Coach’s Corner By David Kent

 These Tips are from the Archives of 2006/2007, they are just as notable today as they were back then.

One of the most common questions table tennis players have is what am I doing wrong? We all know David can’t be coaching 100 plus different members as much as he would like too.

So this area will be a polite spot for David to offer a few tips on what he sees happening at the club on a wide member view.

 

coachdave

By David Kent

 

April 2006

What do I see when I watch you play? What can I give you that is useful?

The first thing that I see is a general impression of the level of athleticism.
American players have a bad reputation around the rest of the world of being
lazy or non-athletic — the relative lack of movement. Why is this bad?

Essentially, table tennis rewards good form and consistency. If you don’t move,
and are reaching for shots much of the time, then you have to learn many
DIFFERENT shots, and have to practice many DIFFERENT shots to develop
consistency. It is more efficient to learn only a few different shots and use
your feet to get into position for that shot, for that good form. This way, your
play and practice becomes more concentrated on those few shots. What do I mean
by different shots? Well, if we just look at a forehand-topspin-drive, we can
reach for it a little, or less, or more, or much more — all different body
movements, and all requiring much practice to get good at each one. If we hit
the ball at about the same distance from our body (the same reach) each time,
then we have only one shot to practice — four or five times more efficient in
our learning phase. Presumably we all already know how to use our feet.

Also, the practice of any kind of shot (good form or bad form) will enable you
to become relatively consistent with that shot. But the form that you use may
limit your effectiveness with that shot. So-called proper form (lots of
variations) tends not to limit your effectiveness. With proper form you can
approach international levels of play. With bad form, you can not achieve those
levels. Do you really want to achieve international levels of competence?
Probably not. But improper form will limit your effectiveness, even at the club
level.

Next month I’ll start commenting on specific problems with form.

 

David Kent April 12th 2006

 

may 2006: Is it you?

What is the single most fixable problem I see at the Club? Probably hitting the smash or "kill" shot. This is a shot that should almost never be missed. Think back... how many of these do you miss? And when you miss this, you tend to think that it was just a mistake. But you don't try to figure out how to fix it.

Why is this shot missed so often? Simply because it seems so easy. It seems that you can’t miss, no matter how bad your form, just swing away, but ….  Two common problems. First if you hit with 100% effort, your accuracy or consistency goes way down. Most of us coaches recommend that you never hit a shot with more than about 85% power. This way, you keep your accuracy and consistency at a high level. Even if you don’t win the point on this shot, you get a chance at the next shot, and the next, instead of throwing away the point right now.

Second, a little bit of top-spin helps control the ball to come down on to the table after it clears the net. Even with a “flat” hit, if you hit over the top of the ball, you will get some top-spin.What I often see is you “slapping” down at the ball. This puts back-spin on the ball, and makes the ball go long, often past the end of the table — oops, missed another one. If you keep good form, you will hit over the top of the ball, putting some top spin on the ball and helping control it onto the table. And if you swing sideways at the ball, you put on side-spin which also doesn’t help bring the ball down, still missing long.

If you usually make this shot, keep up the good work. If you frequently miss this shot, there is a reason. Don’t just get mad at yourself over the mistake, try to figure out why the shot was missed, then it is possible to fix it. Remember, this shot should seldom be missed. Keeping “proper” form will help raise your consistency.

David Kent May 8 2006

 

David Kent Club Tip for June 2006

First, a reminder that we will be closed for the month of July. We are
open on Mondays and Fridays (when possible). The reason for this
reminder is to talk about how to improve, and what it takes.

To improve, it is necessary to practice. How often? Once a week will
not lead to fast improvement. Twice a week will help a lot. Three
times a week for amateurs is excellent. But three times a week is
hard. Practicing any bad form will help you improve those shots, but
will ultimately limit your improvement. It is interesting that
“shadow” practice, or even mental practice, is almost as good as
practice at the table. So, to make use of this July “vacation” you can
either take a real vacation and let your inner self or subconscious
integrate what you have already learned (sometimes very useful in
getting past a “plateau”), or stay focused with mirror or shadow
practice, or even mental practice.

So, what is shadow practice? … practicing the basic strokes, or
footwork, without the table or ball, or even without the racquet.
Sometimes in front of a mirror so you can actually see whether you are
practicing the “correct”, or at least acceptable, form. Even for a few
minutes at a time anywhere (in the bus line or …) will help to
develop “muscle memory”.

Suggestions for useful practice — turning the whole body for each
forehand stroke, perhaps the elbow-bending motion for creating topspin
on the forehand stroke (elbow mostly, not shoulder or wrist). Perhaps
footwork drills, alternating forehand and backhand strokes.

So, let’s look at the topspin-forehand-drive. Three components are
important. First, the whole body should be turned to face, or see, the
point of the racquet contacting the ball. This is basically
accomplished by footwork. Turning to about 30 to 60 degrees from the
table enables most of the stroke to move forward even if you swing
across the body. Second, the first 20 to 30 percent of the power of
the shot comes from rotating the whole body into the ball, towards the
table. The remainder of the power comes from the shoulder moving the
hand/arm forward in the same direction. Boosting the power ever
further comes from the acceleration of the whole stroke in the last
foot of the swing before the ball is contacted, but still maintaining
the same form (but more speed) as with a slower stroke. Keeping the
same form for fast and slow shots will greatly improve consistency.
And third, the topspin motion should come almost entirely from flexing
the elbow, starting with the arm more straight and finishing with the
arm more bent (at the elbow). So look at your arm at the end of this
stroke. If your arm is straight, you got very little if any topspin on
the ball. If your elbow is strongly bent, then you had to have put
good topspin on the ball. A good final position at the end of the
stroke might look like a military salute, with the (right/left) hand
above the (right/left) eyebrow.

Watch very strong players and see this in action. Watch weaker players
and try to develop your eye to recognize what they are doing wrong.
This recognition can help you recognize what you are doing wrong as well.

Why topspin? We’ll talk about this later, but basically to help
control the ball to curve down onto the table, even if the ball is hit
very hard. Enough topspin and the ball will curve down onto the
opponent’s side as long as it gets over the net.
Coach’s Corner for September 2006

This month’s topics are the related ideas of “default mode” and passivity.

What do I mean by “default mode”?  Basically, “default mode” is the “choice” we make when we can’t or don’t have time to make a rational decision or choice.  For most amateur table tennis players this tends to be either a defensive choice, or an even further retreat into passivity… just get the ball back … somehow. When this happens, you are totally at the mercy of your opponent. Perhaps this is good enough if your opponent cannot take advantage of the situation anyway… sometimes (frequently enough) you even “win” the point when the opponent messes up in response. Maybe this is why you don’t try to fix the problem. Maybe you even see it as a (dubious) strength (being unpredictable). Going on the defensive can be an OK choice, depending on your opponent, but passivity is almost always a poor choice.

 

So, what to do? In advanced table tennis, the attacking player most frequently wins the point (at least with the modern “sponge” racquets). There are only a few defensive players in the top 50 international players. The attacker (aggressor) controls the point. So the top players have a “default mode” which emphasizes attacking (power, spin, placement), or setting up the attack. The top defensive players have a “default mode” which emphasizes defending (deep chop, lob, block, push), but not passivity. They are always trying to accomplish something, even if it is just trying to keep the rally going for one more exchange. Defending should be active defense, not total passivity. Active defense means reading the opponent’s spin, power, and placement, and then choosing the most appropriate defense. Passivity usually means just getting your paddle in front of the ball with the face tipped upward so the ball will go over the net, but who knows where? … usually a very weak pop-up, just asking for an aggressive return.

 

What do I recommend? Unless you want to be a defensive player (an OK choice), I recommend always looking to be aggressive (but smart, not just blindly attacking everything). If you are ready to attack and find the situation to be not right, there is time to fall back on a defensive or temporizing shot. If you are already set for a defensive shot, there is often not time to switch to an attacking shot after the ball is already on the way. So, I use the short-cut idea of “Think Forward”. Plan to lean forward, move forward, swing forward.

 

The next “default mode” idea I recommend is to plan on putting at least some top-spin on the ball with every shot, unless you have some real purpose in mind for doing something else (drop shot, chop, push, side-spin, flat-hit, etc.). Top-spin helps control the ball down onto the table, substantially improving your consistency.

Have fun!

David W Kent

Club Coach

 

 

Coaches Corner    October  2006
I have been noticing for the past few months that a lot of intermediate and weaker
players seem to be having nearly the same problem. And the stronger players
practically never have this problem. So … the problem looks like this —
The stroke starts (maybe OK) but just before the paddle meets the ball you slap
at the ball, so the first part of the stroke is almost completely disconnected from
the actual hit. This means that the first part of the stroke is doing nothing. You might
as well hold the paddle out in front of you and just slap at the ball anyway.
The appearance is very jerky just before the paddle gets to the ball. Very wasteful
of energy and very hard to achieve any consistency. The stroke should appear
to flow rather smoothly. If you can’t feel this, ask someone to watch for you,
or use a video camera. Sometimes it helps to swing slowly so you have time
to watch yourself.

You should adjust the angle of the paddle surface (compared to the table top,
or floor, or sometimes the incoming path of the ball) correctly to handle the spin
that your opponent put on the ball. This you should do as soon as your opponent
starts to swing at the ball. If you see topspin coming, close the racquet angle
(tip the top forward — how much, you will have to learn with each opponent).
Then keep that angle throughout your smooth-flowing shot.  If you see back-spin
coming, open the racquet angle (tip the top back toward you — again, the angle
will depend on how much back-spin is coming toward you), and make your shot
keeping the angle of the paddle nearly the same throughout the stroke.
This plan helps you learn to make decisions as early as possible, instead of
waiting until the ball is almost to you. And, at least as important, your
“window of opportunity” is pretty large. If you swing a little early, the paddle
angle is OK. If you swing just on time, the paddle angle is OK. And if you swing
a little late, the paddle angle is still OK. This greatly improves your consistency.
And the next idea, to improve your consistency, is to swing forward along
the flight of the ball (unless you are trying to hit heavy backspin-chop, or
heavy topspin-loop). This also gives you a large “window of opportunity”,
since you will be OK whether you swing  on time, or early, or late — again,
greatly improving your consistency.

If you are consistent, improvement comes relatively easily. If your shots are
inconsistent (all over the place), it is very hard to know how to adjust your
strokes. If you are consistently long, this is easy to fix. Either hit softer,
or tilt your paddle more closed, or swing less up. If you are consistently
hitting into the net, either hit harder (if you were hitting too softly), or tilt
your paddle more open, or swing up a little more with your stroke (a little
lift). You don’t have to memorize this, it is simple logic. But you have to think
about it a little. If you can be consistent, your strokes can be analyzed,
and improved.

 

 

 

Coach’s Corner   —   November 2006
“How can I win points, or games, or matches?”, is an obvious question that we all ask at one time or another. And the question is an important one, but the answers are far from simple, and involve elements of both strategy and tactics.
First, if we are far stronger than our opponent (partner), then we can do just about anything and still win. This is obvious, but how do we want to win? Are we teaching or are we competing? If we are just passing time then we do not expect to learn anything or teach anything. But there are aspects of our game that we can practice against weaker players. You should be learning, or practicing, how to control a point, how to control the play of the point. This is hard to learn while playing stronger players, because against them you cannot control the point, they will. Against the weaker player you can also try out and improve new skills that might otherwise be too risky, such as tricky or deceptive serves.
And, if we are weaker than our opponent, we will frequently be on the defensive, scrambling to stay in the point. So, what can we learn here, besides practicing our defensive skills? Certainly we can see how our opponent finds and takes advantage of our weaknesses. What does he do that you can learn to do to others with the same weaknesses? What works well for him, and how can you learn to do the same? And you can see certain shots or strokes in action — something for you to strive for. What can you learn to use against others? And obviously, what weakness do you have that you need to improve.
Finally, if we are nearly the same strength as our opponent, we can be learning to win points by finding and using our opponent’s weaknesses, and minimizing our own weaknesses. If you like to hit, don’t start a pushing duel, unless you are better at that than your opponent is. The important point is to be aware of yours and your opponent’s styles of play.
And then we have to decide whether to rely on tricks or to rely on fundamentals. If your game is built around tricks, when your opponent learns how to handle your tricks, then he will seem to get stronger very quickly against you. If your game is built around fundamentals and consistency, then your game will nearly always be solid. The very strong players always seem to be able to rely on their fundamentals, their basic strong shots. Tricks are OK, but probably more useful in the long run after your fundamentals are reliable.
Have fun, and remember to always be aware of what you can learn from each opponent, each match.
David Kent  —  club coach

 

 

 

Coach’s Corner,  April 2007

Continuing our discussion (my talk) about the loop and loop-drive, we need some practical guidelines. It is very important to realize that the loop is just another tool in our arsenal. Sometimes the loop will win points outright, especially against unprepared opponents, but we cannot count on that. A good rule-of-thumb, as always, is to expect your opponent to return your shot — always. This way you will be preparing for your next shot (strategically and/or tactically), and will never be surprised to see the ball returning.

Since the loop requires a great deal of effort, you will have to commit yourself to a high level of athleticism. Most of the energy of the shot is going into generating spin rather than speed, so to get any power/speed you need to work harder with this style, getting into position and generating very high racquet-speed. If you watch a good looper you will see that the energy comes from the feet, ankles, knees, back/upper-body, shoulders, elbow, and wrist — quite a workout. All of the motions are additive (discounting Einstein’s special relativity calculations), so if you are neglecting some of these parts the sum total ends up smaller/weaker than you need for this stroke. Also important to, usually, be transferring your weight forward during the stroke to help generate more ball speed. This also helps us to not completely miss the ball with this stroke, which is mostly across the flight of the ball, since this makes a little more of our stroke go forward along the flight of the ball. So, racquet speed is the name of the game. Older style loops relied on a pretty long backswing, starting with the racquet head down somewhere near the ankle, but the more modern loop has a much shorter backswing since the game is now even faster and defenders can usually handle this stroke, so we need to be able to quickly get back to our “ready position” for the next shot.

Defending the loop from close to the table pretty much depends on the block shot with a closed (tilted forward) racquet and with little added power, since the looper supplies the defender with all the power s/he need. Back from the table many different defenses are possible, but from close to the table it is very difficult to get consistency with any other shot than the block. Since this return is so quick, the looper has only a little time to prepare for his next loop.

The forehand loop requires effort from lots of parts of the body, but the elbow motion is crucial. You start with a relatively straight elbow, and finish with a relatively bent elbow. This generates maximally efficient and consistent topspin with all the forehand shots, including the loop.

So… to learn this shot requires lots of practice and feedback to correct parts of the stroke. Without a coach, or other reliable source of feedback, you need to judge your own stroke. Did it generate a lot of topspin?… watch the flight of the ball and its bounce or continued forward motion, even if it goes into the net or onto the floor and see if it is still spinning. Did most of your motion go into generating spin instead of speed?… listen to the sound of  ball contact with the rubber, with a loud “thock” sound implying a too solid hit, and a “whoosh” sound indicating only a grazing hit (what we want). With a good loop, as long as the ball goes over the net it will tend to dive down onto the opponent’s side of the table, and then kick deep.

When learning this shot, it helps to try to hit the loop as often as possible to learn the feel of it, but during a game or match this may not be the best shot selection for every situation. A high return may be better handled with a “kill” shot or top-spin drive, or perhaps a placement shot, or even a drop shot, instead of a loop.

So the standard joke about a “looper” not having to be too smart, just “see ball, hit loop”, refers to the fact that a loop will overpower whatever spin your opponent puts on the ball so you don’t have to read the opponent’s spin too carefully. You do have to differentiate between a loop against top-spin and a loop against chop (back-spin), since you need to generate more lift against the chop, while the top-spin from your opponent gives you the lift for free.

The backhand loop seems to be harder to learn and does require a lot of wrist motion from the shake-hands grip player, but the ideas are all the same.

Try it out, get feedback, and have fun.

David Kent

Club Coach

 

 

Coach’s Corner    March 2007

The modern sponge-oriented game of table tennis is mostly oriented around the “loop”. “What is it? How do I do it? How do I defend against it? How do I set up for it?” These questions are all at the center of the modern game.

What is a loop? … basically a shot that emphasizes very heavy top-spin over almost everything else, including speed or power. The original loop shot was developed as an antidote to the successes of the defensive players, and depends on relatively modern sponge-backed inverted-pips rubbers. Since spin is foremost, we need a large surface area contact between the ball and the racquet surface so that the ball can be grabbed by the rubber — pretty much impossible with a hard-bat racquet. With sponge, the ball can sink into the racquet face, cupped by the rubber surface. Modern rubbers are also pretty grabby or even sticky. Then, the swing has to be across the path of the ball to generate the spin. Historically, the loop was what we now call a slow-loop, very spiny and relatively slow speed, arcing pretty high over the net like a rainbow’s arc or “loop”. With the heavy top-spin, the ball dives down into the table and kicks very low and deep/fast off the bounce, still with LOTS of spin. This presented new problems for the defenders, and now the attacking style is dominant in modern table tennis.

The slow loop used to be the only loop weapon, and it is still important against a chop style of defense. The slow loop has little forward momentum, but LOTS of spin. Against a chop/backspin defensive shot, the “looper” has to generate some lift on the ball in order to overcome the backspin and clear the net, so the swing is pretty vertical in reference to the floor or table surface, which results in dragging the ball upward. The next very important point is that the racquet face has to be VERY “closed” (tilted top forward) compared to the path of the approaching ball. This results in barely brushing the front of the incoming ball, generating spin without much forward speed.

But there are other, newer, loop strokes. The loop-drive is the modern choice against an incoming top-spin shot. Since your opponent is giving you the “lift” with his top-spin, your stroke can be much more forward and powerful. This is really a cross between an old loop and a topspin drive. Since there are very few chop-style defenders at the international level, the loop-drive has become the predominant type of loop. The next type of loop is the sidespin loop. This, obviously, replaces some of the topspin with varying amounts of side spin.

All of the loops have you swinging across the flight of the ball with a very closed racquet face. This means that, if you are doing it right, you will sometimes completely miss the ball with your stroke, or even hit the ball with the leading edge of the paddle. While you are learning, if you don’t make both of these mistakes frequently, you aren’t doing it right. The most common error is to not have the racquet face closed (top tipped forward) enough. This error means you “hit” the ball instead of just brushing it or grazing it with your paddle. This may be better noticed by listening to the sound of the hit. If loud, you have hit it firmly (not a loop). If soft, you just grazed the ball (great).  Most otherwise pretty strong attacking players have a hard time learning this shot because their body won’t let them come so close to totally missing the ball — it feels wrong. But it does work, although it initially feels impossible. The modern rubbers are what make it even possible. And a very fast racquet speed is indispensable, since most of the swing energy is used to generate spin, not speed.

It seems easier to learn your first loop against a topspin or flat hit shot, but if you learn the feel of the shot against chop (a slow loop), you will really better understand the feel of a real loop.

There is a lot more to the loop, but you do have to learn by doing. More next month….

David Kent

Club Coach

 

Coach’s Corner,  February
The most recent questions have been about equipment, especially paddles. So we’ll cover some basic information.
First, lets talk about balls. Balls come in 1-star (*), 2-star (**), 3-star (***), and 3-star-Premium (Nittaku). All of these typically meet the ITTF Standards, but the higher number of stars indicates better quality control, so the company charges more for them. In other words, some 1-star balls are as good as the 3-star balls, but only some. And the 3-star Premium balls have the best quality control – the stronger players seem to prefer these. Pretty good players won’t notice much difference from the 3-star balls, as they all meet the basic requirement of bounce height and weight range, while perhaps differing in perfection of roundness, or durability.
Next, lets cover paddles, and then rubber. A common misconception is that a thicker paddle is better — not necessarily true. Thickness will naturally have an effect on weight and stiffness, but the materials used (woods, etc.) and manufacturing process are much more important. The important characteristics are weight, liveliness, stiffness, size of “sweet-spot”, and size and shape of the face. Weight is an individual factor in that you’ll find a weight or weight range that feels good for your physique and playing style. A heavier paddle is like a heavier baseball-bat, in American baseball. A paddle’s liveliness is indicated by “Offensive” (fast, or “Off+”, “Off”, and “Off-“, meaning more to less fast), “All-Around” (medium fast, or “AR+”, “AR”, and “AR-“, meaning faster to slower), and “Defensive” (slow, or “Def+”, “Def”, and “Def-“, meaning slow to slower). The faster, livelier, paddles enable speedier shots, but also less control. Many international level players use medium fast paddles, because consistency is more important to them than raw power.  Stiffness has an effect on how long the ball stays in contact with the rubber, and thereby the “feel” of the shot. Stiffness also has an effect on the size of the “sweet-spot”, that area of the face that is the liveliest. A “sweet-spot” extending nearly to the edge of the paddle will give you more consistency. A larger hitting surface (size and/or geometry of the face) will mean fewer miss-hits, but slower racquet speed (due to increased wind resistance), so most attacking players are happy with normal sized racquet faces, while defensive players may tend toward the larger faces of the defensive-speed racquets.
Finally, let’s look at the rubbers. Thickness (of the sponge layer) is given in millimeters. The over-all thickness of the rubber cannot exceed 4 mm, including the sponge and the pimpled-rubber covering (which can be smooth side out, or pimpled side out). Thickness and firmness of the sponge layer determines the surface area contact with the ball during your hit. The more the ball sinks in, the greater the area of contact, therefore more grip or friction on the ball, enabling more spin on the ball. Obviously, no sponge (or hard-bat) will give minimal grip, while thicker sponge will give more grip. Smooth surface enables the most grip, while pimples-out gives less. Also, the type of rubber surface (degree of “stickiness”) will affect the friction between the ball and the racquet. So rubbers are described by their “speed” (or bounce), and “spin”. The modern rubber/sponge combinations can give these qualities independently. More speed coupled with more spin generally gives you less control. So, again, most international-level players highly value control and consistency, so, many avoid the fastest/spiniest rubbers.
Many developing players think fast and spiny means better. A faster and spinier rubber will tend to make your good shots better, but will definitely make your bad shots worse. Most developing players lose many more points by bad shots (bad form, or bad shot-selection) than by lack of power or spin. Faster improvement will happen with improved strokes, not with “monster” racquets.
However, inferior racquets can hold you back due to inability to generate either spin or power. Many very cheap recreational paddles are quickly outgrown as your skills develop, but the other extreme can hold you back as well. I generally suggest trying out new rubber/sponge/paddle combinations before purchasing, if you can. I generally have a wide range of loaner paddles available for use at the club for you to try out. A “coach”, after observing your game, can recommend specific paddle/rubber combinations for you dependent on your playing level. Without a personal coach, I would tend to recommend an all-round plus, or offensive minus, paddle coupled with medium fast (around 90 out of a hundred) and medium spiny (around 90 out of a hundred) rubber, with from 1.5mm to 2.0mm sponge, as a good starting point. More specific recommendations would depend on your style and skill level.
David Kent — Club Coach

 

 

Coach’s Corner for January 2007
“How to serve?” and “how to return serves?” are very common questions, or at least problems.
Writing out the complete rules for a legal serve is not as useful as showing you how to do it. The ideas involved in useful serves include both tactics and strategy. You have to ask yourself what is the goal of this serve (during a particular match).
If you are a very strong player playing against another very strong player, your goal is to not give your opponent a serve that is easily attacked… so a very short and  low serve (that will bounce twice on the opponent’s end) with backspin or no-spin usually is hard to attack, since the table itself is in the way of an aggressive swing. The idea is to get the point flowing in a way that fits your style of play. You should plan ahead. The mental question is “what do I expect to get back from my chosen serve?” If you are an intermediate player that likes to hit drives and counter-drives, then it is useful to serve deep and fast, expecting a deep and fast return which is ideal for counter-hitting.
If you are a little bit better than a beginner, then you have to focus on not hitting terrible serves. The common beginners’ problem is making the ball bounce too high on the serve (and throughout the point as well). If you hit the serve when the ball is still high above the table, you have to hit down to make a legal serve, and then the ball will bounce high over the net, leaving your opponent with an easy set-up (although s/he may mess it up anyway). The fix for this is when you throw the ball up for the serve you have to wait for the ball to drop to only an inch or two higher than the table surface before you hit it.
And “how to return serves?”, involves the same ideas. You want the point to develop in a way that fits your style or strengths. If you are bad at handling short push shots, then don’t “push” (short underspin or back-spin) yourself, because your opponent will frequently return a push with a push, and so on. Try to take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses, and try to utilize your strengths. If your opponent uses tricky spins, it is most effective to angle the face of your paddle to counteract that spin. This means tipping the paddle forward against top-spin, and tipping the paddle back against back-spin. Handling side-spin seems harder to do, but it is no more difficult than handling back-spin. Again tip the face of the paddle to one side or the other depending on which kind of side-spin you are responding to. A simple idea is to aim sideways in the direction that the server’s paddle started from. Try it. If this still doesn’t make sense to you, ask me to help with some practice. Remember, don’t try to handle side-spin by swinging the paddle sideways (although this will work if you are able to judge it perfectly). Instead learn to handle your opponent’s spins by angling the paddle in the appropriate direction. This will greatly improve your consistency.
Watch and learn from lots of different players’ serves. This is one facet of the game where you can profitably get quite creative. And it is always useful to have and use a number of different serves to keep your opponent guessing.
Have fun.            —     David Kent, club coach