Tip of the Week

A Tip of the Week will go up every Monday by noon.


August 17, 2020 - Should You Develop Your Forehand Push?

Sunday, August 16, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

At the lower levels, pushing is often over-used; at the higher levels, spectators often underestimate its value. All top players have excellent pushes. However, advanced players – and even intermediate players – rarely push against deep backspin to the forehand, unless they are very defensive choppers. It's simply better for them to attack, usually with a loop. (The same can be said on the backhand, if you have a good backhand loop.) So … should you develop your forehand push?

The answer is yes – but not necessarily against long backspin to the forehand. You need to develop your forehand push mostly against short backspin to the forehand. Against this ball, you can attack, but pushing is often the better bet. You can push short, push quick and long, go for angles, heavy spin, etc. – all sorts of variations. And because you are closer to your opponent, he has less time to react. (At the same time, don't predictably push - learn to flip short balls as well.)

The problem is how do you practice your forehand push? If you push forehand to forehand with a partner, then unless both of you are practicing short pushes, you'll be practicing pushing against long balls. The answer is to develop the forehand push this way with a partner, but once it becomes relatively advanced, start focusing on drills where you start the drill by pushing against a short backspin, and then continue the drill/rally with other shots. You won't get as much repetitive practice this way, but you'll practice what you need to develop. For example, your partner serves short to your forehand; you push quick off the bounce to your partner's backhand; he pushes quick to your backhand; and you loop, either forehand or backhand. (Or, alternately, your partner loops off your forehand push, if it's "his" drill – and you still get practice pushing.)

Meanwhile, a nice drill is to push forehand to forehand (or backhand to backhand) where both players push short – but the first time a player pushes long (by mistake), you loop. This develops your short push, develops your loop, and best of all, develops your judgment on whether a ball is long or short.

August 10, 2020 - Two Tips to Increase Forehand Looping Power

Monday, August 10, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

If you have trouble generating power when forehand looping, try out these two tips, and you'll be surprised at the improvement. First, keep your legs farther apart. This gives more stability and more torque into the shot. Second, contact the ball more from your side. This forces you to use your whole body instead of mostly your arm. By following these two tips, you'll automatically put more body weight into the shot, increasing your power. If your basic technique is roughly correct but you don't have good power, these two steps will be a huge help.

August 3, 2020 - How to Vary Your Receive Against Short Backspin Serves

Monday, August 3, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

Most players return short backhand serves with a simple push, without much thought to it. This makes the player predictable and vulnerable to third-ball attacks. The key is to vary the return. Let's take a look at just how many effective returns you can actually do against a short backspin serve – and ask yourself how many of them you actually do! Below are the most common effective returns – but there are others. Use your imagination! (And then apply the same thinking to other types of receive. In general, against short serves, focus on consistency, control, placement, and variation; against long serves, play more aggressively.) 

  • Topspin flip to wide forehand
  • Topspin flip to wide backhand
  • Topspin flip to middle
  • Flatter flip to wide forehand
  • Flatter flip to wide backhand
  • Flatter flip to middle
  • Quick push to wide forehand
  • Quick push to wide backhand
  • Quick push to middle (to rush a two-winged looper)
  • Heavy underspin push to wide forehand
  • Heavy underspin push to wide backhand
  • Short push to wide forehand
  • Short push to wide backhand
  • Short push to middle
  • Sidespin push to wide forehand (breaking away from opponent)
  • Sidespin push to wide backhand (breaking away from opponent)
  • Any of the above where you fake one shot or direction, and do another

July 27, 2020 - When Playing an Unfamiliar Player, Focus on Serve & Receive

Monday, July 27, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

When you face a new and unknown opponent, you aren't sure yet how the rallies are going to go. But you can control how the rallies start. Learn to use serve & receive force rallies to go the way you want them to go, and so make your opponent adjust to you. It doesn't matter if the opponent plays very orthodox or has an unusual or weird style, you can often force them into the type of rally you want. A few examples:

  • A backspin serve often forces a backspin return.
  • A topspin serve often forces a topspin return.
  • Fast & deep serves often get you into a fast exchange, and can back players slightly off the table. Forehand loopers are often forced out of position by fast, deep serves.
  • A fast but dead (spinless) serve not only forces many mistakes, but is often returned softly.
  • Short & low serves often set you up for a first attack, often a loop. Short backspin serves are usually pushed, while short sidespin serves are either pushed back (usually high) or attacked relatively weakly (assuming the serve was low).
  • Slow but deep sidespin serves, against an opponent who doesn't loop, sets you up for all sorts of attacks.
  • A short and low no-spin serve is hard to either attack or push heavy and usually gives you a ball you can attack.

July 20, 2020 - The Importance of Lobbing

Monday, July 20, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

One of the strange things top players and coaches often notice is that beginning/intermediate players who "goof off and lob" during practice often improve rapidly. There is a reason for this.

When a beginning/intermediate player backs up and lobs, he develops mobility and footwork, and learns to react to hard-hit shots. Later, as he becomes more advanced, his off-the-table play, especially covering ground for counter-looping, or simply reacting to hard-hit shots, is much better than it would have been otherwise, and plus the habit of moving is more developed. This gives him an advantage, as long as he doesn't overdo it and make a habit of backing off the table too easily. Another advantage is that by lobbing, you better understand a lobber's strengths and weaknesses, and so better know what to do when you play a good lobber.

There are two classic cases of this. Sweden's Jan-Ove Waldner and Mikael Appelgren were sometimes called "uncoachable" as juniors due to their tendency to "goof off and lob" during practice. Both went on to be ranked #1 in the world, with two-time World Men's Singles Champion and Men's Singles Olympic Gold Medalist Waldner often called the greatest player in history. These days players tend to play a bit closer to the table than in the past, but the principle still holds, as long as it isn't overdone.