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How well you play has a lot to do with how well you stay within your own margins and how well you push your opponent beyond theirs.

they idea is that with any shot there is a way you can play it reliably. That is your comfortable level. As you increase the difficulty through adding power, aiming to tougher targets, adding more spin you will start to generate errors and eventually miss each shot. The margin here is the difficulty of shot you can play before you miss too many shots or give too many weak balls through mishits.

The point is that you can use this knowledge to win a match. Just keep asking yourself the question how do I play within my margains and force my opponent beyond theirs?

When you consider things this way you start to notice that all you’re really trying to do is push your opponent beyond their boundaries and make them do things they aren’t comfortable with. That gets in their head.

I am slowly building a bank of approaches to use with various types of player:

  • Against power players I put up a wall. Block everything back and maintain good position. They don’t expect the ball back and hit harder every time. Eventually hitting too hard
  • Against great movers I often move the ball from side to side. If they like to lob I use the lob to move them around. They will get everything back but not realise they are slowly tiring out. Once their legs go they have few options left
  • Spin: Players who specialise in spin are often creating a very complicated shot for you. Pace is not as important it’s more about the unpredictability of the shot. In this case I simplify my response. Often playing flatter, possible shorter strokes more like a volley. Focusing on taking little time to play the shot and more of recovering good position. Essentially telling them that’s not good enough.

The point is always about making things easy for you and awkward for your opponent. Returning their best shots with apparent ease implying they must try harder the next time.

The nice aspect of this concept is that you only need to understand one or two key points of a player to find a way to beat them. If they win through power you make that an option that favours you not them. It will lose them the match not win it for them. If it’s spin, ditto. For them to beat you they must now notice their strategy isn’t working and do something different. If they can’t then odds are you’ll win. If they have other options they need to be good enough. If they do find another strategy you then have to figure out what it’s core motivation is and take that away in the same way.

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