Coaching Tip: Backhand Sidespin Push

Guo Yue

When pushing on the backhand, most players are at one of three levels:
• Level One: Get it back.
• Level Two: Do something with it. This usually means one of three things: Quick off the bounce and angled; heavy; or short. This is effective at all levels. But there’s another level. . . .
• Level Three: Do even more!

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Coaching Tip: Pushing Short

One of the trickier things in table tennis starting at the intermediate level is how to return short backspin serves without giving the server an easy ball to loop. The easiest return is a long push, but then the server gets to loop. You can also flip the short serve, but that can be tricky, and many servers can loop that return as well unless you flip very aggressively – and if you do that, you lose consistency. So what to do?

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Coaching Tip: Pushing Change of Direction

Far too often players make two mistakes when pushing. First, they push to the backhand over and Over and OVER. Second, early in their stroke they aim their racket where they are pushing, usually to the backhand, in an apparent attempt to make it absolutely clear that once again that is where they are pushing. This is a great collaboration with your opponent, but not a good way to win.

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Put the Ball on the Table!

Samson Dubina

Once a player has mastered all four aspects, he might feel that he should be in good position for every shot. This is merely wishful thinking! The world’s best players have perfected all four of these footwork elements, yet they are still often caught off-balance. However, when they aren’t in perfect position, they are able to adjust their technique to fit the shot.

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Coaching Tip: Winning with Backspin for the Non-Chopper

You don’t need to be a chopper to win with backspin, even in this modern age of topspin. Backspin will always have its place, when used properly. Of course, even attackers often serve backspin, hoping for a pushed return (backspin) that they can loop. However, when should an attacking player use backspin in a rally?

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Coaching Tip: Make a Game of Your Weaknesses

One of the best ways to improve is to make a game that zeroes in on your weaknesses and forces you to improve them. There’s nothing like a little fun competition to bring out your best!

For example, suppose you have a weak backhand counter-drive. Here’s a game I’ve played with students for years, spotting points to make it competitive. I put a box, towel, or other object around the middle of the table so that my opponent has to aim for my backhand to keep the ball in play. Then we play backhand-to-backhand games, where either of us starts the rally by serving straight topspin, then we go at it, backhand-to-backhand. If the ball hits the box or towel, or goes to the other side of it, then they lose the point. If a player plays anything other than a backhand drive, they lose the point. The rallies become fast and furious – and the backhands improve!!!

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