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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.
This style can be best thought of as an attacker who uses underspin to set up their attacking shots. Players of this style most often use two different racket surfaces and will flip the racket to produce great variations in their defense and their attack.
Attacking Choppers usually have powerful forehand loops or kills. They will strongly attack any weak return by their opponent, as well as any third ball opportunity. Placing less backspin on a return than the previous return will often result in a pop-up that can be killed. A heavier than normal backspin return often results in a safe push return that can be looped. For players of this style, patience and footwork are the keys for advancing to a high level.
- Great variation of strokes and spin puts opponents under a lot of pressure.
- Strong forehand drives or kills.
- Strong 3rd ball attacks.
- Good movement and physical ability.
- Can become impatient and attack the wrong ball.
- Footwork when switching from chopping to topspin attack shots.
- Defense may not stand up under pressure.
- Too many options may result in some indecisiveness under pressure.
Suggested Robot Drills
- The Chop Block, A Winning Variation
- Develop Your Push With Robo-Pong
- Topspin Defense
- Looping Against Backspin and Topspin
- Developing Your Serve Game
- Advanced Aerobic Movement Drills
- Train Your Chopping Game
- Forehand Loop Against Backspin
- Forehand Drive
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder
When serving keep most serves short and always look to third ball attack if the opportunity is there. Your first chop should be directed deep to a corner to force your opponent to move and thus execute a weaker first attack. Then vary your chops trying to force the opponent into errors. Attack any high slow moving ball or long drop shot.
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands
Same general tactics except you can direct more first chops wide to the forehand of the shakehands hitter.
Against the Attacker — Inverted Looper
Same general tactics as above but be even more careful to stay out of the middle with the first chop. No spin chops will be effective against this style.
Against the Attacker All-Round
You will need a higher degree of attack against this style, as they are the most consistent of the attackers. Also use some mid-distance serves. If their return is slow, look to third ball attack. Make this style play a lot out of their wide forehand corner.
Against the Counter Driver
Your style matches up well against the Counter-Driver. This style prefers topspin returns and your constant diet of varying backspin often befuddles this style. Nonetheless, you will need to be very patient against this style. Do not take chances with your defense or attack. Wait for a high ball then finish with a kill shot rather than a loop.
Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
Same general tactics as playing the Inverted Looper. You must be ready for their strong backhand loop as well. When you get an opportunity to attack, attack the middle.
Against the Close to the Table Defender
Same general tactics as playing against the counter driver. Placing your set-up chops to the center of the table reduces the angles that the Close to the Table Defender can use against you to prevent your attack. You may get more opportunities to step around and use your forehand attack from the backhand corner.