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William Henzell's Blog April 21, 2013

Here are some of the recent Platinum membership videos I've made and released on

TE04 The Edge - Playing The Ball Wide
AEX3 Advanced - Down the Line - Cross Court
A17 Advanced - Serve Return Placement

Playing competition matches is the only true test of finding out where your form and game is at. It's all very well to stand there in the familiar setting of your practice hall and say which shots or tactics feel good however that's just not a realistic test of what will stand up under pressure.The nerves of comp and the extra tension in your arm and body makes all the difference.

Recent tournaments over the past few weeks gave me my first insight into what has deteriorated in my game since the 2012 Olympics, where I was in the form of my life. I'd taken 18 months off work and had relocated to the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria, training 4 - 5 hours per day to make sure I did everything I could to give myself the best chance of performing well in London. I was fit, strong, focused and match toughened after receiving some of the best coaching and training available. Things have been different since London and I would have averaged 2 training sessions per week and almost no match play since then. I don't particularly enjoy competition matches but acknowledge the importance they have on sharpening up your game. So what has paid the price since London? Here are the top 3:

- My footwork and movement in general has declined more than I thought it would have. This became evident against the top players I faced at the World Team Cup in China a few weeks ago. There were too many times I was caught just late or just out of position and made simple mistakes. It was especially bad from the middle of the table where I leaned over to play my forehand topspin, rather than stepped around properly.

- Return of serve. Playing the same few players over and over makes you good against returning those particular serves, but lacking the ability to adjust and read a wide variety of serves. A milimetre or two can make a big difference in whether a return of serve is successful or a disaster so reading spin precisely is crucial.

- Trying to hit the ball too hard. My slower movement and worsened consistency are the culprits here but I think it's more of a mental switch rather than a physical one that's required. I'll need to accept the situation I'm in training-wise and adjust the expectations of what my game can handle accordingly. I'm not going to able to get to the ball at exactly the right time in order to generate maximum power as often as before so therefore I'll need to lower my expeaitons of how hard I'm going to be able to hit the ball. In China I could have runs of 4 or 5 great points and then make 5 errors in a row.

One of the biggest problems with training less is that you have less opportunity to work on your deficiencies. There just aren't enough training hours in the week. So it becomes about trying to do more with less, with I expect many of your reading this can relate to. I'm trying to at least do some work on my movement and how hard I'm hitting the ball. I'm starting each session with a footwork exercise instead of starting with my normal control exercise.

My favourite at the moment is to play one or two forehand topspins from to the middle (the opponent decides whether 1 or 2) and then the next is to the wide backhand or to the wide forehand, before going back to one or two from the middle. So the exercise mixes some regular components (ie knowing that after a wide ball, the next one will be back to the middle) with irregular components (one or two from the middle) and footwork.

At the end of each session I've started to do footwork as often as I have energy left to do so. Intensive, physical footwork. I get two ball to the wide backhand then two balls to the forehand. I play all the shots with my forehand topspin. It's tiring and it gets you moving. I've noticed how tiring it is for the whole body and not just my legs. The stomach needs to stay tense at all times to control the body position and allow for rotation.

As I mentioned, how hard I'm hitting the ball is more mental than physical. It's about getting myself into the mindset of holding back on my shots and focusing on technique rather than power.

Published date: 
Sun, 04/21/2013 - 19:30