Tactics to beat a much stronger player

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Hi all

I just posted my new blog post - "Tactics to beat a much stronger player"

You can read it here: http://www.tabletenniscoach.me.uk/tactics-beat-much-stronger-player/

So what I would like to ask you is: have you ever caused a major upset in a league match or tournament, by beating a much stronger player? If so, how did you do it? What tactics did you use?

Tom
 
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I went 1-2 in matches last night vs a player who is rated higher than me.

He's a balanced player who is simply more consistent and what I'd call a controlled player. If the point goes longer, chances are I'm making an error more than him.

I play aggressive anyways but if I'm playing an opponent much better than me, I generally look to keep rallies short play aggressive. It falls in line with a tip from a book I'm reading Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.

Think of it this way. if you were playing someone better than you, would you like your chances more if you played a game to 2? Or to 21? 2 right? Because you might hit a couple of good shots, they might miss and then it's over. But if you play to 21, then that's more time for them to exert their overall skill dominance & experience over you. So in a sense that's what I go for in shortening points and shortening the game.

Conversely, if I'm playing someone lower than me, I can play a little more relaxed and conservative knowing they'll probably make a mistake before me. You just have that confidence that the point will go in your favor.
 
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I twice played a guy 200 points above me in tounaments, a short pimple penholder with heavy push and good forehand smash. I could never beat him in club. I actually didn't play risky like people here recommend. By contrary I played a control game with pushing if he pushed too hard then control loop the lighter push. I'd try to push as low to top of the net as much as possible so if he smashed it was possible to counter loop by BH and FH. I was pretty calm during the matches and he got nervous and started to make more mistake.

There are coaches who are very good at telling what weakness the higher rating player has so that you can exploit it. Bring them to tournament if you could.
 
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My tactics: first of all its a good idea to know your oponent's style, advanteges and weakneses, mentality, mood and behaviour beforehand. Its always a plus for you, provided that if you oponent is much better than you, he would hardly be familiar with what you are.
Know well what you can do and you can not.
Know well what your set up can do and what it can not.
Knowing that above, if you can play something the best with some of your setups, and you know that exactly this may help you against exactly this oponent, just use the proper setup and try to move the game towerds what you need.
I'm not a best player, but have used that tactics against many much better than me with good success. I don't win too often against much better, but I've always had the fun of being competitive enough.
I have 3 setups. My main is not excelling much in lot of things, but it excells in that it can do everything, at least every thing I can do. I use it against better much agressive middle and longer distance players and the majority of unknown ones. Usually I try to respond in an unexpected way. For example the first ball I should attack hard /and I feel they are ready for that/ I chop sharp-straight-and-low with the ball brushing the table sometimes knockink twice.
My second setup is best for heavy topspin, drives and blocks and is very fast and reliable at mid distance. I use it against close OFFs and ALLs, trying to push them back and aside of the table.
My third setup I use when I don't know what else to do. It's an arrogant brutal blood-spitted direct dead smasher, intended to show you have the spark in the eyes and enough material in the balls to use it. Not much helpfull, but with pleasure.
 
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Catch that person on a bad day?

Ok. Practical advice.

Resist the temptation to overplay shots. Don't give up easy points, try to make that person beat you, don't beat yourself. If you can hang in there maybe they will get nervous and choke. So try to keep it close.

There will be some players enough bettsr that you have no chance. So just try to enjoy the experience.
 
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I agree, Baal. That is a concept of playing the game that I am just now adhering to. If they serve and return in the style that suits my playing where I have an easier time being aggressive, then I'll rock it almost everytime, however, there are players who's lack of speed throw my timing off and I just have to take a deep breath and work at playing consistently and sometimes very defensively.
 
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Catch that person on a bad day?

Ok. Practical advice.

Resist the temptation to overplay shots. Don't give up easy points, try to make that person beat you, don't beat yourself. If you can hang in there maybe they will get nervous and choke. So try to keep it close.

There will be some players enough bettsr that you have no chance. So just try to enjoy the experience.

Well, it depends on what level and what style your opponent is. I've only played stronger attackers, can't say much about choppers. But second league level and above playing safe shots isn't really an option, they will kill the ball. (I'm speaking about when you're weaker than that level. If you are good enough, you can play safe shots, but it's not 'much stronger' then). Plus a player is stronger when he is more consistent. If you really want to play safe and you can't keep short and low enough your pushes, try doing heavy opening loops. In my experience, strong players like to RIP those and they miss it more often than backspin balls. If they just block/drive it, you can go full offensive.
 
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But second league level and above playing safe shots isn't really an option, they will kill the ball. (I'm speaking about when you're weaker than that level. If you are good enough, you can play safe shots, but it's not 'much stronger' then). Plus a player is stronger when he is more consistent.

Yes, that's my experience too. Playing safe against a much stronger opponent has never worked for me. I just give them the chance to attack first and then the game slips by very quickly. As others have said in this thread, and I say in the blog post, I think a better approach is to take a few risks and try to give them something to worry about.
 
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I kind of feel like Baal’s first piece, (catch the player on a bad day and on a good day for you) is really the most accurate thing I can think of.

Against a better player you can try to be more aggressive and they could just pick you apart as a result. Trying to be too conservative can have the same result.

But sometimes you just walk out there and your head is in the right place and theirs is not and you are able to see a little more of the chinks in their armor and take advantage of them.

One time I was training with Michael Landers. He was teaching me stuff. And this guy from Brazil walked up and wanted to play with us. We explained Michael was giving me a lesson. But we let the guy play a best of three match with each of us.

This guy was a LP chop blocker who was about 2300 (USATT rating). That is a good 500 rating points higher than me.

I took the first game. Almost took the second game. He got it to deuce. And then he had a handle on what I was doing to him. Also, perhaps he started being more warmed up. [emoji2] So in the third game he won a little more comfortably.

I am pretty decent against LP. But I really can’t beat someone that much higher level than me without a few things going my way.

When we were done and Mike and played him (Mike didn’t really have to put his game face on to control the guy and do whatever he wanted), Mike told me that my biggest problem was that I was too impatient and too aggressive when I didn’t need to be. That controlling the points with spin, placement and more well thought out game tactics could get me to be 200-400 points higher level very easily.

So, I think what Baal said about tactics for against a higher level player actually makes sense.

But still, the most important thing is, the first thing Baal said. [emoji2]


Sent from The Subterranean Workshop by Telepathy
 
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Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the discussion so far. I appreciate the thoughtful responses and different perspectives. It's a good reminder that there are different ways to play (and succeed) at table tennis. And that's what makes it so compelling to play.

I have added a link to this discussion at the bottom of my blog post: http://www.tabletenniscoach.me.uk/tactics-beat-much-stronger-player/
 
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The problem is they are much stronger for a reason, so you kind of have to pick your poison. But if the difference in level is within a range where there is a low chance that I could win, say 1 in 20, then I will make them beat me as I said above and I prefer to not beat myself. Most of the time that won't work. After all, the opponent is better. So how is the bext way to put yourself in a position where that very rare miracle hapoens?

The very small number of times I have overcome those odds it was because I served and returned serve unusually well (!!) and kept pressure on by playing a consistent third ball, and then the opponent got a bit nervous and choked. I didn't make it easy by overplaying and making dumb mistakes, especially early in the point. Every time, I won the first game, which helps generate nervousness. I think that is important. They have to be playing badly too, and maybe that contributes to nerves.

But of course if my chance of winning is 1 in a 1000 or 0, then nothing I do will matter, so might as well blast away -- or not. How you choose to lose then becomes a matter of taste.
 
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Yes you cant be passive but you have to try to extend every point to the fifth ball on their serve, and your third ball on your serve has to be consistent and meaningful.
 
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Look at his/her foot position, if they can move. If they have a good FH, go to wide FH and block to BH. If they step around, block cross court and be ready to block back to BH corner. If they are ready for every short serve, then serve fast/deep. Take a few risks, go for spin. Hit if high. Use soft hands and firm hands. try to take ball off bounce. Take initiative where possible, go for heavy spin. Flip a serve and bump one short... if you can read it.

If you cannot read the serves, bend over, you got it coming to you, still you can try to attack a particular serve that troubles you, you might land it and discourage them from using it again.
 
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Change tempo, change impact. Change spins. Make ball NOT kick out so much when they step back. Change hand pressure on receive and let them miss a shot or two or three and get pissed off. Feed that troll. Wash your laundry. Pay your taxes. Discover how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
 
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