Last week I played my first competitive matches using my weaker left hand. I set myself the challenge of being competitive and maybe winning one of my matches. How did I get on? Did I amaze my opponents with my left handed skills? Or did I flop and embarrass myself? Here’s my match report…
Match 1 – The Long Pimples Chopper
My first match was again a long pimples chopper. This is not really the playing style I wanted for my first match as a left hander! All that awkward spin to deal with. But actually it turned out OK. The pace was fairly slow and my opponent didn’t attack much, so I was able to be patient and ease myself into the match.
I had no problem reading the spin from the pimples. This is definitely an advantage when playing with my weaker hand. Even though I can’t always play the shots I want, at least my brain works the same when reading spin. My shots are ‘beginner/intermediate’. My brain is ‘advanced’.
As my opponent didn’t attack much and I played quite cautiously, we did engage in many long, tentative rallies. I found it hard to finish off points with speed or spin. I mostly relied on ball placement and my opponent making unforced errors.
I also found it hard to make space to play forehand attacks. This is one of the hardest aspects I find when playing left handed. I just can’t coordinate my body and feet and find the right position to play lots of forehands. My footwork isn’t great with my stronger right hand. With my left hand it’s terrible!
But despite these challenges, I won the first two games 11-6 and 11-8. In the third game, I made a few too many unforced errors and lost 15-13. I felt a little bit of pressure going into the next game. I felt the momentum was swinging to my opponent. So I decided to be a little more positive with my shots and take a few more risks. I missed my first two attacks, but I persevered and regained the upper hand, winning the game 11-7.
My first victory using my left hand!
Match 2 – The Big Hitter
My second match was against a good Division 2 standard player. He has a very powerful forehand hit, which is hard to return. I actually lost to this player with my stronger right hand when I last played him a few years ago. So my concern going into this match was that I was going to take a beating!
And I did lose 3-0. This was a tough match. I never felt I was able to control the game or assert any consistent pressure. My opponent was too good. My points total was actually OK. I lost 6-11, 10-12, 8-11. The score doesn’t look that bad, but in truth my opponent was dominant.
I was able to force some mistakes with my serve, but if the rally went past two or three balls, I would usually lose the point. Most of my points were from his mistakes, although I did hit a couple of forehand winners.
In general, I couldn’t keep the ball tight enough. My pushes and blocks were too soft which gave him the opportunity to keep using his big forehand attack.
And when he did attack, my reactions were not quick enough to return the ball. I did get one block on the table (which was a clean winner), but he must have hit another 10 fast attacks past me!
Even though I was second best, I didn’t disgrace myself. I was encouraged that I managed to win plenty of points. But it did expose my limitations, especially my ability to assert pressure on a higher level player.
Match 3 – The Pusher
My third and final match of the evening was against a pusher. After my loss, I really wanted to win this match.
I started too cautiously and played far too many pushes. I really wanted my opponent to mess up first. But taking on a pusher by pushing with my weaker hand was probably not the wisest strategy. I would play 6, 7, 8 pushes and then tentatively try to topspin. Of course, my attempted topspins went into the net! I had reverted to how I used to play 15 years ago!
At 5-5 in the first game, I changed strategies. I started to push less and loop more. I hit a surprising amount of backhand loops – more than I ever hit with my right hand. My loops were not very fast or spinny or even deep on the table. But they were enough to change the dynamics of the match. When I got him to block and drive, rather than push, I felt I was in control of the rallies. I didn’t hit many winners, but I was able to move him about and he made quite a few unforced errors.
Final score was 3-0 to me – 11-6, 11-7, 11-8.
What did I learn?
Overall it was a decent start to my left-handed challenge. Two wins and one loss.
But the pressure of a league match highlighted my weaknesses. I was far too passive. I pushed and pushed and pushed and didn’t have the confidence to go for my attacks. And when I did attack, there wasn’t that much speed or spin. My serves were also a bit tentative. I didn’t get the whip and spin I can get in training. I served too safely. And my footwork was not good, in particular moving for wide balls. These are all areas I need to improve.
But, you know what? It was great fun. This was my first competitive match for 18 months. The atmosphere was very friendly. Everyone was just happy to be playing again. I got some nervous energy before the league match started and after each match I played I wanted to get back on the table straight away and play again. The joys of competing!
My next left handed match – and probably last for the summer – is this evening. Will I be able to win any more? I’ll let you know.