As a classic defender, the emphasis is on the safe retrieval of the ball time after time, in order to wear the opponent down until he makes a mistake. Attacks are limited to easy setups with minimal risk.
Tip 1 – Never Give up on a Point
The classic defender never gives his opponent an easy point. The ball will only be attacked when he is sure of the put away. Risks are avoided where possible – you will rarely see a good classic defender go for a shot ‘just for the hell of it’. Many points can be won by simply getting the last unreturnable kill of the opponent back on the table somehow, and making the opponent do it again.
Tip 2 – Control
You need control in your racket and control of yourself. Your racket should be chosen to give you the best control of the ball, to maximize your chances of returning attacks consistently. You also need to keep control of yourself, and avoid making unforced errors. The classic defender relies on making very few mistakes, and forcing his opponent to have to take risks and hit outright winners to get points.
Tip 3 – Cover Up
Don’t be afraid to use the long pimples to cover a greater part of the court. If your footwork is fast, then the backhand with long pimples can probably cover a majority of the court for you. Even the current modern defensive players often cover 80% of the court with the long pimples when close to the table – take a leaf from their book.
Tip 4 – Turn, Turn, Turn
The classic defender should get the most out of his long pimples by using them to help control the hardest and spinniest of his opponent’s attacks. Since you should be fairly deep in the court, you should have time in most cases to turn the bat and hit his best attacks with the long pimples and their extra control.
Tip 5 – Fancy Footwork
You will need to have quick and smooth footwork if you are to survive as a classic defender. Most attackers will bring you in and out from the table on a regular basis, as well as making you move from side to side. They are hoping that they will be able to wear you out and force you to make easy mistakes. Since you do not have the aggressive firepower of the modern defender to capitalize on your opponent’s weaker loops, you need to be able to outlast your opponent in the rallies.
Tip 6 – Positive Placement
Use good placement to help keep control of the rally, and prevent your opponent from putting the ball away. When in close to the table, push often to the crossover point of your opponent (if he is a shakehander) or in the direction of the right hip for a right handed penholder. Other good alternatives are away from the reach of the opponent, so that he has to move before he can hit the ball. Don’t be afraid to go to the wide forehand, as many attackers are actually much better at hitting forehands from the backhand corner than they are at hitting the forehand from out wide.
When back from the table, use mainly deep placement to the center of the line of play to avoid giving your opponent the opportunity for easy drop shots or wide angles. The occasional curving chop going away from the opponent can be a useful option as well.
Tip 7 – Go on a Blender…
and steal from the modern defender! The more you are able to blend in some aggression to take advantage of your opponent’s bad returns, the more pressure he will be under. While you may never play as riskily or aggressively as Joo Se Hyuk, being able to attack a weak loop or long push gives you more options and makes life more difficult for your opponent. It’s also much easier to improve your own weak attack than it is to improve your already excellent retrieving skills(!)- the law of diminishing returns applies.
In fact, several of the tips for modern defenders apply to the classic defender as well, you just need to be able to tone down the aggression a bit and they will work just as well.