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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 is perhaps the newest style in the evolution of the modern game. This athlete typically exhibits great hands, a wide variety of attacking strokes executed with almost equal strength from both sides, and the ability to adapt his game to attack the opponent's weaknesses.
This athlete is equally comfortable when generating powerful strokes or simply redirecting the opponent's power against them. Players of this style can produce a wide variety of topspin attacking shots from any position or distance from the table.
- Strong opening shots from either backhand or forehand.
- The ability to produce a great deal of variations in their attack.
- The ability to control the ball at high rates of speed.
- The use of sidespin to control the ball and create greater angles for their opponents to cover.
- Great confidence player and front-runner.
- Can become confused as to which of the many techniques to use, especially when losing.
- Can be lured into playing too soft, and not being aggressive enough to finish a point.
- Often lacks a single hard finishing shot (flat kill) against balls at a medium height.
Suggested Robot Drills
- Fast Push Techniques
- Backhand Block
- Backhand Counter
- The Chop Block, A Winning Variation
- Forehand Loop Against Backspin
- The Backhand Loop
- Fast Backhand Loop Against Backspin
- Backhand Loop Against Topspin
- Topspin Defense
- Learning the Off-The-Bounce-Loop
- A Great Looping Drill
- The Phenomena of Speed and Anticipation
- Increase Your Reaction Speed Using the Newgy Robo-Pong 2040
- The Basic Eight
- Turn Your Newgy Into A World Class Chopper
- Developing Your Serve Game
- How to Effectively Return Short Services
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder
Use long chop serves to the backhand mixed with short serves to the middle or backhand. Cut the sideline with the long serve so the opponent cannot run around his/her backhand to attack. Change constantly between backhand looping and counters to upset your opponent's rhythm. Elevate your loops to the penholder's backhand, as the higher loops are more difficult for them to block. Stay aggressive and constantly mix the speed, height, and direction of your topspins.
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands
Serve mostly short and mid-depth to the middle, then attack the third ball hard to a corner. Do not get into a backhand to backhand counter game; but do mix your backhand returns between loops and counters. Use sidespin on your forehand loops to increase your playing angles. Stay aggressive and change the speed, height, and direction of your topspins.
Against the Attacker — Inverted Looper
Serve short anywhere, with an occasional long chop serve to the backhand side. The key to defeating this powerful forehand style is to attack first. If you can not make a strong first attack, then try to make a safe topspin low with heavy spin. Stay as close to the table as possible, pushing your opponent back by redirecting his own force against him/her.
Against the Counter Driver
Use all types of serves and placements of the serves. Heavy backspin serves are particularly effective against the counter driver. Play safe topspins to the middle and attack hard down the lines. Do not be tricked into playing his/her game at the pace they like. Constantly mix the speed, spin, and height of your topspins.
Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
Use mostly short serves. Stay close to the table and redirect your opponent's power against him/her. Do not be tempted into over-hitting. Use sidespin on your loops to increase the distance your opponent must cover. Once the mid-distance looper retreats from the table, attack his middle or wide to the backhand side.
Against the Attacking Chopper
Use both short and long serves to the opponent's backhand, then follow with a series of variable topspins. Mix the height, spin, and speed of these topspins. The object here is to frustrate the chopper and force him/her to try high-risk attacks. Alternate hard shots with well-placed soft shots to make the chopper move forward and backward.
Against the Close to the Table Defender
Use mid-distance and long backspin serves. The key to overcoming this opponent is not to over force the attack. Constantly mix the spin, speed, and height of your topspins. Keeping your softer set-up shots directed to the middle of the table will reduce the angles that the defender can use and make your subsequent attacks easier to execute. When you get a high return, attack hard wide to the forehand side.