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ROBO-COACH
MODERN TABLE TENNIS STYLES
Part 1: The Attacker Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style

By: Richard McAfee
USATT Certified National Coach

Constant changes in equipment, gluing methods, and training methods have had a large effect on the evolution of styles within our sport. The decade of the nineties has seen the decline of two styles, the passive chopper and the passive half-distance topspin player. In their place, a stronger more balanced attacking style has emerged, the All-Round Attacker. This can be seen in both shakehands and penholder versions, with the penholder version incorporating the new reverse penholder backhand loop technique. Recently, the switch to the 40mm ball has changed both stroke techniques and tactics; and even now, playing styles are evolving quickly to take full advantage of the new balls playing characteristics. Table Tennis is an ever-evolving sport that requires both coaches and players to constantly update their knowledge.

The purpose of this article is to examine the eight styles currently in use at the World Class Level. If you are uncertain of your style or wish to better identify which style is best for you, then please read What Style Should You Play. These styles include:

  1. The Attacker, Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style
  2. The Attacker, Shakehands Hitter
  3. The Attacker, Inverted Looper
  4. The Attacker, All-Round
  5. The Counter Driver
  6. The Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
  7. The Attacking Chopper
  8. The Close-to-the-Table Defender

This series of articles will provide you with the strengths and weaknesses of each style, along with some suggested robot drills to help you develop your game. In reading the descriptions you may find that your personal style will have attributes from more than one. However, you should be able to recognize your dominant style ("A" style) and your secondary style ("B" style). Each article will also give you some suggestions on tactics to use against the other styles of play. Hopefully the style descriptions will serve as a guide in analyzing your own.


Attacker Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style

Description:

Pips-Out Penholder Attackers generally stand within three feet of the table. The contact point on all strokes is as early as possible top of the bounce or rising. This is a forehand-dominated style with the player exhibiting a strong, quick pivot move to use the forehand from the backhand side. The Pips-Out Penholder wants to end points quickly and keeps great time pressure on his/her opponents, forcing many errors. This style has benefited from the new 40mm ball and the subsequent loss of about 10 % spin on their opponents loops.

Strengths:

  • Quick pivot to use forehand from backhand corner.
  • Strong forehand kills.
  • Good forehand topspin against long underspin balls.
  • Driving blocks from backhand side.
  • Good short game.
  • Excellent serve and return game.
  • Very quick gives opponent very little time to react.
  • Smooth transition from forehand to backhand no switchpoint weakness

Weaknesses:

  • Return of long serves with the backhand.
  • Backhand block against slow heavy loops.
  • When forced wide to the forehand, this style has difficulty recovering and protecting the backhand side.
  • Backhand open against long underspin.

Suggested Robot Drills

Serving
Developing Your Serve Game
How to Effectively Return Short Services
Serve Receive
The Phenomena of Speed and Anticipation
Increase Your Reaction Speed Using the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000
Advanced Aerobic Movement Drills
Step-Around Footwork Drill
Footwork Drills
Chair Drill
The Basic Eight
Fast Push Techniques
Kill That Chop!
Forehand Smash Against Backspin
Smashing
Forehand Drive
Forehand Smash

Tactics Against Other Styles

Against the Attacker Shakehands Hitter: While this style is similar to yours, your grip gives you an advantage in the short game, the forehand-backhand transition game, and the forehand lift against underspin. Keep the majority of your serves short to the middle of the table. Be aggressive in stepping around your backhand to use your forehand. Do your best to prevent backhand to backhand exchanges and attack your opponents middle often..

Against the Attacker Inverted Looper: Use mostly short mixed serves, with an occasional fast deep serve to the opponents forehand side. Mix the speed and depth of your backhand blocks to move your opponent in and out. Attack down the line or at the opponents switchpoint (if shakehands grip) whenever possible. Force play at a faster pace than your opponent is comfortable at.

Against the Attacker All-Round: Keep most of your serves short or at mid-depth. Follow your serve with a forehand attack to keep the opponent on the defensive. Attack often to your opponents middle. When returning serve, use the flip often. The key to defeating this player is to take away his confidence by forcing him to play more defensively. Keeping your opponent under constant time pressure is important.

Against the Counter Driver: Use short serves anywhere on the table with a deep fast underspin serve to the backhand mixed in. Shot selection is the key to defeating the counter driver. Do not get lured into a backhand to backhand game. Use your backhand block down the line to force more forehand-to-forehand play. Do not to let your opponent dictate the pace of play.

Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper: Watch out for this opponents strong opening spin. Attack first and hit through his/her first loop whenever possible. Keep your serves short and attack the middle. When the opponent backs away from the table, mostly attack the backhand side.

Against the Attacking Chopper: Keep your serves mostly short with an occasional long serve to the opponents backhand side. Whenever possible, make your first attack to the choppers middle and then attack his/her backhand side. The goal here is to keep the chopper on the defensive. Expect the chopper to third ball attack. Respond to the attack by redirecting your opponents attack away from the side in came from.

Against the Close to the Table Defender: Serve this style mid-distance to long serves to the middle or backhand and attack their returns. Avoid long points by attacking your opponents wide forehand early in the point. No spin serves and pushes are often effective in forcing errors or high returns.

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