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 Post subject: Questioning the Logic
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2014, 00:12 
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I was practicing against one of the top players in the club one evening this week. He's a fast, counter-attacking J-Pen player (currently with SP). I was playing with my Dr Evil setup. I found I was retrieving a good amount of his shots, and getting plenty of chop when required. We didn't play any matches - he'd thrash me anyway, but I felt I was doing OK.

The head coach came across and said to me: I question the logic of your choice....

1) Can you generate lots of spin, and spin variety, to upset his rhythm?
2) Can you consistently hit it long with topspin?

Then are you just hoping you can wear him out?

Well... kinda. But he has a point. I enjoy retrieving and defending with this combo, and I seem to be able to get a remarkable amount back, but I can't get much spin on a serve, or generate much topspin or sidespin. Pretty much all I can do is chop and block. Pushes tend to go rather high. Maybe that's fine - I like that game - but is it rather limiting? Or do I just need to learn to use it better?

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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2014, 00:48 
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For me, the most important part of your message is : "I enjoy retrieving and defending with this combo", so keep it. ;)

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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2014, 02:34 
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Question 2 just seems silly. That's not what that setup is about.

Q 1 is possible.
I've played a full time hardbatter who could chop sponge loops back very heavy then throw in a float ball that I couldn't read at all.
Very frustrating to struggle to get 2 loops over the net then have the 3rd go 10 feet long!

If our setup is not used by anybody in the world top 10 then it probably is imposing a theoretical limit on us.
The thing is the limit set by our natural (lack of) talents is probably much lower than that anyway.

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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2014, 09:54 
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I suppose you could tell him you weren't EXPECTING to win the match!

When I'm up against the big guns, I know I don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning the match, but if I could even win one game, or get a game to deuce, or get more than 5 points off them, its a small victory, and maybe I can get a bit better the next time.

Q1 - sure, take whatever he gives you, change it or don't and send it back to someplace hard to get to

Q2 - sure, you can do it with most underspin balls and some nospin balls, if you want to

The reality is I usually just make too many mistakes before they do, though, and lose.

Maybe it boils down to if you are playing with hardbat to get used to it, or just like to, what's wrong with it? People make fun of my pips all the time, but I've spent months trying inverted on both sides and just didn't play well, and wasn't having any fun as a result.

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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2014, 13:52 
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Another "coach", another comment...

If you like it stick with it. Maybe in a few months, you'll become so good at it you'll whip the JP and then the "coach"...

I play with these (grumpy) old guys at the a condo every fridays and most mondays over 5 years now and they laugh at my pips at the beginning. But as I started practicing and OOAKing, and playing at other places with different people and experiencing different styles, its all about how you master your own equipment and not someone eleses projections... they dont laugh at me any more, infact every since I've gone to pips both sides and shown how i can smash through anyspin with my fh, they are a little bit more cautious of their words now...

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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2014, 14:51 
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LordCope wrote:
1) Can you generate lots of spin, and spin variety, to upset his rhythm?

Well... kinda. But he has a point. I enjoy retrieving and defending with this combo, and I seem to be able to get a remarkable amount back, but I can't get much spin on a serve, or generate much topspin or sidespin. Pretty much all I can do is chop and block. Pushes tend to go rather high. Maybe that's fine - I like that game - but is it rather limiting? Or do I just need to learn to use it better?


A couple of things...

(a): I remember seeing a clip of you playing and you did appear to be quite a consistent retriever however I think I might be able to understand at least the first part of what the coach is trying to say (I don't understand the second part). Getting the ball consistently back on the table is the first step to becoming an accomplished defender and you have done well there. The next step is that you have to be more proactive with your chops. From memory most of your chops were made with a relatively slow swing and as a result they were mainly floats or at best only had a minimal amount of backspin. You need to start being more aggressive when you chop and you need to use much faster bat speed in order to develop a heavy chop. Once you can do this you then develop a float and in doing so you will have added another dimension to your game. (Note: unless your heavy chop is actually heavy your float will be ineffective.)

(b): If you don't mind me saying, you need to stop viewing your game through the equipment you are using. Your current rubber is more than fine for generating topspin, sidespin and spin on serve. If you are struggling in this area it is a technique/practice issue not an equipment one. The same goes for your pushes going too high - simply practice pushing until they no longer go high!

P.S. - throw 2 of your set-ups away and just keep one. At this early stage TT is a very tough game to learn with the usual single set-up. Having 3 set-ups just unnecessarily makes the task that much harder.


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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2014, 23:12 
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Thanks for the input!

You're absolutely right about my action - I don't get anywhere nearly enough spin on my chops (or serves), and the result is that while I can retrieve the ball, I don't make it difficult enough for the opponent. At any level of competence above novice, most players can answer returns an unreturnable drive, either because of force, angle or spin. Of course not always, otherwise my previous statement that "I can retrieve the ball" wouldn't make sense... but retrieving the ball 3 times and then getting smashed off the table doesn't help me win any points :)

I certainly need to work on generating more spin with a faster, more viscous action, but without hitting the ball long.

One of the main challenges with 'the coach' (who is a very nice chap, a good coach (judging by results), and very experienced) is that, as is so often the case, coaching consists of topspin drives and loops, with everyone else. My equipment isn't really suited to this mainstream approach, so I either frustrate my partner, or end up reaching into the kit bag for double inverted for the session, only to find it wasn't ever so relevant to my hardhat / defensive game.

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PostPosted: 16 Mar 2014, 12:41 
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bcbcbc wrote:
Question 2 just seems silly. That's not what that setup is about.

Q 1 is possible.
I've played a full time hardbatter who could chop sponge loops back very heavy then throw in a float ball that I couldn't read at all.
Very frustrating to struggle to get 2 loops over the net then have the 3rd go 10 feet long!

If our setup is not used by anybody in the world top 10 then it probably is imposing a theoretical limit on us.
The thing is the limit set by our natural (lack of) talents is probably much lower than that anyway.


Damn bcbcbc... I haven't seen you or your bad-azz Dogbert friend holding a bat in a long-azz time !! Howz it hangin' ??

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PostPosted: 16 Mar 2014, 13:02 
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hey Lord Cope...

Nothing wrong with playing a retrieving style. The more playing styles in this sport, the better off we are. Even if there is not a retriever in the WR top 30 last time I checked, why should that stop anyone from playing that style?

Retrievers get their points by continually getting the ball back time and time again. many of them deliberately bring the ball back high daring the opponent to smash full power to finish the point only to have the ball come back and have to attack it again and again (hopefully off balance or out of position) If the retriever fails to get the ball to land back deep, he is in trouble. Too many possible angles open up and also if too shallow, opponent can smash it over your head and unless you have an NBA (US Basketball) leaping ability, it is point over. Retrievers usually have great ability to their sides and many can use sidespin to control the topspin and bring it back tricky. When retriever can keep landing it back deep, retriever is in control of the rally, even if attacker thinks otherwise.

Now this J-pen SP player, he isn't exactly going to be spinning the cover off the ball with that SP rubber. He might be able to topspin, but nothing like the same level of player with modern inverted rubber. That is one factor in why you are not getting back a lot of chop spin if you were trying that. Another thing consider is that Dr Evil isn't exactly the grippiest of rubbers out there and in OX, it simply isn't going to chop your opponents down with spin. You stroke impact has a lot to do with that as well.

Still, making overwhelming underspin by itself isn't going to win you a lot of points. If you are using a sponged LP vs a spinny player, or are chopping with inverted rubber, you can make that heavy underspin and it nicely sets you up when you kill spin instead of add to it or create it. SO... I wouldn't sweat too much whether you can spin it with the best. Your objective as a retriever is to keep the ball on the table, keep it deep, try to side spin it to make last second adjustments from opponent, and fish him down or kill his spin and fool him. The SP is less reactive ot spin, so if he is hitting through the ball forward stroke, at his level, he is not going to miss a lot. Don't count on winning a lot of points vs that level of player, simply have fun vs him and practice moving to the ball, getting a quality hit on it, and controlling the depth of your returns with some light sidespin. You will be amazed at what a little side-swipe at impact can do to control a fast, spinny loop.

As for coach's second concern, hitting it back with topspin isn't your goal with being a retriever, you are stepping back to retrieve. There is nothing wrong with occasionally fishing one back to his wide FH, knowing he will go crosscourt to smash, so you be ready to countersmash one! Nothing wrong with that. Heck, it is a blast just to try it and miss! Still, having a close to the table attack gives an opponent something to worry about and make him a little jittery to give you an easy ball, it make make him play a little more tense, which works out for you. heck, you don't have a care in the world... you are retriever extrodinaire! you are out the there to bring everything back and snicker like Muttley when opponent tries to smash and fails to land it!

As for pushes going high, your bat angle is too open given that ball. If you are playing the SP guy, he isn't making super heavy underspin, and is probably at his level a master of hand pressure at impact and is able to kill any spin to make a knuckleball float look like underspin. That can fool you, so OK, you learn and get better.

Using the bat you have, you can reach a decent level if you work at it right.

One of our KFTTC members from France uses a thin sponged SP/SP on an ALL+ blade. He can create some spin, but is a great player at playing close to the table and hitting through everything off the bounce and still land it. You wouldn't believe the pressure he puts on hotshot loopers!!

A retriever when he retrieves isn't putting macho man pressure on the attacker, but if the quality of the retrieve is good, there is a cumulative effect that pressures the opponent to try attacking harder when that is the wrong way to go about it. A retriever keeps bringing the ball back to make attacker impatient and go for the wrong shot the wrong way.

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PostPosted: 16 Mar 2014, 13:08 
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The club I left had a retriever (C-Pen dude !) who could also suddenly attack on both wings. Used inverted rubbers both sides. he usually served long, allowed you to open, and tried to wear you out with his consistency, and his nice deep placement with sidespin to make it worse for me. If you gave him a loose ball, he might just reset and cut it back to you, but he might attack it. You attack to his BH, he might retrieve, but he might counter it too. That gave you something to think about as an attacker to make sure you made a good shot. That might get some attackers to be over-conscious and tentative - exactly what retriever would want. it was ALWAYS fun to play vs him, because if you wanted to avoid a 20 hit smash retrieve rally, you would have to use a shot or two to setup a finish into his body or wide angle. Retrievers have notorious good ability to get to balls on their wings. Playing as a retriever has got to b a blast for both the player and the ones watching. Maybe the opponent thinks opposite and is cursing just a bit haha.

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PostPosted: 01 Aug 2014, 08:23 
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Another frustrating 'coach' discussion. Different coach. This time the fellow who has been leading the basics training I arranged for my club. He took me to one side and said he was concerned my hardbat setup was self-limiting: Yes, it gives me plenty of control, and at div 5 level, I'll probably get some good results, but soon I'll plateau, because I:

- can't generate enough spin
- can't introduce enough variation
- have only one way to play
- good players will suss me out and just hit and spin me out of the game
- and I'll get pissed off and blame myself

Well-intentioned, I know but still...

1) I can actually generate quite a bit of spin, and it's linear - the more effort I put in the more spin I get. Sure not as much as inverted, but still a fair amount.
2) I can introduce a lot of variation - I can slow the point down or speed it up, have some delicate touches and unexpected hits. Sure not as much as with inverted on one side, but still a fair amount.
3) I definitely don't have only one way to play. ATM my game is built on superior control, consistency, patience and retrieving, with fierce attacking when needed. But I can mix up - attack, block close to the table, back off and chop, and variations therein.
4) I have no doubt that elite players will be able to work me out... and I have no doubt that at the pure arms race level, hardbat is no match for inverted and sponge, but it's fun, and more than enough for me to play well at local league level. I relish the challenge of out-thinking, being fitter, faster, cleverer, and beating folk with hardbat - it's part of the fun!
5) Handling my losses psychologically is something I need to work on anyway....

So... thanks for the advice, but I'm happy as I am, thank you.

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PostPosted: 01 Aug 2014, 09:43 
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bcbcbc wrote:
If our setup is not used by anybody in the world top 10 then it probably is imposing a theoretical limit on us.
The thing is the limit set by our natural (lack of) talents is probably much lower than that anyway.
That is a great point and I know it will always apply in my case. In fact, I would stretch that "10" to a much larger number and it would still apply to me. The benefit of this is that should let most players dismiss any worries about it and go with what Francis said:
Francis wrote:
For me, the most important part of your message is : "I enjoy retrieving and defending with this combo", so keep it. ;)


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PostPosted: 01 Aug 2014, 17:35 
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LordCope wrote:
Another frustrating 'coach' discussion. Different coach. This time the fellow who has been leading the basics training I arranged for my club. He took me to one side and said he was concerned my hardbat setup was self-limiting: Yes, it gives me plenty of control, and at div 5 level, I'll probably get some good results, but soon I'll plateau, because I:

- can't generate enough spin
- can't introduce enough variation
- have only one way to play
- good players will suss me out and just hit and spin me out of the game
- and I'll get pissed off and blame myself

Well-intentioned, I know but still...

1) I can actually generate quite a bit of spin, and it's linear - the more effort I put in the more spin I get. Sure not as much as inverted, but still a fair amount.
2) I can introduce a lot of variation - I can slow the point down or speed it up, have some delicate touches and unexpected hits. Sure not as much as with inverted on one side, but still a fair amount.
3) I definitely don't have only one way to play. ATM my game is built on superior control, consistency, patience and retrieving, with fierce attacking when needed. But I can mix up - attack, block close to the table, back off and chop, and variations therein.
4) I have no doubt that elite players will be able to work me out... and I have no doubt that at the pure arms race level, hardbat is no match for inverted and sponge, but it's fun, and more than enough for me to play well at local league level. I relish the challenge of out-thinking, being fitter, faster, cleverer, and beating folk with hardbat - it's part of the fun!
5) Handling my losses psychologically is something I need to work on anyway....

So... thanks for the advice, but I'm happy as I am, thank you.

If you are enjoying playing with a hardbat then by all means go for it and have fun - no one is going to argue against this. It is hard to get beyond a certain level (and it can be frustrating facing players beyond a certain level) but it can be very enjoyable up to a point. In saying this though, most of what your coach says is correct.

1 - You cant generate enough spin. Sure it is possible to chop modestly heavy against a loop but that is the end of it - there is not enough friction to do anything effective.
2 - For the same reason as above, you can't introduce enough variation. For instance, if you are pushing/chopping a backspin ball the most your can do is apply fairly mild backspin and so mixing this shot with a float will bear little fruit because the difference between your chop and your float is next to nothing. If however you chop with inverted then the backspin is far heavier and so the introduction of a float will be far more successful. The same argument can be put for spin serving with hardbat. Also, against even a modestly experienced player 'slowing down and speeding up' is fairly meaningless as there are softer and faster shots in any rally. Besides, I suspect that 'slowing down and speeding up' is not the sort of variation your coach was thinking of.
3 - In regards to only one way to play, hardbat is quite limiting - this is a fact. The range of strokes and the situations you can play them in is narrow. 'superior control, consistency, patience' are not different ways to play. Yes you can 'retrieve' and yes you can 'attack' (fierce or otherwise) but thats it and the attacking component is limited. Any attack against a decent topspin is extremely difficult and/or erratic. The bulk of your attacking has to be done against backspin balls.

I used to love playing hardbat and, back in the days when they used to hold it, I actually won a state hardbat championship. However, one still should be sober in one's appraisal of its pros and cons. What your coach said was, on the whole, pretty much correct. If you are happy to stay in Division 5 then that is fine but if you go to his coaching then its reasonable to assume that you want to improve. Your coaches job is to help you improve and, if he is a decent and experienced coach, he will know what it takes for your to get to a higher level. Judging what he says by what works in Division 5 is the wrong approach. If you want to improve you have to do the things that work at a higher level, a level that you are currently not at. There is so much more to learn that you won't become aware of until you try to climb to a higher level. If you want to get there it may pay to to have more faith in what your coach says. :)


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PostPosted: 02 Aug 2014, 15:15 
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In all honesty, unless you're an elite player, your own ability will plateau before your equipment starts to hold you back. I'm assuming the people that beat you while you're using hardbat will also beat you if you're using inverted, LP, or whatever.

I played hardbat as a kid until my dad found a club and the president switched me over to sponge so he could coach me the "right" way. Although I became reasonably good, I didn't have as much fun and stopped playing for several years until after high school. I heard the same things about how hardbat is for basement players and amateurs while a proper setup has inverted on both sides.

In any case, I play at least as well with hardbat and have quite a bit more fun in the process; I like being able to feel the ball with each hit and putting my whole body into strokes. I highly doubt I would be playing at a higher level if I stuck with sponge. Maybe if I start pushing the elite level, I'll question whether or not I need to change.

Basically, your choice of equipment will only become limiting if and when you reach the top levels of the sport. Until then, just have fun and use whatever feels the best or gives you the best workout.

carbonman wrote:
In regards to only one way to play, hardbat is quite limiting - this is a fact. The range of strokes and the situations you can play them in is narrow. 'superior control, consistency, patience' are not different ways to play. Yes you can 'retrieve' and yes you can 'attack' (fierce or otherwise) but thats it and the attacking component is limited. Any attack against a decent topspin is extremely difficult and/or erratic. The bulk of your attacking has to be done against backspin balls.


I agree and somewhat disagree with this; personally I find topspin balls the easiest to attack, and it's much easier to smash through them than with inverted. I would define hardbat as a jack of all trades, but master of none as opposed to a narrow "one way to play"; it has a broad variety of ways you can play with it, but it doesn't really shine in any one application.

Sure, you obviously can't loop as well as with inverted, but you can loop. You can lift backspin balls, smash topspin balls, chop, block, etc., so there are plenty of options available to you. It only becomes limiting at the highest levels of the sport, and there are hardbat players here in the U.S. rated over 2000, with better in Europe. I'm sure the Chinese could introduce a niche hardbat division in the children they train and produce hardbat players that beat much of the world.

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PostPosted: 02 Aug 2014, 18:17 
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abdulmuhsee wrote:
In all honesty, unless you're an elite player, your own ability will plateau before your equipment starts to hold you back.


This has been my view... I think what the coach is suggesting is that I'd plateau sooner.

Quote:
I'm assuming the people that beat you while you're using hardbat will also beat you if you're using inverted, LP, or whatever.


Right - the people I struggle against are division 2 or division 1 players - I'm a division 5 player, but improving. The difference is I have more fun losing with hardbat :) And actually, I have more fun when I win points.

Quote:
In any case, I play at least as well with hardbat and have quite a bit more fun in the process; I like being able to feel the ball with each hit and putting my whole body into strokes.


This. Now, I suspect that at least at division 2 level, the people who beat me are quite beatable with hardbat. They don't move especially well, they don't spin the ball a terrifying amount... they're just decent players with more experience and skill than me. My theory is that if I focus on fitness, movement, and good placement, I ought to be able to work towards beating them. Now, I think that the coach (and carbonman) are probably suggesting that this is absolutely right, but that I'm limiting myself - I could do that and more with a more modern setup. That might be true, but I am attracted to the idea, and like the restriction.

Quote:
Personally I find topspin balls the easiest to attack, and it's much easier to smash through them than with inverted. I would define hardbat as a jack of all trades, but master of none as opposed to a narrow "one way to play"; it has a broad variety of ways you can play with it, but it doesn't really shine in any one application.


This is what I'm finding too.

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