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.
Want to twist your opponent into a pretzel? You can do so with one of the most common serving combos in table tennis: short serves to the forehand and long, breaking serves to the backhand.
Short serves to the forehand are usually more awkward to handle than short ones to the backhand. This is because the wrist is freer on the backhand side to adjust the racket angle, and also because contact is made in front of you, right in front of your eyes, instead of to the side with a forehand receive. Long serves to the backhand are usually trickier to handle than long ones to the forehand. This is because most players loop better on the forehand side, and because you have a bigger hitting zone on that side than on the backhand side, where a breaking serve can be awkward to handle.
At the intermediate and advanced levels (below world-class level), the most common rallying style combines forehand looping and backhand hitting. These players often attack backspin by looping from both sides, but once in a fast topspin rally mostly hit on the backhand side. It’s simply easier for most to loop in a rally on the forehand side because the body isn’t in the way, so you have a huge hitting zone. On the backhand side, players are often cramped as they try to backhand loop a fast incoming ball, so hitting is easier and more effective. This often means trying to hit the backhand close to the table while looping the forehand from farther back. How can a player handle this?
Far too often players don’t think tactically, believing the game is too complex for them to play and think at the same time. And it’s true that you shouldn’t be doing any conscious thinking during a point. But between points a smart player does think tactically. The key is to keep it simple.
“Tactics isn’t about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work, and developing reflexive tactics to cover other situations.” (That’s the opening of my upcoming book, “Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.”) What does this mean?
So many players have this strange idea that the best way to develop a smash is to, well, smash a lot. It seems to make sense, but isn’t always the best way. I’ve seen this in student after student – they work on smashing by smashing a lot, and the balls spray all over the place as they ingrain the habit of spraying the ball all over the place. Smashing is, first and foremost, a precision shot, and if you practice smashing by spraying the ball all over the place, you are being counterproductive.
Jim Butler, past national champion believes that, “Making your deep serves in to a weapon can be accomplished by every player. A strong service game is a powerful tool for success in Table Tennis. There are a lot of different ways to become a good server. I developed my serves using a deep serve motion. I practiced 4 deep serves with different spins, and used that same motion for my short service game also. The goal I wanted to accomplish by doing this was to make everyone think I may be serving deep on every serve, while pulling up at the very end of the motion for all of my short serves. I copied the deep service motion of Peter Karlsson, and I practiced serves at least an hour or more a day for about 6 months.”
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