Table Tennis Tip ― Devastate the One-Wing Looper

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If your table tennis opponent’s primary shot is an extreme topspin attack, he is considered a looper. Loopers can play far from the ping pong table or close to the ping pong table; some loopers are penholders while others use the shakehands grip; some loop from both forehand and backhand and some just forehand.  In this article, I’m going to describe the table tennis opponent who loops with just his forehand.

If you have a chance to watch your opponent prior to your table tennis match, that’s perfect because you can have somewhat of an idea what he is going to do and you can think to yourself, “Ok this one-wing looper is looping with his forehand, so when I push deep to his backhand, he will just push back OR he will pivot and play a forehand OR he will try to smash with his backhand OR he might try to develop a backhand loop during the table tennis match and give it a try.”  As you can see, there are multiple ways to cover up a lack of strong backhand looping.  If you don’t have time to watch him prior to your match, then you might need to do some testing.  See what he does on all the shots.  If you immediately find some weaknesses, then pick on those weaknesses and use that to your advantage.  If you aren’t sure within the first few points, then you need to continue searching.  Here are some tips that apply to nearly all one-wing forehand loopers.

#1 Play Wide Angles

Interestingly, most one-wing loopers are very lopsided in all their strokes.  Your opponent might have a very high level forehand loop and almost no-backhand loop, a very high level backhand block and almost no forehand block, a very high level backhand push and almost no forehand push.  Regardless of what he prefers, playing angles will force him to use both sides.  For example, serve very sharp with your backhand to his short wide forehand, on the next ball try to push or loop to the extreme backhand side.  Anytime you use opposite angles, it will be tough for him to cover.

#2 Double-Up

Sometimes the one wing looper will understand your pattern of playing angle then the other angle and he will be anticipating the pattern.  In this situation, you need to double up with the same angle twice.  In general, is pattern play preferred?  It depends!  If the pattern is working in your favor, keep it.  If you opponent understands your pattern and is reading you like a book, then that particular pattern is bad.  So many club level players think patterns are bad because they want to be “unpredictable.”  However, if a pattern like short angled forehand then deep angled backhand is working, then why let your opponent off the hook?

#3 Play Long Rallies

The one-wing looper might have many weaknesses.  The longer the table tennis rally goes, the more likely that he will need to use his weaker stroke.  If you lengthen the rally and remain steady, then you will likely have a good opportunity.  For example, you push sharp to the wide backhand, your opponent steps around and loops with his forehand from the backhand side, next you block to the wide forehand, your opponent does the crossover step and loops the wide forehand, next you block to the backhand, your opponent lobs, and you smash for a winner.  Imagine if you had tried to counterloop his opening shot; it could have been good or it could have been wild.  When you chose to wait and lengthen out the point with a steady rally, then you had the opportunity.  Not “had” the opportunity, you CREATED the opportunity.  That is an important distinction.  When you are just looking for the opportunity, it implies that you are the passive one, just sitting back looking.  I prefer to use created because you created the chance with your well placed push and tactical blocking.

#4 Attack First

One-wing loopers know that they have weaknesses and know that they can’t play long rallies ― yes it isn’t a secret, they know it.  As a result of knowing it, they often will try to finish the point early with a very strong loop.  It is vitally important that you attack first with extreme angles and immediately put them on the defensive.

#5 Adjust to Variations

Because the one-wing looper is stronger is some areas and weaker in some areas, you must always be ready for variations.  For example, he might have the ability to push with his forehand and backhand; however, his forehand push is much quicker and much spinnier than his backhand.  In this case, you need to be ready to adjust when looping his forehand push vs looping his backhand push.

#6 Be Ready for Transitions

When playing table tennis against one-wing loopers, be ready to quickly transition from offense to defense and vice versa.  Maybe you are looping and he is blocking, suddenly he backs up and throws a massive counterloop into the mix.  In this situation, you might need to block controlled to the angle.  Maybe he is looping and you are blocking, after using great placement, he just rolls up a simple light-topspin ball; this is the one you have been waiting for, in this situation, go for the counterattack.

#7 Keep Track

The one-wing looper might seem a bit erratic.  However, he is likely limited in what he can do.  If he cannot do certain things well, be persistent at exposing those weaknesses.  If your push to the wide backhand continues to win points, be persistent at doing that shot.  Between points, step back and continue to evaluate and re-evaluate what he can and cannot do.

#8 Remember These Basic Rules

If this article seems overwhelming, remember these closing tips when playing table tennis against the one-wing looper:

  1. Attack First
  2. Serve Short Angled Serves
  3. Loop the Serve to the Extreme Angles
  4. Stay Close Throughout the Rally
  5. Work the Point and Play Long Rallies

By Samson Dubina, Professional Table Tennis Athlete and Coach

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Strive for Dexterity in Table Tennis

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Every table tennis player should strive for dexterity.  This is a skill that some players are naturally more gifted with and some players are not.  The good news is that it can be trained as well.  So what is dexterity?

Dictionary Definition of “Dexterity”
noun \dek-ˈster-ə-tē, -ˈste-rə-\
: the ability to use your hands skillfully
: the ability to easily move in a way that is graceful
: clever skill : the ability to think and act quickly and cleverly
In regards to table tennis, dexterity can mean several different things.  It can mean…
  1. Having the ability to learn a new stroke
  2. Having the ability to relax even while swinging hard
  3. Having the ability to be extremely precise and accurate
  4. Having the ability to put impart speed and spin on the ball with very little effort
  5. Having the ability to adjust the stroke for various types of balls

I will focus on the fifth type of dexterity in table tennis.

Dexterity is the ability to adjust to various aspects of the ping pong ball – adjust to the speed of the ball, adjust to the placement of the ball, adjust to the depth of the ball, adjust to the height of the ball and adjust to the spin on the ball.  I will use the forehand loop as my example.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the different speeds of the incoming balls.  Ask your table tennis training partner to block to your forehand and vary the speed of the block – sometimes slightly harder and sometimes slightly slower.  Keep your racket in front and backswing once you see the approaching ball.  If the ball is blocked quickly, then shorten your loop while still generating a lot of spin.  Always keep your weight leaning forward and contact the ball in front of your body.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the placement of the incoming balls.  Ask your training partner to move the ball around in the forehand 50% of the ping pong table.  Watch your opponent’s racket and adjust your feet into position before swinging.  Once your feet are set, then take a swing.  If you are in good position, loop slightly harder with a longer swing.  If you are off-balance and forced to reach or lean for the ball, shorten your swing, focus on control, brush the ball with spin, then get in better position for the next loop.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the depth of the incoming balls.  For this exercise, I would recommend starting very slowly.  Set up your Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot to throw the ball once every 3 seconds or have your training partner feed multiball.  If the ball is slow and lands near the net, move both feet forward and loop near the table.  If the ball is deep near the end line, then move back slightly and loop the deep ball.  When moving forward (for right-handed table tennis players), step with your right foot then the left foot.  When moving backward, step with the left foot then the right foot.  Both feet actually move simultaneously, however, the outside foot always initiates the movement.  When moving in-and-out, make sure to stay with your weight leaning forward.  Focus on moving your feet very fast while looping with control.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the height of the incoming balls.  Ask your training partner to adjust his block sometimes higher and sometimes lower.  Keep your racket in front of your body and take your backswing once you see the height of the incoming ball.  For the forehand loop against topspin, try to start your swing directly behind the ball and loop forward with spin.  If the ball is higher, then start your racket higher.  If your racket is lower, then start your racket lower.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the various spins of the incoming balls.  Ask your training partner to vary the spin on his block, sometimes he should block normal with slight topspin, sometimes he should spin over the ball with more topspin and sometimes he should chop-block.  If he adds topspin, the ball will jump up as it contacts your side of the table.  If he performs a chop-block, the ball with slow down as it contacts your side of the table.  Adjust your racket height and body position to the incoming ball.  This is the most challenging of all the exercises.  Don’t be discouraged if it takes several months to perfect this aspect of dexterity.

Every table tennis player should strive for dexterity.  I am convinced that dexterity should be trained.  In your training sessions, you should make it just as challenging as or more challenging than an actual game.  Be ready to adjust for various speeds, placements, depths, heights, and spins and you will be on your way to success!

Samson Dubina


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