A couple game videos, help me return serve better

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Here is a video I took today. I put a few timestamps of the best shots, watch on Youtube to see the timestamps. Overall I still feel my serve return is very hesitant and weak. Also if you look closely, there is a dramatic shift in play-style from the 1st match and 2nd match. 1st match was played with C53/ELD, more tensor rubbers. My ball bounces more and I do more blocking. 2nd match I was using Triple Double on both sides, and I'm able to execute my spin game way more easily.
Opponent was using D09c and D64.
 
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Here is another couple matches. I think especially the 2nd match I played quite well. I was testing out the H3 41d unboosted that I glued last night. I thought it would be crap, but it was surprisingly good even unboosted. I have Rhyzen ZGR boosted on backhand here.

My best point was at 13:26. Watch the video in youtube to see the timestamps.
 
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Wow you block like a wall :oops: there's quite some Kenta Matsudaira vibes I'm getting here haha. I think if you want to be more aggressive on the serve receive, the footwork has to be really on point and you need to lean more forward into the ball (throw your body weight into the ball) during the receive, and you have to take the ball earlier to enable more nasty angles.

But you already have a very stable receive which capitalises well with your strength in blocking imo. No need to unnecessarily take risks in the serve receive.

I think you could probably learn some sideswipes and sidespin pushing/flicks (basically add some hook or fade components) to really put the hurt on your opponent in terms of coverage angles. Kenta Matsudaira does this really well and it might be worth watching some of his videos on it.
 
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Wow you block like a wall :oops: there's quite some Kenta Matsudaira vibes I'm getting here haha. I think if you want to be more aggressive on the serve receive, the footwork has to be really on point and you need to lean more forward into the ball (throw your body weight into the ball) during the receive, and you have to take the ball earlier to enable more nasty angles.

But you already have a very stable receive which capitalises well with your strength in blocking imo. No need to unnecessarily take risks in the serve receive.

I think you could probably learn some sideswipes and sidespin pushing/flicks (basically add some hook or fade components) to really put the hurt on your opponent in terms of coverage angles. Kenta Matsudaira does this really well and it might be worth watching some of his videos on it.
Speaking of Kenta, I just found this great footage recently:

 
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I would have said: "blue striped shirt". :)
Just watching the few timestamped highlights, I look pretty good. But why can't I do that on every point?
Look at this execution of what I call my "Mayweather" style. Use the block to set up the point, finish with the forehand loop. But why can't I execute this every point?

 
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Your play is solid. It is too bad you don't have anyone to train with who is enough better than you so he could keep you in those rallies and make them longer so you had to work to win the points more tactically.....maybe someone who would force you to use a greater variety of returns of serve.....like playing matches against a coach who was trying to play in a way to get you to improve.

To me it looks like the fundamentals are there and you could make a decent jump with just a few changes and with you being forced to work much longer into rallies (real rallies so random, not predicable training of strokes).

But, all in all, you are a solid player and you have many strengths to your game.
 
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Just watching the few timestamped highlights, I look pretty good. But why can't I do that on every point?
Look at this execution of what I call my "Mayweather" style. Use the block to set up the point, finish with the forehand loop. But why can't I execute this every point?

Your play is solid. It is too bad you don't have anyone to train with who is enough better than you so he could keep you in those rallies and make them longer so you had to work to win the points more tactically.....maybe someone who would force you to use a greater variety of returns of serve.....like playing matches against a coach who was trying to play in a way to get you to improve.

To me it looks like the fundamentals are there and you could make a decent jump with just a few changes and with you being forced to work much longer into rallies (real rallies so random, not predicable training of strokes).

But, all in all, you are a solid player and you have many strengths to your game.
I think your comment is related to what I said above.

I think, if you trained with someone who was like a wall and could put everything back so you were forced much deeper into rallies, you would start making those opportunities for yourself more frequently. So, if you trained it, I do think you could do that with a much greater degree of regularity.

Still, it is a really nicely constructed point. :)
 
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First, you reminded me of ex CNT canadian national team player Eugen Zhen Wang :) with some differences of course :)


I am not a coach so these are just my personal opinions ... hope it helps ... For everybody else ... not looking for a debate .. if you don't like it please ignore it....

Serve return feedback :

There are three things I keep in mind when I try to receive serve , and if the outcome is not to my satisfaction I review which one I missed or did bad on .. and normally it works for me :

1. Shuffling the feet as part of the readiness , you can do extremes like Lily Zhang at one end of He Zhiwen at the other or some combination 😂. Right now you are doing a single step and moving your body weight to the FH side, this might be a contributing reason for missing some of those long serves to the backhand.

2. Make sure you are gripping the paddle lightly , the harder you grip the more the spin will react to your paddle and your hand speed will also slow down , in effect reducing your options and inability to drop short or impose your spin on the return . For full disclosure, I am not a big proponent of tightening the hand on contact unless it happens naturally . It does add power if and when done correctly but other wise it has unintended consequences that lead to mistake and injuries ... I would focus more on keeping it loose and increasing whip speed. For me Spin over power on any day everyday ...

3. Watch the contact.. watch the first bounce ... in that order ... and adjust your reaction based on that ...


In addition to these I would say make sure you are completely relaxed mentally and don't go in with a bias of doing one thing over others. IF you made mistakes in your previous attempts ... try to remember the serve and what your mistake was and what you should do differently the next time ... just a cue for your mind to react the right way ... don't obsess over it ...

There are other spin avoidance techniques that can be used in case you are still having trouble handling the incoming spin .. like going around side of the ball when pushing if you want use the spin but still control it .. or dampening the spin by going in the direction of the spin .. but all of these are predicated upon accurate understanding of the spin , softer contact and loose hands ... you could also figure out a way to impose your spin if you can find the right touch , point of contact and timing ... these are all possibilities to keep in mind when exploring options ..

General feedback :

1. IMO the strokes on both sides , especially the FH are bigger .. you are tending to swing more with the hand to make up for the lack of footwork . This is the reason why you are sometimes missing the fifth ball after initiating on the third. Depending on how much your fitness permits I would try to fix this to the extent possible ..consider easier rubbers which let you generate power and spin to your satisfaction without such a large Swing.

2. Try to keep the paddle up during the rallies and see if you can generate more whip more horizontally than vertically ... this should shorten the stroke and also decrease the load on the body however it comes with the added price of possible tennis elbow ... I would practice small counters with forearm snap only to train the muscles and figure out the right form so that there is no discomfort when you go for stronger strokes ... this helps for me in general ...

3. Your blocking form and your looping form are very different . when blocking on both sides you like to keep your paddle head at 12'0 clock from the beginning .. while this helps in stable blocks, its difficult to transition to a counter or a loop if you see the opportunity .. may be something to think about ... I would say don't keep it so vertical and add a small follow through on contact .. like an abbreviated counter ...

For improving blocks there is a world rubber market video I found very helpful ... the principles should work on both sides



There are also videos on serve receive on this channel that are helpful .. of course there would be some gaps if you need to refer to the captions like I do .. but on the whole they are good and pay attention to a lot to detail unlike other coaching videos that typically gloss over such stuff ...
 
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Hi TB...

I will keep the comments restricted to your title... SERVE RETURN.

Some basic considerations to have in mind before your serve receive. You figure this out based on your scouting, personal knowledge of opponent or discover this in game one.

- What does the opponent do well? Do they open heavy topspin vs underspin long? Do they push back an underspin on your long underspin return? Do they fast hit/drive on your long ball?

- What placement and pace do they like and dislike? Do they hate a fast push into their body? Do they pass up a BH attack on a push to BH corner? Do they always step around on that? Are they any good on balls to their wide FH? Do they consistently loop heavy underspin? Are they inconsistent vs heavy underspin? Dead or light spin?

- Are you good at looping long serves consistently?

- Do you have a reliable flip vs short balls?

- Do you see the ball well vs this opponent?

- How much risk are you comfortable with taking?

- If you push the serve, can you stay even in the rally of take over?

- Does this opponent serve mostly long? Can they serve short? Do they have variety of spin, pace, heigh, angle, and placement?

So you figure all that out before match or in discovery in game one... now you have some data to work with to form your plan of how to receive serves from this dude.

Let's say you choose the route of lower risk return... you basically will not attack unless it is a real easy clear chance on return... You have some options...

- Push short

- Push halflong

- Push deep

- Placement wide, near edge/corner, deep right at body

- Change of return speed, change of placement, change of spin - this is variation

Now we get into the HOW of how to push.

- to push short, get close to the bounce, like 1-3 cm from bounce, open blade vs underspin, hold bat lightly, allow ball to bounce off rubber... control rebound depth with grip... usually real light to make ball go short. Your return will have underspin as the vertical energy early on the bounce will rub on your rubber and turn into unsderspin... all without you even doing a positive stroke. A TINY 1-3 cm forward nudge off the bounce gives you more spin, but that requires some timing and you maybe develop that later.

- To push half long, take ball on rise halfway up net, nudge forward a few cm at impact, and loosen grip at impact... control depth with how hard you nudge and how you loosen grip... the grip is still pretty light and loosening at impact... this makes ball rebound a little further... so you control it halflong depth.

- To push deep and fast... impact ball on rise somewhere between halfway up net to net height... earlier you impact the ball, the quicker your push is and the more time you rob opponent and more you pressure and surprise, so you figure out how early you can consistently impact, push fast/deep, and still be consistent. you can use a loose grip and faster bat stroke... your stroke is 5-12 cm depending... or you can take early and firm up grip with slower and shorter stroke to do the same task.

- To adjust the spin... in general, when you are loosening during impact, you are eating spin and giving back less... the same for a tiny firming with slow bat speed... you can add spin by making a faster bat at impact and less solid strike... you can do this both by loose grip and good whip... or a shorter stroke fast bat firmer grip open blade angle.

- To get placement, you square hips to target... there are always adjustments and because you are not torquing body, just a step and plant is enough leverage to do any adjustment. Suddenly open wrist before impact to send other way... close wrist before impact to send opposite way... these are a couple.

Even against a good opponent with decent attacking ability... if you show you can place the ball anywhere you want with whatever you want, how you want... that opponent will get off kiter in a hurry and be pressured and make mistakes or give the ball back to you for an attack if you are ready.

This ends up being a kind of mental warfare... you are daring opponent to attack, now suddenly, they cannot predict ball well and can lose confidence from their higher number of missed attacks... and they push a few back... then you clobber a few strong attack in (from their decline to attack balls)... and now the pressure is on for opponent to take more and more risk when he or she is now increasingly unconfident of what ball is coming... that is a recipe for easy point gifts from opponent. So many points at higher levels are won this way without even attacking.

I have discussed only the safe returns and often, if you can manage these well, you have a huge edge. maybe later I talk about more aggressive attacking receives.

Next Level once said about me and my serve receives is that I would "Push No Spin in your face" ... this is the concept of making a dead push daring opponent to attack, but the push looks like underspin... so there are errors made without a lot of risk on my part.

A lot of what I discuss involves a good control over your grip pressure before and at/during impact.

Another obvious thing is that when opponent strikes ball... and before that ball traves a foot or so, you have to have already figured out what is on the ball and what you want to do... so that you can begin your movement at the right time to sync your step, position/leverage and impact... often, when you want to receive short or do a fast deep push on the rise off bounce, you need to initiate your step soon after the ball bounced on opponent's side.

This is what I call the GO TIME... the moment or cue where you have to start your step action sequence. That is big time important.

In an Andro training vid for a decade or two plus ago, some German pros called the step sequence towards the ball for serve return a "Tanz zum Ball" ... or a Dance towards the ball. I like that phrase a lot as it accurately describes process and action.
 
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Well I played an incredible player today. They told me he's 2200, but i didnt believe it while warming up because he has very simple and basic penhold strokes. Not powerful but very blocky.

When we played a game, he stood very close to the table and hit the ball right off the bounce to both sides. Ive never seen anybody handle my shots so easily but without power. I just couldnt reach his shots. He blocked all my loops. He has incredible control.

Also his push is incredible deep and spinny. He also varies the sidespin on his push and makes it very hard. I missed so many shots just trying to push his push back.
 
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Well I played an incredible player today. They told me he's 2200, but i didnt believe it while warming up because he has very simple and basic penhold strokes. Not powerful but very blocky.

When we played a game, he stood very close to the table and hit the ball right off the bounce to both sides. Ive never seen anybody handle my shots so easily but without power. I just couldnt reach his shots. He blocked all my loops. He has incredible control.

Also his push is incredible deep and spinny. He also varies the sidespin on his push and makes it very hard. I missed so many shots just trying to push his push back.
So what strategy can you try to counter this style of play? It's very hard to hit any clean shots against him because he takes the ball so early and hits both corners, so you cannot hit good attacking shots against him.
 
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So what strategy can you try to counter this style of play? It's very hard to hit any clean shots against him because he takes the ball so early and hits both corners, so you cannot hit good attacking shots against him.
If he is not aggressive, maybe topspin with a higher arc at a slightly slower rhythm? That buys you more time to recover.

Depending on how aggressive he is, you could even try playing more neutral shots, although I think he'd punish those if he is 2200.
 
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Well I played an incredible player today. They told me he's 2200, but i didnt believe it while warming up because he has very simple and basic penhold strokes. Not powerful but very blocky.

When we played a game, he stood very close to the table and hit the ball right off the bounce to both sides. Ive never seen anybody handle my shots so easily but without power. I just couldnt reach his shots. He blocked all my loops. He has incredible control.

Also his push is incredible deep and spinny. He also varies the sidespin on his push and makes it very hard. I missed so many shots just trying to push his push back.
I know these types of penhold players who idolize He Zhi Wen with their angles, it is incredibly difficult to stay in the rally against them without good footwork.

Basically you should serve long most of the time (with some occasionally short serves to keep them on their toes). They can give you much sharper angles off a short ball than a long ball. If you go to the rally stage you have a much better chance than in the short game (their short game is usually much better).

On serve receive again you should flick or push long and deep with pace most of the time, again to avoid the angles.

Once you're in the rally, try to attack their wide FH early. If you have a good BH topspin down the line to their wide FH it's usually a killer against them. Only loop to the wide BH if you see them move towards the middle to cover their wide FH.
 
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If he is not aggressive, maybe topspin with a higher arc at a slightly slower rhythm? That buys you more time to recover.

Depending on how aggressive he is, you could even try playing more neutral shots, although I think he'd punish those if he is 2200.
If his opponent is like my penhold practice partner, high arc loops no matter how spinny they are just too easy to deal with, he would be able to angle block or punch it or heck even sidespin chopblock them with ease. Now if they were ultra spinny and low trajectory with varying length (like Timo Boll style loops), it'll be a nightmare for them. The problem is that it is not easy to consistently execute Timo Boll style slow loops with thin brush. I admire players who can do that, they have better eyesight and ball tracking skills than me. Personally I will miss the ball a lot trying to do this, I need my thick contact to stay consistent 😭
 
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