Backhand Block

Newgy Robo-Pong

The backhand block, like the forehand block, uses the speed and spin that is already on the ball to return the ball back across the net. The biggest difference between the backhand and forehand block is the backhand forehand block makes contact with the ball to the side and in front of

Stand about 12 inches in back of the center of your backhand court (the left court as you face the table, for right handers) in a squared 

Intercept the ball with a still racket as the ball is rising and just before it reaches its peak. Angle the racket open or closed by rotating the forearm to make the ball return low over the net. If your return is too high, you must angle the racket more closed by tilting the face of the racket toward the table. Conversely, if your return is too low and doesn't clear the net, you must open the racket angle slightly by tilting the face of the racket closer to vertical. 

Lesson 10: Backhand Block With No Foot Movement

Adjust the robot to deliver topspin shots to the middle of your backhand court at a slow pace and speed. Practice your backhand block in the same manner and in the same sequence as you did the forehand block. Start slowly with no oscillation and blocking the ball back crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally alternating shots in the two directions. Gradually build up the ball frequency and speed. Be sure that you can do, without missing, 50 crosscourt blocks, then 50 down-the-line blocks, and finally 50 patterns of alternating crosscourt and down-the-line blocks. 

Remember not to swing at the ball. Merely block the path of the ball with your racket and let the ball's speed and spin cause it to rebound across the net. Experiment with tilting the racket angle downward until you can consistently place the ball back in the desired direction and low over the net. 

Lesson 11: Backhand Block With Foot Movement

When you have reached your current maximum limits in Lesson 10, you're ready to combine movement with the backhand block. To add movement to the robot, turn the main switch off and set the sweep control levers to the numbers 3 and 6 positions if you're right handed and to the numbers 1and 4 positions if you're left handed. Set the ball frequency and ball speed controls to 1-2 points below your maximum rate, as determined in Lesson 9. Adjust the oscillator speed setting as described on pages 2-4. 

The balls will be randomly delivered from the center line of the table to the backhand corner. Practice blocking the ball back crosscourt with your backhand until you are consistent, then practice down-the-line blocks, and finally alternate crosscourt and down-the-line blocks, all with the ball moving to random positions within your backhand court at slow speed. Always you. Avoid reaching for the ball with your arm. MOVE YOUR FEET! Keep your elbow it is going to shoot so you can move into position before the ball is thrown to you. Once you complete this sequence at below maximum speed and frequency, gradually turn up the ball speed and ball frequency controls until once again you reach the upper limit of your current ability without losing consistency.

Photo 11: Backhand Block (Croscourt)

Notice angle of the racket. It is tilted slightly closed to compensate for the topspin on the ball and slightly to the right to make the ball (almost hidden by the racket) counterbalances the racket hand. Weight is equally distributed on both legs.

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Forehand Block

Newgy Robo-Pong

The first stroke to learn is the forehand block. It is called a block because you want to block the path of the ball with your racket. The block almost feels like no stroke at all. You do not swing at the ball, but merely intercept the ball with your racket almost like a bunt in base ball. The block uses a ball's speed and spin to make your return go back over the net. The block does not add more speed or spin to the ball. It simply redirects the speed and spin back to your opponent. It is used to return topspin.

Intercept the ball with a still racket as the ball is rising and just before it reaches its peak. Angle the racket open or closed by rotating the forearm to make the ball return low over the net. If your return is too high, angle the racket more closed by tilting the face of the racket toward the table. Conversely, if your return is too low and doesn't clear the net, angle the racket more open by tilting the face of the racket closer to vertical.

One common mistake for beginners, when they are getting ready to hit a forehand, is to reach out and touch or lean on the table with their free hand. This is a direct violation of the rules and will cause you to lose a point in a match. So keep your free hand up and use it to counterbalance your racket hand.

Forehand Block With No Forehand Movement

Now that we are ready to play against the robot, pick up your racket and hold it with a shakehand grip and with the racket face perpendicular to the floor and the wrist tilted down. Position yourself right at the end of the table, just to the left of the center line as shown in the Photo below (left handers need to stand to the right of the center line and will have to substitute right for left and left for right in all further instructions.) Take up a slightly sideways stance so you can make contact with the ball to the side and slightly

With the robot controls set as follows: spin - topspin, ball speed - 2 to 3, ball frequency - 3 to 4, oscillator speed - off, oscillator range - 3 to 4, head angle - C or D, head directed to forehand court. Turn the power switch to "ON" and after waiting for the balls to load up, prepare to block the ball back across the net with a still racket. DO NOT SWING AT THE BALL. Merely intercept the ball just before it reaches the peak of its trajectory after it has bounced on your side of the table. Experiment with tilting the racket angle downward until you can consistently place the ball back in a crosscourt direction and low (approximately 2-3' inches over the net. Make the ball go back by redirecting the ball's speed and spin.

PhotoForehand Block (Crosscourt)

Note angle of the racket. It is tilted slightly down (to compensate for the topspin on the ball)
and slightly to the left (to to the right with about 60% of the weight on the right leg.

Do not add more speed to the ball with your stroke. Remember to keep your wrist steady and tilted down. Do not allow it to flop around. Your goal is to correctly execute 50 crosscourt blocks in a row without missing.

Once you have gained consistency at blocking the ball back crosscourt and low, bend your wrist backward slightly so your return goes down-the-line, in stead of crosscourt. Practice this down-the-line block until you can consistently place the ball back low over the net. Your goal is to correctly execute 50 down-the-line blocks without missing.

The next step is to alternate crosscourt blocks with down-the-line blocks. Practice until you can successfully execute 25 patterns of one crosscourt block followed by one down-the-line block. When you can do this, you're ready to add more frequency and speed to your shots.

Turn the ball frequency off. Reset the ball speed setting to 3-3 1/2 so each ball is delivered close to the end line on your side of the table. Turn the ball frequency to 4 and practice crosscourt blocks until you do 50 in a row without missing. Then practice down-the-line blocks until you do 50 in a row. Finally, practice alternating crosscourt and down-the-line blocks until you successfully do 25 patterns without missing.

Turn the ball frequency off and reset the ball speed to a higher setting. When you turn the frequency control back on, adjust to a setting higher than your previous setting. You do not necessarily have to turn up the ball speed and frequency to the same level, although this is usually the case with the block. You may also need to adjust the head angle to keep the ball on the table. When you turn the ball speed higher than 3-4, you have to raise the head angle so the ball doesn't bounce on the robot's side of the table first. Rather, the ball is delivered so it first bounces on the player's side. Repeat the same sequence of crosscourt blocks, followed by down-the-line block, followed by alternating crosscourt and down-the-line blocks. It may be helpful to back off from the table slightly as you turn up the ball speed to allow more time to position your racket correctly.

NOTE: As you build up the ball speed, it becomes increasingly important not to swing at the ball. Be sure to attain consistency at each step before proceeding to the next step. Keep increasing the ball frequency and ball speed settings until you have reached the limit of your current ability and you begin to get erratic in your ball control and placement. Make note of the settings when you have reached your maximum limits.

Forehand Block With Footwork

When you have reached your current maximum limits, you are ready to combine movement with stroking. To add movement to the robot, with the main switch off, set the sweep control levers to the numbers 1 and 4 positions if you are right handed and to the numbers 3 and 6 positions if you are left handed. Set the ball speed controls to 1-2 points below your maximum rate, as determined in the preceding lesson.

Turn the main switch on and adjust the ball frequency to a comfortable level. The balls will be randomly fed to an area from your forehand corner to the center line of the table. Practice blocking the ball back crosscourt with your forehand until you are consistent, then practice down-the-line blocks, and finally alternate crosscourt and down-the-line blocks, all with the ball moving to random positions at a slow speed. Once you complete this sequence at below maximum speed and frequency, gradually turn up the ball speed and ball frequency controls until you reach the upper limits of your current ability without losing consistency.

It will help if you watch the robot head to see which direction it is going to shoot so you can move into position before the ball is thrown. When moving sideways to hit a forehand it is important to move the feet to the remain upright and bent slightly forward. Remember to move first, stroke second. Avoid reaching for the ball. If you are having trouble moving, you might want to shadow practice table tennis footwork .

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Learning the Off-The-Bounce-Loop

Newgy Robo-Pong

One of the newer strokes in the sport is the off-the-bounce-loop. This stroke is executed against your opponent's loop, immediately off the bounce. Unlike the traditional loop stroke that travels from low to high (vertical path), this stroke is much more horizontal in its path.

The Newgy Robo Pong is a great tool when learning this stroke. To best produce the flight path of a loop, I would recommend pulling your robot off the table a few feet and lowering its position from the floor. This will allow you to elevate the head of the robot and produce a more realistic loop trajectory. The Newgy Robo-Caddy is perfect for this.

Once you have your robot producing a good loop trajectory, start off by simply blocking the ball back. Once you have the correct timing and a good feel for the block, begin to close your racket and using just your wrist and forearm, brush over the ball. Little by little, lengthen your stroke until you are looping-off-the-bounce.

Keys to success:
  • Make friction contact with the ball.
  • Use a short stroke, redirecting your opponent's power.
  • The stroke is primarily forward. There is very little backswing.
  • Lift your elbow a little, so that your arm snap is moving horizontally not vertically.
  • Contact the top of the ball.
  • Push downward.
  • Watch the speed of your opponent's racket to help time your own swing.

With the help of your Newgy Robo-Pong, you to can learn this dynamic stroke. The off-the-bounce loop is perfect for regaining the offensive and/or as an alternative to the block to keep your opponent guessing. Good luck and good looping.

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The Chop Block - A Winning Variation

Newgy Robo-Pong

This handy stroke is just what its name implies, a block that returns the ball with chop (underspin) on it. It has many uses depending on style. For a close to the table defender, like U.S. Women's Champion, Gao Jun, it can be the main stroke of use. Gao uses this stroke to frustrate topspin attackers. The harder they topspin, the more spin she can quickly send back to them. Even topspin attackers find the Chop Block a handy variation of their normal backhand counter, often forcing errors from their opponents. This stroke is especially useful against the mid-distance looper. Using a Chop Block you can move the looper in and out and keep him/her from setting up in their favorite mid-distance location.

Stroke Description:

This stroke starts out looking like a normal block against topspin. The stroke is short and the blade is slightly closed. It is at ball contact where the difference between the normal block and the chop block can be seen. The normal block is made with force contact on the ball (no spin). When using the chop block, friction (spin) contact is made with the wrist chopping down on the ball, producing underspin. This requires a very light touch on the ball and a very relaxed wrist. The timing of this stroke is to contact the ball on the rise.

Practice Suggestions:

Your Robo-Pong 2000 is the perfect practice partner for learning this technique. Set your Robot to produce a medium/fast topspin to your backhand side. Start out using your normal backhand block or counter return. Now try making some chop blocks. At first try to keep your returns short on your opponent's side of the table. As you gain control with your returns, try pushing through the ball a little more and producing a deep chop block return. Finally practice mixing the chop block with your normal backhand counter strokes. The Chop Block is an easy stroke to learn and can pay handsome dividends for your game. It is a great variation from your normal counter drive and can produce many unforced errors from your opponent.

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Fast Push Techniques

Newgy Robo-Pong

The push is not often thought of as an aggressive tool, but rather as a basic keep-the-ball-in-play stroke. The reason for this is simple. Adding speed to a pushed ball is difficult as underspin causes a ball to rise up during flight. Push too fast and the ball will sail off the end of the table. Because of this, most players emphasize producing heavy backspin (as opposed to fast speed) with their pushes if they want to force errors or weak attacks from their opponents.

Rather than only using heavy spin on your pushes to force weak returns, mixing in a fast push can be a great surprise tactic. Often a surprise fast push will force a weak shot from your opponent and enable you to step-around and attack with a strong forehand loop or kill. Here is how to execute a fast push stroke.

First and foremost, contact the ball at the top of the bounce. Your racket should make friction contact with the ball (spin), contacting the middle of the ball and pushing forward and down. This is very different from producing a spin push where the ball is contacted on the way down and more towards the bottom of the ball.

To practice this shot, set your Newgy Robot to produce a push return and have it oscillate over the entire table (Oscillator Lever positions 3 & 4). Now practice mixing spin pushes with a sudden fast push until you can produce both shots with ease. Good luck and good pushing.

Important Notes: Adding sidespin to this stroke can make it even more effective. Also, when you use the fast push in a game situation, look to attack the next return.

Basic Elements of Push Strokes

Stroke Element Spin Push Fast Push
Timing As ball is descending Top of bounce
Ball Contact Location Bottom of ball Middle of ball
Ball Contact Type 
(Friction or Force)
Friction Friction


(Editor's Note: If you have trouble learning this stroke, you may want to start off with having the robot deliver the ball 12 to 18 inches high above your side of the table. This will allow for a greater margin of error. When you gain consistency with your stroke against a high ball, lower the ball delivery angle a little at a time until you can fast push even a ball that is barely over the net.)

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McAfee's Robot Mechanics: Close to the Table Long Pips Attack and Defense Techniques

Newgy Robo-Pong

Many of my senior (Over 40) students have asked me to do an article on the use of long pips, for close-to-the-table play. This style is very popular with the older table tennis players as it allows them to slow down play and to put the focus on using their hand skills rather than movement and power to win points.

Table tennis robot training is particularly useful when learning and practicing these techniques as few players can consistently attack against this style. In fact, as you are learning this style many players may become frustrated and not want to practice with you at all.

Let's take a look at the six basic strokes that should be in the arsenal of any close-to-the-table long pips player. All of these strokes are described as backhand strokes.

  • Lift against backspin: This stroke is executed with a slightly open paddle. The stroke itself is very simple. At contact, push forward and slightly up. Use mostly the forearm and little or no wrist action. This stroke, when executed with long pips, allows you to use your opponent’s backspin to produce a controlled topspin attack. This is the only stroke in which you can produce enough topspin to hit with speed.
  • Sidespin attack against backspin: This is an unusual looking stroke to most inverted players. The stroke is executed much like the straight lift against backspin, but at contact, the racket is pushed forward and pulled to the right (for right-handed players). Depending on the racket angle this return will produce a wide range of no-spin, sidespin, or light topspin returns, all with some degree of sidespin. This stroke can force many errors from your opponents.
  • Attacking backspin by pushing: Pushing with long pips can be very aggressive. While pushing, if light contact with the ping pong ball is made, the return will be a dead ball (no-spin). If harder racket contact is made (more force), a light topspin can be produced. This leads to a lot of high and very attackable returns from your opponent.
  • Controlled counter attacks: The key to attacking with long pips against topspin is to remember that controlling the speed of your returns is the key to success. Do not over-hit. Your returns will carry some backspin, so there will always be a limit on the amount of speed you can produce. Generally speaking, if you are using long pips without sponge this stroke will be quite slow and carry heavier backspin. If you are using long pips with sponge, this return will be faster but without as much spin. Once again, keep the stroke simple using only a forward pushing motion, with the forearm. Remember, when counter attacking with long pips, let the racket do the work for you. It is the ever-changing spin on your returns that will force errors from your opponent, not the speed of your returns.
  • Defensive chop blocks: This stroke looks just like its name suggests—a block with a downward chopping motion. When used against heavy topspin, this stroke can produce heavy chop returns. Often your opponent will be forced into pushing this return back, which will allow you to attack.
  • Pullback block: Once again, the name says it all. Against a topspin attack, you simply pull your racket slightly back at contact, thereby taking almost all of the pace off the ball. This can be used to produce a very short return making it impossible for your opponent to continue an attack. This technique works best with long pips without sponge.

There you have the major long pips, close-to-the-table techniques. When used properly, these table tennis strokes can make life very difficult for your opponents. Fortunately, your robot will not mind at all while you practice and perfect these techniques.

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