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All the previous drills have been performed against topspin. Now you need to learn how to return backspin effectively. The easiest stroke to use to return a backspin shot is the push. The push, like the block, is a very simple and easy stroke. It is, however, a very important part of the game and must be mastered.
The push is typically used when the opponent gives you a backspin return that is so well placed that you cannot attack it safely. The push is then used to keep the ball in play until a better opportunity for attacking comes along.
The main purpose of the push is not so much to win the point, but to return it accurately and safely. For this reason, concentrate on developing good touch and control on your pushes, and forget about power and speed.
A push stroke is performed using an open racket angle and contacting the ball somewhere between the center and the bottom. Stroke motion is from high to low in a forward direction. This motion and the open racket angle result in applying your own backspin to the ball. The push is a relatively slow speed stroke with only a small amount of gentle acceleration. It is performed very close to, or often, actually over the table. The point of contact is after the top of the bounce, as the ball is falling.
Lesson 17: Backhand Push
To learn the push, change the spin setting of your robot to backspin. Decrease the ball speed to 2, the ball frequency to 3, and turn the oscillator off when the robot head lines up with the middle of your backhand court. The head angle should be set to "C".
Turn the robot on and practice pushing with your backhand. Stroke mainly with the forearm, keeping the elbow and upper arm relatively still. At first your returns will likely keep going into the net because of the effect of the backspin. Keep opening up your racket angle and aim for the bottom of the ball. Contact is light, almost like you are trying to slice the bottom off the ball. If the ball keeps going into the net it may be necessary to lift your elbow somewhat as you make contact with the ball.
When you get the ball to clear the net, keep the push as low over the net as you can. Don't push hard or fast. Rather, use a soft, guiding touch with your push so you can place it accurately. Regain the ready position after each stroke.
When you get the feel for the push, practice until you can push 50 crosscourt, 50 down-the-line, and 25 patterns of alternating crosscourt and down-the-line pushes without missing. Gradually increase the frequency up to 4 and the ball speed up to 3. After reaching your upper limit, turn the unit off and set the sweep control levers to sweep within the backhand court and practice your backhand push with the ball moving around randomly.
Photo: Backhand Push (Crosscourt)
Notice that the speed of the racket is constant. The even spacing between images indicates a smooth, flowing stroke. Also note the small step forward with the with the right leg and how the upper body is tilted forward so the elbow hangs in front of the body.
Images 1 & 2 (almost completely overlapping): End of back swing. Racket was open.
Image 3: Forward swing. Racket angle has not changed. Right leg begins to step forward at the same time as the forearm begins to push the racket forward.
Image 4: Just after ball contact. Racket tip is starting to rotate forward.
Image 5: Follow through.
Image 6: End of stroke. Arm is almost completely extended forward. Right leg has (as shown by position of face). Racket tip is pointing forward
Lesson 18: Forehand Push
The forehand push is the next stroke to learn. Like the other forehand strokes, contact the ball to the side of and slightly in front evenly distributed on both legs. Push the racket towards the bottom of the ball by straightening out the forearm. At the same time, take a small step forward after ball contact.
The racket head should rotate around so it is pointing forward at the end of the stroke. It may help to bend your upper so you can better see the bottom of the ball. Regain the ready position between each stroke.
Practice the forehand push at slow speed and frequency until you can consistently push 50 in a row crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally, alternating crosscourt and down-the-line. Increase the frequency to 4 and the ball speed to 3. Next, practice the push with the robot set to sweep within the entire forehand court. Then change the control levers so the robot sweeps the entire table and practice combining forehand and backhand pushes. Recover to the ready position after each stroke and before moving to the next stroke. Your goal is 50 consecutive pushes without missing.
Photo: Forehand Push (Crosscourt)
Notice the upper body has been tilted to the right and the right leg steps in as the ball is stroked.
Image 1: End of back swing. Racket has been taken back by pulling the forearm back. Racket angle is open.
Image 2: Forward swing. Racket angle has not changed. Right leg begins to step forward at the same time as the forearm begins to push the racket forward.
Image 3: Just before ball contact Racket tip is starting to rotate forward.
Image 4: Follow through. Forearm and upper arm continue to push the racket forward and the racket tip continues to rotate around.
Images 5 & 6: End of stroke. Arm has been almost completely extended been lowered slightly (as shown by position of face). Racket tip is pointing forward. Stroke could actually have ended at Image 5. Racket movement between 5 and 6 is unnecessary.