Third Ball Attack in Table Tennis

Welcome to the channel of coach EmRatThich. Today I will explain to you the key points of how to do a 3rd ball attack in table tennis. The 3rd ball attack is your first attack or a shot to open a series of attacks later. Who attacks first, in general, will have a higher chance to win the point.

Read also the Top 5 Tips from the Chinese coach to improve fast in table tennis.


Chinese vs Western philosophy about table tennis

But firstly, I want to discuss the differences between the Chinese philosophy and the Western philosophy about this shot. In China, if you ask your coach about the "3rd ball" in table tennis, he might not understand. But if you talk about the "first direct attack" (直拍第一), he can answer you quickly. So there is a difference between the 2 systems.

In the Western country, your service is the 1st shot, the opponent returns your service is the 2nd shot and the shot that you attack is counted as the 3rd shot. That's why it's called as "3rd ball attack" in table tennis. However, in China, the services and the attack shots are considered apart. So the first shot is counted after your serve. They studied the services and the return carefully and that's why they want to separate the service and the attack shots. As you may know, there are 2 types of service, the ace serve where you can win the point directly and the setup serve which is used to setup your "3rd ball attack".

Cannon or Machine Gun

As Li Xiaodong explained in the "art of table tennis", there are 2 types of attacking shots: "cannon" or "machine gun". Players such as Fan Zhendong, who have tremendous power, are considered to be "canons". They can overpower their opponents with two to three shots.

On the other hand, Kong Linghui is the "machine guns". Shot after shot he hit the opponents until they are out-matched. For those players who have speed but not enough power, the matter of connecting shots become even more crucial.

People tend to think that a player who has no force can never be successful. But then look at Kong Linghui. He has merely average power and spin. His killer shots are less than spectacular. However, he has speed: speed in connecting his shots. In hindsight, that is the secret of his success. The transitions are always fast and ahead of his opponents. In fact, he is a creator of the concept of winning with speed transitions.

Best ways to avoid error in the forehand attack

1. Overhit the 3rd ball

Some players think that they should kill the 3rd ball. So they tend to hit very hard and try to win this point directly. However, it's wrong. By hitting too hard, and without concentrating on the quality (the spin and the placement) of the 3rd ball, the amateur players make many unforced errors and then lose the confidence to continue to do 3rd ball attack. Even for Ma Lin, the best 3rd ball attack player in the world, he has the highest percentage of winning by his 3rd ball attack. But mostly, his 3rd ball is used as a set up for his next forehand attacks later. So no matter what your style "cannon" or "machine gun", your third ball attack must have high quality: consistency, spin, and placement. Don't hope to win directly on the 3rd ball, but think about the domination on the next shots after this 3rd ball.

2. Not ready to attack

Some players are not ready to do the 3rd ball attack. It's not a technique problem, but it's a mental problem. To do a 3rd ball attack, you need to be willing to attack just after your serve. Say to yourself "I will attack right after my service". So don't push after my serve, but attack in any situation.By thinking and preparing for that, you will change your habit and will be ready to attack after your serve. If you prefer to open the attack with your Forehand, then learn a service, that let you do a Forehand attack. If you like backhand flip the ball, and then find a service that makes the ball returned to your backhand side or in front of your body and then attack it with your favorite backhand.

3. Train incorrectly

You don't know how to train correctly for the 3rd ball attack. A coach has proposed to do this training "spin the ball at the table". For me, this type of training is not for the 3rd ball attack but is just learn to feel the ball, learn to spin the ball. Or this type of Forehand topspin a feeding ball. No, if you train like that, you can not apply your 3rd ball attack consistently in the real match.

3rd ball attacks always incorporate with your service. You should understand that "3rd ball attack" is the attack following your service, so this attack will depend on your serve. Normally, the best 3rd ball attack player will have the best set-up services. After his serve, he knows exactly where the ball is returned, and well prepare to attack this return. So please train the 3rd ball attack with your service.

5 Tips to master the 3rd ball attack

To have a good habit of the 3rd ball attack, you need to:
  1. have a desire to attack first, or to be aggressive in your shots
  2. develop a good set-up serve for your attack
  3. predict the placement of the returned ball (the 2nd ball)
  4. learn to move by a pattern (big step and then small step)
  5. add power to your attack by using the concept "power from the ground".

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