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Robot Training
Excerpts from Larry Thoman's Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 Player's Instructional Manual

 

FOREHAND SMASH

When you're proficient at the forehand counter with foot movement at high frequency, it's time for the most fun stroke in the game-the forehand smash. The forehand smash is really an extended, more powerful version of the counter, just as the counter was an extended, more powerful version of the block.

Add a longer back swing and follow through to the counter and shift your weight harder from back leg to front.Accelerate your forearm quickly through the ball. Time your shoulder and hip turn so you contact the ball at thepeak of its bounce. After contact, allow your arm to swing up and over the left shoulder. It is also acceptable tolet the racket follow through in a salute to the forehead instead of finishing over the left shoulder. Try both to see which feels better.

When done correctly, the forceful hip turn results in transferring all of your weight from the right leg to the left leg. This provides you with tremendous power. Additional power can be generated by pulling back the left shoulder with your left arm as your right shoulder twists into the ball. Start at slow speed and frequency because the added backswing and longer follow through will take more time and you need the extra time to get ready for the next shot.

When first learning to smash, start with the robot delivering slow speed topspin balls that are 18-24 inches high (suggested settings-ball speed 2 1/2, head angle "G"). As you get better at smashing, grad-ually lower the height of the ball and increase the ball speed until you can smash a ball only 6-10 inches high.

Lesson 7: Forehand Smash With No Foot Movement

Practice the smash using the same sequence as you have used for the other strokes you have learned so far. However, for the smash, your goal should be 15 consecutive strokes without missing. The forehand smash is quite tiring, so you may need to build up your stamina before you can do 15 consecutive smashes. Be aware that fatigue can drastically hamper your stroke, so take a break as soon as your consistency begins to falter. Also, because of the longer time it takes to execute the smash, you won't be able to turn the ball speed and frequency up as high as you could with the block or counter.

Another important skill to learn is how to forehand smash from the backhand corner. Set the robot to deliver balls to the middle of your backhand court. Step over until you are at the backhand corner and position your feet so they are parallel to the sideline of the table. Now set the controls for low ball speed and frequency and turn the machine on. Practice the forehand smash crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally alternate between the two. Gradually build up the ball speed and frequency and lower the height of the shot.

Lesson 8: Forehand Smash with Foot Movement

Switch the oscillator control levers to the 1 and 4 positions if you are right handed and to the 3 and 6 positions if you are left handed. Set the ball speed and head angle for an easy, medium high topspin ball to the forehand. Keep the ball frequency slow, about 3-4. Adjust the oscillator speed as described on pages 2-4. Practice the forehand smash with the ball moving randomly within your forehand court. Place the ball crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally alternate between the two. Gradually increase ball speed and frequency. Your goal is 15 successful smashes in a row at each stage.

The last step to learning the forehand smash is to expand your range of movement. The forehand smash is the only stroke I will cover in this book that is designed to finish off a point. Therefore, it'simportant to step out on your backhand side and use your forehand smash whenever an easy ball is placed there.

To practice this skill, set the sweep control levers to the 2 and 4 positions if you're right handed or to the 3 and 5 positions if you're left handed. At these settings, the ball will be placed from your fore-hand corner to the middle of your backhand court. Turn on the ball frequency and adjust the oscillator speed as suggested on pages 2-4. When you have it adjusted correctly, use your forehand smash to return all balls-do not use your backhand. You'll have to move quickly to cover this entire distance, and this drill is an exhausting one even for top players. Your goal is 15 consecutive smashes in each direction (crosscourt and down-the-line).

Lesson 9: Combining Forehand Smash

On page 34 you will see the three strokes you have learned so far the Block, the Counter, and the Smash. In reality, these are not three separate strokes, but three phases of the same basic forehand stroke. Look closely at the photo of the smash and you will see it incorporates all of the components found in both the counter and the block. Likewise, the counter incorporates all the elements of the block.

The contact point (both in relation to distance arm to forearm angle are all essentially the same. The biggest differences between these three strokes is stroke length, amount of weight shift from back leg to front, and degree of racket acceleration.

The block has a very short swing with almost no back swing and very little follow-through. The counter has a longer swing with a definite back swing and follow-through. And the smash has a very big swing with a much longer back swing and follow-through. The block has no weight shift from back leg to front, the counter has a 60-80% weight shift, and the smash has an almost complete 100% weight shift. Racket acceleration varies from very little in the block, to moderate acceleration in the counter, to very explosive acceleration in the smash.

In a game, the choice of which stroke to use is usually dictated by the amount of time you have to get ready for the shot and the amount of control you wish to maintain in the rally. If your opponent is attacking and you have little time to get ready for a shot, the block is the correct choice. It takes little time to execute and the need for controlling your opponent's power is at a premium. In an average rally, where both players are jockeying for an opening, the counter is your best choice because it is a blend of power and control. When you get an easy slow ball, use the smash to end the point because you have plenty of time to get set and con-trol is less of a factor.

To practice strengthening these three strokes and to reduce the transitional time it takes to go from one stroke to the next, do the following drill. Set your robot to deliver a medium speed, medium height topspin ball to the middle of your forehand court.

Start by blocking the first ball, countering the second ball, then smashing the third ball. Keep alternating from block to counter to smash and back to block for approximately 5 minutes. After blocking, take a quick step backward before you execute your counter. Likewise, take a quick step forward before doing the block. Do this drill often and concentrate on keeping the contact point, racket angle, and arm angle the same with each of these strokes. The transition from one stroke to the next should feel smooth and almost like you're practicing one stroke instead of three different ones. The length of the stroke and the amount of power you are generating should be the primary differences among these three strokes.


Forehand Smash (Crosscourt Photo 9:Forehand Smash (Crosscourt)

Notice the very long swing, the rapid acceleration of the racket before ball contact, and the forceful twist of the
shoulders, waist, and right leg.
Image 1: End of back swing. Waist and shoulders have been rotated back as far as they can go and the forearm has been cocked back. At this point, 90% of the weight is on the right leg. The racket has been raised to the anticipated height of the ball at contact.
Image 2: Forward swing. The waist and shoulders are being rotated into the ball as weight is being
transferred to the left leg. The forearm is beginning to be un-cocked.

Image 3: Immediately after ball contact. Note the closed racket angle. The forearm has been rapidly
snapped forward. The racket is at the level of or slightly above the level of the elbow.
lmages 4&5: Follow through. Shoulder and upper arm continue to push racket forward and slightly
upward. Waist twist continues to transfer weight to the left leg. The right leg has twisted forward with
a definite thrust at the knee.
Image 6: End of stroke. The powerful momentum to finish on the left side of the head. The shoulders have rotated almost 1800 during the stroke, and the
waist has rotated about 1350. Nearly 100% of the weight has been transferred to the left leg,


Block Counter Smash
BLOCK COUNTER SMASH

Photo 10: Comparing Forehand Block, Counter, & Smash

Look at the three photos above very carefully. The photo of the block was taken just before ball contact while the third image of the counter and smash were both captured just after ball contact. Note how the racket is at or slightly above the level of the elbow at contact and the forearm to upper arm angle and the racket angle are essentially the same in all three strokes. Compare the difference in weight shift between the counter (60-80%) and the smash (90-100%). This weight shift is evidenced by the amount of leg kick. Note the distance the racket travels between images 2 & 4 in the counter and the smash. Since the timing between each image remains constant, this reveals that the racket is moving at a much faster pace in the smash than in the counter. The photo of the block is not stroboscopic because the racket moves so little the images would have been indistinguishable.

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