How to analyse your opponent's game and prepare a game plan against him?

Ask the coachCategory: Tactics & match-playHow to analyse your opponent's game and prepare a game plan against him?
Peng Zhang asked 2 weeks ago

Hi Tom,
I was wondering if you could provide some advices on how to analyse a player’s game and prepare my game plan to against him? 
I understand the pro player normally watches video matches of their opponents before he play with them.
What do they focus on the analysis of games?
How do they prepare the game plan based on the findings?
How to stick with the plan when playing?
What should you do if your game plan does not work?
How to invoke players fighting spirit?
Thanks,
Peng

1 Answers
Tom Lodziak Staff answered 2 weeks ago

These are very good questions and probably require a longer answer than I will give here. I could probably write a book on this topic!

But let’s keep things simple. This is my basic approach to analysing an opponent.

  • Does he have a stronger forehand or backhand?
  • Does he prefer topspin rallies or backspin rallies?

Let’s say he has a stronger forehand and likes fast topspin rallies. If this is the case I may serve more backspin serves towards his backhand. When returning serves I may try to target his weaker backhand. In general I may play lots of balls to his backhand and use a bit more backspin than usual. This would be my Plan A. If this works, then I can continue with Plan A and hopefully win the match.

If this game plan does not work, then I will need to switch to a Plan B. Maybe I will have to mix up the placement much more or aim towards his crossover position more often. Maybe I will need to be more attacking and take more risks.

In general I usually try my Plan A for the first game and half of the second game. If I need to switch game plan, this is a good time to do it.

Of course you could do a much deeper analysis, where you try to examine an opponent’s footwork, stroke mechanics, consistency in fast and slow rallies, but this is not always easy to do at the amateur level. At the pro level they have lots of video footage and expert coaches to analyse the footage.

At the amateur level it’s probably not necessary to do such a deep analysis. You can have much success just working out a player’s weaker side and playing lots of shots to it.

I actually cover this topic in greater detail in my book SPIN, so this could be worth reading too.