The Attacker Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style

Newgy Robo-Pong

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 balls 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:

  1. The Attacker, Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style
  2. The Attacker, Shakehands Hitter
  3. The Attacker, Inverted Looper
  4. The Attacker, All-Round
  5. The Counter Driver
  6. The Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
  7. The Attacking Chopper
  8. 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.

Attacker Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style

Pips-Out Penholder Attackers generally stand within three feet of the table. The contact point on all strokes is as early as possible top of the bounce or rising. This is a forehand-dominated style with the player exhibiting a strong, quick pivot move to use the forehand from the backhand side. The Pips-Out Penholder wants to end points quickly and keeps great time pressure on his/her opponents, forcing many errors. This style has benefited from the new 40mm ball and the subsequent loss of about 10 % spin on their opponents loops.

  • Quick pivot to use forehand from backhand corner.
  • Strong forehand kills.
  • Good forehand topspin against long underspin balls.
  • Driving blocks from backhand side.
  • Good short game.
  • Excellent serve and return game.
  • Very quick gives opponent very little time to react.
  • Smooth transition from forehand to backhand no switchpoint weakness
  • Return of long serves with the backhand.
  • Backhand block against slow heavy loops.
  • When forced wide to the forehand, this style has difficulty recovering and protecting the backhand side.
  • Backhand open against long underspin.
Suggested Robot Drills
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker Shakehands Hitter

While this style is similar to yours, your grip gives you an advantage in the short game, the forehand-backhand transition game, and the forehand lift against underspin. Keep the majority of your serves short to the middle of the table. Be aggressive in stepping around your backhand to use your forehand. Do your best to prevent backhand to backhand exchanges and attack your opponents middle often..

Against the Attacker Inverted Looper

Use mostly short mixed serves, with an occasional fast deep serve to the opponents forehand side. Mix the speed and depth of your backhand blocks to move your opponent in and out. Attack down the line or at the opponents switchpoint (if shakehands grip) whenever possible. Force play at a faster pace than your opponent is comfortable at.

Against the Attacker All-Round

Keep most of your serves short or at mid-depth. Follow your serve with a forehand attack to keep the opponent on the defensive. Attack often to your opponents middle. When returning serve, use the flip often. The key to defeating this player is to take away his confidence by forcing him to play more defensively. Keeping your opponent under constant time pressure is important.

Against the Counter Driver

Use short serves anywhere on the table with a deep fast underspin serve to the backhand mixed in. Shot selection is the key to defeating the counter driver. Do not get lured into a backhand to backhand game. Use your backhand block down the line to force more forehand-to-forehand play. Do not to let your opponent dictate the pace of play.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

Watch out for this opponents strong opening spin. Attack first and hit through his/her first loop whenever possible. Keep your serves short and attack the middle. When the opponent backs away from the table, mostly attack the backhand side.

Against the Attacking Chopper

Keep your serves mostly short with an occasional long serve to the opponents backhand side. Whenever possible, make your first attack to the choppers middle and then attack his/her backhand side. The goal here is to keep the chopper on the defensive. Expect the chopper to third ball attack. Respond to the attack by redirecting your opponents attack away from the side in came from.

Against the Close to the Table Defender

Serve this style mid-distance to long serves to the middle or backhand and attack their returns. Avoid long points by attacking your opponents wide forehand early in the point. No spin serves and pushes are often effective in forcing errors or high returns.

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Train Your Chopping Game

Newgy Robo-Pong


The best description for the modern chopping style of play is "an attacker who uses an aggressive backspin game to set up his/her own attack." Normally this style of player uses two different surfaces on their rackets, usually one is an inverted rubber and one will be pips-out, either long pips or short.

The returns from such different rubbers can cause the straight topspin attacker a lot of confusion. However, it also demands a great deal of training by the chopper to learn to control the many options he/she has for each stroke. This is especially true at the higher l evels where choppers can flip their rackets at will to produce a large variety of returns and attacking strokes.

I consider the Robo-Pong an indispensable tool in training choppers. The very nature of their games makes it hard to find practice partners who can consistently drill against a good chopper.

While every chopper will use a different blend of offense and defense, here are some good basic drills that I have successfully used in training such choppers as Derek May, Pan Am Games Silver Medallist.

Warming Up Drills 

For all styles of players, I recommend that you warm-up the short strokes first, before trying to hit or chop with longer and harder strokes. These are strokes that consist of using only the wrist and elbow joints. This will help you quickly get into the proper timing and allow you to establish ball control early during your warm-up. For the chopper this means starting off with pushing and blocking drills like the ones listed below:

(Editor's Note: You may wish to browse our Coaching Forum Archives for articles on how to execute a push or block.) Push against

Backspin / Inverted Side Whole Table

Set your Newgy for backspin with the oscillator on 3-4. This will sweep the whole table. Practice using only the inverted side to push, regardless if you use a backhand or forehand. This is great practice for footwork, and for flipping the racket. At the higher levels of the game, most choppers will push primarily with the inverted side.

Push against Backspin / Pips-out Side

Set your Newgy as above, but this time only push with the pips-out side. Be sure to work on keeping the ball low.

Backhand Block / Counter Against Topspin

Set your Newgy on a medium topspin with the oscillator set at 3-4. First, warm-up your counters and blocks with the inverted side. After a few minutes flip and warm-up your pips-out counters and blocks. If you use a chop block now is the perfect time to warm up this stroke as it leads naturally into the chopping strokes.

Choppers often find it difficult to find a practice partner who is steady enough to consistently attack their chops. Over the years, I have coached a number of choppers, among them; Derek May a Pan American Silver Medal winner. In setting up their training plans, working with the Newgy Robo Pong 2000 has always been an essential element of their training. The Robot provides the consistent attack that is necessary for the chopper to work on his/her placement and movement. The Robot is so versatile that an almost limitless variety of drills are possible. Here are a few of the basic drills that I have my chopping students do at each workout.

Drill 1 - Forehand In and Out 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 75% of what you can comfortably return. Direct the Robot's shots to your forehand with no oscillation. Practice chopping from mid-distance and gradually work your way in towards the table. Repeat moving in and out to practice your ability to take your opponent's ball at different distances from the table. Repeat this drill using your backhand.

Stroke Tip: The closer you are to the table the higher your back swing must start and the shorter and more downward your follow-through. Close to the table your contact point on the ball is towards the middle. When back from the table your contact point is towards the bottom of the ball and your follow-through will be longer and more forward.

Drill 2 - Chopping to a Location 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 80% of what you can return. Set the Robot on full table oscillation. Practice making all your returns towards one of three positions (deep to forehand or backhand corner, or deep to the middle). Repeat this drill until you have practiced making all returns to each location.

Drill 3 - Covering the Middle 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 80% of what you can return. Set the Robot to oscillate over one half of the table (positions 2 & 5). Practice taking all your returns with either your forehand or backhand. Focus on getting your body out of the way for the return to your middle. Repeat using both forehand and backhand.

Drill 4 - Serve Return Using One Side of the Racket 

This drill is designed for choppers using two different types of rubber on their rackets. Set your Robot to produce short sidespin-backspin serves. Set the Robot to oscillate over the whole table. Practice receiving all serves with your inverted side of the racket. Repeat using the other side of the racket.

Drill 5 - Chop and Loop Drill 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 80% of what you can return. Set the Robot to oscillate over the forehand half of your table. Practice mixing your chop returns with forehand loops. Repeat setting the Robot to oscillate over the backhand side of your table. Practice mixing backhand chops with step-round forehand loops.

Drill 6 - Chop Reaction Drill 

Set your Robot for topspin at the maximum ball speed that you can handle with full table oscillation. Start on a slow ball feed and have a helper gradually turn up the feed to the highest speed. Practice on getting your racket on as many balls as possible. Object of this drill is to decrease your reaction time. With practice your will find that you can handle even the highest feed rate.

These are just a few of the chopping drills that are possible on your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000. By using your imagination your will be able to come up with many more. Good luck and Good Chopping!

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