At the recent U.S. Open held in Grand Rapids, I had a chance to observe and coach some very high-level players. A couple of things caught my eye, and I thought I’d share them here.
For offensive players, attacking is quite simply a must in today’s game. Being passive during points may pay off initially if your opponent is rusty, but if you continually give them the chance to attack they will shake off any stiffness and use that to their advantage later on in the match. Be aggressive from the start-utilize serves and serve returns that will enable you to attack. Interestingly enough, being aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean making the first loop. While making the first loop is of course a great way to start the attack, a player could also be offensive with, for example, a heavy underspin long serve, that the opponent must strain to lift up with a lot of topspin, that can then be smashed, counterlooped, or punch-blocked. In professional level play, this sort of tactic is most evident in Chuan Chih-Yuan of Taiwan’s game: he is content to serve topspin short and play off of the opponent’s flip, or serve topspin and begin counterlooping.
It is also very important to play against all styles of players. Wang Qing Liang, residing in Maryland, plays a tremendous modern defensive game-he can chop very well with long pips on the backhand, but is equally comfortable with explosive loops on his forehand side. He was one of the few choppers in the main bracket of the Men’s Singles event, if not the only one, and had an amazing tournament, making it to the semifinals before losing to eventual runner up Thomas Keinath. In today’s modern game there is more emphasis on all-out attacking, and so a style like Liang’s is becoming less abundant (at least in America). Make sure to practice against different styles, such as long pips, short pips, and anti, as you want to be well-versed in playing against these styles should you face them in tournaments.
A final note I will leave you with-physical conditioning continues to play a huge role in the sport. A lot of players became sore or stiff as the tournament progressed, due to a combination of playing many matches and being inadequately conditioned. Sometimes it is tough to find the time to practice daily, but physical conditioning is something that should be a priority for players who want to improve. It will definitely help you elevate your game.