When and How to Push
Reprinted from the April, 1997 issue of Table Tennis Talk
Probably the most over-used and under-used shot in table tennis is the push. This may sound contradictory, but it really isn't. Most players either push too much or too little.
Many players push because they feel uncomfortable attacking the incoming ball. Others don't push because they feel they should attack every ball. Both of these are poor reasons to push or not push.
Instead of pushing because of what you can or cannot do, push based on what your opponent can or cannot do. For example, if your opponent has an excellent loop against backspin, you should attack first whenever possible. Pushing simply helps your opponent.
On the other hand, if your opponent doesn't attack backspin well, why "force" your attack, and make mistakes? Instead, pick your shots.
Don't push because you have to; push because you choose to for tactical reasons. This means that you should learn to attack against any given ball, but then choose tactically whether to push or attack.
Having said all this, I recommend favoring attacking whenever possible, especially in practice. Why? Because, although it won't always be the best tactic, you will improve faster as a player by doing so. The problem, of course, is that if you don't push much in practice matches, how can you perfect the shot so that you can use it in tournaments? You need to find some sort of balance here.
You also may not want to overdo the use of pushing as a tactic in tournaments. There's a lot more pressure on you in a tournament than in a practice match, and it's a lot easier to push under pressure than to attack. Therefore, you may need to attack more often in tournaments than good tactics would suggest, so that you can become more comfortable attacking under pressure.
Usually, the player who tries to attack first in practice and tournaments becomes a stronger player than those who push more often, and don't develop as strong an attack. However, a player who favors attacking, but learns to push effectively, becomes best of all. If you doubt this, watch tapes of Jan-Ove Waldner, Liu Guoliang, Kong Linghui, or USA players such as Cheng Yinghua, Jim Butler and David Zhuang. All favor attacking, but push quite effectively. But only when they choose to for tactical reasons.
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