Hi everyone, in this article I will share my view on the basic tactics when coaching a left handed player. After years of playing (as a lefty) myself and coaching fellow teammates, I have developed a certain general view on tactics which I would like to share first.
Tactics in table tennis is a complex thing, I find, since we are always facing an opponent who has their own tactics and stronger and weaker aspects to their game. In my opinion when two players of similar level meet each other, the match changes into a match of who can adapt their game the best and sometimes who can do this the quickest.
A close-contested table tennis match is a good example of “moves and counter moves”. A part of our task as a coach is to predict what ‘moves’ the opponent will try and what our player’s response should be.
My conclusion to this very specific part is that for each and every opponent a new tactic can be necessary and that tactics are fluid, but we can find certain general aspects to it.
Below, I will focus on 2 main points which I find crucial when coaching lefty’s: Service and certain useful angles.
In the present day, table tennis service and receive have become a crucial part of the game. With the rise of the aggressive BH-flip (banana-flip), having a bad service or not having the ability to neutralize the threat is a huge weakness.
A very fast BH-flip of the opponent, for example, can be deadly for the outcome of the match if you don’t find a way to neutralize it.
As a left handed player you can neutralize a player with strong BH-flip quite well. I find there is a combination of two serves that can neutralize the BH-flip:
- A long fast service to the body/BH
- A short/semi long (second bounce on the white line) on the wide FH part of the table
I have experienced that this works well against left and right handed players who prefer to start the rally with a BH-flip. By executing this combination of serves you keep the opponent hesitating and as a result they are not able to choose to flip certain serves automatically and this results in lower quality flips or maybe even a different stroke selection.
I think the ratio of long and short serves should be around 35:65 to really keep them hesitating. Again this is a basic strategy and as a coach you have to see where or when to adapt this general strategy and make it more suitable for the specific opponent you face at that time.
Angles of Play
In general the left handed players are a minority in table tennis, which is in my opinion the reason that left handed players have a slight advantage over right handed players when they play each other, because left handed players face that specific gameplay more often than vice-versa.
The general right-left gameplay consists of one very important aspect: who is able to make the first wide angle from the BH-side off the table towards the FH side to get the opponent off-balance and often away from the table?
Because left handed players are more used to this gameplay they often have a better advantage in this aspect. Of course, there are right handed players who are very well practiced and conditioned to play against lefties, but in general I think the lefties have a slight advantage because of them being a minority and should consciously look for opportunities to exploit this advantage.
At the same time, when you are a right handed player you as well can look for the same opportunities: This tactic works equally well for both sort of players.
Above I have tried to give you an insight into the very fluid aspect of table tennis called tactics and then in specific to the general tactics for a left handed player.
I acknowledge that there are more advantages to talk about, and also disadvantages of course but I find these 2 to be essential.
This is because the importance of service and efficient use of placement (angles) is growing in modern table tennis. I hope this in itself can help you in coaching left handed players or encourage you in creating a better understanding of the fact that the game changes when you coach/play against left handed players.