Coach Samson Dubina US National Team Coach 4x USATT Coach of the Year

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The Smasher

Check out the tactics to beat this difficult opponent!

The Smasher
Playing against smashers can seem overwhelming – it might seem as if they are smashing everything – your loops, your flips, your pushes.  These players want to put pressure on you enough to take you out of your normal game.  Before you freak out, just listen to a bit of advice.
First, play our own game.  Don’t change too much.  This smasher might have blasted 6 balls past you in the first game, but you still won 11-9.  The score is a good indicator of his accuracy.  If you can win playing your normal game, then don’t make too many drastic adjustments.
The second point is to realize which balls he is really smashing.  Maybe he is just smashing your long serves or maybe he is smashing your slow loops or maybe he is just smashing the balls that come to his forehand or middle.  Once you have determined exactly which balls he is smashing, it will be easier for you to adjust your tactics accordingly.
The next point is to add more ball quality.  Instead of just floating a soft push, try to dig into the ball and impart more backspin.  Instead of gently looping the push, drive your loop deeper with more speed and spin.  When your ball quality is improved, the smasher will be more limited on which balls he can smash.  When your quality improves, he will likely smash less often or be inconsistent or it might create more hesitation causing him to give weaker smashes.
The next point is to play wide angles.  To smash a push or a loop or a serve, it requires very precise timing.  If you move the smasher from one wide angle to the other, he often loses his balance then loses the timing.  Try to serve wide off the backhand side of the table, then play the follow-up ball to either angle.  If you attack the wide forehand, many times the smasher is forced away from the table.  Once he is 8’ away from the table, his smash will be much less effective.
The next point is to take your time between points.  Sometimes the smasher will be surprised at how well he is playing.  The more time you take, the more he will think about his amazingness.  If you play the game in 60 seconds, he might keep playing out-of-his-mind.  When he begins to think about it, he will likely play worse.  When I was 2500, I lost the first game to a 2100 smasher, he smashed 9 clear winners by me in the first game.  It was amazing!  I have never seen anything like it from any opponent.  (I previously competed against 20 of the top 100 players in the world).   I have never seen anything like that first game.  After the first game, I setup my camera to record the match.  Flattered by the fact that I setup my camera, he could not play at all after that.  I creamed him the next three games. 
The final point is to return his smash.  Once you can return his smash (even once) he might try to begin hitting harder or trickier, which leads to more inconsistency from him.  Returning smashes is difficult.  Just remember to stay close, keep your racket in front, just meet the ball, keep your grip relaxed, cover the crosscourt angle, and keep your eyes open 0_0 
Ask your training partner to smash balls at you five minutes per day.  It is a fun way to finish the practice and learn a useful skill at the same time!