"Listen" To The Spin On Your Serves

Newgy Robo-Pong

There is only one thing that happens every time you play a point in table tennis. That is the serve. One of the things I enjoy most about my robot is the awesome collection net. In modern table tennis, the serve has become a vital part of the game. Many people have watched world class players being dumbfounded by their opponent's serve. Some say that the current rules favor the server because the server can legally serve and "hide" the ball from their opponent. It is true. The way the rules currently read, the server can toss the ball and execute a legal serve that does not allow the opponent to comprehend what kind of spin the ball has on it.

Well, that is the way it is!

If you want to increase your service skill, there is no better way to do it than to practice. Instead of painstakingly going to the other side of the table and picking up the balls off the ground, why not take them out of the convenient collection system of the Robo-Pong 2000?

One of my favorite drills I do as a result of buying my robot is practicing my serve and listening to the ball spin away in the cool collection system.

(Editor's Note: Good players are keenly aware of every little thing inside, and sometimes even immediately outside, the playing court. They pick up clues from the environment to help them modify their play to match the conditions, to obtain feedback so that subsequent shots are more "on target", and to sense when a change of strategy is needed. Many players become good at using their senses of touch, sight, and feeling to pick up such clues from their environment.

The sense of hearing is often overlooked in table tennis. Rick's suggestion to listen to the ball spinning in the trays after executing a serve is an example of a player using his sense of hearing to improve his play. Rick can pick up valuable clues as to the severity of spin on his serve by the sound the ball makes as it spins itself down in the trays. A "sizzling" sound tells him that the spin was strong, making it a more difficult serve for the opponent to handle. He could also practice no-spin serves, making sure to listen for a lack of "sizzle" when the ball lands in the tray.

When I was a young player at a summer training camp and playing 6 to 8 hours a day, I claimed that I could hear the difference between a topspin and backspin serve. A topspin serve sounded "harder" to me; conversely, a backspin serve sounded "softer". I tested myself by guessing the type of serve with my eyes closed. I was right about 75% of the time!)

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Understanding Spin

Newgy Robo-Pong

More so than any other sport, table tennis is a game of spin. In order to be successful at table tennis, you must learn about and understand the different types of spin and how to counteract the effects of these spins on your racket. 

There are two general ways to contact a ball with a racket. The first is by using force. In other words, the racket is forced through the path of the ball in a manner similar to hitting a baseball with a bat. The primary result of force is forward direction or speed. This is often the only way that beginners and novice players have learned to contact a ball. 

The second way to contact a ball is by using friction–to contact the ball with a brushing motion so the rubber grabs the ball and makes the ball rotate. The primary result of striking the ball using friction is spin. The type of spin produced depends on the racket angle and the direction the racket is traveling. 

Top players primarily use friction to contact the ball. They apply spin to almost every shot, sometimes severe amounts of spin. Robo-Pong 2000 simulates the play of a top player–it produces spin on every shot it delivers. Untrained players often comment that the robot's spin seems unusually strong. While this is true for an untrained player, a trained, competitive player thinks the robot's spin is quite normal. So if the spin seems strong at first, bear with it and you'll soon adjust by following the suggestions and lessons later in this manual. Table tennis is much more exciting and dynamic when you can produce your own spin and control your opponent's spin. 

The figures below are simple explanations of the four major types of spins–topspin, backspin, right sidespin, and left sidespin. Each type of spin has two figures. The first figure shows what happens when a particular spin contacts a vertical, still racket. The second figure shows how to correct your racket angle to compensate for the effect of the spin on your racket. 

Topspin is normally produced by making your racket travel from low to high while brushing the upper surface of the ball. Topspin has a dipping effect on the flight of the ball. For this reason, a ball carrying topspin can be hit with full force because the spin will cause the ball to dip down and hit the table instead of going off the end of the table. When the ball hits the table, the topspin grabs on the table surface, which both compounds the dipping effect and slightly increases ball speed. Topspin is considered to be offensive in most cases. 

When topspin strikes a vertical racket, the spin will grab on the rubber surface and rebound upward, usually quite high and off the far end of the table. To correct for topspin and make the ball go back low over the net, tilt the leading racket face down toward the table and contact the ball on its upper surface. The more topspin on the ball, the more the racket needs to be tilted down. (See Figures G & H )

 

Figure G:Flight of Topspin Ball 

Topspin is produced by racket traveling from low to high, striking the ball on its upper surface. Trajectory is arched. Ball dips after bouncing and rebounds upward after striking a vertical racket.

Figure H: Correction for Topspin 

Since topspin causes the ball to rebound up after contacting a vertical racket, it is necessary to tilt the leading racket face down toward the table and contact the ball on its upper surface. The correct racket angle will send the ball back low to the net. It is not necessary to move the racket forward to make the ball go back across the net.

Figure I:Flight of Backspin Ball 

Backspin is produced by racket traveling from high to low, striking the ball on its lower surface. Trajectory is flat. Ball rises slightly after bouncing and rebounds downward after striking a vertical racket.

   

Figure J:Correction for Backspin 

Since backspin causes the ball to rebound down when it strikes a vertical racket, it is necessary to tilt the leading racket face up toward the ceiling and contact the ball on its lower surface, sometimes actually on its bottom. It is also necessary to add some forward direction to your racket to make the ball go over the net. 

An important fact to remember about topspin is it takes almost no effort to counteract its effect on the racket. You only need to angle the racket correctly. The topspin will cause the ball to go back across the net on its own. No force needs to be applied to your racket other than the effort it takes to tilt the racket. 

Backspin is generated by making your racket travel from high to low and brushing the ball on its lower surface. Backspin has a floating or rising effect on the ball. When the ball hits the table, the backspin grabs on the table, slowing the ball and making it rise slightly. It's very difficult use full force when doing a backspin return because the harder you hit it, the more it rises and it tends to sail off the far end of the table. Backspin is almost always considered defensive. 

When backspin strikes a vertical racket, the spin grabs onto the rubber and the ball rebounds almost straight down. The ball seems to die and lose all of its speed and spin. To correct for backspin, and make the ball go back low over the net, tilt the racket face up toward the ceiling and contact the ball on its lower surface while pushing the racket gently forward. The more backspin, the more the racket must be tilted up and the more towards the bottom you must contact the ball. (See Figures I & J ) 

Backspin is unlike topspin in that you must provide some forward momentum to make your return clear the net. It is more difficult and takes more energy to attack a ball with backspin because the ball has a tendency to go down. The lifting action necessary to make the ball clear the net takes away from the amount of forward force you can apply when attacking a backspin ball.In general, a topspin ball will be easier to attack than a backspin one. If you're a defensive player, backspin should be your spin of choice because it makes it harder for your opponent to attack forcefully. 

Right sidespin is created when your opponent brushes his racket across the ball from your right to your left. This spin has a curving effect on the flight of the ball. After leaving your opponent's racket, the ball will momentarily hook to your left, then curve to your right. When it hits the table, the spin grabs, and the ball jumps out and curves to your right. 

When right sidespin strikes a vertical racket, the spin grabs onto the rubber and jumps quickly to your left. To correct for right sidespin, the leading racket face must be angled to the right and you must contact the ball on its left surface. (See Figures K & L ) 

Left sidespin is produced when your opponent brushes across the ball with his racket from your left to your right. Left sidespin is exactly like right sidespin, but in reverse. Left sidespin hooks to your right, then curves to your left. When left sidespin hits a vertical racket, it rebounds to the left. To correct for this spin, angle your racket to the left and contact the ball on its right surface. (See Figures M & N ) 

Sidespins are seldomly used in their pure form in table tennis. Normally they are combined with topspin or backspin to produce a combination spin such as right sidespin/topspin or left sidespin/backspin. Combining two spins produces the effects of both, but to a lesser degree than if they were in their pure forms.

 

Figure K:Flight of Right Sidespin Ball 

Right sidespin is produced by your opponent's racket traveling from your right to your left. Trajectory is curved. Ball curves to your right after bouncing. Ball rebounds to your left after striking a vertical racket.

Figure L:Correction for Right Sidespin 

Since right sidespin causes the ball to rebound to the left when it strikes a vertical racket, it is necessary to tilt the leading racket face to the right and contact the ball to the left of its middle.

Figure M: Flight of Left Sidespin Ball 

Left sidespin is produced by your opponent's racket traveling from your left to your right. Trajectory is curved. Ball curves to your right after bouncing. Ball rebounds to your right after striking a vertical racket.

Figure N: Correction for Left Sidespin 

Since left sidespin causes the ball to rebound to the left when it strikes a vertical racket, it is necessary to tilt the leading racket face to the right and contact the ball to the left of its middle.

For example, a ball with right sidespin/topspin will both dip and curve to the right as it is comes toward you, particularly after it bounces on your side. To correct for this combination spin, it is necessary to contact the ball on its left upper surface by tilting the racket down and angling it to the right. 

Understanding spin and its effects is crucial to a player's success in table tennis. The player with greater mastery of spin will almost always control the play. By using spin, you can limit the responses of your opponent and make him play your game. Two important table tennis skills to develop are: 

  1. Be able to instantly judge the type and amount of spin on the ball. Deduce the type of spin by carefully watching the direction that your opponent's racket is traveling when it contacts the ball. Deduce the amount of spin from the speed of your opponent's racket at contact and the type of rubber being used. The faster your opponent's racket is going at contact and the finer his graze of the ball, the more spin he can apply to the ball. Rubbers vary in their ability to spin the ball primarily because of the grippiness of their top surface. In general, inverted rubber is grippier and will produce more spin than pips-out rubbers. But even within these two broad categories of rubber, the spin producing capabilities of rubber will vary widely. If in doubt, test the grippiness of an unknown rubber by running a ball across its surface and comparing it to your own rubber. 
  2. Once you determine the type and amount of spin, be able to instantly adjust your racket angle to correct for the spin's effect on your rubber. The tension of your grip, the looseness of your wrist, the flexibility of your forearm, and the position of your body all play major roles in developing this important skill.

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Forehand Counter

Newgy Robo-Pong

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

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

Lesson 5: Forehand Counter With No Foot Movement

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

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

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

Lesson 6: Forehand Counter With Foot Movement 

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

Photo 8: Forehand Counter (crosscourt)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Backhand Loop

Newgy Robo-Pong

Most players find it more difficult to create power on the backhand side. This is because the body limits the backswing on that side. However, with proper technique (and a lot of practice!), one can create nearly as much power (and perhaps more!) on the backhand side as on the forehand.

The most important power shot in table tennis is the loop. Although many players develop good forehand loops, many do not bother learning the backhand loop—seriously handicapping their games. This is especially true of shakehands players, who have a natural backhand loop when done properly. (Penholders generally do not backhand loop, but in recent years, more and more of them have learned to do so by using the back of their penhold racket.)

If a player has a forehand loop, but not a backhand loop, a simple short serve to the forehand, followed by a quick push or block to the backhand takes away this player's looping game. Even a very fast player cannot cover all of the table all of the time with just a forehand loop.

The backhand loop can be done against just about any type of shot. It is easiest to learn against backspin, but can also be done against topspin or a block. One advantage of the backhand loop over the forehand loop is that a player can often "wrist loop" a short ball on the backhand side—something that is more difficult to do on the forehand side.

A Newgy robot is an excellent way to learn to backhand loop. Set the robot on backspin, and aim it toward your backhand corner. Set the speed dial on 2. The robot will give you a pretty heavy backspin, so you will have to lift the ball.

When you feel you are comfortable looping both backhand and forehand, you should learn to loop from all parts of the table. Use the Newgy robot's oscillator to randomly put balls all over the table. Cover 50-70% of the table with your forehand loop, the rest with your backhand loop.

What follows is a sequence of Sean Lonergan, 1998 U.S. Collegiate Men's Singles & Doubles Champion. He is practicing on a Newgy robot, set on backspin, with the speed dial on 2.

The key thing to note about this sequence is how Sean uses nearly his entire body in the shot. Power is generated by the upward push of his legs when he unbends his knees, by the upward thrust of his upper body from the waist, by the rotation of his waist, by the rotation and upward thrust of his right shoulder, by the rotation of his arm on his elbow, and by the last-second snap of his wrist.

(Editor's Note: There are 8 GIF files that Larry has included with this article. The first seven 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 7 previous files. This file will "play" all 7 still pictures in sequence, giving motion to the pictures and 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.)

Photos 1-3: Backswing

Sean bends his knees, and bends and rotates his waist to the left. Some of his weight is transferred to his left leg. He rotates his right shoulder forward and slightly down, and brings his racket down to knee level, between his legs. (Against topspin, he would swing more from his left hip.) His wrist is cocked backward so his racket tip points almost straight backward, with the racket face pointing nearly straight downward. Sean's elbow is well out in front of his body. Sean is balanced, with legs well spread.

Photos 4-5: Forward Swing and Contact

Just before starting the forward swing, Sean's wrist is fully cocked backward. He transfers some of the weight on his left leg to his right leg. His knees and waist begin to straighten, and his right shoulder lifts upward and rotates backward. His waist rotates forward. The movements of the knees, waist and shoulder together start the forward swing of the arm. Sean's arm rotates forward from his elbow—a motion similar to throwing a Frisbee. Just before contact, Sean's wrist snaps into the ball. Contact is made a little to his left, roughly in front of his left leg.

At the start of the forward swing, Sean's racket was pointing nearly downward. As it moved forward, it opened up, until at contact it is facing nearly straight forward.

The contact is a grazing motion. The finer the grazing motion, the more spin. If the ball sinks into the sponge more, there will be more speed. The ball should not sink all the way through the sponge to the wood. Sean's backhand loop is a good balance of speed and spin, although he can go for extra spin or speed on any given shot.

Photos 6-7: Follow-through

The follow-through is the natural progression of the racket forward and up. Sean's racket ends up about head level, to his right.

 

Photo 1

                         

Photo 2

Photo 3
 

Photo 4

Photo 5
 

Photo 6

Photo 7
 

Photo 8

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Backhand Counter

Newgy Robo-Pong

The next step is to develop a backhand counter. This stroke starts the same as the backhand block. Your stance and position to the table are the same. Contact the ball as it is rising just before the top of its bounce about 1 to 1 1/2 feet in front of you. Unlike the block, which is executed with a relatively still racket, the backhand counter has a small back swing and a longer follow through. Do this by pulling the racket back towards the left hip and then pushing it forward and slightly upward, keeping the correct racket angle throughout the stroke. The backhand counter is similar to the movement used to throw a Frisbee.

This stroke is done primarily with the forearm. The elbow and upper arm remain relatively stable and the forearm pivots around the elbow. Hold the racket slightly below the height of the ball at the beginning of the stroke and let it end just above the height of the ball at the finish. An indication of a complete stroke is the tip of the racket pointing forward or even slightly to the right (for right-handers) at the end of the stroke. Keep your wrist held in the down position and do not let it flop back and forth.

Lesson 12: Backhand Counter With No Foot Movement

Develop a backhand counter following the same procedure as all the other strokes. First, at low speed and frequency crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally alternating crosscourt and down-the-line. Gradually build up the ball speed and ball frequency until you have reached your upper limits. As you turn up the ball frequency and/or speed remember to do a complete stroke. Do not turn up the speed or frequency to the point that you start shortening your stroke. Your goal for each phase of this lesson is 25 consecutive counters in each direction.

Lesson 13: Backhand Counter With Foot Movement

Start with the ball moving randomly at slow speed within your backhand court (sweep control levers at the number 1 and 4 positions for right-handers, 3 and 6 for left-handers), then at maximum speed. Remember not to reach for the ball with your arm, but rather move your feet so you are squarely in front of the ball before you stroke it.

Photo 12: Backhand Counter (Crosscourt)

Notice that the stroke is done almost exclusively the upper arm. This is evidenced by the blurring of the face and the overlapping table and leaning forward. The right elbow is hanging down slightly in front.

Image 1: Racket is being taken back.

Image 2: End of back swing. The racket has been raised to just below the anticipated height of the ball at contact and the racket angle adjusted for the topspin.

Image 3: Right before ball contact. Racket angle has not changed. Racket is rapidly approaching the peak of its acceleration.

Images 4-6: Follow through. The forearm continues to rotate forward, pivoting around the elbow, tip of racket points forward (Image 4), then to the right (image 6).

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Backhand Block

Newgy Robo-Pong

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

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

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

Lesson 10: Backhand Block With No Foot Movement

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

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

Lesson 11: Backhand Block With Foot Movement

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

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

Photo 11: Backhand Block (Croscourt)

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

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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.

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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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