What is the perfect stroke anyway?
During tournaments, I hear many players commenting about various strokes…
“He has good strokes!”
“His strokes are wrong!”
“How does he have a 2000-rating with strokes like that?”
“His loop is very smooth!”
“He won the tournament, but he doesn’t have the best strokes.”
“His strokes are old-school!”
“Wow, his strokes flow nicely together!”
I hear hundreds of comments regarding strokes. So, how do you know if your strokes are good or not? Is it personal opinion? Is it what your friends tell you? Is it defined as what the top players are currently using?
Good strokes all have several common elements. If all of these elements are true about your strokes, then you probably are on your way to success. If these elements are not true about your strokes, then you need to make some changes.
#1 With good strokes, you should be able to easily change location on your shot. For example, if your forehand flip is good, then you should be able to easily flip to the wide backhand, middle, and wide forehand. If you cannot hit all those locations, then you need to make a change.
#2 With good strokes, you should be able to impart various speeds and spins on the ball. For example, if you have a very good sidespin serve, then you should be able to easily vary it with long and short as well as side-backspin and side-topspin.
#3 With good strokes, you should be able to adjust the height of your backswing, the length of your backswing, and your follow-through based on the speed, spin, and trajectory of the incoming ball. For example, you must have great backhand loop that works well against a consistent block BUT ALSO a great backhand loop that works against long serves, heavy pushes, fast blocks, and dead blocks. If you cannot adjust your technique, then having a backhand loop will not be very beneficial in tournaments.
#4 With good strokes, you should be able to play without serious injuries. Many table tennis injuries are due to poor technique. For example, if you are using only arm on your forehand, then your will likely have shoulder injuries over time. When an injury arises, ask yourself if it is possibly due to bad technique. Relaxed strokes rarely lead to extreme injuries; whereas stiff muscles develop muscle soreness and injury.
If you have changes that need to be made, then buy a camcorder and watch your practice sessions and matches. Compare your strokes to the professional players’ strokes and make the needed changes.
If you have only been playing for a few years, you will likely be able to make changes in your strokes. If you have been playing for more than 5 years, it will be more difficult to change. However, keep in mind, that there are also other ways that you can improve besides merely changing your strokes. You should also be improving your strategy, game tactics, footwork, nutrition, consistency, serve, and serve return. You are only as strong as your weakest link. So, if you want to move up a level, try to improve all aspects of your game – not just 1 of your strokes.