Simple game-winning hacks that nobody tells you

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I prefer serving long then getting killed on the 2nd ball. Then do my 2nd serve and have the ball bounce right on the edge of the table.
1 for 1 with that tactic, they had to stop play.
There must be some formula that gives the 'true value' of a point, that takes into account the likelihood of a follow-up point after an edge point. Maybe something like:
p=k^n/r
where k is some number >1. E.g. 1.2 and
n is the number of edges scored so far in the match (because frustration grows with incidence) and
r is the mental resilience of the opposition (0-1)
I'm sure @brokenball will be able to fix that proposed formula ;)
 
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Recently I have been trying to work on some simple strategies for my biggest point loser: service return.

There was another thread about this aspect of the game recently. Biggest takeaway from that for me was focusing on the contact point to try and ascertain the spin.

I have added a mental preparation step prior to the opponent serving whereby I visualize a small number of area zones on my side of the table that roughly determine my response (footwork and stroke) and visualize the response for each.
I have found that this helps prevent me getting stuck/surprised and I am more likely to commit to making a positive stroke. I then adjust my zone response according to how I have read the serve spin.
To keep it simple, it looks something like this:
1710736077224.png

Orange is backhand flick.
Green is forehand loop
Blue is one of backhand attack or push.
No color is short push.
Sometimes I will apply a variation to my visualization, such as pivot and loop in blue zone if I think my opponent is going to serve there.
Hope this may be of some help. It might also be relevant to the recent thread about dealing with match nerves.
Cheers, LLS
 
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Recently I have been trying to work on some simple strategies for my biggest point loser: service return.

There was another thread about this aspect of the game recently. Biggest takeaway from that for me was focusing on the contact point to try and ascertain the spin.

I have added a mental preparation step prior to the opponent serving whereby I visualize a small number of area zones on my side of the table that roughly determine my response (footwork and stroke) and visualize the response for each.
I have found that this helps prevent me getting stuck/surprised and I am more likely to commit to making a positive stroke. I then adjust my zone response according to how I have read the serve spin.
To keep it simple, it looks something like this:
View attachment 28797
Orange is backhand flick.
Green is forehand loop
Blue is one of backhand attack or push.
No color is short push.
Sometimes I will apply a variation to my visualization, such as pivot and loop in blue zone if I think my opponent is going to serve there.
Hope this may be of some help. It might also be relevant to the recent thread about dealing with match nerves.
Cheers, LLS

Seth Pech has a video all about this.
The fun part is that, you can change how you cover the table.
25/75 backhand forehand, 50/50 backhand forehand, 75/25 backhand forehand.
This helps take away third balls from your opponent as you adjust your receive.

I for one have a better short game with backhand, so if I want to keep the receive tight, i'll use my backhand on short forehand.

If I expect a longer return, I sit on it with my forehand.
Then you have the 50/50 coverage that harimoto usually applies.
 
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With these hacks more conscious in mind, I went to play 2 1800 players last night. I usually beat these 2 partners anyways, you can't read too much into the score. However I won 6 matches all of them by 3-0.

I consciously was doing the half-long serve trick and I saw repeatedly that the opponent was try to loop my serve, but misjudge the length. I saw over and over that opponent was uncomfortable.

I also consciously was doing the "i dont' know my own spin" serve technique. I also recall winning several points outright, but also I just see the opponent is hesitant because he doesn't quite know how to handle the spin. If it were me, I also wouldn't know how to handle the spin either! I genuinely don't know what spin I am putting on the ball.
 
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What are some other simple but effective serves that are worth learning?

Today I tried to throw in some hook and shovel serves. Wasn't terrible....but I don't think it gives me any particular advantage. My basic pendulum serve and backspin serve feel more effective.

I also can't learn the reverse pendulum. I think my wrist just doesn't have enough strength or control going in the reverse direction. Everytime I attempt reverse pendulum, I just can't get it right.
 
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What are some other simple but effective serves that are worth learning?

Today I tried to throw in some hook and shovel serves. Wasn't terrible....but I don't think it gives me any particular advantage. My basic pendulum serve and backspin serve feel more effective.

I also can't learn the reverse pendulum. I think my wrist just doesn't have enough strength or control going in the reverse direction. Everytime I attempt reverse pendulum, I just can't get it right.
How do you hold your racket ? Is the handle above your wrist or below your wrist ? I hold my racket differently for the reverse pendulum, and the handle is below the wrist.
 
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With these hacks more conscious in mind, I went to play 2 1800 players last night. I usually beat these 2 partners anyways, you can't read too much into the score. However I won 6 matches all of them by 3-0.

I consciously was doing the half-long serve trick and I saw repeatedly that the opponent was try to loop my serve, but misjudge the length. I saw over and over that opponent was uncomfortable.

I also consciously was doing the "i dont' know my own spin" serve technique. I also recall winning several points outright, but also I just see the opponent is hesitant because he doesn't quite know how to handle the spin. If it were me, I also wouldn't know how to handle the spin either! I genuinely don't know what spin I am putting on the ball.
you are very qualified to play anti spin/long pip players,
since no one really knows what spin is going on there
 
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you are very qualified to play anti spin/long pip players,
since no one really knows what spin is going on there
Yes, good point. My hack #1 very much uses the same philosophy as LP players. Confuse your opponent.

Also, if you can produce the spin you want while disguising it, that is probably even better. But that's too hard for me right now.
 
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Yes, good point. My hack #1 very much uses the same philosophy as LP players. Confuse your opponent.

Also, if you can produce the spin you want while disguising it, that is probably even better. But that's too hard for me right now.
so your chop is a top spin, and your top spin is an underspin? you should play sha sha
 
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What are some other simple but effective serves that are worth learning?

Today I tried to throw in some hook and shovel serves. Wasn't terrible....but I don't think it gives me any particular advantage. My basic pendulum serve and backspin serve feel more effective.

I also can't learn the reverse pendulum. I think my wrist just doesn't have enough strength or control going in the reverse direction. Everytime I attempt reverse pendulum, I just can't get it right.
Hook serve is not that easy to learn but it can completely destroy a lot of ppl if you master the fakes well. I would be playing probably 2 levels lower if not for it. You have to overcome a lot of stereotypes and exploit other ppl's stereotypes when designing your serve. I think Craig Bryant has the best tutorial for it at the moment. A lot of other ppl aren't as willing to share their secrets compared to him. But there are still some tricks which I learnt from the WRM channel.

Reverse pendulum is hard on the wrist but is easier to keep short - I used to do it a lot but it was a bit too much for me - the hook serve produces similar spin archetypes and is just physically easier and imo wins me more points. I have a friend who serves excellent reverse pendulum and it can be a nightmare to deal with too esp the version that goes a bit half long on the short FH side - the difference between sidetopspin and sideunderspin can be really subtle. ZJK really exploited this serve to the max.
 
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Hook serve is not that easy to learn but it can completely destroy a lot of ppl if you master the fakes well. I would be playing probably 2 levels lower if not for it. You have to overcome a lot of stereotypes and exploit other ppl's stereotypes when designing your serve. I think Craig Bryant has the best tutorial for it at the moment. A lot of other ppl aren't as willing to share their secrets compared to him. But there are still some tricks which I learnt from the WRM channel.

Reverse pendulum is hard on the wrist but is easier to keep short - I used to do it a lot but it was a bit too much for me - the hook serve produces similar spin archetypes and is just physically easier and imo wins me more points. I have a friend who serves excellent reverse pendulum and it can be a nightmare to deal with too esp the version that goes a bit half long on the short FH side - the difference between sidetopspin and sideunderspin can be really subtle. ZJK really exploited this serve to the max.
I've been testing out the hook serve, but what's so good about this serve? It's basically just side-spin to the right, isn't it?
 
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Over the past few years, I slowly find little tricks and techniques that I didn't know or realize before and nobody really tells you these things. The problem is I often forget the very things that I discovered. So I wanted to make a list of little hacks that I have discovered. This is not a complete list, and I would like to keep adding to the list as it comes to memory. Let me know if you have any little hacks.

1) On serve, do some random serves where you yourself don't even know what spin is on it. The less "clear" your spin is, the harder it is to return. If even you are not sure what spin it is, your opponent won't know either. For example a pendulum serve where you don't commit to underspin or topspin, but just take your chances with whatever it ends up being.

2) On serve, half-long serve is very useful. It is too long for opponent to push short, but it is just short enough to make a loop risky.

3) Somewhat related to #1, but serving dead-ball is unusually effective. Giving heavy underspin invites a simple push return. But serving dead-ball makes it very awkward to return.

4) If you're unsure the spin on the ball, doing a strong loop is often the best choice. A good strong loop will often provide enough arc to cover the range of spin on the ball from underspin to dead ball to light topspin.

5) Doing heavy sidespin serves often comes back to bite you, as your own sidespin is still on the 3rd ball.

6) On receive, looping everything long ball and pushing every short ball is a good starting framework.

7) On receive, receiving with bh is often better than fh. BH gives you more range of motion in a short reaction window, so it's easier to loop or flick a ball with the bh.

8) Because your own spin is on the 3rd ball, it is often much easier to wait for a 5th ball to loop than the 3rd ball. Looping 3rd ball takes special training and awareness, and is much more advanced shot than 5th ball.

9) When blocking, it is much easier to block in a straight line back. If you attempt to block wider than 30 degrees, the ball will often drop into the net.

10) Tacky rubber really makes a huge difference. At first, it seems unimpressive because it slows down the ball. But the extra lift and grab on the ball really helps to loop underspin or to counterloop. In a real game situation, it is very beneficial.
I meant to reply for a while but have not had any time until now.

I don't agree with point #1. After all, what you serve is IMMENSELY important for your third ball attack so if you don't know what spin you put on the serve, then you don't know what is LIKELY to come back. For anyone under USATT 2000, no need to fake your serve. Just spin the ball like you mean it. My two go-to serves when the game is on the line are 1) short heavy backspin serve to the forehand side of the opponent and ready to loop the ball coming back with lots of spin or 2) side heavy topspin to the backhand side or the middle to either win the point outright (because at the clutch time, the opponent is also "tighter" and more likely to hit the ball out) or be ready to counter. My usual serves are heavy backspin v.s. no spin. Just keep on alternating with occasional pure side spine/corkscrew serves. I know every single time what I am serving exactly.

Agree with #2 for opponents above 1700. For opponents below 1700, no point serving half longs. Just serve long and fast and spinny. Good enough.

Agree with #3 ONLY if you alternate between no spin and heavy backspin. If it is no spin, short and slow, people can just flick it to your forehand, middle or backhand because, well, the ball has no spin so the opponents can dictate where to move you in relation to the table. I do that a lot when I return no spin serves. And the shorter the ball is and the more no spin it is, it becomes easier for me to flip at wider angles against the server.

I don't agree with #4 because I use very spinny serves. It is impossible to loop my serve unless you know what spin I put on the ball. However, with new 40+ plastic ball, there is usually not a lot of spin on the serve so if you are not sure, a better way is to pretend it is a no spin serve and loop the heck out of it. That I agree with.

I agree with #5. I used to have trouble with third ball attack because of how much side spin I put on the ball myself (usually side under or side top spin) but I have fixed that issues lately. But to cut down mistakes on my end, I serve a lot of pure backspins. Again it depends on the opponents. If the opponent is 1700 or above, I have to attack on the third ball regardless of the side spin on the ball. If the opponent is 1700 or under, I would sometimes push the third ball to the middle of the table and let the opponent deals with the 4th ball and hope that he/she hits the ball off the side of the table. If you really cannot handle your own side spin, then just loop to the middle of the table with heavy topspin. That's one simple strategy.

I agree with #6 if you know how to loop properly. If you do not know how to loop properly, then no shame in pushing the ball back just to stay in the match.

Ok with #7. My backhand is weak. I can flip easier with my forehand. I was trained in the 1990's. I guess people trained nowadays have better BH's. And I played penhold when I was growing up in the 1990's so forehand flip is pretty intuitive to me.

Agree with #8 depending on your playing level but I can see how it could work for a lot of people. My advice is you can either attack on third ball or attack on fifth ball. You should figure for yourself whether you win more points with either strategy and just try it out.

Not sure about #9. When blocking, don't we usually block cross table in our practice? So wouldn't it be easier for most people to block cross table than down the line?

Agree with #10. My forehand is used to Chinese tacky rubber. I don't know how to use anything else.

Side comments. I do not have a reverse pendulum serve. I don't see the need for one. Between sidespin, backspin, topspin, side topspin, no spin etc. Long serve, short serve, half long serve, etc. Serving to the middle, to the forehand, to the backhand, etc. There is no need to acquire a reverse pendulum serve. There is enough variation as it is.

I also do not have a shovel serve or hook serve. I did play against one recently and I had trouble receiving it. I think with hook serve, it is easier to disguise backspin v.s. no spin. I kept on popping the ball up!

As for simple game hacks, for players under 1700 or even 2000, you can just serve long and fast, alternating between no spin, little backspin v.s. little topspin, and sending them to both corners. Just be ready to either counter fast or smack the heck out of the ball when it comes back. We have a 2000 level player in the club doing that every single time. If you are really strong at countering, simple serve like this is great!!!!

If you are a looper, then serving short and half long heavy backspin should just be your bread and butter. Spin the heck out of the third ball. If you vary the placement of your heavy backspin, most people cannot flip it anyway.

In other words, you gotta know what your game strength is so you know what to serve.

Heavy fast side topspin should be part of your repertoire. It will really win you a lot of points here and there.
 
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I've been testing out the hook serve, but what's so good about this serve? It's basically just side-spin to the right, isn't it?
You should watch Craig Bryant's video or the Sun Ting video (if you know Chinese) first. You're way underestimating the complexity and variation possible.
 
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You should watch Craig Bryant's video or the Sun Ting video (if you know Chinese) first. You're way underestimating the complexity and variation possible.
if one doesn't understand spin, not able to generate spin, not able to feel the spin, then i'm not sure how watching more videos would work
tb may think he is doing top spin, but it is going out as under.... so....how would that help? lol
 
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Focusing on the emotions of your opponent helps me stay in the moment instead of thinking about my own emotions.

... as I am a really introverted and kinda autistic guy, I have a hard time picking up on the vibe of other people, so focusing on this has helpen me a lot to break the rythm of my opponent.

Putting your nerves into your legs is also another great tip.

The occasional long fast serve is really effective if you are able to tune into the tension of your opponent.
 
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if one doesn't understand spin, not able to generate spin, not able to feel the spin, then i'm not sure how watching more videos would work
tb may think he is doing top spin, but it is going out as under.... so....how would that help? lol
Agree!

I don't have a hook serve but from what I can tell is that hook serve allows you to do backspin v.s. topspin very easily (or very easily if you master it). That's why WCQ uses hook serve whenever he needs to score a point either when he is down or he is about to finish the set or the match. WCQ is not stupid; he is saving his hook serve for when he really really needs it.

I personally do not have a hook serve. I don't have a reverse pendulum serve either; that was not very popular when I was growing up in the 1990's. I have watched Craig Bryant's serve video's on Instagram. He makes reverse pendulum look so easy but at this point, I do not have the time to spend hundred's and literally thousand's of hours on learning it.

How I learned how to serve very well was because I grew up with a table tennis table in the basement (who did not grow up with either a table tennis table or a pool table in the basement in Canada?). My sister did not and had no interest in table tennis. My parents bought a knocked-off Newgy-type robot from Taiwan and brought it to our home in Canada. I could only play so much against a robot before I got bored. So I just practiced how to serve....over and over again. Sometimes 30 minutes a day. sometimes 45 minutes a day. By myself.

So what happened was from when I was rated from USATT range of 1100 to 1700, my opponents just kept on telling me that I have a 2000+ level serve and why does the rest of my game not up to par? I just politely smiled and moved onto the next match. What is there to say? I was alone and I had nothing to do but to practice serve over and over again.

My serve is mostly pendulum serve with also a good backhand serve. My pendulum serve consists of heavy backspin (my main serve), heavy back-side spin, light backspin/no spin, heavy pure side spin (I use that mostly against garage players or lower rated players to score free points), average side/top spin serve. Then I vary it fast to opponent's backhand CORNER (like hitting the corner), middle, and forehand CORNER. Varied it with short serve that double bounces to, again, forehand, middle and backhand.

My backhand serve is not as varied as my forehand serve but about 75% of the level. So good enough. When I take out my backhand serve, my goal is to vary side/backspin and side/topspin to the far backhand corner of the opponents to confuse them. Then I would serve down the line, either fast long or slow short to keep my opponent off balance.

I never, ever need to serve the same serve twice (unless I see a weakness where the opponents keeps on dumping my heavy backspin and heavy side/backspin into the net, then I will keep on serving that with occasional fast topspin serve to break my opponent's psyche early in the match). I just don't need to serve the same serve twice in a row.

Ok fast forward to today. I am still playing in the club. And I am sick of teaching people how to serve. Everyone from beginning to the intermediate level is asking me (and other players) the "simple game-winning hacks that nobody tells you." I keep on telling them, work on your serve! At the minimum 30 minutes everyday at the club. There are buckets and buckets of balls to practice serve with. Just serve against the Newgy robot at the club and use that net to collect the balls. Then do it again. In 30 minutes, you should go through at least a few hundred balls!!!!

But noooooo. No one wants to spend the time. And they are complaining to me how anxious they are about the upcoming tournament and they need to "practice' forehand-to-forehand and backhand-to-backhand before the tournament comes. I am like, "What the heck?" You practice those things every single day at the club. Then you play matches after that. What is the point of that? Practice how to serve!!!!!

I would teach them how to serve. They practice for 10 minutes. Then they do NOT ever practice it again.

I see the main issues with these players not progressing in serve in the following:

1) they do NOT allow the ball to drop to the net level or even lower the net level to strike the ball. When you strike the ball too high (i..e. above the net), the serve will be bouncing high and you cannot serve a fast serve due to the ball falling beyond the end of the table. However when you toss the ball up and when the ball comes down, it accelerates due to gravity (that's physics 101). So you have to be patient but yet be speedy enough in your motion to catch the ball and hit the ball at the net level or even below the net level. Many many people do not have that timing and do not spend time (no pun intended) learn that timing. If you cannot over this issue #1, your serve will never ever be good, regardless of how good of a player you are.

2) they do NOT learn how to brush the ball lightly. It is a bit like learning how to loop. The key is to brush the ball lightly. The key is do NOT care if the ball goes in or out of the table. Just like when you first learn how to loop, learning how to serve by brushing the ball lightly and NOT caring if the ball is on the table or not is an important key.

Once you master those two main issues, the rest is up to you. It is like everyone loops differently (like Ma Long's forehand is very different from Timo Boll's forehand and both are correct). Everyone also serves differently. But just as long as you overcome the two main issues above, you will start figuring out how to serve properly in your own way with your own motions and win lots of easy points.
 
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The single biggest advice I could give to anyone is to GO IN DEPTH.
Meaning dig deep into 1 part of the game.
Become your own sort of master at that part.
The more you do it, the better you get at it, the more fun and enjoyable the process becomes and the more you do of it ... .
Once you do that, your understanding and thoughts about the game overall will drastically go up.
You will be able to transfer knowledge and skills to other parts of the game.
It goes beyond just:
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
For TT:
I fear not the man who has practiced FH, BH Loop, flip, block, serve and smash 100 times each, but I fear the man who has practiced one his pendulum serves 10,000 times, and is now able to apply his deep knowledge and advanced skills into his game."
By practicing 1 kick - or serve variation or whatever you wanna put here - 10,000 times, you gain something invaluable and irreplaceable, something that the "normal" person doesnt gain.

Serves are the easiest to practice 10000 times, as they require no help and barely and setup.
To practice Forehand Loops 10000 times you need some more things.

For me it was also serves and pushes and overall playing with (under-)spin, much more than the others did.
My level of pendulum serves, underspin gameplay and its variations is quite high ( relatively speaking), especially compared to my other skills and those of my partners and competitors.
Right now I wanna go in-depth on Forehand Loop, so that I can do it as well as or even better than my serves and pushes ( which is hard ).
The more I train it, the more I realize what there is still to learn.

Most people, and especially younger players wanna do a lot of things, and get "good" at them.
That leads to being 30% good at everything and thinking youre at 80%.

So again:
Go In-Depth in your TT Aspect of your choice.
Go and do "Deep Work" on it.
You will be greatly rewarded.
 
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Over the past few years, I slowly find little tricks and techniques that I didn't know or realize before and nobody really tells you these things. The problem is I often forget the very things that I discovered. So I wanted to make a list of little hacks that I have discovered. This is not a complete list, and I would like to keep adding to the list as it comes to memory. Let me know if you have any little hacks.

1) On serve, do some random serves where you yourself don't even know what spin is on it. The less "clear" your spin is, the harder it is to return. If even you are not sure what spin it is, your opponent won't know either. For example a pendulum serve where you don't commit to underspin or topspin, but just take your chances with whatever it ends up being.

2) On serve, half-long serve is very useful. It is too long for opponent to push short, but it is just short enough to make a loop risky.

3) Somewhat related to #1, but serving dead-ball is unusually effective. Giving heavy underspin invites a simple push return. But serving dead-ball makes it very awkward to return.

4) If you're unsure the spin on the ball, doing a strong loop is often the best choice. A good strong loop will often provide enough arc to cover the range of spin on the ball from underspin to dead ball to light topspin.

5) Doing heavy sidespin serves often comes back to bite you, as your own sidespin is still on the 3rd ball.

6) On receive, looping everything long ball and pushing every short ball is a good starting framework.

7) On receive, receiving with bh is often better than fh. BH gives you more range of motion in a short reaction window, so it's easier to loop or flick a ball with the bh.

8) Because your own spin is on the 3rd ball, it is often much easier to wait for a 5th ball to loop than the 3rd ball. Looping 3rd ball takes special training and awareness, and is much more advanced shot than 5th ball.

9) When blocking, it is much easier to block in a straight line back. If you attempt to block wider than 30 degrees, the ball will often drop into the net.

10) Tacky rubber really makes a huge difference. At first, it seems unimpressive because it slows down the ball. But the extra lift and grab on the ball really helps to loop underspin or to counterloop. In a real game situation, it is very beneficial.
I would encourage you to keep thinking and keep applying your thought process in your game. As you experiment and become a better player, it would not only improve your skills but will also change your perspective. When that happens, the list which you shared above would change.
There is no shortcut to this exercise, even a coach or a mentor can help you by giving you tips, but then it is just jumping some hoops and getting on a track with a given framework in place. If you start without a mentor, then you need to do all the leg work on your own and I see where this list is coming from. So, don't get discouraged. There would be better players who might have been at the same spot earlier but just don't remember, so they might not agree with your statements but it's your game end of the day. If whatever you do but you make the ball land on the other side of the table then it's not wrong in my opinion but I am not a high rated player, so depends on your goals and how you visualize yourself as a player down the road.
I really like people who approach a situation with a learner's mindset and are not afraid to share their thoughts. So great work, keep going and keep learning!
 
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