Coach Samson Dubina 2016 US National Team Coach 2015 - 2018 USATT Coach of the Year

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Luck or Skill???

He's on FIRE!!!!

At the Arnold Challenge last month, I got demolished 11-3 the first game by Yichi Zhang.  I had previously beaten him 4-2 in our last encounter, but this was a totally different opponent that I was facing.  If I pushed, he hit a winner.  If I blocked, he went right through me.  If I looped, he counterlooped with extreme power.  It seemed that he countered everything I did with extreme ease.  I realized that I could not play my normal game and win; I had to go for more if I were to put enough pressure on him.
In the 2nd and 3rd game, I went for more power on nearly every shot.  I looped earlier and harder; I flipped with more power and better placement; I counterlooped back instead of blocked.  The end result:  I lost 3-0.  After the match, Yichi Zhang sat down next to me and asked, “Why did you play like that? Why did you go for excessive power?” 
“Because I didn’t think that I could rally with you like you played in the first game,” I replied.
“Yes but that was only the FIRST game.  After the first game, I played normal – going for normal shots and making too many mistakes.  The first game was very unusual,” Yichi said.
Looking back in retrospect on the match, it is easy to see.  The first game was almost lucky; normally he couldn’t have hit those kinds of shots.  Had I kept my composure, played consistent, and stayed within my range of consistency, then I could have won as I previously did.  However, I was panicking inside and forced myself to play outside of my normal consistent range.
Tip #1
The next time you begin a match in a tournament and your opponent is playing amazingly well in the first few points, ask yourself the question “Is this his normal skill or is he just getting lucky for a few balls?”  If it is his normal skill, then you need to make some slight changes while staying within your range of consistency.  If he is just getting lucky, then remind yourself to stay calm, stay consistent yourself, and don’t be pressured by his Hollywood shots.
Tip #2
You also should learn to put some pressure on your opponent - just like Yichi did against me.  I’m not saying to go for wild shots.  I’m saying that if you do hit a couple strong loops early in the match, you can put pressure on your opponent.  You opponent might panic and begin playing outside of his normal consistency range.
Tip #3
Throughout the match, you must continue to evaluate and re-evaluate your opponent.  I had a perception of my opponent from the first game and didn’t adjust my tactics.  By taking 10-12 seconds between each point and thinking clearly, you can continue to re-evaluate the situation and adjust your tactics as needed.