By: Richard McAfee, USATT Certified National Coach
Often when discussing a top player, you will hear comments about the player's great "Anticipation". Many people mistakenly believe that this is simply a natural talent. In truth, it is a learned skill-one that you too can acquire through practice.
Within a table tennis game, there are two types of anticipation used by the players. The first is anticipation used against a slow moving ball. During a slow rally, players get their clues about where the ball will be coming from their opponent's physical position. This includes foot position, open or closed stance, as well as the direction of the racket arm. Most players understand and react to these visual clues and can anticipate the location of a slow moving ball.
The difficulty for most players is trying to anticipate the direction of a fast moving ball. Top players have long figured out that a sudden change of speed will result in the ball being returned back to where it came from, 80% of the time. Using this knowledge, players can anticipate the direction of the return and move into position to attack this return very early.
Here are two drills that will demonstrate this concept of anticipation against a fast moving ball.
- Set your Newgy robot for topspin to your backhand with no oscillation. Hit several medium speed backhand counters crosscourt; then "pop" one hard. Immediately pivot, anticipating the return back to your backhand, and finish with a hard forehand.
- Set your Newgy to deliver a medium depth underspin to your backhand with no oscillation. Practice making a fast deep push to your opponent's backhand and pivot, anticipating the return back to your backhand, and finishing with a hard forehand loop. This pattern is very effective against a chop serve.