final stages of the match, changing to Plan B is kind of risky. Since Plan A is probably your best game, you are generally better off sticking with your original plan and trying to execute it a little better. But if your opponent is clearly on top, then there comes a point where you must change things or you'll lose anyway. Make a decision beforehand what that point will be, and you'll be less likely to accidentally go past that stage during the rush of competition.

  • Prepare for pain. Grit your teeth and get ready to put up with playing against a style that you dislike. Be prepared to dig in and work hard to earn each point. Don't give your opponent any freebies through frustration or impatience. You'll have to earn every point you get, make him do the same!

  • Stay cool. Often your opponent will know that you don't like playing against him, and seeing you get mad will just encourage him more! That's why it's never a good idea to tell anyone else which players you don't like playing - you can rest assured that word will get back to those players sooner or later.

    I know that at least one of the players I hate playing actually doesn't like playing me either. These days I don't mention that I don't like playing him, since I don't want him getting encouraged in any way. Hopefully he isn't reading this article!

  • Practice, practice, practice. Although it's natural to try to avoid playing against styles that you hate, you should instead try to seek them out whenever you can. The more familiar you are with that style, the better your chances in matches.

    Don't give up. Ever. Even if you are getting beaten, if you keep trying and stay alert you may find a chink in your opponent's armor that will allow you to come back, or maybe use for future games. This is good advice against all your opponents.

    In my local competition, my opponents know that they will never get a free match against me. Once I'm on court, I will be trying to work out a way to win until the final point is over. This ups the pressure on my opponents, because they know I'll never give up on a match. They are going to have to beat me, I'm not going to just give it to them. I may hate playing certain players, but I hate losing even more!

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