We all know the feeling – we’ve accidentally set up our opponent for a big-time smash. Many players tighten up in panic when that happens, turning a likely lost point into a sure thing. But some return a surprising number of smashes, often for winners. Here’s how.
Any kind of desperate return requires two things – quickness, and some anticipation of where the ball will go. Both these requirements benefit greatly from being as calm as you can under the circumstances. It’s hard to react quickly when your body is tight. Also, panic detracts from the focus you need to gauge where your opponent will hit. So the first key when things look dire is to relax. Then, guess where it’s going, move (or lean) that way, watch the ball and just try to meet it squarely with a block. Having a good (neutral) grip will help, as there’s no time to adjust the racket angle for a smash from nine feet away. Any of these you get back will surprise your opponent, and may win the point outright.
This is also one of the most fun skills to practice – set up your partner to whale away, while you stay at the table.