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PostPosted: 16 Jun 2015, 22:37 
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This is a much more challenging topic than Rebuilding My Forehand, but it is the key to making progress for me. Relative to my level, I lose far too many points on service return and short game. In fact, more often than not, the prime determiner of whether I win or lose a match against someone within 200 points of my level is whether I struggle with their serves and not that I am outclassed in the rally. While better players are supposed to be better players, I tend to do well against better players when my serve return errors are taken out of the equation.

Make no bones about it, I have issues with reading spin. However, I think I have also embraced some bad habits since I didn't develop proper over the table strokes for returning serves early (except on my backhand side).

Below the 1600 level, believe me when I say that you can push every serve. Yes, even topspin serves can be pushed if you have sufficient racket head speed because when you popup the serve, most under 1600 players attack backspin/sidespin/nospin so badly that you can get away with it. Above 1600 however, it becomes much riskier and below 1600, you can always find the rare wrong customer for that return.

Above 1600 level, sometimes pushing a serve long every time is the kiss of death against certain players. Especially if you can't get a wide enough angle with pace and spin to force a weak loop. In fact, I would probably lose to my self if I pushed to myself all the time. That puts that in perspective.

Playing higher level players recently helped me see how decently I could perform when I got into the rally. Pips players are a little different and I have actually articles on pips and finally understood my intellectual error when handling them. I think that with some practice, I will do much better against choppers and pip blockers going forward (I wasn't doing badly already).

To start the thread off and show the motivation, here are a match against a player I will never beat (I believe he is currently the #9 ranked cadet in the world). Compare my rally issues to my serve return issues.



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Last edited by NextLevel on 17 Jun 2015, 05:12, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2015, 05:11 
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So here is video where I am practicing my forehand push based on the latest TT edge video.


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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2015, 12:06 
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I completely agree this is a vital part of the game that can easily determine the outcome of a game.

I find that 'return of serve' is actually hard to practice, apart from just playing games against players with good serves. Since I rarely get this opportunity outside my regular competition, I tend to focus on my own serves instead...the idea being that if I'm going to be losing points on their serves because I don't read it well enough, I try and make sure I do the same to them. :lol: It works to some extend.

A great idea for a topic Nextlevel. I look forwards to hearing about training ideas to work on this aspect of the game, as I can surely use this for my game as well. :oops:

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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2015, 22:17 
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Great topic NL.

What are you going to do to train receiving that isn't already part of your routine?
And do you think your robot will be useful for this? It won't help read the contact, but I guess you could work on your short game strokes.


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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2015, 22:48 
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haggisv wrote:
I completely agree this is a vital part of the game that can easily determine the outcome of a game.

I find that 'return of serve' is actually hard to practice, apart from just playing games against players with good serves. Since I rarely get this opportunity outside my regular competition, I tend to focus on my own serves instead...the idea being that if I'm going to be losing points on their serves because I don't read it well enough, I try and make sure I do the same to them. :lol: It works to some extend.


I think "practicing against players with good serves" is more appropriate, though I do understand what you mean. It's hard to do something well without practicing the proper technique under controlled conditions.

That said, I think many players without strong coaching on certain strokes (and as an amateur with practical goals, I fell into that category) have major gaps in their service return stroke practice. If you have the right strokes to use, then it becomes mostly about reading serves and in that case, match practice or varied serve return practice is primarily you need. For people like me, the problem goes deeper - I am not even well practiced enough in using my basic returns that I can summon them at the right time or that I even have the right return for certain kinds of serves.

To give an example, I have become more adept at looking at the ball when returning slower serves, partly because I stare at the ball a lot when practicing my serves. I often can see the ball has float, but I have not practiced a good return for float so I end up doing a generic push or block, in both cases popping up the ball, which was obviously not my intent. So I need a basic tactical response to that ball when I see it at the stage I do that at least keeps me with a reasonable chance of winning the point.

So I want to make serve return a focus - what is the right stroke to use against what kind of ball given how I want to play? I mean, I have looked at my serve and third ball game and my rally game and I think that both do reasonably well against even players 200 pts above me, so I do at least 50% on those. But on their serve, I put so many in the net, off the table or give an easy third ball that there is no point practicing all these crazy forehands if I am going to continue to lose matches unable to return serves.

And given the age I started learning seriously, reading spin is a problem. But if I decide to focus on it, I might find something new.

haggisv wrote:
A great idea for a topic Nextlevel. I look forwards to hearing about training ideas to work on this aspect of the game, as I can surely use this for my game as well. :oops:


Hahaha - I hope so too. It's good to know that people with OX Long pips still find this an issue...

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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2015, 23:14 
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BRS wrote:
Great topic NL.

What are you going to do to train receiving that isn't already part of your routine?
And do you think your robot will be useful for this? It won't help read the contact, but I guess you could work on your short game strokes.


Oh, a lot. I am largely going to stop training rally strokes unless I am doing a random loop to block workout or some third ball practice. Most of my sessions will be spent working on returning serves and reading serves and even trying to learn the basics underlying the serves my opponents use. Learning serves helped me read serves a lot better in the past so I see no reason to stop.

The whole serve return thing is a large gap in my formal training/coaching. Don't get me wrong, I have had a few things here and there, especially on the backhand side, and I have done a lot of online reading, and even bought Brian Pace's video. But as someone who mostly used matches to train other than the odd coaching session, the fact that I can now train is making me a little greedier. And I want to use this opportunity to develop some theories about the issue myself.

As for the robot, the robot will help a lot by allowing me to test the results of various ball contacts and stroke speeds without boring my partner. Where to place my feet is also key as I don't like to move a lot and getting efficient foot and elbow placement for service return is extremely important. When you don't have formal coaching resources to explain all the details to you, this kind of experimentation is helpful, definitely on service return. I've always wanted to know how fast I need my racket to be moving to execute certain shots or what the possibilities are for manipulating the no-spin ball. And of course, hopefully, doing it on a blog like this will let other higher level players contribute their experiences.

I have found I definitely have to stay lower than most people on serve return because of my height. Paddle angles are harder to read when standing straight so I am now bending down to look at the serve at the very least. Also easier to see the spin at that height as it is closer to what my camera view is like. Come to think about it, maybe I should sometimes record my serves from a higher altitude as well so I can see what they look like from where I tend to view them.

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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2015, 23:33 
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So I played a league yesterday night. I had a player I had never beaten down 0-2 but lost.

I had another player who serves mostly illegal hidden serves on his forehand side down but lost to him as well, losing the last 3 points of the match from 8-8 in the fifth. That I could fight through the illegal serves was gratifying. I had played him two weeks ago and I couldn't do anything with his serve. However, getting lower to view the serves helped. But it is obvious that if I had struggled with his serves more reasonably, I would have won (but he might say the same about mine as my third ball has also improved tremendously so it puts more players under pressure.)

I will watch all of yesterday's matches later and chart some stats as I need to start doing this to see the impact of serve return vs. players I am trying to beat.

I am posting the matches so maybe some of you who have the time (I will do the review myself at some point) can figure out some of the things I did differently to return his serves better if I did at all - maybe it wasn't so much my returns as my improved play on my serve. Analysis will reveal that.

MATCH 2 WEEKS AGO


MATCH YESTERDAY

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PostPosted: 18 Jun 2015, 02:53 
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Your default return is the long bh push, and it was a lot better yesterday than two weeks ago. Then you popped up a lot of them. You won a lot of points yesterday on heavy pushes to his bh. You even bh push serves on your fh side routinely, like an LP player would. You have the reach to do it, but it doesn't leave you in really good position.

Yesterday you served a few reverses towards the end. He popped them all up, and you tried to push the third ball every time. Is that how you practice it?

Also your strokes looked a lot better yesterday, more consistent. It may just be one bad day and one good, relatively, since I doubt your game has changed that much in two weeks. Although as much as you practice maybe it has.

That's my two cents, now someone who knows something can post.


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PostPosted: 18 Jun 2015, 05:50 
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Someone asked about touch, and this was the answer given. Amazing. And it illustrates my biggest problem with forehand over the table strokes.


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PostPosted: 18 Jun 2015, 22:21 
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BRS wrote:
Your default return is the long bh push, and it was a lot better yesterday than two weeks ago. Then you popped up a lot of them. You won a lot of points yesterday on heavy pushes to his bh. You even bh push serves on your fh side routinely, like an LP player would. You have the reach to do it, but it doesn't leave you in really good position.


Well, I usually misread the amount of sidespin the first time. After I got lower to look at the serve, I read it better. For the BH push from the forehand side, let's just say that some old habits die hard and leave it at that.

Quote:
Yesterday you served a few reverses towards the end. He popped them all up, and you tried to push the third ball every time. Is that how you practice it?


I don't get that ball in practice so I didn't read it properly. Sometimes, when I try a heavy serve, I accept that I can't generate the right speed to attack the ball with my backhand and if my forehand has not been set up by my movement, you see the trash you saw there. Probably should work on attacking with my forehand from the backhand side behind my reverse serve. It should not be necessary since I serve backhand so often but the spin just looks different.

Quote:
Also your strokes looked a lot better yesterday, more consistent. It may just be one bad day and one good, relatively, since I doubt your game has changed that much in two weeks. Although as much as you practice maybe it has.

That's my two cents, now someone who knows something can post.


Better ball striking, yes. I have gotten better at using my forehand behind the long push to my backhand side. The wide forehand is still an opening if I commit to using the forehand behind the serve. But I am also getting better at recovering to the middle of the table and then stepping around to use the forehand. It's a learning process but its getting there.

I havemt analyzed the video yet but I will share some thoughts when I do.

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PostPosted: 19 Jun 2015, 13:09 
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NextLevel wrote:
Hahaha - I hope so too. It's good to know that people with OX Long pips still find this an issue...

It is most certainly still an issue. At the lower levels, using the OX pimple to return serve is more about getting the ball back onto the table (which is easier than with inverted)... but as you climb the grades, you'll find that you need to do more than that. Long pimple give you less control over what you do with the spin (you mainly just reverse it), so you need to read the spin right to know what you can do with the ball. If it's got backspin, you can attack it, if it's got no spin you need to be careful to control it. If it's got topspin you can block it, and if you do wish to attack you must be very careful not to over-hit, or the backspin created will carry it over the end.

Then of course you'll want to return some balls with inverted to mix it up, so you'll need to read the spin well as anyone...

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PostPosted: 21 Jun 2015, 20:52 
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So one of the things that I am realizing is that I have to come to a more generalized view of spin and break free intellectually from my super strict inverted instincts. I posted this article on mytabletennis.net today. I hope it has some value to people - not sure how correct it is, but I think that it has some value for people who want to think more broadly about the game and break free from being to concerned about facing unique surfaces. IT's probably a better article for OOAK as experts on pips out surfaces and anti may be better able to evaluate it.
=================================================

After much reflection, I have concluded recently that my rally strokes and serves are about where they should be even though they could clearly be better, and my major areas for improvement are reading and manipulating spin, especially short/over the table balls. So I would like to share some of the recent results of my reflection that may help some of you who find spin and the existence of so many playing surfaces complicated. The article should probably have a million diagrams but that is for a later time.

In addition, there is often a negative reaction to pips players, mostly by inverted table tennis players who learn in environments dominated by inverted players. I would like to explain why this occurs and give the inverted players who feel this way some intellectual and practical tools for dealing with these issues.

Many of these thoughts are still growing and imperfect, and I would appreciate any corrections or criticisms.

Here are the conclusions, which I will discuss in more detail in the ensuing paragraphs. They may seem mostly like common sense, and to some they may be, but it took me some reading and four years of playing to get to them.

1. Grip and racket head speed are what produce spin or stop spin.
2. Grip has two components, the surface component and the sponge/mechanical component.
3. The grippier the surface, the greater its ability to stop and impart spin based on its own direction.
4. Rather than confuse yourself thinking about the different surfaces, think in terms of the amount of grip the surface of your opponent has.
5. Ultimately, given the time scales at which TT will play, intellectual understanding is no substitute for practicing against these surfaces.
6. The best practices are ones where these surfaces are used in conjunction with whatever surfaces you typically play against so that the contrast in strokes forces the brain to read, plan and execute based on the ball read.

1. Grip and racket head speed are what produce spin or stop spin.

The speed at which the racket is moving and the grippiness of the rubber are what impart spin onto the ball. The Faster the racket is moving as it grips the ball, the more spin is imparted given the same kind of contact. Grip is simply friction - when a surface is grippy/tacky, it slows down the ball rotation and if the racket is moving fast enough and the surface is grippy enough, reverses it. This is what happens with inverted rubbers and what allows an inverted player to return a topspin with a countertopspin/topspin block with relative ease ease. More on that in point 3.

2. Grip has two components, the surface component and the sponge component.

The surface component of grip is often the easiest to consider and is derived from any things, including the friction/grippiness of the surface and the elasticity of the rubber surface. While I don't want to get too detailed, the sponge/mechanical component is based on the idea that if the ball is allowed to sink into sponge and distort the rubber more (vs. a wood surface which would not allow for much penetration), the ball can be exposed to more pips per surface area and this allows the ball to be gripped better than if there was no sponge where all the stress would be left to the topsheet to handle.

3. The grippier the surface, the greater its ability to stop and impart spin based on its own direction.

The over-generalized hierarchy of rubber grip is something like this.

inverted/pips-in (always with sponge) > short pips-out with sponge > medium pips-out with sponge
> short pips-out OX > medium pips-out OX > long pips-out with sponge <=> anti-spin > long pips-out OX > frictionless long pips > frictionless anti

The way to think about it is this - let's say your opponent topspins the ball to you and you want to return the ball with heavy topspin the ball back to the person. Well, you have to stop the ball from rotating in the direction towards you and send it back rotating with topspin towards your opponent. With inverted rubber, this is generally possible, as inverted rubbers have sufficient surface grip to stop the ball from spinning in any direction and invert the direction within reasonable spin levels produced by most people. The optimal contact points on the ball to stop the spin and the racket head speed to make it go back to the opponent as topspin are critical, but most inverted rubbers have the ability to do this. The same with heavy backspin - inverted rubbers are generally able to stop the spin and have the spin go back to the opponent as backspin.

When we get short pips rubbers, this begins to change, but not so much. Short pips rubbers cannot stop and reverse with heavy topspin the highest amounts of topspin. Depending on how you play, this may be a good or a bad thing. Very rarely, the levels of topspin are so heavy that the ball sometimes slips off and goes back as light backspin. On other occasions, the balls are stopped and reversed with topspin, but with less topspin than the same stroke would produce with inverted. The lesser topspin or light backspin are both what some people refer to as dead balls.

However, when a ball doesn't have much spin, short pips are able to impart significant spin on the ball. Also, short pips can add significant spin in the same direction as the ball is already rotating (hence, they can chop back heavy topspin into backspin, loop heavy backspin into topspin and are good for continuing/adding sidespin to serves, where most inverted returners tend to go against the spin.

As we go lower and lower on the hierarchy, the lower rubber grip reduces ability of the rubber to stop and invert the spin. Lets's look quickly at long pips - those surfaces tend to have less friction so they are almost completely unable to stop spin so they almost always continue the spin, no matter what ball comes in once it is spinning decently - hence heavy topspin will be returned as either light or heavy backspin, depending on the stroke from the player, and heavy backspin will be returned as either light or heavy topspin.

If the behavior of long pips is confusing, or you just need more clarity on what it means to stop (or go against) vs. continue (or add to) the spin, this article by Greg Letts is very helpful and is an online classic for TT players who need to intellectually understand long pips.

http://www.gregsttpages.com/articles3/53-articles/long-pimples/87-long-pimples-for-beginners

4. Rather than confuse yourself thinking about the different surfaces, think in terms of the amount of grip the surface of your opponent has.

This is one of the main points of this article. Too often, the question is how to play against short pips vs. medium pips vs. long pips vs. anti-spin, when the real issue is whether the surface has the ability to stop/impart spin or not. While there are small nuances of sponge that affect relying mostly on surface grip (especially when dealing with people who use well worn inverted rubbers as well as some cases of anti-spin and long pips), if you know how grippy your opponent's equipment is, then you largely have all you need to know about the rubber. You can then have an idea of how much he can put on his serves with his wrist action if anything, and whether your spins will be inverted (behave the same way that they do vs. inverted rubbers) or reversed (behave as they do vs. long pips or lower friction rubbers).

Over time, in order to read spin better, you will have to realize that even inverted players may or may not be utilizing the grippy potentials of their rubber. In the end, you learn to play the ball while thinking about how the amount of grip the surface you are playing against impacts the stroke.

5. Ultimately, given the time scales at which TT will play, intellectual understanding is no substitute for practicing against these surfaces.

All of this is theory, and TT is a very fast game - you need to hit with players who use various kinds of equipment with different levels of grip to get used to the idea that a surface with less grip can produce a different result from the one you are used to playing against. Our minds simply tend to use certain visual cues to read spin and many of these are tied to the stroke the player is playing against us. In order to force the mind to look for more clues, we need to diversify the situations we expose our mind to in order to stop it from looking just at the stroke and to force it to account for the nature of the surface being used, which will often sound a little different from inverted at the very least.

One of the benefits of using an inverted/pips-in surface is that it is the surface that allows you to generate the most spin once you develop the timing and the strokes to use inverted surfaces optimally. Therefore, you can just about add or reduce spin to any ball that comes from another surface that can't produce spin, the only caveat being that you need to read the spin on the ball somewhat accurately to learn how to handle the ball. But given the stabilizing nature of spin, you don't need to be 100% accurate in your read - you just need to be accurate enough to know how to contact the ball and generate enough spin to keep the ball under control and on the table. Inverted also allows you to play at different distances so you can play further from the table to give yourself more time to respond to the faster balls, or closer to the table to pick up the slower balls.

Since spin enables you to control the ball more easily and stabilize the flight using the Magnus Effect, inverted rubbers make it easy to keep the ball on the table with spin strokes, both slow and powerful. Along with ITTF regulations that limit the amount of grip one can design into pips-out rubbers, this advantage of pips-in rubbers over pips-out rubbers has made the exclusive use of pips-out almost non-existent at the top level in the modern game today.

The critical thing is that one needs to learn how to generate topspin with one's stroke. Players who complain a lot about pips tend to be players who have never practiced much against them or who do not have strokes in their arsenal that can add spin to spinless balls. Once you have both kinds of strokes and play against surfaces with different levels of grip, you will complain about pips much less.

6. The best practices are ones where these surfaces are used in conjunction with whatever surfaces you typically play against so that the contrast in strokes forces the brain to read, plan and execute based on the ball read.

Ideally, your best practice player is a twiddler who uses diverse surfaces. Or at least, spend 1 minute hitting against one surface/spin and one minute hitting against another surface/spin. This will force your mind to look for cues other than the stroke to figure out what is on the ball. If you simply practice against long pips exclusively, your mind will have a stroke, but will not be using the stroke based on reading the ball. While this might help to learn a stroke, it will not help retain the information for actual match play, which is when it is most critical.

This is still a work in progress, but I would appreciate comments and thoughts from everyone. Thank you a million if you read this far.

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PostPosted: 21 Jun 2015, 22:50 
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Good thread this one and i felt much the same at the couple of tournaments i played recently. Once i got the ball back in a reasonable position, the rallies were quite close but to many of the table or pop ups. Interested in following this one.

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PostPosted: 22 Jun 2015, 01:18 
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I think I went (ok, still going...) through a similar sequence, especially when playing against pips of any kind. It's hard to respond to a long post with a short one, so here is a brief recap of my experience against non-inverted surfaces:

* "What's going on here, have no idea why my shot went into the net/long" - my very first tournament match ever was against 70+ year old dude with 0X long pips on both sides. I think I got 5 points per game at most. If someone figured out how it works and what needs to be done by themselves - kudos to them. I used internet :?:

* "This guy has LP on BH, I need to keep track of the spin I send him and which side he used to return to figure out what's coming back to me". I think I saw it in almost every "how to play against pips" article/video. It helps, but I found that I don't think fast enough. It has to happen at reflex level for me.

* "Need to watch the stroke and ball (flight and bounce) closely to see what's coming" - as I am discovering better players can do a lot to the ball, as opposed to a simple 'let the bat do the work' block, so simple rules of "if A then B" don't work that well against them. I just have to play them more and figure it out.

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Last edited by pgpg on 22 Jun 2015, 01:38, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 22 Jun 2015, 01:27 
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One-Loop Man
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Pgpg,

I had some coaching and practice against club players when it came to pips. When you can spin drive the ball past people with one shot, it avoids a lot of issues. But now I am facing more consistent players who can bring back my shots, I am forced to deal with some of the issues that being able to with one shot helped me avoid.

I am just trying to bring together my thoughts do I can simplify my theoretical approach to the game. Obviously, I can only get better by practicing as the theory isn't real knowledge, but as a looper, if you can spin the ball, you just have to read the ball correctly to spin it correctly. Acting like you are playing special surfaces makes it seem like you need to learn ten things, when you only need to learn one and the put the other things in that framework.

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