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Constant changes in equipment, gluing methods, and training methods have had a large effect on the evolution of styles within our sport. The decade of the nineties has seen the decline of two styles, the passive chopper and the passive half-distance topspin player. In their place, a stronger more balanced attacking style has emerged, the All-Round Attacker. This can be seen in both shakehands and penholder versions, with the penholder version incorporating the new reverse penholder backhand loop technique. Recently, the switch to the 40mm ball has changed both stroke techniques and tactics; and even now, playing styles are evolving quickly to take full advantage of the new ball’s playing characteristics. Table Tennis is an ever-evolving sport that requires both coaches and players to constantly update their knowledge.
The purpose of this article is to examine the eight styles currently in use at the World Class Level. If you are uncertain of your style or wish to better identify which style is best for you, then please read What Style Should You Play. These styles include:
- The Attacker, Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style
- The Attacker, Shakehands Hitter
- The Attacker, Inverted Looper
- The Attacker, All-Round
- The Counter Driver
- The Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
- The Attacking Chopper
- The Close-to-the-Table Defender
This series of articles will provide you with the strengths and weaknesses of each style, along with some suggested robot drills to help you develop your game. In reading the descriptions you may find that your personal style will have attributes from more than one. However, you should be able to recognize your dominant style ("A" style) and your secondary style ("B" style). Each article will also give you some suggestions on tactics to use against the other styles of play. Hopefully the style descriptions will serve as a guide in analyzing your own
Attacker — Shakehands Hitter
Like their Penholder counterparts, this style generally stands within three feet of the table. This style is forehand dominated and all ball contact is on the rise or at the top of the bounce. Unlike the Penhold Pips-Out Attacker, this style will often open a point with a backhand drive. This style often features a strong backhand counter-drive, hitting well through opponent’s topspin shots. While still trying to finish each point quickly, the Shakehands Pips-Out Attacker is often content to maneuver the opponent out of position before pivoting to end the point with a forehand kill.
There are more penholder pips-out hitters than shakehands pips-out hitters due to the ease of producing spin with the penholder grip. The shakehand pips-out hitter can produce great speed but has trouble generating much spin. Even so, the style can be very successful. A great example of this style would be Johnny Hwang from Canada.
- Quick pivot to use the forehand from backhand corner
- Strong forehand kills.
- Strong counter-driving techniques from the backhand side
- Strong backhand initial opening attack
- Excellent serve and return game.
- Forceful pace - gives opponent very little time to react
- Short game (not as strong as the penhold hitter)
- Forehand serve return. (they are often forced to go for high risk shots due to a lack of a spin loop)
- Forehand lift against long underspin shots
- Balls directed to the player's middle.
Suggested Robot Drills
- Developing Your Serve Game
- How to Effectively Return Short Services
- Serve Receive
- The Phenomena of Speed and Anticipation
- Increase Your Reaction Speed Using the Newgy Robo-Pong 2040
- Advanced Aerobic Movement Drills
- Step-Around Footwork Drill
- Footwork Drills
- Chair Drill
- The Basic Eight
- Fast Push Techniques
- Kill That Chop!
- Forehand Smash Against Backspin
- Forehand Drive
- Forehand Smash
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Pips-Out Penholder Attacker
Keep your serves short to the opponent’s backhand side. In addition, serve deep to the backhand, cutting the sideline of the table and attack the return. Also, occasionally serve deep to the forehand. Your grip should give you an advantage in backhand-to-backhand play. Pin your opponent in his/her backhand corner as much as possible. When returning serves long, play to the deep corners.
Against the Inverted Looper Attacker
Use mostly short mixed serves, with an occasional fast deep serve to the opponent’s forehand side. Do not allow the Inverted Looper to turn you into a blocker, hit through the topspin as much as possible. Also, attack down the line whenever possible to keep time pressure on this opponent by making him/her play at a faster pace than they are comfortable. Strong opening attacks and fast returns to the opponent’s switchpoint, if shakehands, will force him to back off the table.
Against the All-Round Attacker
Keep most of your serves short or at mid-depth. Follow your serve with a forehand attack to keep the opponent on the defensive. Attack often to your opponent’s middle. When returning serve, use the flip often. The key to defeating this player is to take away his confidence by forcing him to play more defensively.
Against the Counter Driver
Use short serves anywhere on the table with a deep fast underspin serve to the backhand mixed in. Shot selection is the key to defeating the counter driver. Do not over play your backhand. Use your backhand counter down the line to force more forehand-to-forehand play.
Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
Watch out for this opponent’s strong opening spin. Attack first and hit through his/her first loop whenever possible. Keep your serves short and attack the middle. When the opponent backs away from the table, mostly attack the backhand side.
Against the Attacking Chopper
Keep your serves mostly short with an occasional long serve to the opponent’s backhand side. Whenever possible make your first attack to the chopper’s middle and then attack his/her backhand side. The goal here is to keep the chopper on the defensive. Expect the chopper to third ball attack and when he does, redirect his attack away from the side it came from.
Against the Close to the Table Defender
Serve this style mid-distance to long serves to the middle or backhand side and attack their returns. Avoid long points by attacking your opponent’s wide forehand early in the point. No spin serves and pushes are often effective in forcing errors or high returns.