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

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Beat the Pick-Hitter!

Learn tactics to beat this difficult opponent

In this article, I’m going to briefly describe the tactics that you should use to beat a pick-hitter.  A pick hitter is usually a rather defensive player who suddenly attacks as a surprise.  In order to best understand your opponent, you need to start off by analyzing him in detail by asking yourself the following questions in regards to your opponent.  You should ask yourself these questions when you are studying your opponent prior to the match or during the first few points of your match.
1.       When attacking, does my opponent prefer to use forehand or backhand to his winners?
2.       When defending, what percentage of the table does my opponent cover with his forehand and what percentage does he cover with his backhand?
3.       When playing steady rallies, does my opponent prefer to use backspin (pusher) or use topspin (blocker) on the majority of the balls?
After the first game, your analysis should be slightly deeper.  Now ask yourself these questions.
1.       Are my current tactics working?
2.       How consistent is my opponent when attacking?  Is he making more than 60% of his attacks?
3.       When he attacks, am I able to return it?
4.       During the course of the 1st game, were his main tactics consistent, or did he change throughout the game?
If you can return the pick-hitter’s attacks, then just play your normal game and don’t worry too much if he attacks or defends.  If you cannot return the pick-hitter’s attacks, then you need to keep the ball low, intentionally stay away from his power zones, and look to often initiate the attack yourself.  It is absolutely critical that you find a good blend of control and offense when playing against the pick-hitter.  
If you are too passive, then the pick-hitter will eventually get the right ball to hit. 
If you are too aggressive on every ball, then you are probably giving away too many free points.
Also note that pick-hitters generally have confidence highs and lows throughout the match.  One game they might go wild on 7-8 attacks, while the next game they might only go for 1-2 attacks during the entire game.  So, if the pick-hitter changes his tactics and gains momentum, then always be alert and ready to make tactical adjustments yourself.
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