How to play against Hyper-Aggressive player?

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Today I played against a 2050-2100 USATT hyper-aggressive two-winged looper, lets call him Timmy. I was actually up 2-2, with match points at 10-8. He missed a loop, and that should've been match but he called a let saying something distracted him. So we replayed, and I ended up losing 13-11 or something.

I guess I can't be too disappointed in the score itself, as I was right there to win. But the thing is, the actual game style was heavily against me. Timmy is hyper-aggressive. He loops every 3rd ball, and he loops all of my long serves. I'm forced to serve short underspin to him literally every time. No variety at all. So I'm quite defensive on my own serve. I would say 90% of my points are won by either just blocking until he misses, or doing a good enough push that he misses the opening loop. However, every rally I am on the defensive. I think in 5 games, I only did 4 or 5 opening loops. All the rest was Timmy opening up on me. How can I change the tide more into my favor?

One more big factor, is he does this heavy hook serve. Similar to a reverse pendulum, but the motion is not so much with the wrist, more with the forearm. I can never read this serve. I don't know if its topspin or underspin. How do I read and return this serve.
 
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Today I played against a 2050-2100 USATT hyper-aggressive two-winged looper, lets call him Timmy. I was actually up 2-2, with match points at 10-8. He missed a loop, and that should've been match but he called a let saying something distracted him. So we replayed, and I ended up losing 13-11 or something.

I guess I can't be too disappointed in the score itself, as I was right there to win. But the thing is, the actual game style was heavily against me. Timmy is hyper-aggressive. He loops every 3rd ball, and he loops all of my long serves. I'm forced to serve short underspin to him literally every time. No variety at all. So I'm quite defensive on my own serve. I would say 90% of my points are won by either just blocking until he misses, or doing a good enough push that he misses the opening loop. However, every rally I am on the defensive. I think in 5 games, I only did 4 or 5 opening loops. All the rest was Timmy opening up on me. How can I change the tide more into my favor?

One more big factor, is he does this heavy hook serve. Similar to a reverse pendulum, but the motion is not so much with the wrist, more with the forearm. I can never read this serve. I don't know if its topspin or underspin. How do I read and return this serve.
if you can't read the serve, well its difficult. but if you play more often with him you will figure out.
I'm not good at receiving as well... but some hints: if you manage to know if it's long short or half long, and going to your FH / middle / BH, that's already more than 2/3 of the job done.

to know whether its topspin or backspin you have to focus not on his overall move but just contact. does he use wrist or not (no wrist = knuckle / no-(little) spin ball ) ? if there is wrist does at contact the racket goes down (backspin) or up (topspin) ?

if you're not sure, better to time the ball a bit later to give you more time to see what the ball is doing and read the spin.

if its a hook serve, and he is RH then contact the ball on the LEFT side to control the side spin. if he serves short to your FH, try to move fast to play the ball with your BH if possible (unless its really too much to the right)
it will be easier to play.

----
on your own serve, to prevent him from looping aggressively you have to surprise him more. A lot of these players are very good if you serve to their BH, they pivot and loop immediately. they have a good push also if you serve short to their BH. The solution is to keep them guessing where you serve , better to serve half long so even they loop its a weak loop usually. or short to their FH. serve only 30% or less to their BH and when you do, better to do it with top/side spin but not so fast ball (he might loop over) or heavy (side) backspin but make sure the ball is going out on the side of the table.

If you serve from the middle of the table maybe you can aim more easily both wings it could be difficult for him.
of course if you are good in short game, then serving short, and hoping for a long push - for example is a good tactic.

I often have the same feeling than you. But the reason is not only receiving but also serve. If our serve is not good quality enough, then we get a difficult receive to deal with, and it's not easy to attack. We have to come back also quickly in position after serving to be able to deal with any kind of return.

I think it's important against these good players to never do twice in a row the same serve, unless you are dominating.
 
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Today I played against a 2050-2100 USATT hyper-aggressive two-winged looper, lets call him Timmy. I was actually up 2-2, with match points at 10-8. He missed a loop, and that should've been match but he called a let saying something distracted him. So we replayed, and I ended up losing 13-11 or something.

I guess I can't be too disappointed in the score itself, as I was right there to win. But the thing is, the actual game style was heavily against me. Timmy is hyper-aggressive. He loops every 3rd ball, and he loops all of my long serves. I'm forced to serve short underspin to him literally every time. No variety at all. So I'm quite defensive on my own serve. I would say 90% of my points are won by either just blocking until he misses, or doing a good enough push that he misses the opening loop. However, every rally I am on the defensive. I think in 5 games, I only did 4 or 5 opening loops. All the rest was Timmy opening up on me. How can I change the tide more into my favor?

One more big factor, is he does this heavy hook serve. Similar to a reverse pendulum, but the motion is not so much with the wrist, more with the forearm. I can never read this serve. I don't know if its topspin or underspin. How do I read and return this serve.
People are going to have different hook serve technique, but if he serves like Coach Meng in this video, then you can watch the contact point on the rubber. Closer to the top tip of the racket is topspin, and closer to the handle is backspin.

 
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People are going to have different hook serve technique, but if he serves like Coach Meng in this video, then you can watch the contact point on the rubber. Closer to the top tip of the racket is topspin, and closer to the handle is backspin.

Wow, i watched that several times and I still cant read it
 
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if you can't read the serve, well its difficult. but if you play more often with him you will figure out.
I'm not good at receiving as well... but some hints: if you manage to know if it's long short or half long, and going to your FH / middle / BH, that's already more than 2/3 of the job done.

to know whether its topspin or backspin you have to focus not on his overall move but just contact. does he use wrist or not (no wrist = knuckle / no-(little) spin ball ) ? if there is wrist does at contact the racket goes down (backspin) or up (topspin) ?

if you're not sure, better to time the ball a bit later to give you more time to see what the ball is doing and read the spin.

if its a hook serve, and he is RH then contact the ball on the RIGHT side to control the side spin. if he serves short to your FH, try to move fast to play the ball with your BH if possible (unless its really too much to the right)
it will be easier to play.

----
on your own serve, to prevent him from looping aggressively you have to surprise him more. A lot of these players are very good if you serve to their BH, they pivot and loop immediately. they have a good push also if you serve short to their BH. The solution is to keep them guessing where you serve , better to serve half long so even they loop its a weak loop usually. or short to their FH. serve only 30% or less to their BH and when you do, better to do it with top/side spin but not so fast ball (he might loop over) or heavy (side) backspin but make sure the ball is going out on the side of the table.

If you serve from the middle of the table maybe you can aim more easily both wings it could be difficult for him.
of course if you are good in short game, then serving short, and hoping for a long push - for example is a good tactic.

I often have the same feeling than you. But the reason is not only receiving but also serve. If our serve is not good quality enough, then we get a difficult receive to deal with, and it's not easy to attack. We have to come back also quickly in position after serving to be able to deal with any kind of return.

I think it's important against these good players to never do twice in a row the same serve, unless you are dominating.
Great answer.

Just to add a couple minor points. Sometimes when I have trouble reading the serve, I try to see if the ball "kicks" or not, and bet on whether it has top spin or no top spin on the ball. Some players are really good at faking their motions and it is really hard to see the contact point. If I cannot read the contact point, I forget about it for now. The match is only so long (or so short). If I cannot read the contact point, I have to get it out of my head right away mentally. Then let us focus on what we can read (or not read) and move on.

With top spin, the ball almost certainly has that kick starting with the first bounce on the other side of the table. After all if it does not kick, then the other player is doing a poor job trying to put a top spin on it.

If the serve coming at you has slight backspin or no spin or side spin, the receive is pretty similar. You need to brush the ball and put a bit of topspin to make sure it goes over the net. After all, no spin serve often wobbles a bit. And side spin serve, I like to counter it with top spin and aim for the corret side of the table. I was never taught to touch the ball on either side of the ball to counter the spin. I was taught, by my coach growing up in the 1990's, to put slight top spin and aim for the correct side of the table so the ball does not fall off the side edge of the table.

Everyone plays a bit differently.

However when top spin is coming, everyone would need to close the angle of the bat. So that's why I focus on if the serve coming has top spin or no top spin.

With 40+mm plastic ball, really, there is not a whole lot of spin compared to 38mm celluloid ball era. With plastic ball, if you are really not sure about the spin on the serve coming at you, take a step back away from the table and let the ball drop, let the spin on the ball dissipates a bit and then loop everything. When you cannot read the spin, that is another way to deal with the situation. Let the ball drop and take it at its descent and loop everything that comes at you. Either you win or lose anyway at that point.

As for your serve, again I agree. You need to vary it a little bit. I am going to argue, when you are facing a hyper-aggressive 2000-2100 level player, you might want to serve long and fast but to various locations on the table: backhand, forehand and the elbow. The best serves are long fast side spin v.s. long fast side underspin. Then throw in side top spin here and there. By doing so, you actually push the other player away from the table a bit (and buy yourself a bit of time). Since you know what spin you are putting on the ball and you know the other person will attack, you just recover quickly and leave your hands and elbow high to be ready to get into a rally.

By the way, you can see that in top level with short pips players. They love to serve long serves because they know either they are going to finish the point or get into a fast, furious rally. They want to end the point quick. Prolonged rally with varied spin (like back spin here or side spin here) is actually bad for short pips players.

In addition, when a serve is fast, it is really hard for the other player to figure out if it is side spin or side underspin. Once the other player loops a few serves out (because it is side spin) or loops a few serves into the net (because it is side under spin), you can break the other player's psyche a bit.

However, the key here is "fast." If you cannot do it fast, then the other player will eat you alive.

Then once the other player realizes you can serve long and fast, he might take a step away from the table. And then you can do your usual short heavy underspin serve. At that point, you have him off balance all the time and guessing.
 
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Wow, i watched that several times and I still cant read it
Obviously if he contacts the top of the ball then it's topspin and if he contacts more of the bottom of the ball then it's underspin. But most advanced hook serves don't use this concept because it's easy to tell which part of the ball was contacted.

Advanced hook serves use close to the same racket angle at contact. The difference is whether or not the bat is moving upwards or downwards at contact which can be disguised extremely well through single, or even double fakes (i can do up-down-up, or down-up-down, or just down-up, up-down). If the hand is hidden (perfectly legal - you only need to ensure that the contact point i.e. the racket and the ball are both visible), this makes it insanely hard to tell the spin since the movement can be very fast.

Pay a lot of attention to the bat orientation prior to the contact - if bat is pointing slightly downwards it's almost certainly a side-topspin serve and if it's slightly upwards it's a side underspin serve. It's much easier if you lower you centre of gravity till your eyes are same level as the opponent's contact point, and if you move more to the left side to see more of the contact. Ignore all aftermovements as it's not important.

But really, I also find it extremely hard to read good serves just by reading contact - I rely a lot more on trajectory reading these days and using techniques with high error tolerances to avoid missing.
 
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Due to the fact that I play quite like Timmy, I can just give you the things i struggle with for your advice.

First, is that we like to attack at a constant pace. If you are going to just stand there and block it back, we are just gonna keep attacking. To combat this, try varying the block. For example, maybe grip the bat a little less tight for it to go slower. Maybe punch one time. Maybe add a chop block into there as well. Anything to disrupt our rhythm.

Next is our pattern. I do a lot of coaching and a lot of drills require me to do a backhand then forehand, therefore every rally after I d a backhand, my brain wants me to do a forehand, and before i know it, im moving and pivoting to do a forehand. So, see where Timmy likes to play different shots... and put it the other way. Also helps to disrupt our rhythm

Lastly, remember that a block can be used to attack, with placement and speed. Use the whole table, as then people like Timmy have to move. And when we move l, we can't do a good shot, and before you know it, you're attacking! If you're in a rally and you find yourself just blocking snd setting him up for a winner, just take a step back and focus on placement.

I hope this helps, of course every player is different so Timmy might love returning a chop block; we never know. Its all about trying to find what works.
 
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Obviously if he contacts the top of the ball then it's topspin and if he contacts more of the bottom of the ball then it's underspin. But most advanced hook serves don't use this concept because it's easy to tell which part of the ball was contacted.

Advanced hook serves use close to the same racket angle at contact. The difference is whether or not the bat is moving upwards or downwards at contact which can be disguised extremely well through single, or even double fakes (i can do up-down-up, or down-up-down, or just down-up, up-down). If the hand is hidden (perfectly legal - you only need to ensure that the contact point i.e. the racket and the ball are both visible), this makes it insanely hard to tell the spin since the movement can be very fast.

Pay a lot of attention to the bat orientation prior to the contact - if bat is pointing slightly downwards it's almost certainly a side-topspin serve and if it's slightly upwards it's a side underspin serve. It's much easier if you lower you centre of gravity till your eyes are same level as the opponent's contact point, and if you move more to the left side to see more of the contact. Ignore all aftermovements as it's not important.

But really, I also find it extremely hard to read good serves just by reading contact - I rely a lot more on trajectory reading these days and using techniques with high error tolerances to avoid missing.
Agree. Either you can read the contact or you cannot. If not, look for the trajectory. When I look at the trajectory, I focus on whether the ball has top spin or not. When the ball "kicks," that is very distinct.

As for varying your blocking, I agree with that. Sometimes it is easier to say than done. The other players just keep on pinning you down. But that's when you have to vary.

I also agree that you almost won anyway until the other player "cheated."

We were not there to see the whole match. A win is a win. You probably blocked well enough to give him trouble. You are just not giving yourself enough credit.
 
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And side spin serve, I like to counter it with top spin and aim for the corret side of the table. I was never taught to touch the ball on either side of the ball to counter the spin. I was taught, by my coach growing up in the 1990's, to put slight top spin and aim for the correct side of the table so the ball does not fall off the side edge of the table.
This is the correct approach imo. I think contacting ball on side leads to more errors looping due to less of a "contact window". In fact, it is better to go with the sidespin instead of against it. Ie if the ball is curving to the left, your stroke trajectory should be following the ball (ie also going to the left) to maximise your contact window. Vice versa for balls curving to your right like reverse pendulum or hook serves.

So counter-intuitively, it is actually easier to FH fade loop against FH pendulum serves and hook loop against FH reverse pendulum/hook serves. You can increase dwell time this way (and thus success rates).
 
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On the rest of the game, I also play hyper aggressive most of the time lol. Not only do I attack all long serves, but also most short serves with either BH chiquita or FH flick. I can share with you what I hate the most.

1) Suddenly throwing slower deep high topspin balls to their wide BH can be a killer (you can even see Fan Zhendong using this a lot), extremely easy to miss for the opponent. If they don't add power it will often result in a slow easy opportunity ball for you to finish. I hate this so much that I always train BH loopkills against high balls when alone.

2) quick sidespin counters to the wide FH - with righty vs righty that means FH hook and BH fade. This is extremely deadly and still used a lot at the highest levels for good reason

3) flat punches either wide to the FH or targeting the elbow. This gets me almost all the time - I have almost no solution to this except for getting faster lol

4) junk receives with weird spin to induce more errors out of their opening loops (which you're probably already doing)
 
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I'm forced to serve short underspin to him literally every time. No variety at all.
You can serve short empty or short topspin. Varying backspin and empty balls into opponent's short FH is a big deal. Or serve long and engage in open rallies, just expect that it's gonna be attacked.
 
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I will play such player as follows -
1. Scout his game in first set -
  • Check which side of his opening is less threatening for your game, that is your safety zone/rally zone. Mostly it is backhand most players, but analyze and on what kind of ball, is it heavy backspin which is deep or is it low backspin slow ball which he should first reach with legs and then open? Prepare for your attacks based on this information - quick and wide blocks, counter-topspin etc. Also, this does not means that you just only exploit and play in the safe zone, you need to take risks and keep the attention of your opponent divided.
  • Check where your opponent stands after serving? Backhand or middle? Does he comes back if you put the ball to extreme forehand, if yes, then where? This gives you idea on ball placement and creates more doubts in your opponents mind. He needs to be watchful and cannot play the match on sleep mode.
2. Services
  • Which serve is working for you - means which serve can give you the rally you want as per your strength? Can you do a long fast serve to his elbow or wide corners of the table. Which serve opens the table for you and how can you take advantage of this?
  • Which serve is working for your opponent and why? What serve he uses on crucial points, like when he want to take lead or when he wants to be decisive on a point, does he likes service points or he likes to attack hard and close the point in his favor? Keep a mental note of this - because we are creatures of habit. More likely than not, he will still use the same serve on critical points and if you remember it then it could work in your advantage. I like to remember this, especially when I start the match, I notice and remember how my opponent tests me.
  • In last set when it is 2-2, experienced players rely on less spin, no spin services so that it is easier to hit hard.
3. Receiving and Rallying tactics
  • Stronger players rely more on pattern and the length of the incoming ball, you should take calculated risks and try to break this rhythm. Keep in mind, that inside-out movement is very difficult compared to side by side movement. Also, in rally vary the spin on the ball, this is most important when playing with stronger players. Many players are very good in using opponents spin and speed in the rally but they find it difficult when all of a sudden they need to generate their own spin and speed more so in the same rally. So don't think that you are in disadvantage if you slow the game down.
  • The same goes with push and block - do you have a push and block which you can vary and still be consistent? Remember, push and blocks are oxygen for the offensive game. If you cannot do it consistently then you are choking yourself into a do or die situation.
  • On receive, if you are not sure on the service, then let the ball drop a little and then receive it. Don't try to make a quick receive as you haven't read the service. Give time to yourself and then control the middle of the table.
  • Use sidespin to your advantage, both in offense(sidespin topspin) and defense (sidespin push). This gives you a heads up since you know where the next ball is going to come. Go for the wide corners with slower sidespin topspin but try to keep the ball low.
  • If you loose a point in the rally, your mind will always help you in understanding what went wrong. But you need to keep calm and not go 100%. Play in your zone.
  • Against stronger players, be ready to play 15 balls per rally which means always think that the ball is coming back and be ready.
 
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Also, isn't encountering a hyper aggressive looper your best matchup since you love blocking and counterattacking? You pretty much won anyways...
Generally speaking, yes. I kinda like to be 40-60 with me being the blocking counterattacker. But against Timmy, its more like 10-90 with me defending.

At 40-60 i feel in control, but 10-90 I feel the pattern of the game is against me.
 
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Agree. Either you can read the contact or you cannot. If not, look for the trajectory. When I look at the trajectory, I focus on whether the ball has top spin or not. When the ball "kicks," that is very distinct.

As for varying your blocking, I agree with that. Sometimes it is easier to say than done. The other players just keep on pinning you down. But that's when you have to vary.

I also agree that you almost won anyway until the other player "cheated."

We were not there to see the whole match. A win is a win. You probably blocked well enough to give him trouble. You are just not giving yourself enough credit.
Next time if we play Im gonna say no more calling lets. He seems to call a lot more lets than I do, whereas I generally just try to play out the rally.
 
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Today I played against a 2050-2100 USATT hyper-aggressive two-winged looper, lets call him Timmy. I was actually up 2-2, with match points at 10-8. He missed a loop, and that should've been match but he called a let saying something distracted him. So we replayed, and I ended up losing 13-11 or something.

I guess I can't be too disappointed in the score itself, as I was right there to win. But the thing is, the actual game style was heavily against me. Timmy is hyper-aggressive. He loops every 3rd ball, and he loops all of my long serves. I'm forced to serve short underspin to him literally every time. No variety at all. So I'm quite defensive on my own serve. I would say 90% of my points are won by either just blocking until he misses, or doing a good enough push that he misses the opening loop. However, every rally I am on the defensive. I think in 5 games, I only did 4 or 5 opening loops. All the rest was Timmy opening up on me. How can I change the tide more into my favor?

One more big factor, is he does this heavy hook serve. Similar to a reverse pendulum, but the motion is not so much with the wrist, more with the forearm. I can never read this serve. I don't know if its topspin or underspin. How do I read and return this serve.
He isn't hyper-aggressive, he is playing high level table tennis. When I got coaching from a national level coach, he told me that short game is the biggest thing that distinguishes the high level players, and that pushing long on a regular basis was a death sentence at that level. IF he has the athletic foundation to support it, good for him. But it also sounds like he isn't so consistent that he destroys you.

You generally shouldn't be going long unless you can move the opponent well enough to get a weaker return. This would require you to read and take the ball early, which is harder to do when you can't read the serve.

Moreover, you didn't describe what happens when you loop first. If you serve short, does he drop the ball short or does he go long? If he drops the ball short, then you have to mix in short backspin and short no-spin. If he goes long, you need to open with heavy spin as well and see whether his countering abilities are on par with his aggression.

But in general, it is hard to play a player who plays high level table tennis when you don't have an advantage in quality or game reading skills. Good luck with that, because game wise, he is supposed to beat you every time.
 
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He isn't hyper-aggressive, he is playing high level table tennis. When I got coaching from a national level coach, he told me that short game is the biggest thing that distinguishes the high level players, and that pushing long on a regular basis was a death sentence at that level. IF he has the athletic foundation to support it, good for him. But it also sounds like he isn't so consistent that he destroys you.

You generally shouldn't be going long unless you can move the opponent well enough to get a weaker return. This would require you to read and take the ball early, which is harder to do when you can't read the serve.

Moreover, you didn't describe what happens when you loop first. If you serve short, does he drop the ball short or does he go long? If he drops the ball short, then you have to mix in short backspin and short no-spin. If he goes long, you need to open with heavy spin as well and see whether his countering abilities are on par with his aggression.

But in general, it is hard to play a player who plays high level table tennis when you don't have an advantage in quality or game reading skills. Good luck with that, because game wise, he is supposed to beat you every time.
When I serve short, he usually pushes short. Then I push back trying to keep it low and short. On the 4th shot, he always goes for a loop. When he loops, sometimes he misses if my push is low enough, sometimes it begins my blocking pattern, and sometimes he just wins with a strong loop.

Like I said, I only did about 4 loops the whole match. There isn't a pattern off of either of our serves when I can loop first. But whenever we get into a somewhat neutral topspin-topspin rally, I would say I have the advantage with my block and counterloop. But I think I need to find a pattern to take away his 90% looping initiative. I don't want to block his loop better, I want to take some of it away.
 
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When I serve short, he usually pushes short. Then I push back trying to keep it low and short. On the 4th shot, he always goes for a loop. When he loops, sometimes he misses if my push is low enough, sometimes it begins my blocking pattern, and sometimes he just wins with a strong loop.

Like I said, I only did about 4 loops the whole match. There isn't a pattern off of either of our serves when I can loop first. But whenever we get into a somewhat neutral topspin-topspin rally, I would say I have the advantage with my block and counterloop. But I think I need to find a pattern to take away his 90% looping initiative. I don't want to block his loop better, I want to take some of it away.
If you serve short and someone can always push the serve short, then maybe you are serving too obviously short. and maybe too short. But if he is determined to loop, he is going to loop if you go long first. You can't prevent that. unless you get the ball go long first for you and you decide to loop. If he pushes short, some of those balls are ripe for flicking and if you don't flick, then whose fault is that?

In any case, I find that in reality, while threads like this are interesting chats, when the video of the match is actually shown, there is a massive gap between perception and reality.
 
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