Table Tennis Perfection

August 14, 2012

The Flat, Regular, and Topspinny Backhand

In my Tip of the Week yesterday I wrote about the Racket Tip Angle on the Backhand. I also referred to the various types of backhands, such as flatter ones and "topspinny" backhands. What exactly are these? Here are three ways of hitting a backhand drive; all are done mostly on the rise or top of the bounce. (Note that the three terms below are my invention, though most coaches would recognize from the meaning what they are.)

  • The Flat Backhand. This is probably the easiest way to hit a backhand, where you hit the ball with little topspin. A good flat backhand isn't completely flat; it almost always has a little topspin, but the key is that it has very little. This makes it easy to learn, since you simply start with the racket behind where contact will be and drive forward. This is how I hit my backhand, and I consider it a weakness in my game. The lack of topspin means precision and timing are key, and if you are 1% off, you are completely off. At the higher levels, players with flat backhands are often turned into blockers. However, backhand kills are often done flat as they maximize the speed, and players known for their backhand kills often have flat backhands. But often they either become hit or miss types, unable to rally consistently, or they become very consistent, but mostly just keep the ball in play. (The latter is me, alas). It's a dying style at the higher levels as backhand loops dominate (see Topspinny Backhand below), but there are still many who play aggressive flat backhands quite successfully.
  • The Regular Backhand. The difference here is that you start with the racket slightly below where the contact point will be. As the ball rises after bouncing on your side of the table, your racket rises to meet it. Contact is a bit more upward, which creates more topspin and, once mastered, more control. This is how I generally teach the backhand to new players. As they develop, they often hit the ball harder and harder (and sometimes flatter), or they start increasing the topspin, and develop topspinny backhands. Others simply stick with regular backhands, where they can be both steady and aggressive.
  • The Topspinny Backhand. This is the same as a Regular Backhand, except that you bring your wrist down and back, and snap the wrist through the ball to increase the topspin. It is essentially a mini-backhand loop off the bounce. This is what most top players do these days. Often there's no clear distinction between a "topspinny" backhand and a backhand loop.

However you play your backhand, make sure to do something with it. This means speed, quickness, spin, placement (both direction and depth), consistency, or some variation of these elements. Put pressure on your opponent or they will put pressure on you. Focus on developing to a high level at least one of these elements so that you'll have something that you know you can do that's better than your opponent. (Note that most of this applies to the forehand as well, except players tend to do that anyway; it's the backhand that's often underdeveloped.)

ITTF Coaching Seminar

Here's an ITTF writeup of the recent ITTF Coaching Seminar run by Sydney Christophe at the Westchester Table Tennis Center in New York.

Sidespin Push Return

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:33) about pushing short with sidespin.

Table Tennis Perfection

Here's a highlights video (14:40) of table tennis shots.

A VW Bug Covered with Ping-Pong Balls

It's colorful and with a happy face!

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