The Attacker—Inverted Looper

Newgy Robo-Pong

Constant changes in equipment, gluing methods, and training methods have had a large effect on the evolution of styles within our sport. The decade of the nineties has seen the decline of two styles, the passive chopper and the passive half-distance topspin player. In their place, a stronger more balanced attacking style has emerged, the All-Round Attacker. This can be seen in both shakehands and penholder versions, with the penholder version incorporating the new reverse penholder backhand loop technique. Recently, the switch to the 40mm ball has changed both stroke techniques and tactics; and even now, playing styles are evolving quickly to take full advantage of the new ball’s playing characteristics. Table Tennis is an ever-evolving sport that requires both coaches and players to constantly update their knowledge.

The purpose of this article is to examine the eight styles currently in use at the World Class Level. If you are uncertain of your style or wish to better identify which style is best for you, then please read What Style Should You Play. These styles include:

  1. The Attacker, Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style
  2. The Attacker, Shakehands Hitter
  3. The Attacker, Inverted Looper
  4. The Attacker, All-Round
  5. The Counter Driver
  6. The Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
  7. The Attacking Chopper
  8. The Close-to-the-Table Defender

This series of articles will provide you with the strengths and weaknesses of each style, along with some suggested robot drills to help you develop your game. In reading the descriptions you may find that your personal style will have attributes from more than one. However, you should be able to recognize your dominant style ("A"style) and your secondary style ("B"style). Each article will also give you some suggestions on tactics to use against the other styles of play. Hopefully the style descriptions will serve as a guide in analyzing your own.

Attacker, Inverted Looper
Description:

Inverted Loopers generally stand within three feet of the table. The contact point on all strokes is as early as possible, top of the bounce, or rising. This is a forehand-dominated style with the player exhibiting a strong quick pivot move to use the forehand from the backhand side. This style will try to end points as quickly as possible. Most points are finished with a strong loop-kill. This player often has both an outstanding slow loop and a fast loop-kill from the forehand side. Players of this style can open with a backhand loop but normally do not re-loop with the backhand. They choose to counter drive the backhand instead. This style will on occasion move back into mid-distance (5-7ft from table) and counter loop with the forehand.

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

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

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

Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands

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

Against the Attacker — All-Round

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

Against the Counter Driver

Use short serves anywhere on the table with a deep fast underspin serve to the backhand mixed in. Shot selection is the key to defeating the counter driver. Do not over force your backhand. Use your backhand counter down the line to force more forehand-to-forehand play.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

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

Against the Attacking Chopper

Keep your serves mostly short with an occasional long serve to the opponent’s backhand side. Whenever possible, make your first topspin a quick loop to the chopper’s middle and then attack his/her backhand side. The goal here is to keep the chopper on the defensive. Expect the chopper to third ball attack and try to redirect your opponent’s attack away from the side it came from. 

Against the Close to the Table Defender

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

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The Attacker - Shakehands Hitter

Newgy Robo-Pong

Constant changes in equipment, gluing methods, and training methods have had a large effect on the evolution of styles within our sport. The decade of the nineties has seen the decline of two styles, the passive chopper and the passive half-distance topspin player. In their place, a stronger more balanced attacking style has emerged, the All-Round Attacker. This can be seen in both shakehands and penholder versions, with the penholder version incorporating the new reverse penholder backhand loop technique. Recently, the switch to the 40mm ball has changed both stroke techniques and tactics; and even now, playing styles are evolving quickly to take full advantage of the new ball’s playing characteristics. Table Tennis is an ever-evolving sport that requires both coaches and players to constantly update their knowledge.

The purpose of this article is to examine the eight styles currently in use at the World Class Level. If you are uncertain of your style or wish to better identify which style is best for you, then please read What Style Should You Play. These styles include:

  1. The Attacker, Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style
  2. The Attacker, Shakehands Hitter
  3. The Attacker, Inverted Looper
  4. The Attacker, All-Round
  5. The Counter Driver
  6. The Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
  7. The Attacking Chopper
  8. The Close-to-the-Table Defender

This series of articles will provide you with the strengths and weaknesses of each style, along with some suggested robot drills to help you develop your game. In reading the descriptions you may find that your personal style will have attributes from more than one. However, you should be able to recognize your dominant style ("A" style) and your secondary style ("B" style). Each article will also give you some suggestions on tactics to use against the other styles of play. Hopefully the style descriptions will serve as a guide in analyzing your own

Attacker — Shakehands Hitter
Description:

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

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

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

Suggested Robot Drills

Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Pips-Out Penholder Attacker

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

Against the Inverted Looper Attacker

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

Against the All-Round Attacker

Keep most of your serves short or at mid-depth. Follow your serve with a forehand attack to keep the opponent on the defensive. Attack often to your opponent’s middle. When returning serve, use the flip often. The key to defeating this player is to take away his confidence by forcing him to play more defensively.

Against the Counter Driver

Use short serves anywhere on the table with a deep fast underspin serve to the backhand mixed in. Shot selection is the key to defeating the counter driver. Do not over play your backhand. Use your backhand counter down the line to force more forehand-to-forehand play.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

Watch out for this opponent’s strong opening spin. Attack first and hit through his/her first loop whenever possible. Keep your serves short and attack the middle. When the opponent backs away from the table, mostly attack the backhand side.

Against the Attacking Chopper

Keep your serves mostly short with an occasional long serve to the opponent’s backhand side. Whenever possible make your first attack to the chopper’s middle and then attack his/her backhand side. The goal here is to keep the chopper on the defensive. Expect the chopper to third ball attack and when he does, redirect his attack away from the side it came from.

Against the Close to the Table Defender

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

Read more →

The Attacker Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style

Newgy Robo-Pong

Constant changes in equipment, gluing methods, and training methods have had a large effect on the evolution of styles within our sport. The decade of the nineties has seen the decline of two styles, the passive chopper and the passive half-distance topspin player. In their place, a stronger more balanced attacking style has emerged, the All-Round Attacker. This can be seen in both shakehands and penholder versions, with the penholder version incorporating the new reverse penholder backhand loop technique. Recently, the switch to the 40mm ball has changed both stroke techniques and tactics; and even now, playing styles are evolving quickly to take full advantage of the new balls playing characteristics. Table Tennis is an ever-evolving sport that requires both coaches and players to constantly update their knowledge.

The purpose of this article is to examine the eight styles currently in use at the World Class Level. If you are uncertain of your style or wish to better identify which style is best for you, then please read What Style Should You Play. These styles include:

  1. The Attacker, Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style
  2. The Attacker, Shakehands Hitter
  3. The Attacker, Inverted Looper
  4. The Attacker, All-Round
  5. The Counter Driver
  6. The Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
  7. The Attacking Chopper
  8. The Close-to-the-Table Defender

This series of articles will provide you with the strengths and weaknesses of each style, along with some suggested robot drills to help you develop your game. In reading the descriptions you may find that your personal style will have attributes from more than one. However, you should be able to recognize your dominant style ("A" style) and your secondary style ("B" style). Each article will also give you some suggestions on tactics to use against the other styles of play. Hopefully the style descriptions will serve as a guide in analyzing your own.

Attacker Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style
Description:

Pips-Out Penholder Attackers generally stand within three feet of the table. The contact point on all strokes is as early as possible top of the bounce or rising. This is a forehand-dominated style with the player exhibiting a strong, quick pivot move to use the forehand from the backhand side. The Pips-Out Penholder wants to end points quickly and keeps great time pressure on his/her opponents, forcing many errors. This style has benefited from the new 40mm ball and the subsequent loss of about 10 % spin on their opponents loops.

Strengths:
  • Quick pivot to use forehand from backhand corner.
  • Strong forehand kills.
  • Good forehand topspin against long underspin balls.
  • Driving blocks from backhand side.
  • Good short game.
  • Excellent serve and return game.
  • Very quick gives opponent very little time to react.
  • Smooth transition from forehand to backhand no switchpoint weakness
Weaknesses:
  • Return of long serves with the backhand.
  • Backhand block against slow heavy loops.
  • When forced wide to the forehand, this style has difficulty recovering and protecting the backhand side.
  • Backhand open against long underspin.
Suggested Robot Drills
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker Shakehands Hitter

While this style is similar to yours, your grip gives you an advantage in the short game, the forehand-backhand transition game, and the forehand lift against underspin. Keep the majority of your serves short to the middle of the table. Be aggressive in stepping around your backhand to use your forehand. Do your best to prevent backhand to backhand exchanges and attack your opponents middle often..

Against the Attacker Inverted Looper

Use mostly short mixed serves, with an occasional fast deep serve to the opponents forehand side. Mix the speed and depth of your backhand blocks to move your opponent in and out. Attack down the line or at the opponents switchpoint (if shakehands grip) whenever possible. Force play at a faster pace than your opponent is comfortable at.

Against the Attacker All-Round

Keep most of your serves short or at mid-depth. Follow your serve with a forehand attack to keep the opponent on the defensive. Attack often to your opponents middle. When returning serve, use the flip often. The key to defeating this player is to take away his confidence by forcing him to play more defensively. Keeping your opponent under constant time pressure is important.

Against the Counter Driver

Use short serves anywhere on the table with a deep fast underspin serve to the backhand mixed in. Shot selection is the key to defeating the counter driver. Do not get lured into a backhand to backhand game. Use your backhand block down the line to force more forehand-to-forehand play. Do not to let your opponent dictate the pace of play.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper

Watch out for this opponents strong opening spin. Attack first and hit through his/her first loop whenever possible. Keep your serves short and attack the middle. When the opponent backs away from the table, mostly attack the backhand side.

Against the Attacking Chopper

Keep your serves mostly short with an occasional long serve to the opponents backhand side. Whenever possible, make your first attack to the choppers middle and then attack his/her backhand side. The goal here is to keep the chopper on the defensive. Expect the chopper to third ball attack. Respond to the attack by redirecting your opponents attack away from the side in came from.

Against the Close to the Table Defender

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

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How To Increase Your Reaction Speed Using the Newgy Robo-Pong 2040

Newgy Robo-Pong

Table Tennis is one of the quickest reaction sports in the world. When two attacking players meet, the one with the quicker reflexes has a definite physical advantage over the slower player. The slower player will be forced either to back away from the table, or use shorter, less powerful strokes in order to try and keep up with his quicker opponent. Fortunately, you can train to have faster reactions and the Newgy Robo-Pong 2040 is the perfect tool to work with.

Your reflexes are controlled by your Central Nervous System (CNS). To develop faster reflexes, you must put the CNS under stress (overloading) by working against balls coming at quicker and quicker intervals. Coaches often do this type of practice by using multi-ball technique. The coach feeds balls at an increasing rate to the student, with the goal being to increase the student's stroke frequency. However, doing this type of training with the Newgy Robo-Pong 2040 offers several advantages for both the student and the coach. 

  1. The student can train by himself 
  2. You can exactly control the ball frequency and thus measure your improvement 
  3. Robo-Pong 2040 never gets tired

It is a good idea, when starting this type of training, to establish your current reaction baseline. By this I mean, finding out what is the quickest rate of ball speed that you can execute a full stroke against. To do this set your Newgy Robo-Pong 2040 at the following settings: 

  1. Oscillator pattern on 1-4, this will cover the forehand side of the table only. 
  2. Oscillator speed on 5 or 6, medium speed 
  3. Ball speed on 5 or 6, medium speed.
  4. Ball frequency on 4 to begin with.
  5. Turn the robot's head to select Topspin.

After warming up with forehand counters, try slowly increasing the ball frequency one level at a time. At each level, execute several forehand counters and then try to make a full kill shot. Repeat this a number of times for each level. When you reach a level where you cannot react fast enough to land 70% of the kills shots successfully on the table, that is your current reaction baseline. Once you find this point, make a note of it. With regular practice with your Newgy Robo-Pong 2040, you will quickly see a rise in this baseline and your overall reaction time.  

Drills 

Pyramid Up (Half Table)

Set your Newgy Robo-Pong to oscillate over one half of the table, either to your backhand or forehand side with topspin. Set the ball frequency level to 4. Set the ball speed in a comfortable range. Gradually increase the ball frequency, staying at each level for about one minute. Your goal is to make as long a stroke as possible while still being successful at least 70% of the time. At level 4, you should be able to use a kill stroke (long stroke) continuously. As the ball frequency increases, you will find that you have to shorten your stroke to keep up. At the highest frequency setting (10), your Newgy Robo-Pong 2040 will be delivering balls at approximately 90 per minute. At this speed, you probably will have to switch to a very short stroke (block). However, continue to push yourself to make as long a stroke as possible (counter or kill) while keeping inside the 70% success rate.

Pyramid Down (Half Table)

Set your Newgy Robo-Pong 2040 as described above. However this time start out with the ball frequency setting on 10 and slowly work down. Spend one minute at each level. In the beginning of this drill, you may only be able to block the ball back. As you decrease the ball frequency, try hard to lengthen your stroke. Work back down to a level where you can execute a full kill stroke successfully at least 70% of the time.

Advanced Reaction Drill 

Set your Newgy Robo-Pong 2040 for full oscillation (3-4), topspin, set ball speed at 5 or 6, set ball frequency at 9-10, and oscillator speed at 9-10. These settings will produce random balls covering the whole table at 90 balls per minute. Start off with just trying to block as many balls back as possible and slowly try to move from blocking to counter strokes. If you are able to return 70% successfully, then increase ball speed.

Basic Elements to Remember
  1. By overloading your Central Nervous System you can increase your reaction time. 
  2. To make the drill more difficult you can also increase the ball speed. 
  3. Drill both the forehand and the backhand sides. 
  4. Retest your baseline reaction as described above to note your improvement.
Final Note

Every player must be able to attack, defend, and counter attack. Quick reaction times are a key element in a player's ability to do all three. The quicker your reaction time becomes, the more often you will be able to attack, the better your defense will be, and the quicker you will be able to counter attack. It is not enough to just have good stroke technique; quick reactions are essential to our sport. As a full time professional coach, I know of no better way to train this part of your game than working against the ultimate practice partner, the Newgy Robo-Pong 2040

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Train Your Chopping Game

Newgy Robo-Pong

 

The best description for the modern chopping style of play is "an attacker who uses an aggressive backspin game to set up his/her own attack." Normally this style of player uses two different surfaces on their rackets, usually one is an inverted rubber and one will be pips-out, either long pips or short.

The returns from such different rubbers can cause the straight topspin attacker a lot of confusion. However, it also demands a great deal of training by the chopper to learn to control the many options he/she has for each stroke. This is especially true at the higher l evels where choppers can flip their rackets at will to produce a large variety of returns and attacking strokes.

I consider the Robo-Pong an indispensable tool in training choppers. The very nature of their games makes it hard to find practice partners who can consistently drill against a good chopper.

While every chopper will use a different blend of offense and defense, here are some good basic drills that I have successfully used in training such choppers as Derek May, Pan Am Games Silver Medallist.

Warming Up Drills 

For all styles of players, I recommend that you warm-up the short strokes first, before trying to hit or chop with longer and harder strokes. These are strokes that consist of using only the wrist and elbow joints. This will help you quickly get into the proper timing and allow you to establish ball control early during your warm-up. For the chopper this means starting off with pushing and blocking drills like the ones listed below:

(Editor's Note: You may wish to browse our Coaching Forum Archives for articles on how to execute a push or block.) Push against

Backspin / Inverted Side Whole Table

Set your Newgy for backspin with the oscillator on 3-4. This will sweep the whole table. Practice using only the inverted side to push, regardless if you use a backhand or forehand. This is great practice for footwork, and for flipping the racket. At the higher levels of the game, most choppers will push primarily with the inverted side.

Push against Backspin / Pips-out Side

Set your Newgy as above, but this time only push with the pips-out side. Be sure to work on keeping the ball low.

Backhand Block / Counter Against Topspin

Set your Newgy on a medium topspin with the oscillator set at 3-4. First, warm-up your counters and blocks with the inverted side. After a few minutes flip and warm-up your pips-out counters and blocks. If you use a chop block now is the perfect time to warm up this stroke as it leads naturally into the chopping strokes.

Choppers often find it difficult to find a practice partner who is steady enough to consistently attack their chops. Over the years, I have coached a number of choppers, among them; Derek May a Pan American Silver Medal winner. In setting up their training plans, working with the Newgy Robo Pong 2000 has always been an essential element of their training. The Robot provides the consistent attack that is necessary for the chopper to work on his/her placement and movement. The Robot is so versatile that an almost limitless variety of drills are possible. Here are a few of the basic drills that I have my chopping students do at each workout.

Drill 1 - Forehand In and Out 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 75% of what you can comfortably return. Direct the Robot's shots to your forehand with no oscillation. Practice chopping from mid-distance and gradually work your way in towards the table. Repeat moving in and out to practice your ability to take your opponent's ball at different distances from the table. Repeat this drill using your backhand.

Stroke Tip: The closer you are to the table the higher your back swing must start and the shorter and more downward your follow-through. Close to the table your contact point on the ball is towards the middle. When back from the table your contact point is towards the bottom of the ball and your follow-through will be longer and more forward.

Drill 2 - Chopping to a Location 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 80% of what you can return. Set the Robot on full table oscillation. Practice making all your returns towards one of three positions (deep to forehand or backhand corner, or deep to the middle). Repeat this drill until you have practiced making all returns to each location.

Drill 3 - Covering the Middle 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 80% of what you can return. Set the Robot to oscillate over one half of the table (positions 2 & 5). Practice taking all your returns with either your forehand or backhand. Focus on getting your body out of the way for the return to your middle. Repeat using both forehand and backhand.

Drill 4 - Serve Return Using One Side of the Racket 

This drill is designed for choppers using two different types of rubber on their rackets. Set your Robot to produce short sidespin-backspin serves. Set the Robot to oscillate over the whole table. Practice receiving all serves with your inverted side of the racket. Repeat using the other side of the racket.

Drill 5 - Chop and Loop Drill 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 80% of what you can return. Set the Robot to oscillate over the forehand half of your table. Practice mixing your chop returns with forehand loops. Repeat setting the Robot to oscillate over the backhand side of your table. Practice mixing backhand chops with step-round forehand loops.

Drill 6 - Chop Reaction Drill 

Set your Robot for topspin at the maximum ball speed that you can handle with full table oscillation. Start on a slow ball feed and have a helper gradually turn up the feed to the highest speed. Practice on getting your racket on as many balls as possible. Object of this drill is to decrease your reaction time. With practice your will find that you can handle even the highest feed rate.

These are just a few of the chopping drills that are possible on your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000. By using your imagination your will be able to come up with many more. Good luck and Good Chopping!

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Robot Doubles Practice Drills

Newgy Robo-Pong

Many players find table tennis doubles competition much more fun than singles. They enjoy the “team” aspect, along with the exciting movement involved and the emphasis on ball placement. It is very true that a well-trained team can often defeat a team of higher- level players who have not practiced much together.

The table tennis robot is an excellent tool for doubles teams to work on both the areas of movement and ball placement. This is particularly true for new teams just learning how to work together. The consistent and accurate ball feed the robot provides will allow you to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Here are some drills to get you started:

Movement Drills

Set your robot to feed underspin balls to one location. Work on alternately pushing and attacking these returns and then moving out of your partner’s way. As your movement improves, have the robot feed topspin balls to one location at a higher ball frequency and then finally work on your movement against random whole table feed.

There are several different movement systems you may want to consider.

  • If your team consists of one right handed and one left handed player then the movement pattern is much easier. With both players covering the middle of the table with their forehands, each player simply moves off to the side of the table towards their backhand, leaving the table clear for their partner.
  • If your team consists of two right or left handed players then there are two main patterns used:
    1. Circular Movement—after making a stroke, each player moves off to the nearest corner and circles behind his partner to prepare for his next shot. (Editor's Note: This is often the best choice for two players who prefer to play the same general distance from the ping pong table.)
    2. In-and-Out Movement—this system features one player moving laterally, side to side (close to the table) while the other partner moves vertically, in and out (up and back). (Editor's Note #2: This type movement is usually best suited for teams composed of one player who likes to play close to the table, such as a fast attacker or blocker, and another player who likes to play away from the table, such as a chopper or mid-range looper.)
Placement Drills

One of the major strategies for doubles play is to follow your partner’s lead. By this, I mean hitting several balls in a row to the same location. It is simply hard for your opponents to both be in the same place at the same time.

Set your robot to oscillate over the whole table, and practice making a series of returns to one location. Make sure to practice making returns to both corners as well as the middle of the table.

If you are playing in USA Table Tennis tournaments and not competing in doubles events you are missing half the fun of the event. Good doubles teams are made not born and your Newgy Table Tennis Robot can be your best tool for refining your team skills.

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The Stages Of Athletic Development

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.

As table tennis athletes progress in table tennis, they pass through very definite stages of development. In order for students and their parents to understand where they are in this process, I created a tool called the “Table Tennis Pyramid of Success”. The Pyramid shows the nine developmental stages that athletes go through in their journey to becoming a complete player.

 

 

Table Tennis Pyramid of Success

 

Stage 1 – Basic Stroke Technique

At this stage, athletes are simply learning the fundamental techniques of the game such as basic strokes, elementary spin theory, simple serve and return, and the rules of the game.

Stage 2 – Basic Stroke Combinations

Once the student can control the basic strokes, the coach then begins to combine these strokes together to form combinations, bringing together both forehand and backhand techniques. This combining of strokes also requires that the student begin to move more, and lessons in footwork start during this stage. 

Stage 3 – The 5-Point System 

When the student can control the basic stroke combinations, the focus is turned to learning how to play points. As most points in a game are finished by the 5th stroke, the emphasis is placed on the first 5 possible strokes of a game. As all points must begin with either a serve or a return, these techniques are stressed during this stage. Third and fifth ball attacks are introduced, as well as 4th ball counter attacks or defense. The goal of this stage is to move the student from thinking of executing one stroke at a time, into planning out whole points. 

Stage 4 – Style Awareness 

During stage three, the student’s natural style begins to express itself. It can be seen in how the student chooses to begin putting their points together. Does the student naturally prefer to hit rather than loop? Does the student have natural early or late timing? Does the student prefer to play close to the table or at mid-distance? These and other telltale signs start to show as the student learns to play whole points. During this stage, students are introduced to the basic styles of the game through written materials and the use of videotapes. Students are told to watch the better players at their table tennis club and place these players into style categories. Finally, students write down a complete description of what they want their style to become. 

Stage 5 – Advanced Stroke Techniques 

Now that the student understands what their style will be, they must begin to learn the advanced techniques necessary to complete that style. What these techniques are will vary greatly from style to style. Pips-out hitters, all-round topspin attackers, and choppers all need to learn very different techniques. It is at this level that many athletes get stuck and do not advance. While levels 1–4 can be reached with a minimum of coaching assistance, Stage 5 really requires the personal services of a competent coach. 

Stage 6 – Advanced Stroke Combinations 

Once these advanced techniques are learned, they must be combined with the student’s existing strokes and blended into the desired style of play. During this stage, the 5-Point System is revisited and practiced using the new combination of advanced strokes. Again, this stage requires a lot of personal attention from the coach to keep the student on track. 

Stage 7 – Self-Awareness 

At this stage, the athlete has all the physical tools necessary to execute their desired style of play. The focus at this level of development is on gaining match experience and learning how to use their style to defeat opponents. As the athlete is still somewhat inexperienced, they are focused more on what they are attempting to do than on what their opponent is doing. The student has become self-aware but does not yet focus outward towards their opponent. 

Stage 8 – Refining Style

As athletes begin to gather more and more match experience, they will continually make small corrections and additions to their style of play. Ideally, athletes will return to this stage over and over again throughout their competitive life. When an athlete stops learning and improving their game, their development is over.

Stage 9 – Full Awareness

This is the stage of development that all athletes strive for. It is often called “the peak experience”. During this stage, the athlete is almost totally focused outside himself. Fully aware athletes often report feelings of time moving slower, the ball appearing larger, and feeling that they can do anything they want to with the ball. While most athletes experience this “peak experience” at some point in their lives, the fully aware athlete can reproduce this experience much more often. 

Important Points 

Please remember that an athlete’s development does not follow rigid, set stages. Rather, it flows as a process with each athlete spending more or less time in any one stage, as needed. Movement is not always in an upward direction. Sometimes, an athlete will need to return to a lower stage to correct some problem or learn material that was missed. 

Most coaches feel that it takes about ten years of training to take an athlete to the top of their game. Hopefully, the Table Tennis Pyramid of Success will give you a guide to understanding your own development in reaching your goals. While many try to become champions, only a few actually make it. For that reason, I always stress to students, “that the quality of your journey is more important than your destination”.

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How To Effectively Return Short Services

Newgy Robo-Pong

The Newgy Robo-Pong is the perfect practice partner for learning how to effectively return any serve. In today’s game, the majority of serves are short to middle in depth with a long serve thrown in mainly as a surprise tactic. With this in mind, this article will focus on how to return short serves effectively.

Practice Goals

Your primary goal should not be limited to just returning the serve. Serve and serve return is a battle for control of the point. Players who return short serves well use a mix of return techniques to keep their opponents off balance. These techniques include the short drop, the deep push, and the flip.

Setting up the Robo-Pong for practice
  • Turn the head to the Backspin Position.
  • Point the head straight down so the ball bounces on the side of the Robo-Pong first.
  • Turn the speed setting to 2.
  • Set the oscillation and ball frequency controls to the desired setting.
Basic Technique and Practice Concepts
  • Focus on the movements of the wrist and elbow joints.
  • Move to the ball. This often requires moving a foot well underneath the table.
  • Do not extend (straighten) the arm when reaching for the ball.
  • Practice without ball oscillation until you can control the stroke. Use ball oscillation when basic control has been achieved.
  • When control over short serves is achieved, then slightly increase the ball speed settings and practice against middle depth serves.
Short Drop Technique
  • Contact the ball while it is rising.
  • Contact the middle of the ball.
  • Make friction (spin) contact with ball.
  • Racket (wrist) motion is downward.
  • Practice making short drops to all areas of the table.
Deep Push Technique
  • Contact the ball at the top of the bounce.
  • Contact the ball below center.
  • Make friction (spin) contact with the ball.
  • Racket (wrist) motion is forward and down.
  • Placement locations include both corners and to your opponent’s playing elbow.
Flip Technique
  • Contact the ball at the top of the bounce.
  • Contact the ball below center (open racket)
  • Make friction (spin) contact with the ball.
  • Racket (wrist) motion is up and forward.
  • Try to cut your opponent’s sidelines with your returns.
Controlling Side-spin Serves

Once you have control over simple backspin serves, try turning the head to add sidespin to the backspin serves. Depending on how you adjust the head, both right to left and left to right sidespin-backspin serves can be produced.

The secret to controlling sidespin is to contact the correct spot on the ball that will stop the ball from spinning. By now you have already found out that touching the ball below center stops the backspin rotation of the ball. The same holds true for the added sidespin. Touch the ball on the correct side and you will stop the sidespin rotation of the ball. Touch the ball below center and on the correct side and you will stop both the backspin and the sidespin on the ball. This sounds complicated, but is very simple once you practice the technique a few times.

Try this experiment

Set the Newgy Robo-Pong to deliver a short backspin-sidespin serve. Try touching first one side, then the other of the ball. You will see that on one side the spin will rotate into your racket. The ball will feel heavy on your racket and jump off to the side. When the correct side is touched, the ball will not jump off your racket but return on a straight line. This occurs because the rotation of the ball has been stopped.

To utilize this technique in a match situation, carefully watch where your opponent’s racket touches the ball while serving. Try to touch the ball in the same location your opponent’s racket did. In this way, you become the mirror image of your opponent. This applies pressure against the oncoming spin and neutralizes the spin. Once you touch the correct spot on the ball any of the above return techniques can be used.

The serve return is often the most neglected part of the average player’s game. With the Robo-Pong, you have an opponent who can produce any type of serve and never gets tired of serving to you. Remember that the serve and the serve return are your first opportunities to control each point. Your ability to learn these skills will have a major impact on the level of play you will be able to achieve.

Good luck and many happy serve returns.

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Learning the Off-The-Bounce-Loop

Newgy Robo-Pong

One of the newer strokes in the sport is the off-the-bounce-loop. This stroke is executed against your opponent's loop, immediately off the bounce. Unlike the traditional loop stroke that travels from low to high (vertical path), this stroke is much more horizontal in its path.

The Newgy Robo Pong is a great tool when learning this stroke. To best produce the flight path of a loop, I would recommend pulling your robot off the table a few feet and lowering its position from the floor. This will allow you to elevate the head of the robot and produce a more realistic loop trajectory. The Newgy Robo-Caddy is perfect for this.

Once you have your robot producing a good loop trajectory, start off by simply blocking the ball back. Once you have the correct timing and a good feel for the block, begin to close your racket and using just your wrist and forearm, brush over the ball. Little by little, lengthen your stroke until you are looping-off-the-bounce.

Keys to success:
  • Make friction contact with the ball.
  • Use a short stroke, redirecting your opponent's power.
  • The stroke is primarily forward. There is very little backswing.
  • Lift your elbow a little, so that your arm snap is moving horizontally not vertically.
  • Contact the top of the ball.
  • Push downward.
  • Watch the speed of your opponent's racket to help time your own swing.

With the help of your Newgy Robo-Pong, you to can learn this dynamic stroke. The off-the-bounce loop is perfect for regaining the offensive and/or as an alternative to the block to keep your opponent guessing. Good luck and good looping.

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Topspin Defense

Newgy Robo-Pong

All players will at some time find themselves in a defensive situation. For many topspin players, it is only natural to also use topspin when making defensive returns. These returns fall into two categories based on the player's distance from the table. Mid-distance returns are most often referred to as "Fishing". From long distance, lobbing returns are used.

Mid-Distance "Fishing"

This short topspin defense stroke is contacted from mid-distance before the ball has begun to descend. Most often used on the backhand against a driving loop, this stroke resembles a long blocking stroke with a little added topspin. You are just trying to redirect your opponent's power back to him/her.

The Fishing Defense is often effectively used against looping players who lack a strong flat kill stroke. To be effective the ball most be kept deep and at a medium height (shoulder height). At this height, it is difficult for the looper to generate enough power to finish the point. When using this defense, it is important to move your returns around to try and force a weak shot and then to counter-attack.

Basic Stroke Elements 
  • Redirect your opponent's power back to him/her, using a short stroke
  • Make friction contact (spin) with the ball
  • Contact the ball before it descends 
  • Contact is above the center of the ball 
  • Return should be deep and medium high (opponent's shoulder level)
Key to Success 

On the backhand side, always try to center the ball directly in front of the body. If you are reaching for the ball, you will lose control of your returns. Also, try to move your returns around the table forcing your opponent to move as much as possible. 

Defensive Lobs

Topspin lobs are used when a player is deep from the table. To be effective, the lob must carry a lot of spin and land deep on the table. This stroke is executed with a long upward stroke, which carries the ball high into the air (10 to 15 feet high). I often tell my students to imagine themselves carrying the ball up an elevator shaft to emphasize the "lift" element of the stroke and obtain the necessary height on their lobs. 

Basic Stroke Elements 
  • Contact the ball as it is descending
  • Use a long upward stroke 
  • Contact the bottom of the ball and brush upward 
  • Make as much friction contact (spin) as possible 
  • Return should be deep and bounce high on the table 
Key to Success 

The use of sidespin is very important when using a lob return. From the forehand side, add left to right sidespin (for right-handers) by contacting the outside surface of the ball. This will cause the ball to bounce sharply to your opponent's right on contact with the table. This leaves your opponent little choice but to return the ball directly back to your forehand side. Knowing this, you can anticipate the return and setup to counterattack.

Robot Practice Techniques 

Your Newgy Robot is a perfect partner for practicing your defensive topspin techniques. The key is to duplicate the downward angle that would be produced by your opponent attacking the high defensive returns. This can be easily accomplished by using your Newgy Robo-Caddy. First of all, place your Robot in the Caddy and raise the Caddy to its highest position above the table. This will give you the downward angle you need to duplicate your opponent's smashes. Now set your Robot head for topspin and set the ball speed at a high level (7 to 10) and you are ready to practice your Topspin Defense. 

(Editor's Note: See "Alternative Set-up For Wide Angles and Smashes," by Yeushan Goan for diagram on how to set-up your Newgy robot to simulate smashes.) 

Practice Drills 

Fishing Defense Practice 

Set up your Robot as described above and to oscillate over your backhand side of the table. Back up so that you are contacting the ball just before it begins to descend (from 6-8 ft. from the table). Now practice using your backhand "Fishing" defense returns. When you begin to feel comfortable with your returns, set the Robot to oscillate returns over the whole table. Practice "Fishing" with your backhand and counterattacking with your forehand.

Lob Practice 

Set your Robot as described above and to oscillate over one half of the table, either backhand or forehand side. Back up so that you are contacting the ball as it is descending, below table height. Practice making lob returns until you can keep the ball deep on your opponent's side. Practice both forehand and backhand lobs. Remember to try and add sidespin to your returns to control the direction of your opponent's returns. When you feel comfortable with your returns, practice mixing lobs and counterattacks. The ability to play some defense is an important skill even for the most aggressive player.

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