Short Returns Of No-Spin Serves

Newgy Robo-Pong

Place the head of the robot downwards, so that a double bounce serve is replicated. Initially, the spin should be a dead ball, and the placement in one particular spot on the table. For example, this would replicate a short dead ball serve to the middle of the table.

The repetition of the balls should be slow enough to hit the ball, and then completely return to the service ready position. From the ready position, step forward with the same foot as the playing hand, and then return back to the ready position. This should be done in one smooth step.

To drop the ball short and effectively, the timing of the return should be immediately off the bounce. This will create more spin on the return and give the opponent less time to react. The return should be at least a double bounce return with the height just over the net.

Since a dead ball serve is being used, you will have to create your own spin. Catching the ball right off the bounce will create this effect. Very little, if any, lift will be needed against the dead ball serve. You are not using the opponent’s spin, but rather creating your own.

This is the basic way to place a short dead ball serve short. Once the technique has become more comfortable, set the placement of the ball short to the forehand then change the placement to the backhand. Each placement should be done for about 5 minutes separately. To simulate a game situation, set the placement on random and practice dropping each ball short and then returning to the service ready position.

This service return practice should not take more than a half an hour each time and will surely be an effective improvement of your game. Service return training is highly underestimated and more emphasis should be placed on training this aspect of the game. After all, the serve return is one shot that happens every single point.

Good luck!

Editor’s notes: While it is impossible for a Newgy Robot to deliver a true “dead” ball (no-spin), the robot can deliver a spin so light that by the time contact is made, the ball is spinning so slowly that for all practical purposes it can be considered “dead”.

This is achieved by setting your Ball Speed control to “0” and your spin to "Backspin". The head angle will need to be adjusted to between the D and E positions (for Robo-Pong 2040 robots attached to the end of the table). You will need to experiment with the head angle to find the exact setting necessary for this drill, but you want the ball to first land on the robot’s side of the table about 15 inches from the net. The ball will bounce just over the net and land about 12 to 15 inches from the net on your end of the table.

This drill requires the Ball Frequency to be at very low settings. If your robot doesn’t shoot out balls at very low settings, you will need to purchase some Tuner Lubricant and Cleaner (Radio Shack part #64-4315) or equivalent. Then remove the robot body from the net system (or Ball Bucket depending on your robot model), detach the Clear Front Cover, and remove the balls from inside the machine. Spray the lubricant/cleaner inside of the Ball Frequency Motor while it is running at medium to fast speed. This will clear out any dirt or rust inside the motor and permit it to turn at low voltage. Refer to your Owner’s Manual if you have any questions about the above procedure.

Lastly, it is recommended that you do not move your feet until the serve lands on the robot’s side of the table. This will better replicate the mechanics of an actual serve where you do not know serve direction or spin until after ball contact is made. It is also highly advisable to keep the Ball Frequency set to very low settings. Again, this will better replicate the timing involved in a normal serve return against a human where you have time to get set and prepare yourself to return the serve.

Here are some related articles on serve return in our Newgy Coaching Forum Archives:

Using your Robot To Practice Serve Return 

How to Effectively Return Short Services

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Using your Robot To Practice Serve Return

Newgy Robo-Pong
Question: 

How can I use my Newgy robot to practice the return of services?

I realize that the robot can't conceal the spin, but I am referring to the settings on top or backspins ? What speed setting should be used to simulate a likely serve? Top and backspin with or without sidespin?

Answer: 

Thanks for writing. Serve receive is one of the most difficult aspects of modern table tennis. So you are wise to want to strengthen this part of your game. Fortunately, the Newgy Robot can be very helpful in improving your serve receive skills. Please read the following articles for some tips and suggested drills to develop stronger serve receive skills.

Serve Receive 

How To Effectively Return Short Services

As with all robot practice, please be aware that the robot is most useful at helping you to practice actual strokes. In this regard, you can quickly learn correct paddle angles and stroke motions to return almost any combination of spin, speed, and placement.

Another tip you can use to make the robot better simulate a particular serve you are having trouble with is to place your robot in a Robo-Caddy. Then drop down the caddy so that the discharge hole of the robot is around 6 inches above the table surface to decrease the serve angle and keep the ball lower to the net. You may also want to move the robot away from the center of the table to better reproduce the ball path that a serve would typically take from the server's backhand corner, for instance.

Whenever practicing serve return, you must act like you do not know what serve the robot is going to serve. So, in this regard, you must make yourself return to a neutral serve position in between each stroke. Your neutral serve position should enable you to quickly move into a good position to cover the entire possible serve angles and return serves that are short or long and fast or slow. And, as you noted, using the robot's oscillator will help to simulate the wide variety of serves that are possible.

Once you have the required skill to return the robot's serves effectively, it will then be necessary to continue to work on these skills with a coach or training partner. Your coach or practice partner should vary serves in a controlled manner so that you can then work on reading the server's motion to ascertain what spin s/he is applying to the ball and then selecting the correct stroke motion to return that serve effectively.

Your coach/training partner should start by giving you serves that are very robot-like and telling you what spin they are applying to the ball. Gradually, s/he makes the serves increasingly difficult and begins to NOT tell you what spin is on the ball. Eventually, s/he will serve to you just like s/he would do in an actual tournament match, where s/he is trying to make you miss every serve. At any time in this development process, if you find yourself missing more returns than you're making, you should back up, simplify the drill, increase your success rate again, and then redo the drill you were having trouble with.

Practicing serve return should be part of your everyday practice. But it is especially important before a tournament. Allot more time to the practice of these skills in the weeks immediately preceding a tournament.

Good luck.

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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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The Basic Eight: A Complete Training Program In Only 55 Minutes

Newgy Robo-Pong

As a professional coach, I use my Newgy Robo Pong almost every day. I have found no more efficient teaching tool for introducing new stroke techniques to my students. In fact, many of my students have purchased a Robo Pong for home use. I have developed the following drill program to give my students a complete skills practice session in a short period of time. The program consists of eight drills. Allowing for a few minutes to reset the robot between drills and you can complete the whole program in only 55 minutes.

1. Serve Practice (5 minutes)

It may seem strange to you to start a training program off by practicing serves. However, there is no better way to warm-up your spin touch and hand skills. Simply practice your serves putting emphasis on making as much spin as possible as well as good placement. 

2. Push Practice (5 minutes)

Set your robot to produce backspin and have it oscillate over the whole table. Practice your pushes with both backhand and forehand. Direct your returns to all areas of the table. Don’t forget to vary the spin of your returns and also make both short and long returns. 

3. Loop Practice (10 minutes — 5 minutes with both FH and BH)

Set your robot for backspin and direct the ball to your backhand no oscillation. Using your forehand practice looping and direct your returns to all areas of the table. Start off by making high spin (slower) loops and progress to making faster loop drives. Repeat drill using your backhand

4. Mixed Loop and Push Practice (5 minutes).

Set your robot for backspin and have it oscillate over the whole table. Using both forehand and backhand, alternate loops with pushes. Remember to practice directing your returns over the whole table. 

5. Counter Practice (10 minutes — 5 minutes with both FH and BH)

Set your robot to produce topspin and direct the ball to your forehand with no oscillation. Start off with short blocks and gradually lengthen your stoke to produce a counter drive. Finally, finish off with full kill shots. Once again, practice directing your returns to all parts of the table. Reset the robot to direct the ball to your backhand side and repeat the drill using only backhand. 

6. Movement Drill (5 minutes)

Set your robot for topspin and have it oscillate over one half of the table. Use only forehand strokes and direct your returns to all parts of the table. Concentrate on using proper 2 step movement technique. Also, set the ball feed at a rate that puts you under pressure to move fast enough. 

7. Pivot Drill (5 minutes)

This is also a movement drill. Set your robot for topspin and direct the ball to your wide backhand with no oscillation. This drill consists of making two backhand counters or loops and then pivoting and hitting one forehand from the backhand side (repeat). Both counters and loops strokes should be practiced and your returns should be directed to all areas of the table.

8. Serve Return Drill (5 minutes)

Set your robot to produce a short underspin serve, sidespin can also be added. Oscillate the serves over the whole table. Practice making random drops, flips and long pushes. Emphasis should be placed on making good placements. Try to keep your drops very short and cut the diagonal sidelines with your flips and long pushes. 

At the conclusion of this drill program you will have practiced all the basic skills of the game. Of course your own individual style will determine which advanced skills you also need to train. Use this program several times a week and you will see a quick improvement in your overall game.

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