3 Basic Principals of All Table Tennis Strokes

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 article is unique because the information it contains impacts every stroke in the game. These concepts cut across all differences in grips, playing style, and personal technique. Strict adherence to these principals is necessary for any individual stroke to be successful.

1. Timing—When To Touch The Ball
  • There are three timing possibilities
    • As the ball is rising
    • At the top of the bounce
    • As the ball is descending
STROKE TIMING (Changes according to type of ball being struck.)
Stroke   Rising Top Falling
Counter    
Fast Loop      
Slow Loop    
Reloop Off Bounce      
Reloop, Mid-Range    
Push, Normal    
Push, Fast      
Chop      
Block Against Loop      
2. Application of Force and Friction—How to Touch the Ball
  • Force contact occurs when a forward moving racket strikes the ball. An example of this occurs when you bounce the ball straight into the air on the racket.
    • You can often hear a “wood” type of sound (hard sound).
    • Most of the energy goes into producing forward motion.
  • Friction contact occurs when you brush the ball with the racket.
    • Most of the energy goes into producing spin (ball rotation).
    • Sound is muffled (soft sound).
  • Most strokes are a blend of Force and Friction.
    • Slow Loops, serves, and pushes are maximum friction and minimum force.
    • Fast Loops are medium Force and medium Friction.
    • Counters and Kill shots are maximum Force and minimum Friction.
DIRECTION OF STROKE FORCE (Changes according to type of ball being struck.)
Type of Incoming Ball Stroke Direction
Against Topspin Down & Forward
Against Backspin Up & Forward
Against Right Sidespin To Your Left & Forward
Against Left Sidespin To Your Right & Forward
Against a High Ball Downward
Against a Low Ball Upward
3.       Ball Contact—Where to Touch the Ball
  • Most important of the 3 principals.
  • Always contact the Front of the ball.
    • Front of the ball is an area, not a specific point.
    • Front of the ball is a constantly changing area, determined by the trajectory of the ball.
    • It is the part of the ball facing the direction of travel.

Area Of Contact For Various Strokes (Changes according to type of ball being struck.)

Stroke

Contact Area On Ball

Counter Against Topspin

Above Center

Kill Against Backspin

Center

Slow Loop Against Backspin

Center Or Below Center

Fast Loop Against Backspin

Center Or Above Center

Reloop From Mid-Distance

Center Or Below Center

Reloop From Close To Table

Top

Push Against Backspin

Below Center To Bottom

Chop Against Topspin

Center Or Below Center

 Definition of "Front" and "Center" of Ball
Relationship Between the “Front” of the Ball and Stroke Timing

The area of the ball facing the direction of travel defines the “Front” of the ball. The Front does not change even if the ball is spinning. When you are aiming for a spot on the ball you must also consider the stroke timing that you are using.

Here is an example of how the contact point on the ball will change with the timing you use. Let’s assume that your opponent chops a ball to your forehand that you wish to loop. According to the chart on where to contact the ball for this stroke, the contact should be below the center of the “front” of the ball. Now look above at where that point on the ball would be when the ball is struck at the top of the bounce. Now compare how that location would change if you let the ball fall. You can see how your racket angle would have to change as your timing changes.

Read more →

Close-To-The-Table Defender

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 ball's 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.

Close-To-The-Table Defender
Description:

This style is built around a chop/block executed from close to the table. Players of this style most often use combination rackets with long-pips or anti-spin on one side and inverted rubber on the other. Players of this style use underspin blocks to force weak topspin shots from their opponents. They will then attack the weak topspin with a well-placed drive or loop. This style is often the master of placement but lacks real finishing power.

Strengths:
  • Very consistent close-to-the-table chop/blocks.
  • Excellent serve and receive game.
  • Very accurate forehand drives.
  • Excellent short game using pushes and drop shots.
  • The ability to absorb their opponent’s strong opening shots.
  • Often use the speed and spin of oncoming shots to make their returns stronger.
Weaknesses:
  • No real power.
  • High looping balls directed to the backhand.
  • Hard balls directed towards the wide forehand.
  • No spin serves, loops, and pushes will often cause errors. 
Suggested Robot Drills
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder

Keep most of your serves short. Press backhand to backhand exchanges. Do not over hit. When attacking, go most often down-the-line. Extend the points as long as possible.

Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands

Same general tactics as above. However, direct more balls at your opponent’s middle.

Against the Attacke — Inverted Looper

When serving, keep most serves short and try to follow with a safe 3rd ball attacks. Then vary your blocks until your opponent makes an error. When receiving mix up your returns between drops, flips, and long pushes. If you push long cut the sidelines of the table to force your opponent to move.

Against the Attacker All-Round

Against this style, you will need to attack more often. However placement, not speed or spin, will force errors from your opponent.

Against the Counter Driver

Against this style, you must be very steady in your play. Also, slow down the tempo of your blocks below the speed the counter driver enjoys. When you get an opportunity to attack, a kill is preferred over a loop.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

Keep your serves short. Block fast and wide to the forehand. When your opponent backs up to loop, drop short, then attack if possible. Use a combination of deep and short blocks to keep the mid-distance looper moving in and out. Attack down the line when possible.

Against the Attacking Chopper

Similar tactics to playing a counter driver. Play steady, moving the chopper in and out, as well as side-to-side. Kill any loose returns.

Read more →

Attacking Chopper

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 ball's 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.

Attacking Chopper
Description:

This style can be best thought of as an attacker who uses underspin to set up their attacking shots. Players of this style most often use two different racket surfaces and will flip the racket to produce great variations in their defense and their attack.

Attacking Choppers usually have powerful forehand loops or kills. They will strongly attack any weak return by their opponent, as well as any third ball opportunity. Placing less backspin on a return than the previous return will often result in a pop-up that can be killed. A heavier than normal backspin return often results in a safe push return that can be looped. For players of this style, patience and footwork are the keys for advancing to a high level.

Strengths:
  • Great variation of strokes and spin puts opponents under a lot of pressure.
  • Strong forehand drives or kills.
  • Strong 3rd ball attacks.
  • Good movement and physical ability.
Weaknesses:
  • Can become impatient and attack the wrong ball.
  • Footwork when switching from chopping to topspin attack shots.
  • Defense may not stand up under pressure.
  • Too many options may result in some indecisiveness under pressure.
Suggested Robot Drills
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder

When serving keep most serves short and always look to third ball attack if the opportunity is there. Your first chop should be directed deep to a corner to force your opponent to move and thus execute a weaker first attack. Then vary your chops trying to force the opponent into errors. Attack any high slow moving ball or long drop shot.

Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands

Same general tactics except you can direct more first chops wide to the forehand of the shakehands hitter.

Against the Attacker — Inverted Looper

Same general tactics as above but be even more careful to stay out of the middle with the first chop. No spin chops will be effective against this style.

Against the Attacker All-Round

You will need a higher degree of attack against this style, as they are the most consistent of the attackers. Also use some mid-distance serves. If their return is slow, look to third ball attack. Make this style play a lot out of their wide forehand corner.

Against the Counter Driver

Your style matches up well against the Counter-Driver. This style prefers topspin returns and your constant diet of varying backspin often befuddles this style. Nonetheless, you will need to be very patient against this style. Do not take chances with your defense or attack. Wait for a high ball then finish with a kill shot rather than a loop.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

Same general tactics as playing the Inverted Looper. You must be ready for their strong backhand loop as well. When you get an opportunity to attack, attack the middle.

Against the Close to the Table Defender

Same general tactics as playing against the counter driver. Placing your set-up chops to the center of the table reduces the angles that the Close to the Table Defender can use against you to prevent your attack. You may get more opportunities to step around and use your forehand attack from the backhand corner.

Read more →

Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

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 ball's 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.

Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
Description:

This style prefers to stay within six to eight feet from the table. Their longer topspin strokes carry considerable power and spin, from either forehand or backhand. This style will loop from both wings when playing another attacker. Against underspin, this style will often step around and use the forehand loop from the backhand side.

The recent introduction of the 40mm ball has had a major impact on this style of play. The resulting loss of spin caused by the larger ball has forced this style of player to become even more fit and powerful to survive. Gone are the days when this style would defeat opponents by building up spin with each loop. In today's game, this style is much more dynamic, with even faster point winning loops.

Strengths:
  • Equal power from both sides.
  • Very strong opening shot against underspin.
  • Very comfortable in exchanging loop drives with their opponents.
  • Strong lateral movement.
Weaknesses:
  • Often lacks flat kill shot.
  • Weak in and out movement.
  • Short balls to forehand.
  • Counter-drive play while close to the table.
Suggested Robot Drills
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder

You should use mostly short serves to the middle of the table with an occasional long chop serve to the backhand side. Try to turn the penholder into a blocker by elevating heavy loops to his/her backhand. In general, use slower heavy topspins to force slower return blocks. When you get a ball to attack, attack hard down the lines.

Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands

Same general tactics as the penholder, but direct more loops towards the middle of your opponent.

Against the Attacker — Inverted Looper

As both styles can attack hard, you must attack first. Use short serves and return serves with short drops or well-placed flips to control the opening attack. Attack wide to your opponent's forehand, as his/her forehand block is usually weaker than their backhand block.

Against the Attacker — All-Round

Once again the quality of your first attack will tell the difference in the match. You must force the all-rounder into playing defensively. During the first few points, try topspins at different speeds, spins, locations, and heights to determine what kind of topspin will force him/her on the defensive. Serve mostly short to limit your opponent's attack.

Against the Counter Driver

Use short serves anywhere on the table, mixed with long chop serves to the backhand side. Your goal should be to play constant mixed topspins until a loose ball is forced. Only then, should a fast attack be used to finish the point.

Against the Attacking Chopper

Use short serves with an occasional long serve to the backhand side. The first attack should be to the middle followed by a series of safe topspins to the chopper's backhand side. High returns are better flat killed than looped.

Against the Close to the Table Defender

Similar tactics to playing the counter driver. However, even more patience is needed. High balls are better finished with a kill than a loop.

Read more →

The Counter-Driver

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 ball's 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.

The Counter, Driver
Description:

Often referred to as "walls", this style plays close to the table and redirects their opponent's speed and spin against them. Using forehand and backhand counter-drive and blocks, this style seeks to force their opponents into making errors. This style mostly uses topspin simply as a means to get into a counter-driving rally. Often this style of player lacks real finishing power, and rarely uses a fast loop or hard kill shot.

Strengths:
  • Good hand speed and touch on blocks.
  • Strong backhand block and counter-drive.
  • Rarely makes a simple mistake.
  • Ability to open up angles and force their opponents to move a lot.
  • Fast hand speed and quick reactions.
  • Ability to control the speed of play by clever counter and block variations and exact placement.
Weaknesses:
  • Lack of any real power.
  • Balls directed wide to the forehand.
  • Backhand opening against underspin.
  • Slow heavy medium height loops to middle or backhand.
Suggested Robot Drills
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder

Keep your serves short, only serving long as a surprise tactic. A fast, well-angled serve to their backhands will often result in soft return. The key to defeating this style is successfully countering their first attack. Try to play as much backhand counter to backhand block as possible. To win the point, first backhand counter down the line, then attack the exposed penholder backhand.

Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands

Same general advice as playing the pips-out attacker. However, you should direct a high percentage of your backhand counters towards your opponent's middle.

Against the Attacker — Inverted Looper

Serve short anywhere with an occasional fast dead serve to the player's switchpoint if he uses the shakehands grip. Make your first attack safe; slow backhand rolls and heavy slow forehand loops can be very effective. Attempt to extend the points as long as possible. When you do get a chance to attack hard, attack down the lines.

Against the Attacker — All-Round

Use short serves anywhere or long serves to the backhand. Do your best to force him/her into a countering exchange. Focus on placement to win the points, not changing speeds. Avoid using too much variation; this player is the master at variation and will beat you at your own game. Extend the points as long as possible.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

Use mostly short serves and attack or counter to the middle. If he/she covers the middle ball with the forehand side, then counter the next ball wide to the forehand. If he/she covers the middle ball with the backhand side, then counter the next ball wide to the backhand. Keep your opponent jammed in the middle and they will not be able to use their strong loops. Also alternate between short and long counters to keep this style from staying in their preferred mid-distance range.

Against the Attacking Chopper

Use short serves to stop the chopper's attack. Then make a safe topspin opening using your forehand. Do not rush your attack but mix your topspins with pushes, counters, and kills. You will need to play long points and try to frustrate the chopper into making attacking errors.

Against the Close to the Table Defender

Use long mixed serves and lure your opponent into over attacking; often this style player has a weak first attack. Direct most balls to the backhand side, using safe counter and topspin strokes. If this player's angles are preventing your attack, play steady to the middle of the table to reduce the possible angles. Finish with a kill shot rather than a fast loop.

Read more →

The Attacker-All-Round

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 ball’s 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, All-Round
Description:

This is perhaps the newest style in the evolution of the modern game. This athlete typically exhibits great hands, a wide variety of attacking strokes executed with almost equal strength from both sides, and the ability to adapt his game to attack the opponent's weaknesses.

This athlete is equally comfortable when generating powerful strokes or simply redirecting the opponent's power against them. Players of this style can produce a wide variety of topspin attacking shots from any position or distance from the table.

Strengths:
  • Strong opening shots from either backhand or forehand.
  • The ability to produce a great deal of variations in their attack.
  • The ability to control the ball at high rates of speed.
  • The use of sidespin to control the ball and create greater angles for their opponents to cover.
  • Great confidence player and front-runner.
Weaknesses:
  • Can become confused as to which of the many techniques to use, especially when losing.
  • Can be lured into playing too soft, and not being aggressive enough to finish a point.
  • Often lacks a single hard finishing shot (flat kill) against balls at a medium height.
Suggested Robot Drills
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder

Use long chop serves to the backhand mixed with short serves to the middle or backhand. Cut the sideline with the long serve so the opponent cannot run around his/her backhand to attack. Change constantly between backhand looping and counters to upset your opponent's rhythm. Elevate your loops to the penholder's backhand, as the higher loops are more difficult for them to block. Stay aggressive and constantly mix the speed, height, and direction of your topspins.

Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands

Serve mostly short and mid-depth to the middle, then attack the third ball hard to a corner. Do not get into a backhand to backhand counter game; but do mix your backhand returns between loops and counters. Use sidespin on your forehand loops to increase your playing angles. Stay aggressive and change the speed, height, and direction of your topspins.

Against the Attacker — Inverted Looper

Serve short anywhere, with an occasional long chop serve to the backhand side. The key to defeating this powerful forehand style is to attack first. If you can not make a strong first attack, then try to make a safe topspin low with heavy spin. Stay as close to the table as possible, pushing your opponent back by redirecting his own force against him/her.

Against the Counter Driver

Use all types of serves and placements of the serves. Heavy backspin serves are particularly effective against the counter driver. Play safe topspins to the middle and attack hard down the lines. Do not be tricked into playing his/her game at the pace they like. Constantly mix the speed, spin, and height of your topspins.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

Use mostly short serves. Stay close to the table and redirect your opponent's power against him/her. Do not be tempted into over-hitting. Use sidespin on your loops to increase the distance your opponent must cover. Once the mid-distance looper retreats from the table, attack his middle or wide to the backhand side.

Against the Attacking Chopper

Use both short and long serves to the opponent's backhand, then follow with a series of variable topspins. Mix the height, spin, and speed of these topspins. The object here is to frustrate the chopper and force him/her to try high-risk attacks. Alternate hard shots with well-placed soft shots to make the chopper move forward and backward.

Against the Close to the Table Defender

Use mid-distance and long backspin serves. The key to overcoming this opponent is not to over force the attack. Constantly mix the spin, speed, and height of your topspins. Keeping your softer set-up shots directed to the middle of the table will reduce the angles that the defender can use and make your subsequent attacks easier to execute. When you get a high return, attack hard wide to the forehand side.

Read more →

The Attacker—Inverted Looper

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 ball’s 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, Inverted Looper
Description:

Inverted Loopers 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. This style will try to end points as quickly as possible. Most points are finished with a strong loop-kill. This player often has both an outstanding slow loop and a fast loop-kill from the forehand side. Players of this style can open with a backhand loop but normally do not re-loop with the backhand. They choose to counter drive the backhand instead. This style will on occasion move back into mid-distance (5-7ft from table) and counter loop with the forehand.

Players of this style have generally done well with the move to the 40 mm ball. Their main adjustment has been to develop a more forward loop stroke taking the ball a little farther in front of their bodies. This puts more emphasis on the forward speed than the spin of their power loops.

Strengths:
  • Quick pivot to use forehand from backhand corner.
  • Strong forehand loops.
  • Both strong slow and fast loops from the forehand.
  • Solid opening backhand loop.
  • Solid backhand counter-drives.
  • Good short game.
  • Excellent serve and return game.
Weaknesses:
  • Balls directed towards the player’s middle.
  • Balls directed wide to the forehand.
  • In and out movement.
  • Backhand re-loop.
  • Slow heavy loops directed towards the backhand.
Suggested Robot Drills
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder

Serve short anywhere with an occasional deep underspin serve to the opponent’s backhand side. First attack should be either a heavy spin loop to the penholder’s backhand or a faster loop wide to the forehand side. Avoid backhand-to-backhand exchanges by using your backhand counter down the line when possible. Try to turn the penholder into a blocker by using higher trajectory heavy loops to his/her backhand side.

Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands

Serve short, mostly to the middle of the table and follow with a strong 3rd ball attack to your opponent’s middle or backhand side. Be ready to pivot and use your forehand from your backhand side whenever possible. 

Against the Attacker — All-Round

Your advantage lies in having a more powerful forehand attack, use it. Serve short to your opponent’s middle and move to execute a strong 3rd ball forehand attack. Also, you can serve mid-distance serves and forehand attack against a weak lift. The key here is to force your opponent to play defensively. 

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 over force your backhand. Use your backhand counter down the line to force more forehand-to-forehand play.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

To defeat this style you must attack first. Keep your serves mostly short and look to attack the opponent’s middle whenever possible. Try to move your opponent in and out if possible and try and play above his/her comfort level (time pressure). 

Against the Attacking Chopper

Keep your serves mostly short with an occasional long serve to the opponent’s backhand side. Whenever possible, make your first topspin a quick loop to the chopper’s 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 and try to redirect your opponent’s attack away from the side it came from. 

Against the Close to the Table Defender

Serve this style mid-distance to long serves to the middle or backhand side and attack their returns. Avoid long points by attacking your opponent’s wide forehand early in the point. You want to be exchanging forehands to forehands whenever possible. No spin serves and pushes are often effective in forcing errors or high returns.

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The Attacker - Shakehands Hitter

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 ball’s 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 — Shakehands Hitter
Description:

Like their Penholder counterparts, this style generally stands within three feet of the table. This style is forehand dominated and all ball contact is on the rise or at the top of the bounce. Unlike the Penhold Pips-Out Attacker, this style will often open a point with a backhand drive. This style often features a strong backhand counter-drive, hitting well through opponent’s topspin shots. While still trying to finish each point quickly, the Shakehands Pips-Out Attacker is often content to maneuver the opponent out of position before pivoting to end the point with a forehand kill.

There are more penholder pips-out hitters than shakehands pips-out hitters due to the ease of producing spin with the penholder grip. The shakehand pips-out hitter can produce great speed but has trouble generating much spin. Even so, the style can be very successful. A great example of this style would be Johnny Hwang from Canada.

Strengths:
  • Quick pivot to use the forehand from backhand corner
  • Strong forehand kills.
  • Strong counter-driving techniques from the backhand side
  • Strong backhand initial opening attack
  • Excellent serve and return game.
  • Forceful pace - gives opponent very little time to react
Weaknesses:
  • Short game (not as strong as the penhold hitter)
  • Forehand serve return. (they are often forced to go for high risk shots due to a lack of a spin loop)
  • Forehand lift against long underspin shots
  • Balls directed to the player's middle.

Suggested Robot Drills

Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Pips-Out Penholder Attacker

Keep your serves short to the opponent’s backhand side. In addition, serve deep to the backhand, cutting the sideline of the table and attack the return. Also, occasionally serve deep to the forehand. Your grip should give you an advantage in backhand-to-backhand play. Pin your opponent in his/her backhand corner as much as possible. When returning serves long, play to the deep corners.

Against the Inverted Looper Attacker

Use mostly short mixed serves, with an occasional fast deep serve to the opponent’s forehand side. Do not allow the Inverted Looper to turn you into a blocker, hit through the topspin as much as possible. Also, attack down the line whenever possible to keep time pressure on this opponent by making him/her play at a faster pace than they are comfortable. Strong opening attacks and fast returns to the opponent’s switchpoint, if shakehands, will force him to back off the table.

Against the All-Round Attacker

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 opponent’s 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.

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 over play your backhand. Use your backhand counter down the line to force more forehand-to-forehand play.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

Watch out for this opponent’s 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 opponent’s backhand side. Whenever possible make your first attack to the chopper’s 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 and when he does, redirect his attack away from the side it came from.

Against the Close to the Table Defender

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

Read more →

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
Description:

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.

Strengths:
  • 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
Weaknesses:
  • 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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Turn Your Newgy Robo-Pong Into A World Class Chopper

Newgy Robo-Pong

Too often in today's table tennis clubs, there is a lack of quality choppers available to train with. This is especially a problem when training the young developing topspin player. As a full-time professional coach, I am always on the lookout to find ways to simulate training against styles or individual shots that don't exist in my own backyard.

Often I can accomplish this through the use of multi-ball feeding techniques. However, I have found a creative solution that works even better by using my Newgy Robo-Pong

First of all, I remove the unit completely from the table and set it on a low table or even the floor itself. The distance back from the table should be similar to the distance that a chopper would actually be working from to return hard hit balls (8 – 12 feet behind the table). 

By setting up the Newgy Robo-Pong in this fashion, your students gain several advantages over the conventional multi-ball set-up. First and most importantly, the correct timing for the stroke can be developed. Secondly, the student can get the feel of training at full power and observing the results of his/her own strokes. 

(Editor's Note: When using the robot "off table" in this fashion, it will help to use the Pong-Master scoreboard to help start, time, and end each drill. Plug the scoreboard into the control box, but do not plug any targets in. Set the robot for the proper trajectory angle, ball feed, ball speed, and sweep range. Turn on the scoreboard and set the number of minutes for the drill. When you're ready, hit the start button and the scoreboard will give you 3 seconds to get ready before it starts delivering balls. The scoreboard will also stop ball delivery when time runs out.

Also, since many of your returns will not be captured by the net for recycling, use lots of balls or have an assistant pick up balls and place them back into the robot's trays. This will permit you to continue doing the drill for the allotted time.)

Here is a set of six attack drills that my students often do against chop. Each set of drills should run from 5–7 minutes, remember to stress quality not quantity. If your students are having less than a 70–80% success rate, than the drill should be modified. 

Normally, I set up the Newgy to oscillate from the middle of the table to the wide forehand of my player. After finishing the six drills, I reset the Newgy to oscillate from the middle of table to my player's wide backhand and repeat the six drills again. In all cases, forehand attacks are being used. 

  1. Loop consistently to opponent's forehand. The student should focus on consistency as well as producing as much spin as possible. 
  2. Loop consistently to opponent's backhand. Like the above drill, consistency and spin are the keys to work on. 
  3. Loop consistently, alternating between opponent's forehand and backhand side. Have your student pay special attention to their footwork when changing the direction of the ball. 
  4. Loop to one corner, then push to the other corner. 
  5. Loop consistently to opponent's wide forehand corner, then hard attack to the middle. Have student concentrate on contacting the ball at the top of the bounce for the hard attack, as well as the explosion of the hips and the feeling of being "un-weighted" at the moment of the hard attack. 
  6. Loop consistently to opponent's middle, then hard attack opponent's wide forehand corner. Same focus as previous drill.
Advanced Options: 

You can mix the above drills with some limited multi-ball. A coach can randomly feed a single attacking shot between the Newgy's chops, just to keep the player ready to defend at all times. The coach can also mix in a short drop shot, timed to force the player to work hard to get back into position to loop the next ball. 

Throughout the United States, there are very few clubs that have strong players of every style to train against. I hope these chop suggestions, along with the idea of pulling the Newgy Robo-Pong away from the table will strike a creative cord on just how it is possible to overcome any training weakness.

By the way, the basic six drills against chop that I have suggested come mostly from my several years as acting coach of America's finest chopper, Derek May.

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