Shuki Development and Questions

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Making this thread for advice and general things I've noticed in my short lived table tennis career

What to expect from this thread?


  • Video's (within about a month)
  • Strategies
  • Questions about gameplay
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • General Discussion
  • Advice


Table Tennis Background

I first picked up a paddle about 3 years ago (in April it will be 3 years). I instantly fell in love with the sport but became the best player at the dorm I was playing at. I then proceeded to looking into some "clubs" that I could go play at to show my amazing skills and possibly learn a thing or two.

There was nobody near my level there and the club was very unwelcoming toward newcomers. I remember putting my paddle down next to a table as this was how you called the next match at the club I was going to. As soon as those players finished their game they both walked away and said they were done playing. I simply wasn't worth their time, I couldn't hit the table and I don't blame them. I play with these same players frequently now as they're actually both easily over 2000 USATT rated

It gets to a point for high level players where they see new club members, and although it may be rude, you simply don't want to hit with them at all. The majority of new players wont stick with the game and it often feels like a waste of time teaching someone to be better when they'll never be seen again.

I was committed to getting better though and for the next 2 years I work hard, teaching myself for the most part, but also getting little tips from higher level players. Some of which were professional at one point. I had a playing partner (we'll call him Angell) that was about the same level as me lets say (1200 usatt) but he clearly had the fundamentals down. He took lessons and was always doing drills while I was the player that went straight into games so I wouldn't waste other players time missing the table during their drills.

Now Angell had been taking lessons from a woman that I now know as Coach Li. I proceeded to getting lessons from her for the next year of my life, at least once a week, sometimes twice. Every session was for 1.5-3 hours. This is where my skill finally started improving. She first had to break down every aspect of my game and try and start me from scratch.

I would now estimate myself at 1600-1700USATT but then again, I'm being told all the time that I'm more like 1800-1900. Lets just assume the prior so I don't look too much like a tard when you see video's of me.

My top playing partners are as follows:

Irl: a professional in the 70's with more spin and speed than anything I've ever felt. He has huge strokes and never adapted to the changes in the game but also has a couple tables in his basement that we use to train together. Although he never adapted to the changes in the game, he's still well over 2000

Drew: Same level as me but with all short strokes. Very good in rallies and when top players see him playing they always want a piece of him, only to be disappointed as soon as they give him a real serve. He takes time to adjust to players and read serves and that's his biggest weakness.

Coach Li: Played professionally in China and has actually become a good friend over the past year, we exchange presents on holidays. Never do games but I couldn't help but include her in the list.

Vladamir: Ukrainian player that should definitely be out of my league but I play him well. He's known for playing ridiculously high lobs as well as great counter loops off SMASHES. His forehand loop is a true corkspin because he has a bad shoulder and has had surgery on it.

Dante: Very fun player that is extremely consistent. He plays with long pips on one side but in a very unique way. Attacking underspin, no spin and even top spin with these backhand pips. He's the main reason I'm so comfortable with playing long pips and antispin. Forehand side he uses some dhs rubber, couldn't tell you which, maybe h3.




Strengths vs/ Weaknesses I need advice on

Strengths

My two biggest strength at the moment are my blocks, and my touch.

BLOCKS
Most recently we've had a few 2000-2200 level players coming to our club to get a feel for it before the upcoming tournament comes (April 15-17). The few that have visited have the playing style that you would classify as a "Spinner". They like to load up on the ball with as much spin as possible but not necessarily a ton of pace. I actually found these players to be fairly easy to play against. My passive block is a pretty useful utensil at my disposal and the players simply weren't expecting the ball to not get back to them after putting such great amounts of spin on the ball.

However, once the players adapted and moved forward a bit knowing that their spin wasn't coming off me quite as far as they had liked, I would make my blocks more aggressive. Playing against spinners is truly one of my specialties.

TOUCH
Now when I said touch was another strength this applied itself in a few different manners. Firstly heavy spin means nothing to my touch blocks.

Secondly, for whatever reason, I don't have an issue returning virtually any serves. Now obviously I mess up reading serves occasionally or my timing is off on my return, but it really doesn't matter to me how much side, top or underspin they have on the serve. If I know what's coming, I can place it anywhere with beautiful low trajectory.

Lastly (at least that I can think of right now) for my touch, I'm always able to place the ball when my opponent chops. I can place it short or long and keep the chop rally going short at various angles. The only issue I have with keeping these chops short, is that I really don't have much backspin on the ball at all when chopping short.


WEAKNESSES (PLEASE ADVICE)

1. The first weakness I want to talk about is my issue with penholders.

It was extremely hard for me to pinpoint why it was I struggled with penholders in general.

The first conclusion I came to was that penholders have no elbow. When I say this I'm talking about that point where a shakehand player has to decide to move over and do a forehand or move the other direction and do a backhand. Finding this point against a shakehander is a big part of my game, and I abuse them when I find it. I started placing the ball with better angles on my attacks but still had no answer to what made me struggle so much. These damn penholders just made me so uncomfortable!

I got to thinking (are they just jamming me? playing the angles too well? just out of my league?) The out of my league part is definitely true, we have 7 penholders at our club with the worst one being around 1920usatt

But then I figured it out, when I played a bad penholder that I could demolish I was still VERY uncomfortable. It's the fact that almost all penholders hit the ball flat. There are a few out there that loop with some spin but none that I've come across where that's their play-style. I found out I struggle with flat hitters. The ball comes at me with very little to no topspin, sometimes even a slight hint of backspin.

Now for most of you this may not be an issue, but remember what me TOP strengths are. Touch, and Blocking. I can't simply block these shots back, I need to be more active with them which is causing me to feel the need to drive more which simply isn't my game.

My solution so far has been to take a half step back so I can allow myself a bit more time and loop the ball. It's working moderately well but I would love some suggestions on other ways to tackle this issue!

Learned so far for penholders

  1. Backhand is weaker but don't just go straight for it, move them to the forehand side first and THEN go to the backhand
  2. Never go to the middle or else they'll be able to move you around with ease.
  3. Blocking off the bounce is easy for them so try not to get pushed off the table too far looping.


2. Second weakness is balls near the edge of the table with good pace.
My go-to reflex to a ball with decent pace that hits near the edge of the table (toward my backhand) is a more upward looping stroke where I'm actually leaning back. The stroke is actually pretty consistent but it's not that powerful especially since my body is slightly moving backwards during the stroke and I'm not going forward. What would be a better recommendation? Take a step back to make sure my timing is better and get the proper loop/loop-drive completed? or simply do what I'm doing and have better placement to where it would be difficult for my opponent to be satisfied with my return.

I've done both of these in the past and both have worked moderately well to scare my opponent off of these deep strokes that truly make me uncomfortable. What do you guys believe would be the best option? This is a heavy backspin ball with pace they're giving me by the way, I'd prefer not to play a safe chop back since my backhand is very capable of consistently flipping the ball.



Unanswered Questions
I'll move these questions to an "answered question" area with their answers after they get a good answer or two


Answered Questions
Feel free to discuss these and I can change them if there's a strong disagreement with an answer.


  1. What do you think the best ratio of drill-practice time vs game-practice time is? We've all played those players who when warming up look amazing but in games are terrible. Or even more commonly warm up terribly but in games take a big crap on you. What do you think is the best ratio of drill vs game practice?



  • The general concensous for this question seems to be keeping the ratio about 50/50. But adjusting this ratio depending on the person. Drills are important for developing your skills but then you'll lack the game experience which is definitely needed. So you may have to adjust the amount of time you put in each depending on where you're struggling at the moment.



  1. If you know you have a strategy that can guarentee you points, do you use it or do you hold off on it for an upcoming tournament where you may face that player?

  • If you think you have a way of forcing your game on the opponent, use it and practice it to get better at it. If there is a glaring hole in your opponent's game, it is quite unlikely they'd will manage to fix it just in time for that upcoming tournament. Also, if you pin all your hopes on that super strategy, it is too easy to end up going into the match a bit complacent, so when the strategy stops working in the middle of that tournament match, you could find yourself in big trouble.



  1. If your opponent struggles with a serve, do you do it relentlessly until it stops working or do you use it once every few serves to keep them on their toes?
vvk-

  • IMHO, it depends on where in the match you are, and your opponent's mental strength. Some people play much more relaxed when they're a couple of points ahead (and conversely some give up when they're behind), so if you're one of the former and/or your opponent is one of the latter, you could use the serve repeatedly to build up/maintain a lead. Obviously, if you're nearing the end of a close match, and your opponent still hasn't worked out how to neutralize this serve, you'd want to use it more.

    On the other hand, if the match is still in the early stages and/or your opponent is at least as good as you, you could try doing one of the other normal serves, and use the "magic" serve only if you lose the first one.
?ndh-


  • I'll use the serve on crucial points - Either to stop them running away with the set at an early point - But mainly towards the end of the set when points are absolutely vital.
 
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Please scroll down to the blue section called weaknesses to help me and give me some advice for this situation.

P.S.

I'll be updating this thread on a moderately regular basis. once I get my camera I'll have a video up and probably change it weekly or something like that.

The main purpose of this thread is to help me improve, and hopefully the advice given will help others too.
 
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Push long and heavy against the penholders. It's tough to compete against them close to the net. They will either have to loop with topspin or push it back for you to loop.

Unless his name is Wang Hao relentlessly attack the backhand side of a penholders. Some of them are good at stepping around and then the wide forehand is the weakness.

Unless it's an important match I don't use the serves and tactics relentlessly. I might try out some half baked serves instead. Perhaps only at some crucial moments. Instead I may focus on setting up a weakness of mine for winning the point (in my case Forehand footwork). My forehand is not bad but I have to rely on my backhand more than I should for covering the elbow.
 
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I would now estimate myself at 1600-1700USATT but then again, I'm being told all the time that I'm more like 1800-1900.

...


Please, please, please - play a tournament and get a real rating. Even a USATT league rating would be better than this type of estimates, especially the ones that say "you look like X". May be you are really 1700, or may be you will discover that people play a bit differently when something is on the line. Or you crumble under pressure. Or that it takes experience to beat someone you see for the first time and who happens to have interesting style/weird serve etc.
 

NDH

says Spin to win!
Hey Shuki,

Here's my 2 cents to the "unanswered questions" part.

1. You'll probably find that those guys who look great in practice.... Don't play many games - Whereas those who don't look particularly good in practice, yet win... will play more games than practice (that sounds much more complicated than it is!)

I play 3 nights per week - Between September and April, I typically play 2 league matches each week (6 singles matches and 2 doubles over the 2 League matches), and then one night of 2-3 hours practice.

Between April and September, I'll only play 1 match per week (summer league), and the rest will be practice.

Even when I practice, I still do at least 50% "practice matches" and 50% drills.

2. I would try not and play said player, if: 1. I "knew" I had a strategy to beat them. 2. It was likely I'd be playing them in a tournament shortly.

If I had to play them for whatever reason (before the tournament), I would make sure I was happy with the strategy, but I wouldn't use it at all!

3. I'll use the serve on crucial points - Either to stop them running away with the set at an early point - But mainly towards the end of the set when points are absolutely vital.

Hope this helps.
 
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Hi Shuki.

What do you think the best ratio of drill-practice time vs game-practice time is? We've all played those players who when warming up look amazing but in games are terrible. Or even more commonly warm up terribly but in games take a big crap on you. What do you think is the best ratio of drill vs game practice?

My normal weekly split between league matches and practice sessions is pretty much the same as NDH's. Sometimes it works out as two practice sessions and one match.

You need to decide for yourself what is more important - doing drills or playing matches, and more importantly don't waste the table time, both in matches and in drills. Don't spend the entire practice session practicing stuff you're already good at, relatively speaking (e.g. drilling FH loops against block). Instead, concentrate on consciously improving your weakest areas. E.g., if you struggle to open up with a spinny loop against underspin, do a drill where you serve short backpsin, your opponent pushes, and you try to slow loop. If your opponent wants to play a game, no problem - just stick to the same serve throughout the practice match, and keep working on your 3rd ball attack. Same with any other weakness area like blocking a spinny loop or serve & serve return.

If you know you have a strategy that can guarentee you points, do you use it or do you hold off on it for an upcoming tournament where you may face that player?

IMHO, magic silver bullets are very rare to stumble upon the better you and your opposition become.

If you think you have a way of forcing your game on the opponent, use it and practice it to get better at it. If there is a glaring hole in your opponent's game, it is quite unlikely they'd will manage to fix it just in time for that upcoming tournament. Also, if you pin all your hopes on that super strategy, it is too easy to end up going into the match a bit complacent, so when the strategy stops working in the middle of that tournament match, you could find yourself in big trouble.

If your opponent struggles with a serve, do you do it relentlessly until it stops working or do you use it once every few serves to keep them on their toes?

IMHO, it depends on where in the match you are, and your opponent's mental strength. Some people play much more relaxed when they're a couple of points ahead (and conversely some give up when they're behind), so if you're one of the former and/or your opponent is one of the latter, you could use the serve repeatedly to build up/maintain a lead. Obviously, if you're nearing the end of a close match, and your opponent still hasn't worked out how to neutralize this serve, you'd want to use it more.

On the other hand, if the match is still in the early stages and/or your opponent is at least as good as you, you could try doing one of the other normal serves, and use the "magic" serve only if you lose the first one.
 
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Please, please, please - play a tournament and get a real rating. Even a USATT league rating would be better than this type of estimates, especially the ones that say "you look like X". May be you are really 1700, or may be you will discover that people play a bit differently when something is on the line. Or you crumble under pressure. Or that it takes experience to beat someone you see for the first time and who happens to have interesting style/weird serve etc.

mustn't have read the thread thoroughly, I understand, it's big. Sanctioned tournament on april 14th
 
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mustn't have read the thread thoroughly, I understand, it's big. Sanctioned tournament on april 14th

No, I saw that. Just find it amusing that you managed to avoid tournaments until now - unless you have only one per year in your area or something like that. Playing competitive matches under pressure against unfamiliar opponents is a separate skill and has to be practiced just like your FH loop.

P.S. When you are talking about 'chopping short' - do you mean 'pushing short'? Chop is usually what someone does to incoming loop away from the table.
 
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No, I saw that. Just find it amusing that you managed to avoid tournaments until now - unless you have only one per year in your area or something like that. Playing competitive matches under pressure against unfamiliar opponents is a separate skill and has to be practiced just like your FH loop.

P.S. When you are talking about 'chopping short' - do you mean 'pushing short'? Chop is usually what someone does to incoming loop away from the table.

Had lots of non-sanctioned tournaments nearby. I actually won the U1800 of one of them about a year ago. But for sanctioned tournaments the closest one we've had since I started playing is approximately a 3.5 hour drive away. Just never felt it was worth it at the time. My game had too many holes and certain styles just made me feel helpless. If I was going to travel for a tournament I would make sure I understood spin better and could deal with the odd players.


to your chopping vs pushing comment, I'd say yes that's what I mean. some say "quick loop" some say "loop drive". chops don't have to be off the table. there's some high level players here that got confused when I used to say push and what I meant was short chop. they would respond with something like "you should always be pushing on all your strokes". maybe it's just a kansas terminology thing.
 
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Wonderful post Shuki ! Pushing and Chopping has always been a controversial terminology thing. When I was growing up some used push to mean a no spin shot , chop meant a backspin one. I will go through your post in detail and try to throw my two cents in :) . But with penholders , definitely push in the middle an long when you want to setup an attack. short pushes are only effective when they are heavy and again in the middle. Otherwise they tend to manipulate the placement.

The other thing to remember is there are different penholders. Chinese penholders who use traditional blocks don't have a switchover point, but most who use RPB have switch over points , depending on how good they are. For Japanese penholders, there is the attacking style like ryu seung min where you cannot give them a half long , medium quality ball on their backhand , and if you push deep to the backhand be ready for a looping coming to your wide backhand or down the line. Then there are Japanese penhold soft blockers , who have a different , more face on stance and they are very difficult to play against because they read the spin to perfection and its almost as if you have to finsh the rally in the first two loops or they will move you out of position with their blocks .. summary, don't think penholders to be penholders. First recognize what style they play and then go with a strategy . Might help in also taking your mind off the fact that you perceive you are weak against penholders.

Also, most important weapon against penholders is your backhand , if you can comfortably change the placement of your backhand loop at the last moment, they tend to have a problem, but you cannot keep on looping at the same side or spot continuously or they will figure you out :)


Had lots of non-sanctioned tournaments nearby. I actually won the U1800 of one of them about a year ago. But for sanctioned tournaments the closest one we've had since I started playing is approximately a 3.5 hour drive away. Just never felt it was worth it at the time. My game had too many holes and certain styles just made me feel helpless. If I was going to travel for a tournament I would make sure I understood spin better and could deal with the odd players.


to your chopping vs pushing comment, I'd say yes that's what I mean. some say "quick loop" some say "loop drive". chops don't have to be off the table. there's some high level players here that got confused when I used to say push and what I meant was short chop. they would respond with something like "you should always be pushing on all your strokes". maybe it's just a kansas terminology thing.
 
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If you hate playing some style, or think it's stupid or un-fun, change your mentality to "I really love playing x style" or "Beating on x style players is really fun" and you might end up becoming really proficient at playing said style.

Same thing goes for learning and performing some strokes you don't like.
 
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Chinese penholders have a switchover point. It's just one of those things that people who don't have the right training can't find easily. It is closer to the elbow or the hip, depending on the particular penholder. You just have to look for it under the armpit and be patient.

The most important strategy I have found when playing penholders is to pull them out of the backhand corner and put the ball back there. If you do that, you will win most of the points.
 
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Ah, the penhold's traditional BH dead ball.

You should play penholders who spin. Because of the use of the wrist a penholder who does loop can get massive amounts of spin. I guess you just haven't faced that.


Sent from Deep Space by Abacus
 
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Ah, the penhold's traditional BH dead ball.

You should play penholders who spin. Because of the use of the wrist a penholder who does loop can get massive amounts of spin. I guess you just haven't faced that.


Sent from Deep Space by Abacus

I once played an RPB penholder who could instantly change the direction and contact of his forehand to either produce a really wide hitting stroke or a really spinny loop. He wasn't even that good, but it really messed me up for the first few balls. I had played around with penholding before, so I knew he had weaknesses due to that, though.

I think the best way to learn to play penholders is to play their style for a bit. See what you can do with it at a slower pace.
 
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Ah, the penhold's traditional BH dead ball.

You should play penholders who spin. Because of the use of the wrist a penholder who does loop can get massive amounts of spin. I guess you just haven't faced that.


Sent from Deep Space by Abacus

Yes, out of the many high leveled penholders we have none of them spin. And the only ones with rpb have long pips on them. The thing is, also all these high level penholders were self taught and have quite a bit of funk on their strokes. It's just sad that this funk is never topspin. So I was looking for any advice or adjustments I could make to make these matchups easier.

I can initiate and attack fairly easily against them but the way they block back my opening loop is more of a chop-block type of block, with good pace. Other shakehander's at my club have said similar things about our penholder's. I had just assumed that they all played sort of like this.

So far the best strategy for me has been either dont attack, just keep chopping and blocking the ball short at angles. Or back the hell off the table if I do want to attack after my opening.
 
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I decided to click view post, knowing that your posts were going to be some nonsense that didn't relate to my actual issues and now I feel the need to comment on them. (I hate my ego for not being able to just ignore you.)




If you hate playing some style, or think it's stupid or un-fun, change your mentality to "I really love playing x style" or "Beating on x style players is really fun" and you might end up becoming really proficient at playing said style.

Same thing goes for learning and performing some strokes you don't like.

I obviously don't think playing a style is stupid or un-fun and don't need to change my mentality toward the style. I'm looking for advice on how to play it better because I want to improve. I'm not just going to tell myself yea keep doing what's not working because it's so fun!


I think the best way to learn to play penholders is to play their style for a bit. See what you can do with it at a slower pace.

Oh okay gotcha! I should try to spend my practice time trying to emulate a self-taught unorthodox penholder's stroke so I can then understand what's coming at me, instead of practicing how to play against that unorthodox stroke. Thanks arch!





If you just feel like posting to post, please do it elsewhere. I made this thread to try and improve myself and if you're just going to be trying to make things difficult or end up derailing the thread like you have in the past, I would really appreciate if you just not post in my thread. Sorry if this is too harsh, uncalled for, or whatever, but i get too much tension from your posts and it's really counter productive to my learning.
 
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Chinese penholders have a switchover point. It's just one of those things that people who don't have the right training can't find easily. It is closer to the elbow or the hip, depending on the particular penholder. You just have to look for it under the armpit and be patient.

The most important strategy I have found when playing penholders is to pull them out of the backhand corner and put the ball back there. If you do that, you will win most of the points.

The "pull them out of the bh corner and then place it there" sounds most helpful, I tend to just go straight for the backhand against them assuming it's weaker but that was clearly the wrong mindset.

Now you say that they DO have a switchover point? Is there a way you can explain this because I'm not seeing how they could have one. When seemiller sr. was explaining different grips he was talking about how his grip and the penhold grip are superior in a way that they DON'T have a switchover point. But he also said it was inferior because the backhand side is lacking.
 
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The "pull them out of the bh corner and then place it there" sounds most helpful, I tend to just go straight for the backhand against them assuming it's weaker but that was clearly the wrong mindset.

Now you say that they DO have a switchover point? Is there a way you can explain this because I'm not seeing how they could have one. When seemiller sr. was explaining different grips he was talking about how his grip and the penhold grip are superior in a way that they DON'T have a switchover point. But he also said it was inferior because the backhand side is lacking.

Everyone has a switchover point. They think they don't because they use the same side of the racket, but they do because there is a point at which they face the racket with one kind of grip and they face the racket with another kind of grip. That is their crossover point and sometimes, they can be just as confused as you are whether to use a forehand or a backhand at that point.

The power/pain of the crossover is in the indecision that you have about what to do at that point and the fact that you don't have leverage at that point - it is something you can train away so the issue is not whether it exists but whether you have trained it away. There is also a point in every grip where it lacks leverage. For penholder and Seemiller it is right on their playing elbow just like shakehanders as if they are in blocking mode, hence the location of the armpit as where to start and to look around there for the transition point. Since most people don't think about playing the ball to find the indecision point, they will never find it.

No matter your grip, it is always awkward to play balls well directed to the other hip (not your playing hip). So that is another elbow, so to speak. Some just call it the wide backhand. but it is an identifiable target if the ball is spun deep.

So don't assume there is no point. Look for it and see if the player has trained it away or not.
 
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Next Level makes a great point. The penhold crossover point is further to the side than for most shakehanders but it absolutely exists! Often it is a bit to the outside of the elbow, around midway between the elbow and the wrist (of the arm holding the blade), and in some cases right at the wrist. I remember the AHA!! moment I had when a coach (Eric Owens) made me understand that. Of course, as with all players, if they are quick and have good anticipation, it is hard to find that spot.

Eric and I used to do a drill in our lessons we called the "I have no middle" drill. We would hit topspin counters only, or 2/3 power loops and all we would do is free-play trying to set up a shot to the cross-over point that was effective. It's a great drill, since you learn to move to avoid being tagged in the middle and how to maneuver the opponent into a situation where you can tag them. You're not hitting too hard.

Eric also taught me how to figure out where the cross over point on a player is. WIth shakehanders you have to first figure out how they hold the paddle (so if they hold with a BH dominant grip in the ready position, the crossover point is also a bit to the outside, like with penholders). He also suggested one or two "accidental" mishits in the warmup to see how they handle balls coming towards the center (for example when you are doing BH counters).
 
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