What’s your excuse when you lose a table tennis match?

It’s very tempting to use an excuse when you lose a table tennis match.

“The table was too slow.”

“I wasn’t warmed up properly”

“My opponent used funny rubbers”

Players make excuses to protect their ego. It’s more comforting to blame something or someone else. This way you can maintain a belief that you are better than the player you just lost to. “If it wasn’t for X, Y and Z, I would have won.”

But ultimately making excuses will only hinder your improvement. Let’s look at some common excuses players use…

Excuse # 1 – Not warmed up

“I only lost because I wasn’t properly warmed up. There’s no way this player would normally beat me. If I had a 30 minute warm-up, I definitely would have won.”

In an ideal world you would have time for a really good warm-up before every league and tournament match you play. In reality this rarely happens. If you play in a league match, especially an away match, you may only get five minutes to warm up. If you play tournaments, there is often fierce competition for table time before the tournament begins. Again, you may only get a few minutes to warm up.

But you know your warm-up time may be limited, so you shouldn’t use this as an excuse. You could try getting to a venue earlier to allow more time to warm up. If there is no table available to warm up, you could do some exercises off the table. 

Or you could develop your ability to start a match and hit a decent level with only a minimal warm-up. How do you do this? During your training sessions, play some matches at the beginning of the session, then do whatever training exercises you like after. This way you get used to playing matches with only a minimal warm-up. 

Excuse # 2 – Poor playing conditions

“The table was too slow. The lighting was too bright. The court was too small. The table was the wrong colour. It was too cold. It was too hot. There was too much noise.”

In amateur table tennis, playing conditions are usually far from ideal. That’s life! Deal with it. I don’t think I have ever played in a league or tournament match where conditions were completely perfect. There is always some potential distraction. 

But you know what? It’s the same for both players. You need to focus on what you can control – your shots, your serves, your tactics, your game-plan. If the table is slow, adjust the timing of your strokes. If the floor is slippery, put a bit of damp tissue paper by the side of the table and keep dabbing your shoes to get more grip. If the lighting is too bright or low, make extra effort to focus on the ball. 

Some players are really bothered by noise. The best way to deal with this is to practise in busy venues, with multiple tables, where there is plenty of noise. You soon get used to it and then if you play a noisy league or tournament match, the noise won’t bother you so much.

Excuse # 3 – It was the bat’s fault

“My rubbers are rubbish. I couldn’t get any grip. They are too old / slow / fast. If I played with different rubbers I would have definitely won that match.”

You lost? Blame your bat and make sure everyone knows. It’s very easy to do. And the good thing is you can go home, order some different rubbers and hey presto, problem solved! But do you know what everyone else is thinking? You’re making excuses. And they are right.

You presumably started the match happy with your bat and only after defeat did your bat become the problem. By convincing yourself that the bat was the problem you are avoiding the real truth. You lost the match because your opponent played better than you. What tactics did he use? How did he serve? Where did he hit the ball? How did he stop you winning points? 

By blaming the bat, you don’t learn why you lost and how you can win next time. Your bat wasn’t the problem. Your game play was. Fix that and you’ll win more points next time. 

Excuse # 4 – Nets and edges

He got so many nets and edges. It was ridiculous. How can I win if every point he clips the net? I should never have lost that. He was so lucky.”

Some players have an amazing ability to only remember the nets and edges of their opponent and never remember their own good fortune. It’s like every net and edge their opponent gets is an outrageous injustice. But their own nets and edges are fully deserved – the universe is righting a wrong.

Nets and edges happen. It’s part of the game. It usually evens out over the course of a match or league season or tournament. But if you get overly annoyed by every net and edge, you are more likely to lose subsequent points. You lose your strategic thinking, because you are raging inside about your opponent’s good fortune. It’s completely self-destructive.

If your opponent gets a lucky net and edge, instead of raging, just say “good shot”. As quickly as possible, try to regain focus for the next point. What’s your strategy? Where do you want to hit the ball? How can you exploit your opponent’s weakness?

When training, never give up on a ball which clips the net or edge. Sometimes it’s simply impossible to return the ball, but many nets and edges are possible to return. If you develop this skill, then you can still win points even when your opponent hits those fortunate shots.   

Excuse # 5 – My opponent is junk

“He’s not even a proper player. His shots are weird. He uses pimples. He doesn’t play proper table tennis. I only like playing against topspin players.”

This is the most infuriating excuse! “I would have won if my opponent played the way I like.” Some players believe any type of unorthodox player (style or equipment) is illegitimate. For these players, only traditional topspin players count as real table tennis players.

This is obviously complete and utter nonsense. There are no rules in table tennis about your playing style and how you should execute shots. If your opponent can hit a shot which you can’t return, good for him! It doesn’t matter how weird the shot looks. If the ball is on the table, your opponent has done something which you need to respond to. Your challenge is to work out how to get the ball back.

In amateur table tennis there are so many weird and wonderful styles. This is what makes the game so challenging and fun to play. At lower levels, traditional topspin players are a minority. You are much more likely to face an unorthodox opponent. Embrace this. Make it a goal to get good against many different playing styles. Develop strategies to use against different opponents. In training, seek out unorthodox players to practise against. 

If you do all of this, then you will find it much easier to cope with unorthodox players in league and tournament matches. You will still lose some of these matches. It’s fine. Try to analyse why you lost and what you would do differently next time.

Learn from your defeats

Making excuses for a defeat is an easy option. It protects your ego. But it’s pointless. It prevents you from confronting why you really lost a match. How did you win or lose points? How did your opponent win or lose points? What areas of your game do you need to develop to win more points? 

If you ask these questions after every match you lose (or win), you will improve much quicker and reach a much higher level of play.

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