By Larry Hodges, USATT Hall of Famer and Certified National Coach
In a game dominated by forehand looping, many players forget there’s another side and other point-winning shots. One of the best is the backhand loop followed by a backhand hit – a devastatingly effective one-two punch. It doesn’t even have to be a backhand smash – quick, well-placed aggressive drive will usually win the point or set up an easy follow.
On the forehand side, many players loop over and over. It’s usually easier on that side than on the forehand because you have a bigger hitting zone. On the backhand side, the body is somewhat in the way when backhand looping, and so you have a smaller hitting zone – mostly in front of the body. While many top players learn to backhand loop over and over, many players – including many top players – instead open against backspin on the backhand side with a backhand loop, and (if it’s blocked back to the backhand, as most often happens) follow it with a backhand hit against the normal blocked return.
There are several advantages to this. First, as noted, it takes out the problem of the body being in the way, which is primarily a problem against a fast incoming ball (i.e. a block or topspin). Second, a hit takes less time than a loop, so even if your opening loop is quick-blocked back at you, you aren’t rushed. Third, it means the opponent has to adjust to both your spinny topspin backhand loop and your not-so-spinny backhand hit. And fourth, it’s easier to make last-second changes in your placement with a backhand hit, allowing you to move the ball around the table more easily (to wide angles or to opponent’s elbow, the midpoint between forehand and backhand).
You should vary the placement of your opening backhand loop. (And loops to an opponent’s forehand are often more effective, since most players block better on the backhand.) However, most players tend to block crosscourt against an incoming crosscourt loop. So if you have a good backhand follow-up, it’s often an advantage to open crosscourt, where you both have more table (across the diagonal, corner to corner), and can expect a return to the backhand. This allows you to dominate with that backhand loop & hit one-two. Or open to the middle, which most players will cover with their backhand (when blocking), and usually also block back where the ball came from.
The key to developing a good backhand loop and hit – besides getting some coaching – is to really commit to the two shots. Decide you will backhand loop any deep ball with backspin, and that you will backhand hit any blocked or topspinned return. This tends to simplify things for you while complicating it for the opponent, who has to adjust to both. (You can actually backhand loop against a short ball with backspin with a wristy shot, but that’s another topic.) When going for the backhand hit, some players think of it more as a punch-block, where they essentially hit a hard block, right off the bounce.
So take down your opponents with your new dynamic duo, or force them to feed you easy forehand balls to avoid it.