Combining Forehand and Backhand

Newgy Robo-Pong

Once you are proficient at forehand and backhand block and counter strokes, it is time to learn how to combine forehand and backhand strokes. Maintaining a good ready position is the most important aspect of combining strokes. A good ready position decreases reaction time, permits easy movement in any direction, and assists in making a smooth, flowing transition from one shot to the next.

Most of the drills described in this chapter require you to have good footwork. If you have trouble maintaining consistency when you have to move your feet, take time out to read Chapter Nineteen Footwork, pages 63-64, and shadow practice the footwork until you feel comfortable with that kind of movement.

Lesson 14: Ready Position

To assume the ready position, keep your:

  1. Feet apart, at least shoulder width or wider. Your right foot is slightly further back than your left foot.
  2. Weight on the balls of your feet with the heels slightly off the ground and your weight evenly distributed on both feet.
  3. Arms hanging down with the forearms bent at an approximate 900 angle to the upper arms. This should place the elbows slightly in front
  4. Knees bent according to your height. A tall person needs to bend his knees more than a short person. Avoid standing up straight with your knees locked.
  5. Racket pointed forward, not favoring forehand or backhand.
  6. Head tilted up with your eyes focused on the ball.
  7. Entire body balanced, relaxed, and in a state of alert readiness.
  8. Mind clear, ready to jump start the body into action as soon as ball speed, spin, and trajectory are perceived.

The basic sequence of a rally is as follows: First, assume the ready position. Second, judge the trajectory of the ball. Third, move to the ball. Fourth, stroke the ball. Fifth, return to ready position. The ready position begins and ends every stroke and every rally. Practice this by:

  1. assuming the ready position,
  2. taking a quick two-step (refer to Footwork, for an example of two-step footwork) to the forehand
  3. Executing a shadow stroke forehand counter
  4. Taking a two-step back to your original position, and
  5. Reassuming the ready position. Repeat this action until it feels comfortable.

The next drill will be to repeat the same drill as in the preceding paragraph except you add a backhand counter. For this drill you would:

  1. Start in the ready position
  2. Take a quick two-step to the forehand
  3. Shadow stroke a forehand counter
  4. Take a two-step back to your original position
  5. Reassume the ready position
  6. Shadow stroke a backhand counter
  7. Finish by reassuming the ready position once again. As before, repeat until it feels comfortable.
Lesson 15: Combination Block Strokes With The Ready Position

To practice forehand and backhand combinations, turn the robot off and set the sweep control levers to the numbers 2 and 5 positions. The ball will land from the middle of your forehand court to the middle of your backhand court.

Assume the ready position just to the left of the center line. Make sure your racket is pointed straight forward and that the racket and your forearm align with the center line of the table. Turn the robot on at a slow speed and frequency and practice a backhand block when the ball lands to the left of the center line and a forehand block when it lands to the right of the center line. After each stroke, make sure you assume the ready position before stroking the next shot. Do one drill in which you place all blocks (both forehand and backhand) crosscourt, and a second drill where you place all blocks down-the-line.

Gradually build up your speed, but be careful not to go so fast that you forget to return to the ready position between strokes. Once you have reached your upper limits without losing good form, increase the range of oscillation by changing the sweep control levers to positions 2 and 4, if you're right handed, and 3 and 5, if you're left handed.

At these settings the ball will land randomly from your forehand corner to the middle of your backhand court. Repeat the above drills, but this time move whenever the ball goes to the wide forehand. Again, do one drill placing all blocks crosscourt, and a second drill placing all blocks down-the-line. Start at slow ball frequency and build up. Lastly, set the oscillator to sweep the entire width of the table (sweep control positions 3 & 4) and repeat. Be sure to use a backhand block whenever the ball lands in your backhand court and a forehand block whenever the ball lands in your forehand court. Gradually build up ball speed and frequency. Your goal is 50 successful blocks in a row at each stage.

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Forehand Counter

Newgy Robo-Pong

This stroke starts the same as the forehand block in the last chapter. Your stance and position to the table are the is struck at the top of its bounce. Unlike the block, which is executed with a relatively still racket, the counter has a medium-sized backswing and follow through. This is done by pulling your racket backward with your forearm and then pushing it forward and slightly upward. Be sure to maintain the correct racket angle throughout the stroke.

Stroke the ball mainly with the forearm, using your elbow as a pivot point. Hold your racket slightly below the height of the ball at the beginning of the stroke and finish with it slightly above the height of the ball. Stability in the stroke is achieved by making sure your racket is at or slightly above the level of your elbow at contact. An indication of a complete stroke is the tip of your racket pointing forward or slightly to the left at the end of the stroke. Keep your wrist tilted down and do not let it flop back and forth.

Lesson 5: Forehand Counter With No Foot Movement

Aim the robot so it will shoot balls to the middle of your forehand court and turn off the oscillator. Starting at a slow speed, begin to forehand block the ball crosscourt. When you get a feel for the ball, take a quick step backward. At the same time take your racket back by twisting your waist and shoulders, and pulling back your forearm (not the upper arm). Timing your swing with the oncoming ball, swing forward into the ball as illustrated in Photo 8 on the next page. Remember to swing primarily with your shoulders and waist, not with your arm.

Focus your eyes on the ball until just before contact. Keep your head steady and don't let it turn as you twist your torso. Time your twist so the ball goes crosscourt. If you twist too soon or too quickly, the ball will go wide to your left. If you twist too late, too slowly, or not enough, the ball will go down-the-line instead of crosscourt. Be careful to keep your wrist straight and tilted down. When you are ready to place the ball down-the-line, bend your wrist slightly backward and time your twist the same as you did when you placed the ball crosscourt.

Develop a forehand counter following the same procedure as you did with the forehand block. First, at low speed and frequency crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally alternating crosscourt and down the-line. Gradually turn up ball speed and frequency until you have reached your upper limits. As you turn up the frequency and/or speed, remember to do a complete stroke. Don't turn up the speed to the point that you shorten your stroke. Your goal is 25 successful counters in a row at each stage.

Lesson 6: Forehand Counter With Foot Movement 

Follow the same sequence as you did with the forehand block. Move the sweep control levers to the 1 and 4 positions for right-handers or to the 3 and 6 positions for left-handers. Practice your forehand counter in a crosscourt direction with the ball moving randomly within your forehand court. Then practice hitting the ball down-the-line, and finally alternate between crosscourt and down-the-line. Gradually build up the ball speed and frequency. Be sure to move your feet and get into good position before stroking the ball. Avoid reaching for the ball within your arm. Your goal is 25 successful counters in a row at each stage.

Photo 8: Forehand Counter (crosscourt)

Notice how the whole right side of the body is twisted into into the ball and how the forward swing and follow through are about the same length.

Images 1&2: End of back swing. The racket is raised to the anticipated height of the ball and the racket angle is adjusted slightly. The back swing is chiefly a twisting back of the waist and shoulders and a pulling back of the forearm (not the upper arm).

Image 3: Forward Swing. Mainly a twisting forward of the shoulders and waist.

Image 4: Just after ball contact. Notice the closed racket angle and the very quick acceleration from its position in Image 3. This was accomplished mainly by snapping the forearm forward and rotating the upper torso. The upper arm still has not moved very much.

Image 5: Follow through. The upper arm continues to move the racket forward and upward.

Image 6: End of stroke. The racket ends up in front of the face in line left.

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Random Footwork

Newgy Robo-Pong

The biggest difference between playing a robot and hitting with another player is that a robot can hit everything the same, while a player's shots always have some variation. However, the Newgy robot is designed to give you random shots over a pre-arranged area, via the oscillator and the oscillator's range levers. You don't have to have it hit every ball to the same spot. This allows you to work on your footwork as well as your stroke.

On the back of the robot is the "robot oscillator range levers." (Editor's note: These are listed as "Oscillator Control Levers" in your robot Owner's Manual, part #'s 61 & 62.) These show the various ranges the oscillator can sweep through, depending on which setting you choose.

Assuming you've taken the time to develop decent forehand and backhand strokes, it's time to learn to move and stroke. More specifically, it's time you learned to cover a certain proportion of the table with each stroke.

Set the robot on topspin. Set the robot's oscillator's range levers to 1-4, so the robot sweeps over just the forehand side of the table. (You can adjust the robot to sweep over a smaller area when starting out, if the 1-4 setting sweeps too much area.) Put both the speed and frequency settings in the 3 to 4 range. Turn on the oscillator to about 6, and the balls will shoot out randomly to the forehand side. Return each ball with your forehand. (Editor's note: this assumes you are right handed. If left-handed, place control levers to the 3-6 settings.)

To do so, watch the robot very carefully, and move your feet to follow the direction it is pointing. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet, with your knees at least slightly bent (Editor's note: the taller you are, the more you need to bend your knees). Move with short steps, keeping your weight centered at all times. Try to be in position for each ball without having to reach—move into position so the ball goes through your forehand hitting zone.

Now set the robot's oscillator range levers to 3-6 (1-4, if you're a lefty), so the robot sweeps over the backhand side of the table. Repeat the drill with your backhand. When you feel comfortable with that, do the same drill—with the balls still sweeping over your backhand side—but use only your forehand from your backhand side.

It is important to learn to hit the forehand from the backhand side because often you will need this skill for put-away shots. You normally should not play backhands from the forehand side, however.

Next try covering larger areas of the table, but this time using both forehand and backhand. At first set the oscillator's range levers so that the robot doesn't quite cover the entire table, and practice making clean shots, both forehand and backhand, by moving to each ball, not reaching. As you improve, increase the area until you are able to cover the entire table this way.

When the robot is set to sweep over a relatively small area of the table, the frequency setting is not too important as the balls will effectively come out randomly over the assigned area either way. When you start covering the entire table, however, the frequency setting begins to matter. Start off relatively low, at a pace you can cover somewhat consistently, and work your way up to faster and faster frequencies. Consistency is the key; don't set it so fast that you are leaping and diving after balls!

As you improve, you can also increase both the robot's speed setting and how hard you hit your own shots. You should also try the above drills with the robot set on backspin, and either attack or push. Generally, attack backspin when using your forehand (unless it goes too short, in which case you should either push or flip), while either pushing, driving or looping with the backhand.

There are two basic skills the preceding drills are designed to develop. First are the footwork skills to cover the table by moving to the ball, not reaching, so that you can consistently hit clean shots. Second is what is called "neuromuscular adaptation"—the ability of the brain to quickly make a choice, and react. This is developed in the drills where you have to choose whether to use a forehand or a backhand. Developing these skills will greatly enhance your ability to play strong rallies comfortably.

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Backhand Block

Newgy Robo-Pong

The backhand block, like the forehand block, uses the speed and spin that is already on the ball to return the ball back across the net. The biggest difference between the backhand and forehand block is the backhand forehand block makes contact with the ball to the side and in front of

Stand about 12 inches in back of the center of your backhand court (the left court as you face the table, for right handers) in a squared 

Intercept the ball with a still racket as the ball is rising and just before it reaches its peak. Angle the racket open or closed by rotating the forearm to make the ball return low over the net. If your return is too high, you must angle the racket more closed by tilting the face of the racket toward the table. Conversely, if your return is too low and doesn't clear the net, you must open the racket angle slightly by tilting the face of the racket closer to vertical. 

Lesson 10: Backhand Block With No Foot Movement

Adjust the robot to deliver topspin shots to the middle of your backhand court at a slow pace and speed. Practice your backhand block in the same manner and in the same sequence as you did the forehand block. Start slowly with no oscillation and blocking the ball back crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally alternating shots in the two directions. Gradually build up the ball frequency and speed. Be sure that you can do, without missing, 50 crosscourt blocks, then 50 down-the-line blocks, and finally 50 patterns of alternating crosscourt and down-the-line blocks. 

Remember not to swing at the ball. Merely block the path of the ball with your racket and let the ball's speed and spin cause it to rebound across the net. Experiment with tilting the racket angle downward until you can consistently place the ball back in the desired direction and low over the net. 

Lesson 11: Backhand Block With Foot Movement

When you have reached your current maximum limits in Lesson 10, you're ready to combine movement with the backhand block. To add movement to the robot, turn the main switch off and set the sweep control levers to the numbers 3 and 6 positions if you're right handed and to the numbers 1and 4 positions if you're left handed. Set the ball frequency and ball speed controls to 1-2 points below your maximum rate, as determined in Lesson 9. Adjust the oscillator speed setting as described on pages 2-4. 

The balls will be randomly delivered from the center line of the table to the backhand corner. Practice blocking the ball back crosscourt with your backhand until you are consistent, then practice down-the-line blocks, and finally alternate crosscourt and down-the-line blocks, all with the ball moving to random positions within your backhand court at slow speed. Always you. Avoid reaching for the ball with your arm. MOVE YOUR FEET! Keep your elbow it is going to shoot so you can move into position before the ball is thrown to you. Once you complete this sequence at below maximum speed and frequency, gradually turn up the ball speed and ball frequency controls until once again you reach the upper limit of your current ability without losing consistency.

Photo 11: Backhand Block (Croscourt)

Notice angle of the racket. It is tilted slightly closed to compensate for the topspin on the ball and slightly to the right to make the ball (almost hidden by the racket) counterbalances the racket hand. Weight is equally distributed on both legs.

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Forehand Smash

Newgy Robo-Pong

When you're proficient at the forehand counter with foot movement at high frequency, it's time for the most fun stroke in the game-the forehand smash. The forehand smash is really an extended, more powerful version of the counter, just as the counter was an extended, more powerful version of the block.

Add a longer back swing and follow through to the counter and shift your weight harder from back leg to front.Accelerate your forearm quickly through the ball. Time your shoulder and hip turn so you contact the ball at thepeak of its bounce. After contact, allow your arm to swing up and over the left shoulder. It is also acceptable tolet the racket follow through in a salute to the forehead instead of finishing over the left shoulder. Try both to see which feels better.

When done correctly, the forceful hip turn results in transferring all of your weight from the right leg to the left leg. This provides you with tremendous power. Additional power can be generated by pulling back the left shoulder with your left arm as your right shoulder twists into the ball. Start at slow speed and frequency because the added backswing and longer follow through will take more time and you need the extra time to get ready for the next shot.

When first learning to smash, start with the robot delivering slow speed topspin balls that are 18-24 inches high (suggested settings-ball speed 2 1/2, head angle "G"). As you get better at smashing, grad-ually lower the height of the ball and increase the ball speed until you can smash a ball only 6-10 inches high.

Lesson 7: Forehand Smash With No Foot Movement

Practice the smash using the same sequence as you have used for the other strokes you have learned so far. However, for the smash, your goal should be 15 consecutive strokes without missing. The forehand smash is quite tiring, so you may need to build up your stamina before you can do 15 consecutive smashes. Be aware that fatigue can drastically hamper your stroke, so take a break as soon as your consistency begins to falter. Also, because of the longer time it takes to execute the smash, you won't be able to turn the ball speed and frequency up as high as you could with the block or counter.

Another important skill to learn is how to forehand smash from the backhand corner. Set the robot to deliver balls to the middle of your backhand court. Step over until you are at the backhand corner and position your feet so they are parallel to the sideline of the table. Now set the controls for low ball speed and frequency and turn the machine on. Practice the forehand smash crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally alternate between the two. Gradually build up the ball speed and frequency and lower the height of the shot.

Lesson 8: Forehand Smash with Foot Movement

Switch the oscillator control levers to the 1 and 4 positions if you are right handed and to the 3 and 6 positions if you are left handed. Set the ball speed and head angle for an easy, medium high topspin ball to the forehand. Keep the ball frequency slow, about 3-4. Adjust the oscillator speed as described on pages 2-4. Practice the forehand smash with the ball moving randomly within your forehand court. Place the ball crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally alternate between the two. Gradually increase ball speed and frequency. Your goal is 15 successful smashes in a row at each stage.

The last step to learning the forehand smash is to expand your range of movement. The forehand smash is the only stroke I will cover in this book that is designed to finish off a point. Therefore, it'simportant to step out on your backhand side and use your forehand smash whenever an easy ball is placed there.

To practice this skill, set the sweep control levers to the 2 and 4 positions if you're right handed or to the 3 and 5 positions if you're left handed. At these settings, the ball will be placed from your fore-hand corner to the middle of your backhand court. Turn on the ball frequency and adjust the oscillator speed as suggested on pages 2-4. When you have it adjusted correctly, use your forehand smash to return all balls-do not use your backhand. You'll have to move quickly to cover this entire distance, and this drill is an exhausting one even for top players. Your goal is 15 consecutive smashes in each direction (crosscourt and down-the-line).

Lesson 9: Combining Forehand Smash

On page 34 you will see the three strokes you have learned so far the Block, the Counter, and the Smash. In reality, these are not three separate strokes, but three phases of the same basic forehand stroke. Look closely at the photo of the smash and you will see it incorporates all of the components found in both the counter and the block. Likewise, the counter incorporates all the elements of the block.

The contact point (both in relation to distance arm to forearm angle are all essentially the same. The biggest differences between these three strokes is stroke length, amount of weight shift from back leg to front, and degree of racket acceleration.

The block has a very short swing with almost no back swing and very little follow-through. The counter has a longer swing with a definite back swing and follow-through. And the smash has a very big swing with a much longer back swing and follow-through. The block has no weight shift from back leg to front, the counter has a 60-80% weight shift, and the smash has an almost complete 100% weight shift. Racket acceleration varies from very little in the block, to moderate acceleration in the counter, to very explosive acceleration in the smash.

In a game, the choice of which stroke to use is usually dictated by the amount of time you have to get ready for the shot and the amount of control you wish to maintain in the rally. If your opponent is attacking and you have little time to get ready for a shot, the block is the correct choice. It takes little time to execute and the need for controlling your opponent's power is at a premium. In an average rally, where both players are jockeying for an opening, the counter is your best choice because it is a blend of power and control. When you get an easy slow ball, use the smash to end the point because you have plenty of time to get set and con-trol is less of a factor.

To practice strengthening these three strokes and to reduce the transitional time it takes to go from one stroke to the next, do the following drill. Set your robot to deliver a medium speed, medium height topspin ball to the middle of your forehand court.

Start by blocking the first ball, countering the second ball, then smashing the third ball. Keep alternating from block to counter to smash and back to block for approximately 5 minutes. After blocking, take a quick step backward before you execute your counter. Likewise, take a quick step forward before doing the block. Do this drill often and concentrate on keeping the contact point, racket angle, and arm angle the same with each of these strokes. The transition from one stroke to the next should feel smooth and almost like you're practicing one stroke instead of three different ones. The length of the stroke and the amount of power you are generating should be the primary differences among these three strokes. 

Photo 9:Forehand Smash (Crosscourt) 

Notice the very long swing, the rapid acceleration of the racket before ball contact, and the forceful twist of the shoulders, waist, and right leg. 

Image 1: End of back swing. Waist and shoulders have been rotated back as far as they can go and the forearm has been cocked back. At this point, 90% of the weight is on the right leg. The racket has been raised to the anticipated height of the ball at contact. 

Image 2: Forward swing. The waist and shoulders are being rotated into the ball as weight is being transferred to the left leg. The forearm is beginning to be un-cocked. 

Image 3: Immediately after ball contact. Note the closed racket angle. The forearm has been rapidly snapped forward. The racket is at the level of or slightly above the level of the elbow. 

lmages 4&5: Follow through. Shoulder and upper arm continue to push racket forward and slightly upward. Waist twist continues to transfer weight to the left leg. The right leg has twisted forward with a definite thrust at the knee. 

Image 6: End of stroke. The powerful momentum to finish on the left side of the head. The shoulders have rotated almost 1800 during the stroke, and the waist has rotated about 1350. Nearly 100% of the weight has been transferred to the left leg, 

Photo 10: Comparing Forehand Block, Counter, & Smash

 

Block
 
Counter
 

Smash

Look at the three photos above very carefully. The photo of the block was taken just before ball contact while the third image of the counter and smash were both captured just after ball contact. Note how the racket is at or slightly above the level of the elbow at contact and the forearm to upper arm angle and the racket angle are essentially the same in all three strokes. Compare the difference in weight shift between the counter (60-80%) and the smash (90-100%). This weight shift is evidenced by the amount of leg kick. Note the distance the racket travels between images 2 & 4 in the counter and the smash. Since the timing between each image remains constant, this reveals that the racket is moving at a much faster pace in the smash than in the counter. The photo of the block is not stroboscopic because the racket moves so little the images would have been indistinguishable.

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Forehand Drive

Newgy Robo-Pong

As your skills develop, you may want to learn how to attack a backspin return instead of just pushing it back, particularly if you like to be offensive. The stroke to use is the forehand drive. This stroke is similar to the forehand smash with only minor differences. When driving backspin, contact the ball with a more open racket angle and stroke more upward than in the smash. At contact the racket face is almost perpendicular.

When first learning the forehand drive against backspin, it may be difficult to get the ball to clear the net. This is because the backspin causes the ball to rebound downward when it grabs into your rubber surface. To counteract this effect, it is necessary to stroke forcefully at high speed and/or open your racket angle even more, so you are actually striking the ball a little below center and driving the racket up through the ball. This will provide the necessary "lift" to get the ball to clear the net.

This is not an easy stroke to learn, so don't get frustrated if it is difficult to execute with any consistency. It is OK to temporarily skip over the next lesson if you find it difficult to execute the forehand drive with consistency. In this case, do the remaining lessons and come back to Lesson 19 at the end.

Lesson 19 

To learn this stroke, set the spin to backspin, the speed to 2, the frequency to 3, and turn the oscillator off when the robot head points to the middle of your forehand court. Practice the forehand drive first crosscourt, then down-the-line, and then alternate between the two directions. Next, turn on the oscillator and practice the forehand drive with the ball moving randomly inside your forehand court, then your whole backhand court, and finally 3/4 of the whole table from the middle of your backhand court to your forehand corner. Lastly, combine your forehand drive with the backhand push by setting the oscillator to sweep the entire table and practice pushing on your backhand side and driving on your forehand side. Your goal is 15 successful drives in a row at each stage.

Another good drill is to adjust the robot to shoot balls to your backhand and practice pushing a backhand followed by stepping out and doing a forehand drive from your backhand court. This is a particularly useful drill because it develops a variety of skills: a backhand backspin defensive stroke (touch), a forehand topspin offensive stroke (power), and footwork (quickness). Do this drill using no oscillation, then gradually turn the ball frequency up to 4.

Photo 16: Forehand Drive (Crosscourt) 

Notice how the racket starts below the level of the ball at impact and the racket finishes high above the head. Also note the very rapid acceleration of the racket between images 2and 4and the almost vertical racket angle at contact. 

Image 1: End of back swing. Racket has been taken back and down by rotating the waist and shoulders and pulling the forearm back. Note that the racket is below the level of the anticipated point of contact. 

Image 2: Forward swing. Racket is beginning to rapidly accelerate forward. This is achieved by rotating the waist and shoulders, twisting the right leg, and pushing the forearm forward. 

Image 3: Just after ball contact. The racket angle is almost vertical, and the racket has accelerated forward and upward. Notice how, just like the forehand smash, the racket is at the level of or slightly above the level of the elbow at time of contact. 

Image 4: Follow through. Racket has traveled upward by raising the upper arm. The waist and shoulders continue to rotate forward. 

Images 5 & 6: End of swing. Upper arm continues to raise racket until it finishes above the head. Shoulders and waist have rotated approximately 135, The weight shift from the right leg to the left leg is so strong it has pulled the right leg forward.

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Using The Robot in The Robo-Caddy

Newgy Robo-Pong

I just received the new Robo-Caddy and extension cord and found some interesting uses for them in common drills. Putting the Robo-Pong in the Robo-Caddy, I move the robot to the forehand corner of the table with the head pointing cross-court. With no oscillation, I can do forehand-to-forehand drills with a feel more like that of a real person and better ball placement. Also, because with the Robo-Caddy the robot head can be set about three inches lower than the normal height of the Robo-Pong, the balls are returned to me lower to the net and more realistically. Using the oscillating feature (oscillation range set at 1-4, frequency at 8, and speed at 8), I can do the one-step drill (with the ball alternating between the forehand and backhand court) as well. The same drills can also be used with the robot in the backhand court for backhand practice. For either the forehand or backhand drills described above, the Robo-Pong net is still pretty functional - catching about 50 percent or more of the balls.

Another useful tip: When setting up the Robo-Pong, I had a hard time aligning the 5-prong connector on the cord with the female-end on the back of the Robo-Pong. To make it easier, I put a little white dot on the cord with liquid White-out and a corresponding dot on the back of the Robot. Now, it is a lot easier to plug in the cord.

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Footwork Drills

Newgy Robo-Pong

The Newgy Robot is very useful for footwork practice. You are forced to keep moving because the robot rarely misses. Here are some footwork drills you can do with your Newgy Robot:

Side to Side Footwork Drills
One-Step Footwork 
    1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 2,5 (narrow sweep range). 
    2. Adjust oscillator speed so ball are place at each end of the sweep range. 
    3. Hit ball coming to your forehand court with forehand strokes, hit balls coming to your backhand court with backhand strokes.
Two-Step Footwork 
    1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 1,6 (no oscillation). 
    2. Alternate your forehands and backhands to hit balls back.
Three-Step Footwork 
    1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 2,5 (narrow sweep range). 
    2. Adjust oscillator speed so balls are placed at each end of the sweep range. 
    3. Hit balls coming to your forehand court with backhand strokes and balls coming to your backhand court with forehand strokes.
Stepping In/Out Footwork Drills
Two-Step Footwork 
    1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 1,6 (no oscillation). 
    2. Adjust head angle and ball speed so balls bounce twice on your side of the table. 
    3. Step in to forehand hit a ball after it bounces once, then step out to forehand hit the next ball after it bounces twice, step in to backhand hit the next ball after it bounces once, and finally step out to backhand hit the fourth ball after it bounces twice. You should be moving in an "8 on its side" (_) route.
Three-Step Footwork 
    1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 2,5 (narrow sweep range). 
    2. Adjust head angle and ball speed so balls bounce twice on your side of the table. 
    3. Hit balls in the same manner as described in previous two-step footwork drill, except you now need to take 3 steps to make it to the balls.
Notes: 
  1. If you find the 2,5 sweep range too wide for you, change it to 1,5 or 2,6. 
  2. If you find the 2,5 sweep range too narrow for you, change it to 2,4, 3,5 or even 3,4. 
  3. If you're right-handed you should step in with your right foot closer to the table, or you won't be able to bring your playing hand close to the ball. 
  4. If you're left-handed, you should step in with your left foot closer to the table.

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Serve Receive

Newgy Robo-Pong

One of the most difficult skills to master in table tennis is serve receive. You must be able to handle hundreds of different types of serves. Seldom will you encounter the same types of serves from player to player. Not only must you be able to get a serve back but you must also be ready to attack an easy serve to wrest the initiative away from the server. Fortunately, Robo-Pong 2000 is an excellent aid to learning this important skill. The robot is especially useful in learning to return sidespin serves.

Returning Topspin Serves

To practice returning serves, tilt the head of the robot down so it shoots first onto its side of the table (approximate head angle "C"). Turn the robot head to topspin. Set the ball speed and frequency to 3 and turn off the oscillator when the robot head points to the middle of your backhand court. Turn the power switch on, and practice using your backhand block to return the ball to all parts of the table. In particular, work on placing your returns into either corner or angled wide off the side of the table. Strive to keep your returns low over the net. Progress to returning the serve with a backhand counter instead of a block. Don't turn the ball frequency past 4 as higher numbers would be a little benefit. Return to the ready position after each serve receive.

Next, turn the oscillator so that it shoots randomly inside your entire backhand court. Practice your block first and then your counter. Repeat the same learning pattern on the forehand side, starting with a serve to the middle of the forehand court and returning it with a forehand block. Progress to a forehand counter and occasionally use a forehand smash. Then turn on the oscillator to sweep inside of the forehand court and practice forehand block, then counter, and occasionally a forehand smash.

The last step is to have the robot sweep the entire width of the table and practice combining forehand and backhand returns. After you can consistently return this serve, pressure yourself to attack whenever you are completely set. At all stages of this training, be sure to return to the ready position before each serve is delivered. Pretend you are returning a real serve from a live opponent and you don't know what serve is coming next.

Returning Backspin Serves

Backspin services are the next to learn to return. Keep the same control settings as in Lesson 25, except turn the robot head to backspin and aim the head to shoot balls to the middle of your backhand court. Turn the robot on and practice returning the serve with a backhand push to all parts of the table. Then turn the oscillator on and practice a backhand push return from anywhere inside the backhand court.

Repeat this on the forehand side using a forehand push and finally, set the oscillator to sweep the entire width of the table and practice combining forehand and backhand push returns. You may wish to throw in an occasionally forehand drive return if you've learned this skill.

Another good drill is to reduce the ball speed to approximately 1 1/2 so the ball is served very short and close to the net. To return this short serve effectively, it will be necessary to bend your knees deeply and take a long step with your right leg under the table. Let your upper torso bend over the top of the table and then reach forward with your racket. Use mainly your forearm and wrist to stroke the ball and be sure to use the correct racket angle when making contact.

Be sure to return to the ready position after the table. Pretend like a person is serving to you and you don't know whether the serve will be short or long. Position yourself about two feet in back of the table. That way you will be in good position to return a long serve and all you have to do to return a short serve is take one good step forward. In almost all cases it is better to be back and move forward rather than be too close and have to move back.

Returning Sidespin/Topspin Serves
                        
Correct Angle For Returning Left Sidespin/Topspin

Racket should be tilted both to the left and down to return the ball straight down the middle of the table.

 
Correct Angle For Returning Right Sidespin/Topspin

Racket should be tilted both to the right and down to return the ball straight down the middle of the table.

After becoming proficient at returning straight topspin and backspin serves, it is time to learn how to return these spins when they are combined with sidespin. Turn the robot head so the word "topspin" is about 45deg to the right of top center. The robot will deliver a serve with left sidespin/topspin. Set the ball speed to 3 and aim the robot head to the middle of your backhand court.

Turn on the machine and use a backhand block or counter to return the ball. You will notice the ball has a tendency to jump off your racket to your right. Counteract this effect by aiming down-the-line. Now even though you aim the ball down-the-line, the ball will go crosscourt because of the sidespin. Keep working until you can control the ball to make it go anywhere on the table. Contact the ball on its top right surface by angling your racket to the left and down and then moving your racket slightly sideways as you make contact. Both these strategies will help negate the effect of the sidespin. Also it helps to hold your racket softly so your wrist is free to make the necessary adjustments to the racket angle.

After you are able to handle this kind of serve, make the machine oscillate within the backhand court and practice some more. Then switch the machine to your forehand and practice your forehand return in s similar fashion, first without oscillation, then with oscillation. For variation, occasionally attempt a forehand smash return. The last step is to set the robot to oscillate over the entire table and randomly return the serve with either forehand or backhand. Also practice returning short sidespin serves by changing the ball speed to approximately1. Be sure to return to the ready position before each serve.

Turn the robot head so the word "topspin" is about 45 deg to the left of top center. The robot will deliver right sidespin/topspin. Repeat the above sequence of steps to learn how to return this serve. Contact the ball on its top left surface by angling your racket to the right and down and moving your racket slightly sideways as you make contact. Start with your backhand, then use your forehand, and finally combine the two. If you become really good at this, increase the amount of sidespin by turning the robot head so the word "sidespin" is closer to top center. In general, you will find it easier to return left sidespin with your forehand and right sidespin with your backhand.

Returning Sidespin/Backspin Serves
                      
Correct Angle For Returning Left Sidespin/Backspin

Racket should be tilted both to the left and up to return the ball straight down the middle of the table. Racket also must travel forward a small amount.

 
Correct Angle For Returning Right Sidespin/Backspin

Racket should be tilted both to the right and up to return the ball straight down the middle of the table. Racket also must travel forward a small amount.

To learn how to return sidespin/backspin, turn the robot head so the word "backspin" is about 45 deg to the left of top center. The robot will now deliver a left sidespin/backspin serve. Work with this spin as you did with the left sidespin/topspin previously, except use a push stroke instead of a block or counter stroke. Be sure to contact the bottom right surface of the ball by angling your racket to the left and up and then moving your racket slightly sideways as you make contact. Then work on returning right sidespin/backspin by turning the robot head until the word "backspin" is just to the right of top center. You will need to contact the bottom left of the ball by angling your racket to the right and up and then moving your racket slightly sideways as you make contact.

As you get better at returning sidespin serves, start working at placing your returns instead of merely getting them back. Place your returns to areas of the table from which it would be difficult for your opponent to attack. If you receive a sidespin/backspin serve, see if you can place your return short and low just over the net. Or use the sidespin to your advantage by giving your opponent a severely angled return. Sidespin helps you to increase the possible angles on your receives because of its tendency to jump sideways off your racket.

You can also improve the quality of your service receives by attacking serves. Sidespin/topspin can often be attacked by rolling over the top of the ball with your hand, pushing your forearm forward, and pulling back your elbow up as you contact the ball. You can also do this with sidespin/backspin, although it's considerably more difficult. With sidespin/backspin, open the racket before contact (like you're getting ready to push the ball) and keep your elbow down as you thrust your forearm upward and forward.

 

 

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Serving

Newgy Robo-Pong

Many players who use robots forget to take advantage of one of the robot’s most valuable parts: the net that catches the ball. This is invaluable for service practice.

Turn off the robot, get a box of balls, and prepare for service practice! (Some players prefer to keep the robot on, with a slow feed, so that the robot feeds you a ball every 7-10 seconds or so to serve.)

Never serve robotically - let the robot do that! When practicing serves, visualize the serve in your mind before doing the serve. You should see the racket contact the ball, and the ball hit both sides of the table - before you even start the service motion. It’s called "visualization," and is used by top athletes in all sports. 

As you get more advanced, sometimes visualize opponents and their returns. You may then serve a ball, and shadow-practice a rally against selected opponents, without the ball. Just don’t do this in public, or you might get locked up!

BEGINNING SECTION

The goal here is to learn the basic forehand and backhand topspin and backspin serves, and to learn some sidespin serves. There are many possibilities — watch any intermediate or advanced player, and you’ll see examples. One key point that many beginners have trouble with is that to serve sidespin, you must start with the racket to the side of the ball, and strike the ball with a sideways grazing motion. If you start with the racket directly behind the ball, you won’t get much sidespin. Learn at least one sidespin serve with the racket going from left to right, and at least one with the racket going from right to left. (See the article Serves in our Coaching archives for some pictures of these type of serves.) 

INTERMEDIATE SECTION 

The goal here is to put spin on the ball. Not just some spin — a LOT of spin. Table Tennis is a game of spin, and it begins with the serve.

To make a ball spin very fast, your racket (and therefore your hand) must move very fast. You can’t do this with a wimpy motion. Serving has been called a violent motion, and good servers sweat when practicing their serves.

Most spin comes from the wrist, and from a fine grazing motion. If you snap your wrist just before contact, so the racket moves very fast and just grazes the ball, most of your wrist snap will become spin. The tip of the racket is the fastest-moving part of the racket, so that’s where your contact should be.

Forget trying to serve on the table. Just make the ball spin out of orbit, with as much spin as possible. After you’re able to get lots of spin on the ball, then it’s time to make the ball hit the table. Make adjustments so the serve hits, but do not let up on the spin. 

ADVANCED SECTION 

The goal here is deception. You already are putting lots of spin on the ball, but you’ve noticed that top players are having no trouble reading your spin. (If you didn’t have so much spin on the ball, of course, they’d be killing your serve!) 

Most service deception comes from a semi-circular motion. If the racket goes through a semi-ciruclar motion, it can create backspin, sidespin or topspin (or combinations of these) simply by varying the contact point. For example, if you use a serve motion where the racket starts out high, and goes downward, sideways and then up, you’d get backspin if you contact the ball on the way down; sidespin if you contact the ball as it moves sideways; and topspin if you contact the ball on the way up.

You can also fool an opponent by faking spin, and serving no-spin. This is done by just patting the ball, and then exaggerating the follow-through, or by contacting the ball at the base of the racket, which travels slower than the tip of the racket.

By learning a serve motion with a semi-circular motion, and doing it very quickly, you’ll be able to fool many opponents with your serve, take control of the rally, and win most of the points.

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