Is my strength also my biggest weakness?

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Last week I had a really good practice session. I was hitting all my shots, hitting counter loops, hitting shots from difficult angles and positions, and I felt I played at a high level for myself (like a 1900-2000 level). I was thinking about what to work on in 2024, where do I need to improve, how do I get better from here? I actually feel like I don't have a specific shot that I feel weak in. I feel good in my block on both sides. I feel good in my underspin loop from both sides. I feel good in my topspin loop. I feel like my receive has somewhat stabilized now, and isn't a glaring weakness at the moment. My serve isn't amazing, but I usually win a couple free points on serve each game.

So I felt a bit stuck. What is the key shot that I need to work on to improve to the next step?

Then I had the thought, maybe my biggest strength is also my biggest weakness? I would describe my style as a very patient counter-punching style. I use my bh like a boxer's jab to block my opponent's loop and probe for weakness. Then I look to finish the point with a powerful fh loop-kill. I feel much more comfortable looping the 5th ball on my serve than I do looping the 3rd ball. I make a lot more mistakes when I attempt to loop the 3rd ball. Like my feet aren't quite set yet, my timing isn't quite there, and it just doesn't work well for me. I have found that my patient style has worked really well for me up to now. Whenever I play fast attackers, I feel like they are playing into my style. By waiting for a better opportunity ball, I am able to limit my unforced errors and it allows me to play a very efficient style that doesn't rely on big movements and fast footwork.

However, to get to the next level, do I need to re-think my style? Do I need attack more on the first 3 shots? I feel like if I attempted to do this, I would drastically increase my error rate. Should I keep going with my current style? Or should I attempt to be more pro-active on the first 3 shots to get over the hurdle before I can get better?
 
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Probably the easiest way to get more points is to really train up a nasty serve game. Against even my practice partner who faces my serve regularly I can still usually get like 4 free direct points per game especially if he is not using LP to receive. Against some new opponents I don't even need my loop - the serve is already dangerous enough.

The name of the game in serve is to vary it a lot, be very deceptive and aim for the most difficult spots to receive for the opponent.

I think you basically cannot have a good 3rd ball game without a good serve. The serve sets up the 3rd ball. If you 3rd ball blindly into someone who is receiving well then you're usually going to make a lot of unforced errors and face very high quality counters back.
 
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I havent seen you play so I cant know for sure what your strengths and weaknesses are.

From your description you seem very confident in open rallies, but you struggle to create those rallies on your own.

What I usually tell people if they struggle opening up the rally is to stop using short backspin serves. I myself stopped using that serve for the most and I may use it 3 times in a match at most.

You should serve short with topsin, sidespin, no spin, or just a little backspin. Why? These serves are impossible to push low over the net with lots of backspin. So when they try it will be either 3 feet above the net, or they will push it off the end of the table. They might be able to give you a low return, but then it wont have much backspin so you dont have to lift the ball as much and you can hit it more foreward.

But if you never serve any backspin serve your opponent might pickup on it and start attacking all your serves. So its good to still serve with backspin every now and then. So if you decide to do it, serve half-long. Then when they push it will always be a long or halflong push which you can attack without having to worry it will be too short. Or if they attack you will most likely get a slow spinny topspin ball, which you can actively block, or when you are ready for it even punch/counter.

And when the opponent serves, dont feel obligated to attack every ball that doesnt serve twice on your half. I would say placement is most important. Of course placement is also important when serving yourself. But at least then you control the spin. Now they control the spin, so placement is your only play.

So when the opponent serves always put the ball so your opponent has to move before he can attack. Then you will either get a weaker attack, so you take over the rally. Or they aren’t able to attack at all and now you can steal the first attack.

And at last, I don’t know if you ever tried to record your matches, but I highly recommend it. Your weak points become so obvious when you watch yourself play.
 
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Hi Tensor
you are very thoughtful about your game and from what you say seem to be quite consistent in executing in most areas of your game. You do mention a preference for opening on 5th balls rather than 3rd ball. That's normal if opponents 2nd ball is handcuffing, but if your serve was smarter perhaps the 3rd ball would be more effective.
So in general I would say a player with good techniques who is short of success should be looking at improved placement and tactics with relation to 1st, 3rd and 5th and 2nd 4th and 6th balls and finding which placement patterns gain the best results against different players.
If you were more ambitious for your serve that would be an improvement. You don't need to be producing unreadable serves. Rather, you need some effective ways of putting your opponent under movement pressure whenever you are serving.
Here is a sample:
serve a
Fh pendulum very short backspin to op fh near net post
serve b
Fh pendulum copying serve a prep but slap the ball just wide of opponents bh
If f you can execute these so that they are identical until contact its very effective
some occasional variations in placement
Obviously you need to perfect your 3rd ball for each:
for a yr 3rd ball maybe bh flick if op goes long or well placed loop if he goes deep
for serve b
most players will be forced to block or drive and you need to improve your 3rd ball execution
For receiving
if opponent serves short look to return short with placed drop shot 50 % of the time but make sure to throw in some varied deep pushes. Avoid giving your opponent the same look all the time. Usually you don't need to hit winners just open to different placements which create movement pressure on yr opponent.
if opponent serves deep drive safely

I hope this helps you may make too many errors at first in trying to make better placement but if you persevere you will be rewarded.
As you try to plan yr 3rd and 2nd ball tactics think in terms of gaining small advantages with techniques that are simple for you (because of your practice) but harder for your opponent (because of placement)
Tensor:
Like my feet aren't quite set yet, my timing isn't quite there,
One other practice I would recommend is fh to fh counterhitting for 10 minutes every time you play with the emphasis on moving behind every shot
eg feeder sends f to 2 positions alternate maybe 2ft apart worker plays every ball getting behind line every time
when 20 shot rally is achieved feeder sends to 2 positions randomly worker tries to get good position on every ball Keys are do this SLOWLY and when ball is going away from you watch the feeders racket
practicing this will help you to move to every ball without thinking.
good luck
 

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Serves, serves, serves... and BH-Flip countertopspin

As the opponents get better, you will not get any fifth ball attacks, as they will have attacked by that time. Very often with BH-Flip. So you need either to learn better serves so you can attack yourself or learn effective attacking of their flips. Or both:D
 
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Ha, I'm the exact opposite. I see gigantic holes with every single facet of my game, and I feel like my body doesn't have enough stamina for me to practice them all!

As for you, by your account, it sounds like you find it difficult to attack the 3rd ball, so maybe work on that? You'll get to a point where relooping is simply no longer an issue for the opponent, then you can't win unless you can grasp every opportunity, including and especially the 3rd ball.
 
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You haven’t told us where you are losing points - so when you lose to a better player, where are you exposed and why are you losing?
Well that's my struggle. I don't feel I have a specific area where I am losing points. I'm pretty balanced right now. So right now, the only thing I can identify for myself is that I tend to play a little slow, for example attacking the 5th ball instead of the 3rd ball.
 
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Well that's my struggle. I don't feel I have a specific area where I am losing points. I'm pretty balanced right now. So right now, the only thing I can identify for myself is that I tend to play a little slow, for example attacking the 5th ball instead of the 3rd ball.
in racket sports being FIRST is so important. your 3rd and 4th balls have to be getting a small advantage as often as possible. Some players lose confidence because of 3rd ball errors.You have to realise your opponent will make it difficult to make winners. So try for small advantages on every shot, which could be thought of as always trying to make your opponent make a step backward forward or sideways
 
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I would add 1 thing, it seems like I'm betting at looping the 3rd ball when I serve with my backhand. That way, my feet are already balanced and in position.
Yes that is the benefit of the BH serve - recovery is much easier.

If you're serving the classic way (FH serve in the BH corner), you need to do a rotation + weight transfer from right foot to your left foot and then use that rotation to return you to ready position by the 2nd bounce of your serve. Any later than that and you won't be in position to confidently attack the 3rd ball. I sometimes find this difficult too but it makes a big difference.
 
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I would add 1 thing, it seems like I'm betting at looping the 3rd ball when I serve with my backhand. That way, my feet are already balanced and in position.
Hah we're so different, I'm worse with 3rd ball attacks after a backhand service because my feet is usually neutral vs right foot forward, whereas I finish my pendulum serves with my right leg a little behind, which is my preferred stance.
 
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if you don't do 3rd ball attacks, your serves will lose some effectiveness because there is no pressure on receiver, he doesn't need to attack or receive short, wide or with high spin he just need put the ball on the other side of the table. But if you do, you force the receiver loop every long ball even if he's not confident for example
 
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I can share my experience -
There's a time I've been struggling to reach higher level. I tried to perfect my techniques and tried to do fancy shots, but often end up losing the match. So instead I focus on these things and got many wins from then:

- I learned the hook serve from Wang Hao - helped tremendously in setting up the 3rd ball attack from Backhand which is my strongest point
- I focused more in receiving - lower the stance - backhand ready
- I tried to be calm when opponent attacks, block the ball and find a chance to counter

That's it, hope my exp can help :p
 
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I can share my experience -
There's a time I've been struggling to reach higher level. I tried to perfect my techniques and tried to do fancy shots, but often end up losing the match. So instead I focus on these things and got many wins from then:

- I learned the hook serve from Wang Hao - helped tremendously in setting up the 3rd ball attack from Backhand which is my strongest point
- I focused more in receiving - lower the stance - backhand ready
- I tried to be calm when opponent attacks, block the ball and find a chance to counter

That's it, hope my exp can help :p
I use hook serve and find that the sidespin makes my opponents put the ball to my wide FH. Do you have any tips to makes sure they're returning to my BH? Also, can you share the Wang Hao videos? Are they subtitled in English or Vietnamese?
 
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I use hook serve and find that the sidespin makes my opponents put the ball to my wide FH. Do you have any tips to makes sure they're returning to my BH? Also, can you share the Wang Hao videos? Are they subtitled in English or Vietnamese?
Probably you need to adjust your placement of the serve to BH side (especially those wide ones that curve back into the table), and it has to be a faster short serve (less time to 1st bounce). These are very hard to place to your FH because of the sidespin and the short distance. The most likely and safest receive for them is to push the ball on the left side which creates sidespin that curves back into your BH which is the perfect ball to execute a BH loop on.
 
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I use hook serve and find that the sidespin makes my opponents put the ball to my wide FH. Do you have any tips to makes sure they're returning to my BH? Also, can you share the Wang Hao videos? Are they subtitled in English or Vietnamese?
I serve mostly no spins and little side spins to the opponent's short right side, which is difficult to return short, so most of the time I will get long ball to my backhand side (which is perfect) or sometimes to my forehand, which I can still attack
 
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