Last updated 4 years ago
Hi Jeff and Alois,
Table tennis performance has a lot to do with what goes on in your mind. When things go wrong, it's tough, but when things go well, paradoxically it's not always easy either, at least for me! Id' like to ask for your thoughts regarding the following situation, which I see happening way more than it makes sense from a pure probabilistic point of view (and not only to me!):
1) You're playing against an opponent of more or less comparable level to yours.
2) You're leading with what statistically looks like a pretty decisive margin, say like 8-5.
3) You think that in this position, it would be a shame to not be able to close the deal.
4) You play like your grandmother and you blow it.
Statistics say that at 8-5, if each player has equal chances to win a point, the chances of success for the leading player are 71%. Practically, I see most of these games end up being very tight. Of course, to reach that score of 8-5, you must have had a good series of successful points yourself, and it can happen to your opponent to, so he ends up levelling up, but still, I can't help thinking that psychologically this should be a good situation, one in which you should have the upper hand, while actually I feel the opposite. When I'm trailing behind, I know that, lost for lost, I have to give it all. No big questions. When I'm leading, I know that I will blame myself much more if I take risks and miss, so I don't. I tend to freeze and play passively, exactly at that time when my opponent is all pumped up and has no choice other than taking initiatives.
I realize that this attitude is mostly counter-productive, but I still don't know how to avoid it, other than:
- becoming much better than all my opponents (I don't think that can happen),
- ignoring the score totally (can't help watching it, plus umpire errors are not that rare at my level),
- not caring about the match result at all (can't do that when it's a team event, and can't really afford to give up the boost of motivation).
The only improvement I was able to implement so far is to be aware of the danger of this situation for me, and of my usual bad reaction to it. When it's a decisive game in a match, I will now take my time out quickly and before my lead has melted away. I will try to take more time to breathe between points. I may try a "spare surprise serve" if I can, exactly as if I were on the verge of losing. Actually, I try to trick myself into thinking that I am the underdog at that point. It's weird, but other than that, I don't know.
Your mind plays a huge part in the results of games. I think it is breaking the game down into points that may help you here.
You need to develop a routine for each point and try to keep the routine before each point no matter what the score. It is difficult to trick yourself into what the score is or the importance of a particular situation. Firstly accept that you will feel this way in that situation. At 8 -5 you are going to get anxious. Also realise that from the opponent’s point of view they are not in a happy situation either.
At the start of the game where would you rather be??
Don’t think about preservation, rather about how you are going to win the next point. Unfortunately Table Tennis is not a game where you can just milk the clock and not do anything for the rest of the game and preserve your lead. You actually have to go out and win some more points to win the game.
You need to practice your routine in training as well so that it becomes very familiar to you. Then in a match use it consistently no matter the position of the match, 10 - 0 up or 9 -9 in the deciding set.
In training as well, put yourself in that position more often. Play practice games where you start at 8 - 5 up or whatever the score is that really troubles you. The more times you are in the situation, the easier it gets.
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