Short Returns Of No-Spin Serves

Newgy Robo-Pong

Place the head of the robot downwards, so that a double bounce serve is replicated. Initially, the spin should be a dead ball, and the placement in one particular spot on the table. For example, this would replicate a short dead ball serve to the middle of the table.

The repetition of the balls should be slow enough to hit the ball, and then completely return to the service ready position. From the ready position, step forward with the same foot as the playing hand, and then return back to the ready position. This should be done in one smooth step.

To drop the ball short and effectively, the timing of the return should be immediately off the bounce. This will create more spin on the return and give the opponent less time to react. The return should be at least a double bounce return with the height just over the net.

Since a dead ball serve is being used, you will have to create your own spin. Catching the ball right off the bounce will create this effect. Very little, if any, lift will be needed against the dead ball serve. You are not using the opponent’s spin, but rather creating your own.

This is the basic way to place a short dead ball serve short. Once the technique has become more comfortable, set the placement of the ball short to the forehand then change the placement to the backhand. Each placement should be done for about 5 minutes separately. To simulate a game situation, set the placement on random and practice dropping each ball short and then returning to the service ready position.

This service return practice should not take more than a half an hour each time and will surely be an effective improvement of your game. Service return training is highly underestimated and more emphasis should be placed on training this aspect of the game. After all, the serve return is one shot that happens every single point.

Good luck!

Editor’s notes: While it is impossible for a Newgy Robot to deliver a true “dead” ball (no-spin), the robot can deliver a spin so light that by the time contact is made, the ball is spinning so slowly that for all practical purposes it can be considered “dead”.

This is achieved by setting your Ball Speed control to “0” and your spin to "Backspin". The head angle will need to be adjusted to between the D and E positions (for Robo-Pong 2040 robots attached to the end of the table). You will need to experiment with the head angle to find the exact setting necessary for this drill, but you want the ball to first land on the robot’s side of the table about 15 inches from the net. The ball will bounce just over the net and land about 12 to 15 inches from the net on your end of the table.

This drill requires the Ball Frequency to be at very low settings. If your robot doesn’t shoot out balls at very low settings, you will need to purchase some Tuner Lubricant and Cleaner (Radio Shack part #64-4315) or equivalent. Then remove the robot body from the net system (or Ball Bucket depending on your robot model), detach the Clear Front Cover, and remove the balls from inside the machine. Spray the lubricant/cleaner inside of the Ball Frequency Motor while it is running at medium to fast speed. This will clear out any dirt or rust inside the motor and permit it to turn at low voltage. Refer to your Owner’s Manual if you have any questions about the above procedure.

Lastly, it is recommended that you do not move your feet until the serve lands on the robot’s side of the table. This will better replicate the mechanics of an actual serve where you do not know serve direction or spin until after ball contact is made. It is also highly advisable to keep the Ball Frequency set to very low settings. Again, this will better replicate the timing involved in a normal serve return against a human where you have time to get set and prepare yourself to return the serve.

Here are some related articles on serve return in our Newgy Coaching Forum Archives:

Using your Robot To Practice Serve Return 

How to Effectively Return Short Services

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Attacking Half-Long Serves

Newgy Robo-Pong

While most players try their best to serve short, it is inevitable, especially during extremely tense moments of a match, that the serve unintentionally goes half-long. Capitalizing on this mistake can be the difference between winning and losing. 

The difficulty with attacking this type of serve is recognizing that the serve is indeed actually going to bounce off the end of the table. Not attacking long serves is a common mistake that nearly every player is guilty of.

The first thing that needs to be done is to train the eye. If you cannot determine almost immediately that the serve is going to bounce long, you will be indecisive when returning the serve. The only way to improve this is practice against thousands of half-long balls. 

Using the Newgy Robot: 

Place the head of the robot downwards to make the bounce the same as a serve. Make sure that every ball is bouncing slightly off the edge of the table. If you are concerned about hitting the edge of the table with your racket, increase the speed of the ball to have it come off the end of the table a little farther. In the beginning use the lowest backspin setting and the placement should be in one spot on the table (i.e., a half-long serve to the backhand). The repetition of the balls should give you enough time to start in ready position, attack the serve, and then completely return to the ready position. 

(Editor's note: this translates into a Ball Frequency setting of only 1–2. See Short Returns Of No-Spin Serves for additional editor's notes on setting up your robot for serve practice. ) 

The Drill: 

When returning serves, the first movement should be to set up for an attack, as if you know the serve is coming out long. The reason for this is that it is much easier to step in if the serve turns out to be short rather than long. If you step in first and then the serve turns out to be long, you will most likely be making the common mistake of pushing a long serve because you haven't allotted enough time to see if the ball is going to come off the end of the table. 

Keep your body as low as possible because you will be striking the ball when the ball is on its descent. The follow through should be forward and well over the table. Don't be nervous about hitting the table, after lots of practice you will be attacking serves that barely come off the edge of the table with confidence and little concern of striking the table. 

Attacking these types of balls will give you an offensive advantage and put tremendous pressure on your opponent to keep his serve short. The added pressure often results in unintended half-long serves. So keep the pressure on!

Good Luck!
Eric Owens

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Better Shot Placement

Newgy Robo-Pong

We all hear about how important placement of the ball is. We watch world-class players compete and are in awe of their ability to put the ball in just the right place every time. Is this an attribute that is common only to high-level players? The answer is no! Many players have the ability to have much better placement and do not even know it. The biggest step is just making a conscious decision to improve this aspect of the game.

The first thing to improving placement is having an idea as to where the general placement should be. Playing at wide angles and into the opponent's elbow are the only places you should be aiming. The wider angles will make your opponent have to move much more, which in turn opens up the middle. Moreover, jamming the opponent into the middle opens up the wider angles. It is a circle that is very effective and can be used over and over again.

The Newgy robot is the perfect tool for improving your ability to hit at wide angles. Every drill done on the robot can be done with the main focus being ball placement. Make sure every ball hit is beyond the outside white line. If this is done repeatedly, you will be able to do it in a match.

Most players already have the basic skills to hit at wide angles, but just do not do it because they are not thinking about it and have not trained it. Applying this concept to all of the drills you already do on the robot will transfer into a match. You will be making your opponent move much more causing him or her to be very uncomfortable and lose rhythm.

A good strategy in a match is to generally look for the middle first, because the time to play the wider angles is much more obvious during a point. Make sure your placement does not fall somewhere in between the middle and off the side of the table. Your opponent will not have to move very much to reach this type of ball. Be conscious of every ball you hit, and make sure it either goes out at a wide angle or right at the opponent's elbow.

Good luck!
Eric Owens

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