This article is intended to provide and introduction to what are
called tactical styles.
We all know that there are attacking styles and defensive styles.
There are and even mixed styles (as those players that BH chop and
FH loop). There are players who rally a lot, going for the touch
strokes. There are spin variation players, and players that wait for
opponent's errors (even forcing them). There are twiddlers that can
play any stroke with any of 2 very different rubbers. There's any
flavor of blocker you can think of, using any equipment combination.
The list is endless...
Then, what is a tactical style?
Obviously, all styles are are tactical to some extent. Any looper
has to face decisions such as "where do I place my next shot?",
"what serve should I do now?", "will my next shot be a safe slow
loop or a risky topspin?", "Does a change of pace benefit my
opponent or me?", and so on. These are all 'tactical decisions', and
are of crucial importance on the development and result of the
But the looper is still a looper, playing
strokes / variations
/ gears /
sub-styles / whatever on a looping style, as
he still has the mindset of a looper. He can play any stroke, but he
does that without changing his mindset, in the hope that he can go
back to his game.
I call "tactical players" those players that will do ANYTHING, and
employ any possible tactic to win. A tactical player has to be
well-rounded enough so he can play any style, switch between styles,
or even play any mixture of styles at will. He has to do so with the
sole intention of winning, and play for the maximum effectivity.
A side note: What I call "tactical players" or "tactical styles" can
be a different thing of what other people call "tactical players" or
Regarding the style changes (Note - From now on, have in mind that
"a style change" can be as short (and often it is) as just one
stroke), here are my comments for a tactical player (or a wannabe
Changing styles because your opponent forces you to do so, is a
weakness and means that you are not imposing your game. Some
players (tactical or not) do this in desperation (let's say they
start chopping when the opponent forces him to move away from the
table), and as a result they end winning. This forced changes
can't be avoided, but should be minimized. Changing styles to put
the opponent in troubles is good, and the way to go.
You have to employ a certain style by SPECIFIC reasons. This means
that you have to think a lot and fast, and be aware of lots of
things. Most tactical players play a highly speculative style.
This is a bigger weakness as the level of play goes up, since
opponent's putaways are more dangerous. You have to go for the
shots, play risky and aggressively. Most tactical players are in
fact some sort of defensive players, with certain attacking
capabilities. Learn to BH loop, open the point to set up your
attack, attack serves, push and block aggressively, and your
opponents will be in GREAT trouble.
Such wide selection of styles demands a very thoughtful choice
on equipment, and the way it is used during play. Most tactical
players use a combination racket, and some of them twiddle. This
has some advantages and disadvantages:
Some advantages of using a combination racket and twiddling:
Twiddling will give you an additional 100% in variation and
tactics. In fact a player with a combination racket that doesn't
twiddle is more a mixed style player than a tactical player,
since most rubbers (other than inverted) LACK the versatility to
play different styles. Inverted does, but as it's difficult to
play some styles with it, the use of other rubbers than inverted
Changing rubbers gives you the option to play different styles.
Also note than twiddling is more that flipping the blade, as it
involves adjustments in tactics, technique, grip, mindset,
Using equipment with high control allows you to go for extreme
pace / placement shots.
You'll play better a style (or stroke) if you have the right
equipment. This makes so highly recommendable the choice of a
combination racket, that doesn't matter what the following
Some disadvantages of using a combination racket and twiddling:
You don't develop certain areas of your play since you play a
low risk game with certain rubbers: Returning serves with
antispin or long pips is not an option: Your opponents can use
this to their profit, and you won't improve your serve
Playing with defensive or passive rubbers has the added
disadvantage that you don't play as actively as you could. This
is a huge disadvantage, but the use of somewhat unconventional
strokes can overcome that (hitting with long pips and the like),
but it's something rather difficult to master. Instead, I
recommend to play defensive strokes more aggressively. Also,
opponents can take profit of predictable passive rubbers
(antispin / long pips).
You can (and will) be caught with the "wrong" rubber for the
style you want to play. The consequences of this can be
minimized if you have a wide shot selection with both rubbers,
but it will make you lose the initiative or the control of the
rally sometimes. This is a big problem, and the main reason why
there are so few twiddlers at high level (There are only
defensive players, who give initiative to the opponent on
The hardest thing to master for a twiddler is that he can end
using several grip variations for different combinations of
strokes and rubbers. There is nothing wrong with it, and I
recommend it. But it takes some time to master, and can make
You have to master lots of strokes. This makes the tactical play
so demanding technically that no young player at high level plays
like this. Learning a two winged looping style is much easier and
quicker (thus can be perfected far beyond than what any tactical
player can handle) than learning how to play several different
styles (that involves different footwork, techniques, grip, mind
setting...). That is of course at VERY high levels. At any other
level, tactical players are very often tough opponents.
You have to know your own limitations: All players have to. You
just have to know your game better and deeply because you happen
to select what parts of it are you going to use.
Copyright The Tactical Table Tennis Website
Last Update : 06 November, 2002
Copyright ┬ę 2001-2006 Ertan Patir