By Larry Hodges
Some of us remember the incredible topspins of U.S. Team Member Rick Seemiller (brother of Dan) back in the 1980s. He didn't have great power on his loops. What he did have was more topspin than anyone in the U.S., and probably in the world. Even world-class players commented on this. When faced with this very slow, arcing ball that exploded off your racket, invariably going off, many an opponent called it "unreturnable."
The game has evolved since then, with faster sponges and speed glues, and players tend to go for as much speed as spin. But there's nothing like a very slow but incredibly spinny loop to mess up an opponent's block and/or counterloop!
Another big advantage of the slow loop is it gives you time to get back into position after the shot. You can do a slow forehand loop from the backhand side, and move back into position before the opponent can quick-block to the wide forehand. Also, the slowness of the shot means that most block returns will tend to come back more slowly, since the opponent can't use your own speed against you. This gives you even more time for the next shot, as well as a softer ball to attack.
To do this shot, you will need two things:
1. A very sticky inverted racket surface;
2. Strong legs; if you have serious knee problems or just weak leg muscles, the shot will be more difficult, though you can still get pretty good spin if done properly.
The shot is usually done against backspin, so you can use backspin in creating your own topspin. To execute the shot, let the ball drop much farther down than usual, all the way to around your knees. Bend your knees more than usual, and drop your playing shoulder and playing racket very low, with the racket tip pointing to the ground. Then push upwards with the legs, and drive the racket upwards. Contact the ball by just barely skimming it. Arc the ball a little higher than usual, making it go deep on the table.
Note that there's a world of difference between a spinny loop that lands short (easy to attack) and one that lands deep (very tricky to do anything with). Keep the ball deep!
Done properly, your opponent will face a very spinny ball, coming at him relatively slowly (so he can't use your own speed against you), and deep on the table. If he blocks, he has to punch the ball from deep on the court against a lot more topspin than he's used to. And heaven help the player who tries to counterloop against this shot! Sure it can be done, but it's not easy.