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

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Tactical Analysis

A Brief Study of Harimoto

During the next 30 weeks, I'll be listing the 30 most common game styles and telling you some specific details on how to beat these players - we will talk about beating loopers, choppers, blockers, lobbers, giants, midgets, and even wheelchair players. For this week, we are going to talk about a specific opponent. It is nice to generalize all loopers or all blockers, BUT it is even better if you specifically analyze your exact opponent. You must remember that each SPECIFIC opponent has various strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and game patters. If you can have a game plan before the match begins, you have a better chance of winning the first game and building confidence.

Tactical Analysis
Alexandre Robinot Vs Tomokazu Harimoto

In order to give a full report on how to beat Tomokazu Harimoto, I would need to study at least 15-20 matches against various opponents in various tournaments. However, today, I’m only going to analyze 1 match of Alexandre against Tomokazu. I’m going to imagine that I’m Jack Wang’s coach. I’m imagining that Jack Wang just had 5 major upsets and is now in the junior finals against Tomokazu Harimoto. I would give Jack a summary. Then 2-3 main keys to focus on during the match.

Please note, the more tactical analysis that Jack does PRIOR to the world junior championships, the more specific Jack can be in regards to specific serves, specific returns, and specific patterns. That is really the key. In order to maximize a training session, it should be specific. Instead of just practicing forehand 1-1 and serve and free, most practices should be geared to beat specific opponents, especially 1-2 weeks before the tournament.

Tomokazu Harimoto
(In Red)

His Serves
He serves many short or half-long no-spin and sidespin forehand pendulum serves. He is looking for a weak opening to his backhand or middle to begin his quick counterattacking game. If his serve is short, I would recommend often giving a short angled push to the wide forehand. Even if it is off the side of the table, you don’t need to worry about a threatening opening. If his serve is half-long, I would recommend opening wide with your backhand loop to his wide forehand. If you open to middle or backhand, be ready for a quick counterloop. If you open to the middle or backhand, don’t stay in the backhand exchange, be willing to change location… usually change to the wide forehand, but sometimes also change to the middle or wide backhand. Note: Realize that his middle transition ball is slightly further to the forehand than most players.

His Receives
He receives well from the middle of the table with a very stable (not very threatening) backhand flip. I would serve about 80% short to the forehand, 10% short to the wide backhand, and 10% deep to the middle. If he pushes long, give a very spinny, low deep loop to the wide forehand – his blocking and counterattacking with the forehand is pathetically bad. If he pushes short, push back short to his wide forehand. If he flips or loops, then immediately go for the wide forehand.

His Major Strength
His backhand flip, backhand opening, backhand loop against topspin, backhand blocking, and backhand counterattacking…. These are his strengths. After nearly every shot, he is waiting to play the backhand. When he does hit a nice backhand, you can tell that he has a huge boost in confidence. Check out the point at 3.49

His Major Weakness
From all the world’s top juniors, I think that he has the worst forehand blocking skills that I have ever seen. Because he is always ready for backhand rally, he isn’t able to play the correct timing with his forehand block. Even when he lands it, the late timing causes it to be slow, high, and very inconsistent. Check it out!!!!!

Other Things to Note

About 80% of his hits go to your backhand side. His forehand is significantly weaker. Anytime he opens to the wide forehand, he gets weaker and weaker throughout the point. Watch the point at 1.05. When he plays to your forehand, you need to keep the pressure to his forehand as opposed to changing to his backhand.

Transition point is further to the forehand than expected.
Watch the point at 3.19

His Forehand opening is late. This gives you plenty of time to counterattack and really put pressure on his forehand.
Watch the point at 0.35

He is nearly always positioned for a backhand. Keep the pressure on the middle and wide forehand because his is so ready for backhands.

When receiving, he doesn’t have much confidence in his short forehand. Occasionally, he might flip a winner to the wide forehand like 2.17. However, he is usually just pushing soft or giving a very weak loop against the half-long serve.

Just remember, he won’t hurt you with his forehand. Check out this power shot that he hits at 3.28. Now go back and watch that smash about 10x. His lack of power on the forehand should give you confidence.

The kids is screaming so much and having a bad attitude. Don’t get distracted by his body language. Even though he is acting childish, this doesn’t mean that you need to feel emotionally high or low based on his reaction. Just stay mature and play tactically smart.

Closing Thoughts

Regardless if you open first or not, keep the pressure on his forehand. Tactically speaking, we normally play to the wide forehand then immediately back to the backhand. You need to break out of this pattern. You need to keep the pressure on his forehand. If he is way way way off the table, then you can change to the wide backhand.

You need to continue to give variation. He is a counterattacking player hoping to use your power against you. By looping with good variation, you will force many errors from him and keep his confidence low.

He is beatable
He makes many mistakes
He can’t hurt you with his forehand.
In conclusion, check out the point at 3.21