By: Richard McAfee
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 ball’s 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:
- The Attacker, Pips-Out Penholder, Traditional Style
- The Attacker, Shakehands Hitter
- The Attacker , Inverted Looper
- The Attacker, All-Round
- The Counter Driver
- The Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper
- The Attacking Chopper
- 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.
Inverted Loopers 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. This style will try to end points as quickly as possible. Most points are finished with a strong loop-kill. This player often has both an outstanding slow loop and a fast loop-kill from the forehand side. Players of this style can open with a backhand loop but normally do not re-loop with the backhand. They choose to counter drive the backhand instead. This style will on occasion move back into mid-distance (5-7ft from table) and counter loop with the forehand.
Players of this style have generally done well with the move to the 40 mm ball. Their main adjustment has been to develop a more forward loop stroke taking the ball a little farther in front of their bodies. This puts more emphasis on the forward speed than the spin of their power loops.
- Quick pivot to use forehand from backhand corner.
- Strong forehand loops.
- Both strong slow and fast loops from the forehand.
- Solid opening backhand loop.
- Solid backhand counter-drives.
- Good short game.
- Excellent serve and return game.
- Balls directed towards the player’s middle.
- Balls directed wide to the forehand.
- In and out movement.
- Backhand re-loop.
- Slow heavy loops directed towards the backhand.
Suggested Robot Drills
Fast Push Techniques
Forehand Loop Against Backspin
Fast Backhand Loop Against Backspin
Learning the Off-The-Bounce-Loop
Looping Heavy Backspin
The Backhand Loop
Advanced Aerobic Movement Drills
A Great Looping Drill
The Phenomena of Speed and Anticipation
Increase Your Reaction Speed Using the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000
Step-Around Footwork Drill
The Basic Eight
Developing Your Serve Game
How to Effectively Return Short Services
Tactics Against Other Styles
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder: Serve short anywhere with an occasional deep underspin serve to the opponent’s backhand side. First attack should be either a heavy spin loop to the penholder’s backhand or a faster loop wide to the forehand side. Avoid backhand-to-backhand exchanges by using your backhand counter down the line when possible. Try to turn the penholder into a blocker by using higher trajectory heavy loops to his/her backhand side.
Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands: Serve short, mostly to the middle of the table and follow with a strong 3rd ball attack to your opponent’s middle or backhand side. Be ready to pivot and use your forehand from your backhand side whenever possible.
Against the Attacker — All-Round: Your advantage lies in having a more powerful forehand attack, use it. Serve short to your opponent’s middle and move to execute a strong 3rd ball forehand attack. Also, you can serve mid-distance serves and forehand attack against a weak lift. The key here is to force your opponent to play defensively.
Against the Counter Driver: UUse 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 over force your backhand. Use your backhand counter down the line to force more forehand-to-forehand play.
Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper: To defeat this style you must attack first. Keep your serves mostly short and look to attack the opponent’s middle whenever possible. Try to move your opponent in and out if possible and try and play above his/her comfort level (time pressure).
Against the Attacking Chopper: Keep your serves mostly short with an occasional long serve to the opponent’s backhand side. Whenever possible, make your first topspin a quick loop to the chopper’s 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 and try to redirect your opponent’s attack away from the side it came from.
Against the Close to the Table Defender: Serve this style mid-distance to long serves to the middle or backhand side and attack their returns. Avoid long points by attacking your opponent’s wide forehand early in the point. You want to be exchanging forehands to forehands whenever possible. No spin serves and pushes are often effective in forcing errors or high returns.