To celebrate the start of the weekend, I wanted to do something different on the blog – a Saturday Special on why I think studying professional table tennis matches is vital for improving your game!
A few years ago, I was given a table tennis book from my Dad as a present. It was called “Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers”, written by ITTF Certified Coach and Founder of the USA Table Tennis League, Larry Hodges.
I remember how Larry suggested the importance of watching from the pro players, as we can see how they play and learn from them, by trying out those new things in our own training matches. I really recommend his book if you haven’t read it before – check out his book on Amazon!
When I personally watch professional matches, I try not to be awe-struck (which is easier said than done!) by the top-level table tennis. I, like any other table tennis fan, thoroughly enjoy watching amazing topspin-to-topspin rallies far from the table, as well as immensely skilled lob and smash shots that we often see from the likes of “The Cloud Walker” Xu Xin from China.
However, although these are fantastic to watch, I think it’s necessary to pay attention to the shorter rallies – points that end within just a few shots. The reason I believe this, is that in these short rallies, we see the real genius of the pro players. We begin to realise their tactics and plans for the match, and this is really important for us to notice as we can learn from their expertise, and try-out these things in our own matches.
Additionally, I like to watch their strokes and techniques in each point, to see if I can find ways of improving my own technique from their perfected one. I especially like to watch the top Chinese players, like Zhang Jike, as he has (in my opinion) one of the best techniques in the world.
To add to these points from my own experience, I was/am told to watch professional players by my coaches for these exact reasons! For example, when learning the “reverse pendulum” serve, I was told to watch both Michael Maze and Timo Boll, as they both do this serve with incredible skill.
These are the reasons I personally believe watching professional table tennis players can help us all improve our game. We can see first-hand how pros utilise certain techniques and shots, and we can try those things out ourselves in our own training.