Robot Doubles Practice Drills
By: Richard McAfee
USATT Certified National Coach
Many players find table tennis doubles competition much more fun than singles. They enjoy the “team” aspect, along with the exciting movement involved and the emphasis on ball placement. It is very true that a well-trained team can often defeat a team of higher- level players who have not practiced much together.
The table tennis robot is an excellent tool for doubles teams to work on both the areas of movement and ball placement. This is particularly true for new teams just learning how to work together. The consistent and accurate ball feed the robot provides will allow you to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Here are some drills to get you started:
Set your robot to feed underspin balls to one location. Work on alternately pushing and attacking these returns and then moving out of your partner’s way. As your movement improves, have the robot feed topspin balls to one location at a higher ball frequency and then finally work on your movement against random whole table feed.
There are several different movement systems you may want to consider.
- If your team consists of one right handed and one left handed player then the movement pattern is much easier. With both players covering the middle of the table with their forehands, each player simply moves off to the side of the table towards their backhand, leaving the table clear for their partner.
- If your team consists of two right or left handed players then there are two main patterns used:
1. Circular Movement—after making a stroke, each player moves off to the nearest corner and circles behind his partner to prepare for his next shot. (Editor's Note: This is often the best choice for two players who prefer to play the same general distance from the ping pong table.)
2. In-and-Out Movement—this system features one player moving laterally, side to side (close to the table) while the other partner moves vertically, in and out (up and back). (Editor's Note #2: This type movement is usually best suited for teams composed of one player who likes to play close to the table, such as a fast attacker or blocker, and another player who likes to play away from the table, such as a chopper or mid-range looper.)
One of the major strategies for doubles play is to follow your partner’s lead. By this, I mean hitting several balls in a row to the same location. It is simply hard for your opponents to both be in the same place at the same time.
Set your robot to oscillate over the whole table, and practice making a series of returns to one location. Make sure to practice making returns to both corners as well as the middle of the table.
If you are playing in USA Table Tennis tournaments and not competing in doubles events you are missing half the fun of the event. Good doubles teams are made not born and your Newgy Table Tennis Robot can be your best tool for refining your team skills.