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With ping-pong® balls exceeding speeds of up to 70 mph, from sometimes less than seven feet away, table tennis players often find themselves moving further away from the table to have more time to react. Although the chances of an attacking player winning points while on defense is low, here are a few tips on play away from the ping-pong® table:
There are two main types of defensive play when away from the table (topspin and underspin).
Lobbing – When extremely far from the table, lobbing the ball 10 to 20 feet in the air can prove effective if deep enough on the opponent’s side. For example, if the ball lands close to the net, it’s quite easy for the opponent to use power and smash the ball anywhere on the table. However, if deep enough, the ball will be more difficult to contact and hit with power. To add a greater jump to the ball, spin should be applied when lobbing.
Fishing – Another form of defensive play, fishing, is used when at a medium distance from the table and can be described as “carrying the ball” back onto the table. As opposed to a lob, a fished ball’s trajectory is much lower and should not give the opponent the same opportunity to finish the point as a weak lob.
The Attacker’s Defensive Chop – Often times when put out of position (most likely one ball wide to the forehand and back to the backhand), a low, no-spin chop can be used to work your way back into the point.
In the highlight video from the 2012 U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Team Trials below, I tried to list the times in the video where each of the techniques described is illustrated:
Fishing: 0:00, 3:05,
Defensive Chop Transitions: 3:28, 4:14, 5:07, 6:18