Jimmy Butler is attempting an unprecedented come back to US table tennis. A past national champion, Jimmy has been out of the sport for over 8 years, he went back into training in January with the intent of recapturing his former prominence and US ranking. Jimmy is a JUIC sponsored player and is going to be contributing regular stories that will chronicle what changes he sees in today’s game and how he is adapting to them.
At the beginning of January, I went to the Houston Table Tennis club and played table tennis with the club members there. I’ve practiced there for the past four months and have played about 6 competitions nationally. I had not played a competition or touched a table tennis racket in 8.5 years.
It was interesting to experience and see how the game has changed since I last played. Two of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the advancement of the game, is the improvement of athletes service game and the improvement of play on the backhand side. The service game has become more advanced due to the addition of the “Reverse Forehand Pendulum Serve.” Almost all athletes use this serve, and many use this serve effectively. The addition of this type of serve gives the server the ability to serve either direction of spin towards their opponent, which gives the receiver more to think about when anticipating or reacting to the server. I used both when I played 8 years ago, as the Reverse Forehand Pendulum Serve had just started to be used in its infant stages. A very small group of athletes internationally started using it, and I added it to my service arsenal at that time. It has become much more advanced in the way it is used now. The athletes that have mastered it the best are able to deceive the receiver with the type of spin that is on the ball.
The level of play on the backhand side has improved greatly. The backhand loop is the shot of choice. The backhand flat hit is not used very much anymore. Spinning the ball is always superior to hitting the ball in the long run, as you can create much more power and accuracy putting topspin on the ball, which will bring the ball back down. Just as it is rare to ever see an athlete flat hit the ball on their forehand, it is becoming rare to see athletes flat hit on the backhand side anymore. Another noticeable improvement on the backhand side is the receive of serve. All of the top athletes nationally and internationally are now willing to step to the forehand side of the table and receive with their backhand.
Athletes are able to backhand spin short serves now, which puts a lot more pressure on the server. The wrist action you can create over the table on the backhand side is greater than the wrist action that can be created on the forehand side. Most athletes prefer receiving all short serves with their backhand side now. It has become the most effective way to receive short serves. Athletes receive short serves with their backhand by using a backhand spin over the table. This has been a big advancement in the game relative to receiving of serve.
No matter what level you play Table tennis, analyze if you have these shots and techniques in your game. If you do not, adding them can greatly improve your game. If you already have these in your game, watch the best players in the world online, and analyze how they use these techniques to their advantage.