Backhand Loop Against Topspin

Newgy Robo-Pong

Perhaps the greatest change in the sport over the last ten years can be seen in the ever growing strength of the backhand loop. Not long ago, this stroke was only used against backspin returns to simply open up the point. Today, it is very difficult for the topspin attacker to be successful without equally powerful forehand and backhand loops. Let's take a look at the mechanics of the backhand loop stroke against topspin.

The Basic Elements Of A Good BH Loop Stroke Are:
  1. Timing: Contact the ball while rising or at the top of the bounce.
  2. Touch: Fast loops blend both friction (spin) contact, with force (hitting) contact. However, there is more friction contact than force. Remember that force always has a direction. With a fast loop against topspin, it will feel like you are pushing downward at contact.
  3. Ball Contact: At the top of the bounce, contact ball above center. If contacted on the rise, the ball contact point moves higher, towards the top of the ball.
Stroke Description:

The key to a strong backhand loop against topspin is making the proper backswing for the stroke. Your backswing should place the racket on your left hip (right-handed) and NOT between the legs as you would for a loop against backspin. This will allow you to swing more forward and to be able to contact the upper part of the ball. For added power, bring your left foot backward. This will rotate your upper body backward and allow you to transfer your weight into the shot. This starting position should place your wrist down and back. At ball contact, the wrist swings up and forward. As in all strokes, you want to generate maximum acceleration while the ball is in contact with the racket.

Practice Drills:

Drill 1 - Counter and Loop Drill 

Set your Newgy Robot to deliver a deep fast topspin ball to your backhand. Alternate between making two backhand counters and then one backhand loop. Concentrate on making good friction contact (spin) when looping and good force (hitting) contact when countering.

Drill 2 - Build-Up Power Drill 

Again, set your Newgy Robot to deliver a deep fast topspin ball to your backhand. Execute your first backhand loop from the normal backhand counter position (left foot forward). On the second return, drop your left foot back and execute a series of three backhand loops, each a little harder than the last. The third loop should be hit with full weight transfer and power.

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Fast Backhand Loop Against Backspin

Newgy Robo-Pong

For most players, trying to generate a powerful backhand loop against backspin is the most challenging stroke in the game. Since the stroke is naturally shorter than its forehand counterpart and pulled across the body, it requires very good timing to generate good speed.

Key Elements
  1. The starting position for the racket is low and towards the left hip (for right handers)
  2. Contact the ball at the top of its bounce
  3. Contact the ball slightly below the center of the ball
  4. The racket should make about an equal amount of force (forward) and friction (spin) contact with the ball
  5. Your weight should shift from your left leg (right-handers) to your right leg.
Practice Techniques

Set your Newgy Robot to deliver a deep backspin ball to your backhand side. Start off by simply pushing back a few returns and notice how low on the face of the ball you need to touch the ball to have it clear the net. Now alternate between pushing one ball and fast looping the next. Remember not to let the ball start to descend before you make contact and to contact the ball just below the center.

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Forehand Loop Against Backspin

Newgy Robo-Pong

The forehand loop against backspin is one of the most powerful strokes in the game. It is also a stroke with which you can produce many variations of speed and spin. Since you are going with the spin already on the ball, this stroke can produce the heaviest topspin in the game.

There are two extremes of the forehand loop against backspin and many variations between the two. The first is the slower and very high spin loop. This stroke produces the highest level of spin, the highest trajectory over the net, the biggest jump forward when the ball strikes the table and the quickest drop towards the floor after it bounces. The second extreme is the fast forehand loop. This stroke produces the most forward speed, a lower trajectory over the net and a ball the travels far from the table after the bounce.

Key Elements
Element Slow Loop Fast Loop
Backswing position Almost straight down Down and back
Timing As ball begins to descend At the top of the bounce
Ball Contact Towards the bottom of ball Center or below
Friction vs Force Contact Almost all friction (Spin) Equal force and friction
Weight Transfer Almost straight up Forward towards target

Practice Techniques

Set your Newgy Robot to deliver a deep backspin ball to the middle of the table. Start off pushing the ball back with your forehand. Now try dropping your forearm below table height and just brushing up on the ball trying to impart maximum spin. When learning a new stroke, it is best to begin by training the wrist and forearm. As you feel more comfortable begin adding more and more of your body into the stroke. When you produce a good slow loop try changing your starting position to more back and down and try for some fast loops.

(Editor's note: One oft-misunderstood principle of looping is that racket speed must be very high to produce heavy topspin. Even though a loop is described as a slow loop or a fast loop, it does not mean that the racket speed or body motion is slower for one than the other. Both have very high racket speeds and quick body motions. What does differentiate the two is the direction of force. The force on a slow loop is primarily up; whereas, on the fast loop, the direction is primarily forward. This can easily be seen in the second video by comparing the direction of the racket's travel in the slow loop versus the fast loop.

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Kill That Chop!

Newgy Robo-Pong

Hitting against the under spin ball is rapidly becoming a lost art in this country. During the last 30 years the loop-drive has become the stroke of choice in attacking under spin. The result is that you often see loopers who have no ability to "kill" a high chop. While the loop-drive is a safer shot as the ball travels higher over the net and lands in a shorter distance; it does have its weaknesses when dealing with the under spin ball.

First, speed is always a superior weapon over spin. While any spin has the potential of being returned (often being used against you), you can produce speed that your opponent cannot physically return. No matter what your style, everyone should be able to make a kill against an under spin return. Here's how!

  1. Make contact with the ball at the top of its, bounce. Once the ball begins to fall it cannot be hit. It must be spun.
  2. The contact point on the ball is the center or slightly below the center of the ball. The heavier the under spin, the lower the contact point.
  3. Make "force", not friction, when you contact the ball.
  4. The direction of the racket is forward and up (push up at contact).
  5. The heavier the under spin the more you should accelerate your racket through the ball.
  6. Stroke towards your target.

Your Newgy Robot is the perfect practice partner for learning to kill a chop. First set your Newgy to produce a medium high chop to your forehand (no oscillation). Start off by pushing a few balls to get the feel of the spin. Now begin to hit against the under spin using the technique described above.

When you feel comfortable hitting against under spin, try mixing looping and hitting together. Finally, set your Newgy to oscillate under spin over ? of the table. Try to loop several balls in a row and then finish with a forehand kill.

By practicing these basics with your Newgy Robot, you too will know the satisfaction that comes when you "Kill That Chop".

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The Penhold Reverse Backhand

Newgy Robo-Pong

Traditionally, penhold players used just one side of their racket, held in a pen like grip. This grip produces a very strong forehand style of play with a rather cramped, less versatile backhand.

Perhaps the most innovative new stroke technique of the last ten years has been the development of the Penhold Reverse Backhand. First made famous by former Olympic and World Champion, Liu Guoliang, this stroke has now become standard fare for almost all penhold players.

This stroke has revolutionized the penhold style by allowing penhold players to develop backhand techniques that are as strong as their shakehands counterparts. The advantages of this stroke are:

  • The ability to produce a true backhand loop
  • The ability to extend the reach of the backhand stroke
  • The ability to use rubbers of different surfaces
  • The ability to easily attack high balls with the backhand
Stroke Description

The name of the stroke, the Reverse Backhand, describes the stroke. Using the traditional penhold grip, the racket’s regular playing surface is rotated towards the player, which makes the reverse side (backhand side) point towards the opponent. The player then executes a very traditional backhand stroke, loop or counter.

Learning the Stroke

When first learning this stroke, you will probably find the wrist position somewhat awkward. However, it should not take long before it begins to feel natural. Your Newgy Robot is the perfect practice partner when learning this or any new stroke technique.

Key Stroke Elements:
  • While either Chinese or Japanese Penhold grips can be used. Most players will extend the fingers (Japanese style) when using the Reverse Backhand Stroke.
  • Do not over use the wrist. This stroke is mostly executed by extending the forearm.
  • Contact the ball early. The natural wrist position for this stroke puts the racket in a closed position. You can lay the wrist back a little by pushing with your thumb. With this in mind, contact your loop against backspin at the top of the bounce. Contact your counter drives when the ball is on the rise.

Ten years ago, many coaches felt that the penhold style of play would soon die out as the backhand was just not strong enough to keep pace with the development of the strong backhand loops of the shakehand players. The Reverse Penhold Backhand has changed all that. Players such as Ma Lin and Wang Hao of China, exponents of this new style, are at the top of the World Rankings.

Regardless of your level of play, if you are a penholder, you should strive to add this new technique to your game. It will open up a new world of possibilities for your style and your opponents will not know what hit them.

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Develop Your Push With Robo-Pong

Newgy Robo-Pong

Perhaps the most overlooked stroke in the game is the simple push. The ability to execute a good quality push stroke is critical for players of any style. The push is used to move your opponent around and for returning underspin serves. If you can't produce good spin on your pushes, your opponent will have many opportunities for an easy attack.

The basic elements of a good push stroke are:
  • Make as much friction (spin) contact as possible.
  • Contact the ball as it is descending.
  • Contact the bottom of the ball.
  • Direct the ball to one of three locations:
    1. Deep to the backhand corner
    2. Deep to the forehand corner
    3. Deep into your opponent's playing elbow.
Stroke description:

The push stroke should actually be thought of as an over-the-table chop. It is a short stroke executed with the forearm and wrist. The most common error is to reach too much for the ball and over extend the arm. This causes a loss of control. You need to catch the ball close to the body. Another common fault is to start the stroke with the arm held too high. This will keep you from contacting the bottom part of the ball and producing good spin.

Suggested Practice Session:
  1. First of all, set your Newgy Robot to produce a deep underspin return to your backhand.
    • Practice making as much spin as possible on your pushes (5 min)
    • Practice directing your push to one of the three prime locations listed above. (5min)
    • Practice changing the amount of spin on your returns. Changing the amount of wrist used does this. (5 min)
  2. Now adjust your Newgy Robot to oscillate backspin returns within in your backhand court (oscillator lever positions 3,6 for right-handers; 1,4 for left-handers).
  3. Next repeat the above sequence directing the ball to your forehand side (oscillator lever positions 1,4 for right-handers; 3,6 for left-handers).
  4. Finally, set your Newgy Robot to full table oscillation (oscillator lever positions 3,4) and Repeat the above exercises.
Important Points to Remember:

Good pushes require good footwork. Reaching for the ball will produce weak shots. Both the amount of spin and the location of your push returns are equally important. Good quality pushes will force errors or weak attacks from your opponent.

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The Chop Block - A Winning Variation

Newgy Robo-Pong

This handy stroke is just what its name implies, a block that returns the ball with chop (underspin) on it. It has many uses depending on style. For a close to the table defender, like U.S. Women's Champion, Gao Jun, it can be the main stroke of use. Gao uses this stroke to frustrate topspin attackers. The harder they topspin, the more spin she can quickly send back to them. Even topspin attackers find the Chop Block a handy variation of their normal backhand counter, often forcing errors from their opponents. This stroke is especially useful against the mid-distance looper. Using a Chop Block you can move the looper in and out and keep him/her from setting up in their favorite mid-distance location.

Stroke Description:

This stroke starts out looking like a normal block against topspin. The stroke is short and the blade is slightly closed. It is at ball contact where the difference between the normal block and the chop block can be seen. The normal block is made with force contact on the ball (no spin). When using the chop block, friction (spin) contact is made with the wrist chopping down on the ball, producing underspin. This requires a very light touch on the ball and a very relaxed wrist. The timing of this stroke is to contact the ball on the rise.

Practice Suggestions:

Your Robo-Pong 2000 is the perfect practice partner for learning this technique. Set your Robot to produce a medium/fast topspin to your backhand side. Start out using your normal backhand block or counter return. Now try making some chop blocks. At first try to keep your returns short on your opponent's side of the table. As you gain control with your returns, try pushing through the ball a little more and producing a deep chop block return. Finally practice mixing the chop block with your normal backhand counter strokes. The Chop Block is an easy stroke to learn and can pay handsome dividends for your game. It is a great variation from your normal counter drive and can produce many unforced errors from your opponent.

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Fast Push Techniques

Newgy Robo-Pong

The push is not often thought of as an aggressive tool, but rather as a basic keep-the-ball-in-play stroke. The reason for this is simple. Adding speed to a pushed ball is difficult as underspin causes a ball to rise up during flight. Push too fast and the ball will sail off the end of the table. Because of this, most players emphasize producing heavy backspin (as opposed to fast speed) with their pushes if they want to force errors or weak attacks from their opponents.

Rather than only using heavy spin on your pushes to force weak returns, mixing in a fast push can be a great surprise tactic. Often a surprise fast push will force a weak shot from your opponent and enable you to step-around and attack with a strong forehand loop or kill. Here is how to execute a fast push stroke.

First and foremost, contact the ball at the top of the bounce. Your racket should make friction contact with the ball (spin), contacting the middle of the ball and pushing forward and down. This is very different from producing a spin push where the ball is contacted on the way down and more towards the bottom of the ball.

To practice this shot, set your Newgy Robot to produce a push return and have it oscillate over the entire table (Oscillator Lever positions 3 & 4). Now practice mixing spin pushes with a sudden fast push until you can produce both shots with ease. Good luck and good pushing.

Important Notes: Adding sidespin to this stroke can make it even more effective. Also, when you use the fast push in a game situation, look to attack the next return.

Basic Elements of Push Strokes

Stroke Element Spin Push Fast Push
Timing As ball is descending Top of bounce
Ball Contact Location Bottom of ball Middle of ball
Ball Contact Type 
(Friction or Force)
Friction Friction

(Editor's Note: If you have trouble learning this stroke, you may want to start off with having the robot deliver the ball 12 to 18 inches high above your side of the table. This will allow for a greater margin of error. When you gain consistency with your stroke against a high ball, lower the ball delivery angle a little at a time until you can fast push even a ball that is barely over the net.)

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McAfee's Robot Mechanics: Close to the Table Long Pips Attack and Defense Techniques

Newgy Robo-Pong

Many of my senior (Over 40) students have asked me to do an article on the use of long pips, for close-to-the-table play. This style is very popular with the older table tennis players as it allows them to slow down play and to put the focus on using their hand skills rather than movement and power to win points.

Table tennis robot training is particularly useful when learning and practicing these techniques as few players can consistently attack against this style. In fact, as you are learning this style many players may become frustrated and not want to practice with you at all.

Let's take a look at the six basic strokes that should be in the arsenal of any close-to-the-table long pips player. All of these strokes are described as backhand strokes.

  • Lift against backspin: This stroke is executed with a slightly open paddle. The stroke itself is very simple. At contact, push forward and slightly up. Use mostly the forearm and little or no wrist action. This stroke, when executed with long pips, allows you to use your opponent’s backspin to produce a controlled topspin attack. This is the only stroke in which you can produce enough topspin to hit with speed.
  • Sidespin attack against backspin: This is an unusual looking stroke to most inverted players. The stroke is executed much like the straight lift against backspin, but at contact, the racket is pushed forward and pulled to the right (for right-handed players). Depending on the racket angle this return will produce a wide range of no-spin, sidespin, or light topspin returns, all with some degree of sidespin. This stroke can force many errors from your opponents.
  • Attacking backspin by pushing: Pushing with long pips can be very aggressive. While pushing, if light contact with the ping pong ball is made, the return will be a dead ball (no-spin). If harder racket contact is made (more force), a light topspin can be produced. This leads to a lot of high and very attackable returns from your opponent.
  • Controlled counter attacks: The key to attacking with long pips against topspin is to remember that controlling the speed of your returns is the key to success. Do not over-hit. Your returns will carry some backspin, so there will always be a limit on the amount of speed you can produce. Generally speaking, if you are using long pips without sponge this stroke will be quite slow and carry heavier backspin. If you are using long pips with sponge, this return will be faster but without as much spin. Once again, keep the stroke simple using only a forward pushing motion, with the forearm. Remember, when counter attacking with long pips, let the racket do the work for you. It is the ever-changing spin on your returns that will force errors from your opponent, not the speed of your returns.
  • Defensive chop blocks: This stroke looks just like its name suggests—a block with a downward chopping motion. When used against heavy topspin, this stroke can produce heavy chop returns. Often your opponent will be forced into pushing this return back, which will allow you to attack.
  • Pullback block: Once again, the name says it all. Against a topspin attack, you simply pull your racket slightly back at contact, thereby taking almost all of the pace off the ball. This can be used to produce a very short return making it impossible for your opponent to continue an attack. This technique works best with long pips without sponge.

There you have the major long pips, close-to-the-table techniques. When used properly, these table tennis strokes can make life very difficult for your opponents. Fortunately, your robot will not mind at all while you practice and perfect these techniques.

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