How to End a Popcorn War
A popcorn war happens when players are at the kitchen line, and are rapidly volleying the ball back and forth with no bounces. This usually starts when someone tries a harder forehand topspin or a smash in hopes of ending the rally, but the opposing team is able to return the ball. The war often quickly escalates in speed, but at times can last quite a while. The play seems too fast to control. The players are thinking they are lucky to return the ball defensively and so no one makes a truly offensive shot.
There are three things you can do to end a popcorn war in your favor.
1. Hold your paddle loosely and let the ball deflect softly off your paddle to bounce in your opponents’ kitchen. Drastically reducing the velocity this way works best if you try to deflect it into the middle of the kitchen, between the opponents. But breaking the momentum this way is difficult.
2. Suddenly lob the ball over your opponents’ heads. This, too is difficult, because with such short reaction time, the lob will tend to go way too far back, or not be high enough to be effective.
3. Aim for your opponent’s feet. A popcorn war is often conducted entirely above the net and below the players’ heads. If you can produce a shot that goes to your opponents’ feet, you’ll win the rally, because they will then miss it, or pop it so high you can smash it back. This can be easier than you might think, because the ball often comes to you high enough to clear the net if you can manage to direct it downward. If it is not high enough to direct downward savely, you can use a forehand topspin. It helps if you have practiced this, and try to visualize it happening right before you do it. In my experience, this is the most successful of the three techniques.
You might think that aiming directly at an opponent’s head or upper body would work well, but in a popcorn war, they are usually in a good position to put a paddle up in front of themselves, and return your ball in an even worse state than which it came.