I Never Thought about Timing
After my very first training lessons, I was happy to found myself able to perform a decent opening forehand loop to an underspinny serve or a push. My backhand opening loop was not as good, but I was still getting it right about 50% of the times. It was definitely a great move forward by the time.
However, when I went back to playing matches incorporating my recently acquired skill, I realized something wasn’t right. After my opening loops, I couldn’t really continue attacking the ball and I lost all initiative, reducing my game to blocking from the table.
I won some points when my opponents weren’t able to return this first opening loop. But if they could, I was then forced to play just defensively. It wasn’t after some more matches and the observations of my coach that I realized what was happening: I was staying too close to the table.
The Two Zones: Playing Close and Far from the Table
People that call table tennis “ping-pong”, when they first watch a professional game, their first reaction is: “wow, these people are playing so far from the table!”.
The notion of playing away from the table isn’t anything new to me. So I was surprised when I found out that I was being guilty of not moving away enough to have time to continue attacking the ball.
After my opening loops, if my opponent returned the ball either with a block or a loop, my reaction was just staying where I was and block back until I had an easy ball. But, as I said, that took all the initiative from me, because I wasn’t able to attack.
My coach wisely pointed out: “you need to step away from the table. Then you’ll have more time, you’ll be able to prepare for your shot and you’ll be able to keep on looping and attacking”.
It was genius! An easy solution for a very important problem that was causing me to lose many points. I was happy to find out.
More Time Doesn’t’ Mean Easier
Well, obviously, it wasn’t that easy. My forehand loop was fine and powerful, but there was a completely new issue that I was about to discover: the timing feeling away from the table is way different from the timing feeling on the table.
When you play on the table, the shots are fast, you mainly loop or push and you can do one, only one, opening loop when you have the chance. After that, you either keep on blocking on the table, or you have to move back.
But when you’re playing away from the table, the ball’s trajectory is much longer (not very much, really, but in table tennis everything is micro, so this difference is big).
Therefore, you have to wait a longer time to hit the ball. My body wasn’t use to it, so I was hitting the ball way too early, out of balance, with a weird posture, or completely missing it. Darn!
It was frustrating to find that my technically correct and efficient forehand loop next to the table didn’t work when I was away from the table in a loop rally.
There’s a quote that I like on timing: “You have MORE time than you think; but, you may still not have enough time!”, by Coach Len Winkler (found through an EmRatTich Table Tennis video – can’t remember which one)
Ways of Improving my Timing Away from the Table
And it still doesn’t, really. I’m working on it right now.
My exercises are: moving in and out the table, continued forehand and backhand looping rallies away from the table, mixed opening loop to an underspin and looping to a topspin, etc. It’s all about moving in and out the table, finding the different timing, being able to recognize the shot and adjust accordingly.
It’s really exciting! I feel like a whole new section of the game has opened to me. I’m far from mastering it, but just the opportunity to play in that zone is thrilling. I’m sure it’ll eventually convert into winning points.
What are you working on right now? Leave a comment and share your progress!