Learn to deal with half-long balls…

By Samson Dubina

The score was 9-9 in the final game, your opponent served a half-long serve to your backhand, you thought that the serve was long enough to loop, but it wasn’t.  With a full backswing, you looped right into the table!  Ouch!  As blood began to gush from the back of your hand, you wondered to yourself how this could have been prevented.  In this article, I’m going to give you ten tips on how to make peace with the edge of the table.

  1. Move both feet properly into position
  2. Keep your hand in-front of your body and slightly above the table so that you can properly decide whether to push, loop, or flip
  3. Read the bounce on your side to see if the first bounce is deep toward your end-line or short near the net
  4. Take a short backswing when looping the half-long ball
  5. Swing over the table if the serve is topspin, sidespin, or no spin making sure your strongest acceleration is after you have passed the edge realizing that the table will not come up and bit you
  6. Allow the ball to come off the end of the table if it is backspin
  7. Take a very controlled swing when pushing the half-long ball focusing on spin and placement rather than speed
  8. Keep a relaxed grip on the racket in case you decide to change your mind at the last second
  9. Step back after looping to properly prepare for the rally
  10. Look to follow-up strong on the next ball 

Many serves go long enough to loop.  Looking to loop those serves is the most neglected aspect of looping half-long serves.  Expect half-long serve, look for half-long serves, and try to loop half-long serves during each practice session, club match, and tournament.  Also, realize that it is merely the first step in the process of winning the point.  Expect the rally to continue and always be thinking about the next ball; and continually think to yourself “what is coming next…  what is coming next…  what is coming next…”  

Nittaku Balls