Coach Samson Dubina US National Team Coach 4x USATT Coach of the Year

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Beat the Injured Player

Learn some new tactics

Beat the Injured Player
Ok this is officially the weirdest table tennis article I have written…  Beat the Injured Player
Think about it, your opponent is already injured, and now you need some fancy tactics to beat him???
Come on!  Give him a break!
No way!  Absolutely not!  Never!
That is the first point to remember, don’t cut him any slack.  I often hear players say, “Yeah Bob and I are usually 50/50, however, with his back injury, I’m sure that I’ll win today.”  Next, the unthinkable happens.  The player goes in without focus and loses to the injured player.  With the proper preparation, the match could have been easily won.
Also, think about the injury.  Think to yourself, “If I were injured like that, what couldn’t I do well?”  If you pause for a moment and think, you might be able to find the answers yourself. 
Wrist Injury
In February, I had a severe wrist injury and wasn’t able to generate much spin on my backhand flip.  My smart opponent served short topspin to my backhand, received a weaker-than-normal flip, and was able to play his strong openings again and again off the flip.  Remember, when playing someone with a wrist injury, be sure to play many balls to the backhand.  They can usually return the ball without pain, but can’t generate the normal amount of spin.  Also, their serves tend to be much less spin than normal.
Back Injury
Usually, players with back injuries stay in the middle of the table and play well from the wings.  The problem ball is typically the one in the middle, especially heavy backspin serves and backspin pushes are difficult for these guys to loop.  You can recognize a back injury by someone who can’t bend to pick up the ball, someone who stands very erect, someone who is constantly rubbing IcyHot on their back or someone holding their back moaning in pain between points.  Between points, I often look at my opponent (for various reasons); one of the hundreds of reasons that I look at my opponent is to spot an injury.
Shoulder Injury
Players with injured shoulders usually have difficulty in smashing the high balls.  They will often compensate by attempting a high-risk smash off the bounce or continually using drop-shots.  To make this quick smash difficult, make sure that you lob with plenty of topspin; try to make the ball land deep in the last 10” of the table.  Be prepared to quickly move in and attack the drop shot.  Also, players with shoulder injuries usually have difficulty counterlooping from the wide forehand.  When you have the chance to attack the wide forehand, go for it and continue putting pressure on the wide forehand.
Ankle Injury
Without proper shoes and proper footwork, many players get ankle sprains in table tennis.  If your opponent sprains his ankle, be sure to play wide angle shots.  Sharp angle serves off the sidelines followed by a wide push or loop the other way.  Instead of moving for the wide balls, often times these opponents will stay closer and attempt to reach for the angle balls.  In this case, sometimes playing directly to the body works as well (supposing they are too close).
These situations listed above presuppose that your opponent was injured before starting the match.  However, there are instances where he gets injured DURING the match.  In this situation, it is important that both of you remember the injury timeout rule: The referee may allow a suspension of play, of the shortest
practical duration, and in no circumstances more than 10 minutes except for, if a player is temporarily incapacitated by an accident, provided that in the opinion of the referee the suspension is not likely to be unduly disadvantageous to the opposing player or pair. A suspension shall not be allowed for a disability which was present or was reasonably to be expected at the beginning of the match, or where it is due to the normal stress of play; disability such as cramp or exhaustion, caused by the player's current state of fitness or by the manner in which play has proceeded, does not justify such an emergency suspension, which may be allowed only for incapacity resulting from an accident, such as injury caused by a fall. If anyone in the playing area is bleeding, play shall be suspended immediately and shall not resume until that person has received medical treatment and all traces of blood have been removed from the playing area.
Never hope for a free win.  You are at the tournament to play, you should want to win the matches, not receive defaults.  Just assume that you are going to play and convince yourself that you want to play this opponent.  Keep in mind the injury, but don’t let it change your own style too much.  Instead of focusing 100% on the tactics, sometimes it is just best to play your stuff, do your best shots, focus each point and play to win.

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