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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Backhand Loop Against Topspin

Newgy Robo-Pong

Perhaps the greatest change in the sport over the last ten years can be seen in the ever growing strength of the backhand loop. Not long ago, this stroke was only used against backspin returns to simply open up the point. Today, it is very difficult for the topspin attacker to be successful without equally powerful forehand and backhand loops. Let's take a look at the mechanics of the backhand loop stroke against topspin.

The Basic Elements Of A Good BH Loop Stroke Are:
  1. Timing: Contact the ball while rising or at the top of the bounce.
  2. Touch: Fast loops blend both friction (spin) contact, with force (hitting) contact. However, there is more friction contact than force. Remember that force always has a direction. With a fast loop against topspin, it will feel like you are pushing downward at contact.
  3. Ball Contact: At the top of the bounce, contact ball above center. If contacted on the rise, the ball contact point moves higher, towards the top of the ball.
Stroke Description:

The key to a strong backhand loop against topspin is making the proper backswing for the stroke. Your backswing should place the racket on your left hip (right-handed) and NOT between the legs as you would for a loop against backspin. This will allow you to swing more forward and to be able to contact the upper part of the ball. For added power, bring your left foot backward. This will rotate your upper body backward and allow you to transfer your weight into the shot. This starting position should place your wrist down and back. At ball contact, the wrist swings up and forward. As in all strokes, you want to generate maximum acceleration while the ball is in contact with the racket.

Practice Drills:

Drill 1 - Counter and Loop Drill 

Set your Newgy Robot to deliver a deep fast topspin ball to your backhand. Alternate between making two backhand counters and then one backhand loop. Concentrate on making good friction contact (spin) when looping and good force (hitting) contact when countering.

Drill 2 - Build-Up Power Drill 

Again, set your Newgy Robot to deliver a deep fast topspin ball to your backhand. Execute your first backhand loop from the normal backhand counter position (left foot forward). On the second return, drop your left foot back and execute a series of three backhand loops, each a little harder than the last. The third loop should be hit with full weight transfer and power.

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Fast Backhand Loop Against Backspin

Newgy Robo-Pong

For most players, trying to generate a powerful backhand loop against backspin is the most challenging stroke in the game. Since the stroke is naturally shorter than its forehand counterpart and pulled across the body, it requires very good timing to generate good speed.

Key Elements
  1. The starting position for the racket is low and towards the left hip (for right handers)
  2. Contact the ball at the top of its bounce
  3. Contact the ball slightly below the center of the ball
  4. The racket should make about an equal amount of force (forward) and friction (spin) contact with the ball
  5. Your weight should shift from your left leg (right-handers) to your right leg.
Practice Techniques

Set your Newgy Robot to deliver a deep backspin ball to your backhand side. Start off by simply pushing back a few returns and notice how low on the face of the ball you need to touch the ball to have it clear the net. Now alternate between pushing one ball and fast looping the next. Remember not to let the ball start to descend before you make contact and to contact the ball just below the center.

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Forehand Loop Against Backspin

Newgy Robo-Pong

The forehand loop against backspin is one of the most powerful strokes in the game. It is also a stroke with which you can produce many variations of speed and spin. Since you are going with the spin already on the ball, this stroke can produce the heaviest topspin in the game.

There are two extremes of the forehand loop against backspin and many variations between the two. The first is the slower and very high spin loop. This stroke produces the highest level of spin, the highest trajectory over the net, the biggest jump forward when the ball strikes the table and the quickest drop towards the floor after it bounces. The second extreme is the fast forehand loop. This stroke produces the most forward speed, a lower trajectory over the net and a ball the travels far from the table after the bounce.

Key Elements
Element Slow Loop Fast Loop
Backswing position Almost straight down Down and back
Timing As ball begins to descend At the top of the bounce
Ball Contact Towards the bottom of ball Center or below
Friction vs Force Contact Almost all friction (Spin) Equal force and friction
Weight Transfer Almost straight up Forward towards target

Practice Techniques

Set your Newgy Robot to deliver a deep backspin ball to the middle of the table. Start off pushing the ball back with your forehand. Now try dropping your forearm below table height and just brushing up on the ball trying to impart maximum spin. When learning a new stroke, it is best to begin by training the wrist and forearm. As you feel more comfortable begin adding more and more of your body into the stroke. When you produce a good slow loop try changing your starting position to more back and down and try for some fast loops.

(Editor's note: One oft-misunderstood principle of looping is that racket speed must be very high to produce heavy topspin. Even though a loop is described as a slow loop or a fast loop, it does not mean that the racket speed or body motion is slower for one than the other. Both have very high racket speeds and quick body motions. What does differentiate the two is the direction of force. The force on a slow loop is primarily up; whereas, on the fast loop, the direction is primarily forward. This can easily be seen in the second video by comparing the direction of the racket's travel in the slow loop versus the fast loop.

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The Penhold Reverse Backhand

Newgy Robo-Pong

Traditionally, penhold players used just one side of their racket, held in a pen like grip. This grip produces a very strong forehand style of play with a rather cramped, less versatile backhand.

Perhaps the most innovative new stroke technique of the last ten years has been the development of the Penhold Reverse Backhand. First made famous by former Olympic and World Champion, Liu Guoliang, this stroke has now become standard fare for almost all penhold players.

This stroke has revolutionized the penhold style by allowing penhold players to develop backhand techniques that are as strong as their shakehands counterparts. The advantages of this stroke are:

  • The ability to produce a true backhand loop
  • The ability to extend the reach of the backhand stroke
  • The ability to use rubbers of different surfaces
  • The ability to easily attack high balls with the backhand
Stroke Description

The name of the stroke, the Reverse Backhand, describes the stroke. Using the traditional penhold grip, the racket’s regular playing surface is rotated towards the player, which makes the reverse side (backhand side) point towards the opponent. The player then executes a very traditional backhand stroke, loop or counter.

Learning the Stroke

When first learning this stroke, you will probably find the wrist position somewhat awkward. However, it should not take long before it begins to feel natural. Your Newgy Robot is the perfect practice partner when learning this or any new stroke technique.

Key Stroke Elements:
  • While either Chinese or Japanese Penhold grips can be used. Most players will extend the fingers (Japanese style) when using the Reverse Backhand Stroke.
  • Do not over use the wrist. This stroke is mostly executed by extending the forearm.
  • Contact the ball early. The natural wrist position for this stroke puts the racket in a closed position. You can lay the wrist back a little by pushing with your thumb. With this in mind, contact your loop against backspin at the top of the bounce. Contact your counter drives when the ball is on the rise.
Conclusion

Ten years ago, many coaches felt that the penhold style of play would soon die out as the backhand was just not strong enough to keep pace with the development of the strong backhand loops of the shakehand players. The Reverse Penhold Backhand has changed all that. Players such as Ma Lin and Wang Hao of China, exponents of this new style, are at the top of the World Rankings.

Regardless of your level of play, if you are a penholder, you should strive to add this new technique to your game. It will open up a new world of possibilities for your style and your opponents will not know what hit them.

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The Inside Forehand Loop Against Backspin

Newgy Robo-Pong

This column discusses the use of a table tennis robot in learning ping pong strokes, styles, and techniques. Richard McAfee is one of America's most active and recognized coaches. Certified as an International Coach by USA Table Tennis, he was selected as a USOC (US Olympic Committee) Developmental Coach of the Year. He organized and directed the Eastern Table Tennis Training Center and the Anderson College Table Tennis Team. He served as the Table Tennis Competition Manager for the 1996 Summer Olympics and recently was selected as an ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) Pro Tour Director. Currently he is Head Table Tennis Coach at the prestigious Sporting Club At Windy Hill in Atlanta, GA.

This stroke gets its name from the fact that the tip of the racket travels around the inside surface of the ball. This is the side of the ball nearest to you as the ball approaches. On the traditional forehand loop stroke, the tip of the racket passes around the outside surface (side farthest away from you).

When executed properly, the inside loop makes a right-hander's loop curve sideways in the opposite direction from its normal path. The inside loop is often used when using the forehand loop from your backhand corner and attacking your opponent's backhand side. However, it can be used from any position.

When the forehand inside loop is used crosscourt from your backhand side, it curves away from your opponent's backhand and forces him/her to move more to their left. If not a sure winner, this stroke often opens up the whole table so that a simple placement to their forehand side can often win the point.

INSIDE LOOP DESCRIPITION

The best way to describe this stroke is that it looks like you are washing a window. To best understand this, get in front of a wall, facing it. Now imagining that the wall is a large clock, place your racket on the wall facing outward at about the 3 o'clock position. Now without lifting the racket from the wall, rotate it to the 9 o'clock position. Notice the arm first moves up to 12 and then over to 9. You should also notice that it is hard to keep a normal grip while doing this. This is important, as a grip change while making this stroke is necessary to produce a really powerful stroke.

INSIDE LOOP GRIP CHANGE

To find the correct grip, place the racket in a neutral position in front of you. Now with your free hand, twist the top of the blade to your left. This should open up some space between your racket-hand's forefinger and the blade with only the tip of the forefinger now touching the blade. The bottom edge of the racket's head is now contacting the thumb close to its first joint (instead of being in the fleshy “V” part of the hand between the thumb and forefinger).

ROBOT-DRILLS

Drill #1
Set your Newgy to deliver a deep backspin ball to your backhand side. Push two backhands then step-a-round and make an inside forehand loop to your opponent's wide backhand. Aim to cut the angle between the end line and the net if possible. Repeat.

Drill #2
Same as above but alternate inside loops with your normal loops. Be sure to practice a down-the-line loop occasionally when executing the normal loop.

REVIEW
  • Change to inside grip
  • The stroke travels first up then around the inside edge of the ball
  • Contact the ball as it is descending
  • Make a lot of friction (spin) contact on the ball
  • Most errors with this stroke happen because the player is not concentrating enough on the upward (first) movement of the stroke.

When you add the inside forehand loop to your arsenal, you will be making life much more difficult for your opponent. He/she will not know until the last moment of your stroke which way your ball will curve. Many of my students love executing this stroke. In fact, one of our favorite sayings is, “When in doubt, Inside-Out”.

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