Forehand Smash Against Backspin

Newgy Robo-Pong

It's been called a "dying art," due to the loop-kill. Yet, it's one of the most dynamic point-winning shots in the game, and the scariest shot for a chopper to contend with. Playing a chopper without this shot is like running a mile with a bad limp—a severe handicap.

Additionally, not all players have the ability to loop-kill effectively. Since much of the power of a loop goes into topspin, there is less power for speed. Many players, especially older ones, do not have this extra power to spare. Others simply do not have the ability, time or interest to develop a loop-kill, and so smashing is simply the better option. (For one thing, it's a simpler shot to learn.) Still others are simply more talented at smashing than at looping.

Besides, what can be more devastating to an opponent who's spent years developing his loop against backspin, only to have you smash his push like it had no backspin at all!

When is the best time to smash against backspin? Obviously, when the ball is high. However, there are two other considerations.

First, a deep ball is harder to smash than a ball that doesn't land very deep on the table—a "medium-deep ball." A good smasher will often smash a ball that lands in this middle area, even if it is low. Deep balls, even slightly high ones, can be more difficult to smash than low, medium-deep ones.

Second, a player has to judge how well he has read the spin. Smashing is a precision shot, and if you read the spin well, you can smash even a pretty low backspin pretty well, especially if it doesn't land very deep on the table. If you think you've read the spin very well, then don't be afraid to go for it! There's nothing more satisfying than reading a low but medium-deep backspin perfectly, smashing it cleanly, and seeing the look on your opponent's face. (For one thing, many modern players don't realize how much easier these medium-deep balls are, and if you smash his "low ball" in, he doesn't know what to do next. Talk about intimidation!)

A good way to practice this shot is to set a Newgy robot on backspin, slightly high, and take your shots! Experiment with the depth of the robot's backspin shot, and test the difference between smashing deep and medium-depth balls. Practice smashing to all parts of the table. It's all about precision and control. You might also try hitting at less than full power (for consistency), or quick off the bounce (to rush an opponent).

In the five photos below (plus an animated sequence!), U.S. Collegiate Singles & Doubles Champion Sean Lonergan demonstrates his forehand smash against backspin, using a Newgy robot.

(Editor's Note: There are 6 GIF files that Larry has included with this article. The first five are still pictures, and are great for studying the details of each phase of the stroke. The last picture is an animated GIF made from the 5 previous files. This file will "play" all 5 still pictures in sequence, providing the viewer with a good idea of the "feel" of the motion and how one phase of the stroke leads into the next phase.)

Photo 1: Backswing Begins.

Sean's weight is moving toward back foot. His waist is twisted backward, so that his right leg points sideways. His racket has been brought back, just below where contact point will be, with tip slightly down.

Photo 2: Forward Swing Begins.

Most of Sean's weight is now on right leg, and is about to transfer forward. His waist is about to untwist. He has turned his head to keep the ball directly in front of both eyes. He has also closed his racket. (Not all players do this.)

Photo 3: Contact.

Sean's weight is transferring to his left leg. His right leg is now pointing mostly forward. His waist has untwisted. Just before contact, his forearm snaps into ball. His racket has moved slightly upward to meet ball, and opens to about 90 degrees with the floor. He is watching the spot where ball was just before contact—contact happens too quickly to actually see, so he instead is getting a very good look at it just before contact. Contact is at the top of the bounce.

Contact itself is has a very slight upward motion (since racket started just below the ball, and rose to meet it), giving the ball a light topspin. However, most of the force is forward, so nearly all of the power translates into speed.

Photos 4–5: Follow-through.

Sean spins around on his waist, with racket moving around and up. His weight has transferred to his left leg. He finishes standing very close to where he started stroke, so even if the ball comes back, he is ready for the next shot.

 

Photo 1
          

Photo 2
          
Photo 3

Photo 4
 

Photo 5
 

Photo 6

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Step-Around Footwork Drill

Newgy Robo-Pong

Here's a good drill for footwork and variation in your strokes. It can get vary fast paced and tiring but very useful as it simulates a point in real play. Set your Newgy to give a medium height ball about 4-5 speed and 5-6 frequency to start. Aim the Newgy into the back-hand corner. Hit 3 easy backhand balls consecutively cross-court and on the 4th shot, run around with a quick side step and hit a forehand smash down the line similating a kill in a real game. Then immediately side-step the other way, getting back into position to hit 3 backhands again. As you get better, increase the speed and frequency. You can also practice variations in your shots by blocking the first backhand, looping the next backhand and then smashing the 3rd backhand before running around. This drill gives you a good cardiovascular workout from all the running around, helps develop variation in your shots, quickens your footwork and rehearses a point that is played a lot in real game situations.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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