The Basic Eight

Jena Newgarden
By Richard McAfee, 1999 USATT Developmental Coach of the Year 
A Complete Training Program In Only 55 Minutes

As a professional coach, I use my Newgy Robo Pong 2000 almost every day. I have found no more efficient teaching tool for introducing new stroke techniques to my students. In fact, many of my students have purchased a Robo Pong 2000 for home use. I have developed the following drill program to give my students a complete skills practice session in a short period of time. The program consists of eight drills. Allowing for a few minutes to reset the robot between drills and you can complete the whole program in only 55 minutes.

 

 

1. Serve Practice (5 minutes)

It may seem strange to you to start a training program off by practicing serves. However, there is no better way to warm-up your spin touch and hand skills. Simply practice your serves putting emphasis on making as much spin as possible as well as good placement.

2. Push Practice (5 minutes)

Set your robot to produce backspin and have it oscillate over the whole table. Practice your pushes with both backhand and forehand. Direct your returns to all areas of the table. Don’t forget to vary the spin of your returns and also make both short and long returns.

3. Loop Practice (10 minutes — 5 minutes with both FH and BH)

Set your robot for backspin and direct the ball to your backhand no oscillation. Using your forehand practice looping and direct your returns to all areas of the table. Start off by making high spin (slower) loops and progress to making faster loop drives. Repeat drill using your backhand

4. Mixed Loop and Push Practice (5 minutes).

 

Set your robot for backspin and have it oscillate over the whole table. Using both forehand and backhand, alternate loops with pushes. Remember to practice directing your returns over the whole table.

5. Counter Practice (10 minutes — 5 minutes with both FH and BH)

Set your robot to produce topspin and direct the ball to your forehand with no oscillation. Start off with short blocks and gradually lengthen your stoke to produce a counter drive. Finally, finish off with full kill shots. Once again, practice directing your returns to all parts of the table. Reset the robot to direct the ball to your backhand side and repeat the drill using only backhand.

6. Movement Drill (5 minutes)

Set your robot for topspin and have it oscillate over one half of the table. Use only forehand strokes and direct your returns to all parts of the table. Concentrate on using proper 2 step movement technique. Also, set the ball feed at a rate that puts you under pressure to move fast enough.

7. Pivot Drill (5 minutes)

This is also a movement drill. Set your robot for topspin and direct the ball to your wide backhand with no oscillation. This drill consists of making two backhand counters or loops and then pivoting and hitting one forehand from the backhand side (repeat). Both counters and loops strokes should be practiced and your returns should be directed to all areas of the table.

8. Serve Return Drill (5 minutes)

Set your robot to produce a short underspin serve, sidespin can also be added. Oscillate the serves over the whole table. Practice making random drops, flips and long pushes. Emphasis should be placed on making good placements. Try to keep your drops very short and cut the diagonal sidelines with your flips and long pushes.

At the conclusion of this drill program you will have practiced all the basic skills of the game. Of course your own individual style will determine which advanced skills you also need to train. Use this program several times a week and you will see a quick improvement in your overall game.

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Practice Your Serves

Jena Newgarden

First Place


Larry Hodges
Rockville, MD 20852

Newgy Circuit

Set up Newgy robots on three consecutive tables. Set the first and third table on topspin, the middle one on backspin. Players line up on the first table, youngest or lowest rated first, and each try to hit 20 consecutive shots(this can vary, depending on player's level). If a player misses before 20, he/she go to end of the line, and next player goes up.

As soon as a player gets 20 in row on table one, he/she goes to table two, and again has to hit 20 in a row. If a player misses before reaching 20, he/she goes to the end of that line. If first player to reach second table doesn't get 20 on first try, he/she has to wait until another player reaches that table and has a turn before getting next chance.

As soon as a player gets past table two, player goes to table three. An object (a cup, a paddle, etc) is set on the table, and player has five shots to hit it. If player misses, he/she goes to end of line. Again, if the first player to reach third table doesn't hit object in five tries, he/she has to wait until another player reaches that table and has a turn before getting next chance.

First player to successfully run the circuit is the winner!



Runner-up


Robert Mayer
Memphis TN 38141
Bluff City TTC

I have found the Newgy Robot to be useful for even rather mundane tasks such as service practice. By setting a bucket of balls on the table beside me, I can begin serving balls on by one, knowing that the recycling net is there to catch most of them. When the bucket is finally empty, I simply turn the ball feeder on high speed and place the bucket in front of it to get a quick refill so I can begin again.

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Newgy Circuit Training,

Jena Newgarden

Larry Hodges
Rockville, MD 20852

Set up Newgy robots on three consecutive tables. Set the first and third table on topspin, the middle one on backspin. Players line up on the first table, youngest or lowest rated first, and each try to hit 20 consecutive shots(this can vary, depending on player's level). If a player misses before 20, he/she go to end of the line, and next player goes up.

As soon as a player gets 20 in row on table one, he/she goes to table two, and again has to hit 20 in a row. If a player misses before reaching 20, he/she goes to the end of that line. If first player to reach second table doesn't get 20 on first try, he/she has to wait until another player reaches that table and has a turn before getting next chance.

As soon as a player gets past table two, player goes to table three. An object (a cup, a paddle, etc) is set on the table, and player has five shots to hit it. If player misses, he/she goes to end of line. Again, if the first player to reach third table doesn't hit object in five tries, he/she has to wait until another player reaches that table and has a turn before getting next chance.

First player to successfully run the circuit is the winner!



Runner-up


Robert Mayer
Memphis TN 38141
Bluff City TTC

I have found the Newgy Robot to be useful for even rather mundane tasks such as service practice. By setting a bucket of balls on the table beside me, I can begin serving balls on by one, knowing that the recycling net is there to catch most of them. When the bucket is finally empty, I simply turn the ball feeder on high speed and place the bucket in front of it to get a quick refill so I can begin again.

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Chair Drill

Jena Newgarden
An adaptation of a drill presented by Victor Tolkacheva at a Dan Seemiller clinic known as the "CHAIR" drill. Done to work on footwork, aerobic fitness and concentration, the chair drill requires the placement of a chair about 4 feet behind the table and the robot to be set on topspin. The chair drill starts with student behind chair, first moving left beside chair as ball crosses the net. Moving forward and to the right, the student must then execute a FH counter or loop to the cross - court angle. After doing the stroke, footwork away from the table places the student in position to start all over again! Increasing the frequency of the balls requires the feet to work more and more efficiently and changing the robot from topspin to underspin will dramatically increase the effort needed to perform at a consistent level. I highly recommend doing this drill first as shadow practice to familiarize yourself then be a test of the additional factors that weakens a persons ability to loop / counter. If you have a training partner, both can do this drill at the same time and really tax the timing aspects of footwork. BUT USE CAUTION not to hit your partner with the follow through of your stroke or you might need to find a new partner!

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Footwork Drills

Jena Newgarden

Yeushan Goan 
Milwaukee, WI

The Newgy Robot is very useful for footwork practice. You are forced to keep moving because the robot rarely misses. Here are some footwork drills you can do with your Newgy Robot:

One-Step Footwork 
1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 2,5 (narrow sweep range). 
2. Adjust oscillator speed so ball are place at each end of the sweep range. 
3. Hit ball coming to your forehand court with forehand strokes, hit balls coming to your backhand court with backhand strokes.

Two-Step Footwork 
1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 1,6 (no oscillation). 
2. Alternate your forehands and backhands to hit balls back.

Three-Step Footwork 
1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 2,5 (narrow sweep range). 
2. Adjust oscillator speed so balls are placed at each end of the sweep range. 
3. Hit balls coming to your forehand court with backhand strokes and balls coming to your backhand court with forehand strokes.

Stepping In/Out Footwork Drills

Two-Step Footwork 
1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 1,6 (no oscillation). 
2. Adjust head angle and ball speed so balls bounce twice on your side of the table. 
3. Step in to forehand hit a ball after it bounces once, then step out to forehand hit the next ball after it bounces twice, step in to backhand hit the next ball after it bounces once, and finally step out to backhand hit the fourth ball after it bounces twice. You should be moving in an "8 on its side" (_) route.

Three-Step Footwork 
1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 2,5 (narrow sweep range). 
2. Adjust head angle and ball speed so balls bounce twice on your side of the table. 
3. Hit balls in the same manner as described in previous two-step footwork drill, except you now need to take 3 steps to make it to the balls.

Notes: 
a. If you find the 2,5 sweep range too wide for you, change it to 1,5 or 2,6. 
b. If you find the 2,5 sweep range too narrow for you, change it to 2,4, 3,5 or even 3,4. 
c. If you're right-handed you should step in with your right foot closer to the table, or you won't be able to bring your playing hand close to the ball. 
d. If you're left-handed, you should step in with your left foot closer to the table.

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Step-Around Footwork Drill

Jena Newgarden

Lawrence Au

Here's a good drill for footwork and variation in your strokes. It can get vary fast paced and tiring but very useful as it simulates a point in real play. Set your Newgy to give a medium height ball about 4-5 speed and 5-6 frequency to start. Aim the Newgy into the back-hand corner. Hit 3 easy backhand balls consecutively cross-court and on the 4th shot, run around with a quick side step and hit a forehand smash down the line similating a kill in a real game. Then immediately side-step the other way, getting back into position to hit 3 backhands again. As you get better, increase the speed and frequency. You can also practice variations in your shots by blocking the first backhand, looping the next backhand and then smashing the 3rd backhand before running around. This drill gives you a good cardiovascular workout from all the running around, helps develop variation in your shots, quickens your footwork and rehearses a point that is played a lot in real game situations. Just look at Deng Yaping.

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Strengthen Your Mid-Point Weakness

Jena Newgarden

Adrian Cheung 
Canberra ACT, Australia

Almost every table tennis player has a common weakness - the mid point. Even top world class players exploit this tactic, the ball is very awkward and difficult to return, let alone attack. Usually if the ball is returned, it comes quite high and short, a perfect set up for your opponent to put away. The Newgy robot is the perfect practice partner to reduce the effects of this weakness.

Stand in your normal ready position at the table. Take note of where your mid-point or shoulder is, and aim the Newgy to that area. Initially set it to a topspin medium height ball, 4-5 speed and a low frequency. Return to your normal ready position, and as the ball comes, take a very quick side step (also moving slightly backwards) and hit the ball using a forehand drive. Alternatively, you can attack/block with your backhand. Now return to your ready position for the next shot.

It is very important in this drill that when you hit the ball, you do not get into position just by simply moving your upper body and not your feet. This can get you in a very awkward position, the ball is even more difficult to hit and furthermore, this creates very bad balance and slow recovery for the next shot. Also, remember that you are pretending you are in a match situation. Do not automatically shift and assume that the ball will be directed to your mid point before Newgy feeds the ball.

To increase difficulty, you may increase the speed and oscillation of the ball. Furthermore, you can add a bit of sidespin spinning the ball into your shoulder.

This is a great drill to practice to eliminate a weakness that your opponent would otherwise exploit. Moreover, you can then use Newgy for you to practice against hitting at your opponent's mid-point!

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Basic Strokes and Skills

Jena Newgarden
Excerpts from Larry Thoman's Newgy Robo-Pong Player's Instructional Manual

The basic strokes are the "meat" of the sport. The majority of your practice time should be spent on developing your strokes until they are "grooved." You want to do them by automatic response; not thinking about the individual components of the stroke, but rather "feeling" the entire motion. Once the basic strokes are grooved, your time with the robot will be more fun and rewarding and you will be more successful against your opponents in a real match.

Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 will be especially helpful in learning, then grooving your strokes. Learn the strokes and skills in the order listed. For quickest improvement, acquire consistency with each stroke or skill before starting the next. This manual will first discuss strokes used to return topspin, then will cover strokes used to return backspin. These are followed by articles discussing serve, serve receive, and footwork all the basic skills you will need to play well.

The learning process is greatly assisted when you start slowly and simply; then gradually build up your speed, power, and touch as you become more skilled. The most common mistake of beginners is hitting the ball much too hard. Take your time and learn consistency first, power second.

When you first attempt to hit the ball, your stroke should be very small. Your racket should not travel more than 12 to 18 inches. Only after you have gained control over this short stroke and are able to make the ball go in any direction that you choose, should you attempt to perform a longer stroke.

Again, when first learning a stroke or skill, START SLOWLY AND KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Other helpful suggestions when you practice on the robot:

(1) The control settings given are estimates. Exact settings will vary from robot to robot. It may be necessary to slightly adjust the settings from the ones suggested.

(2) All photos and illustrations represent a right handed player. If you're left handed, substitute left for right and right for left in all subsequent directions.

(3) Periodically you need to turn the robot off and pick balls up from the floor and reload them into the ball return trays. The more balls you have loaded, the less often you will have to stop and pick up balls. Maximum recommended number of balls is 96-120.

(4) Remember that another ball is always coming, so don't stop to pick up a ball that gets past you. If a ball rolls by your feet or lands on the table directly in front of you, quickly brush or kick it away so it won't distract you.

(5) It is important to learn how to adjust the robot to your skill level. Start with the robot adjusted to the settings as suggested in article on the Forehand Block. When you acquire consistency at these initial settings, turn the ball frequency and/or ball speed controls up slightly. Practice at this higher speed until you feel comfortable and your strokes are consistent. Never turn the controls up to a level that causes you to lose good form. The idea is to increase the difficulty in such small increments that you hardly notice any difference. If a partner is available, have him/her turn up the controls for you very slowly until he/she notices that you begin to lose consistency.

(6) Keep a player's logbook with the date, skill practiced, the maximum settings you were able to handle comfortably, and the number of strokes or patterns you did without missing. By keeping a logbook such as this, you can accurately gauge your progress by looking at your previous maximum settings and comparing those to your current maximum settings.

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Increase Your Reaction Speed Using the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000

Jena Newgarden

By Richard McAfee, USATT International Coach

Table Tennis is one of the quickest reaction sports in the world. When two attacking players meet, the one with the quicker reflexes has a definite physical advantage over the slower player. The slower player will be forced either to back away from the table, or use shorter, less powerful strokes in order to try and keep up with his quicker opponent. Fortunately, you can train to have faster reactions and the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 is the perfect tool to work with.

Your reflexes are controlled by your Central Nervous System (CNS). To develop faster reflexes, you must put the CNS under stress (overloading) by working against balls coming at quicker and quicker intervals. Coaches often do this type of practice by using multi-ball technique. The coach feeds balls at an increasing rate to the student, with the goal being to increase the student's stroke frequency. However, doing this type of training with the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 offers several advantages for both the student and the coach.

(1) The student can train by himself

(2) You can exactly control the ball frequency and thus measure your improvement

(3) Robo-Pong 2000 never gets tired

It is a good idea, when starting this type of training, to establish your current reaction baseline. By this I mean, finding out what is the quickest rate of ball speed that you can execute a full stroke against. To do this set your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 at the following settings:

(1) Oscillator pattern on 1-4, this will cover the forehand side of the table only.

(2) Oscillator speed on 5 or 6, medium speed

(3) Ball speed on 5 or 6, medium speed.

(4) Ball frequency on 4 to begin with.

(5) Turn the robot's head to select Topspin.

After warming up with forehand counters, try slowly increasing the ball frequency one level at a time. At each level, execute several forehand counters and then try to make a full kill shot. Repeat this a number of times for each level. When you reach a level where you cannot react fast enough to land 70% of the kills shots successfully on the table, that is your current reaction baseline. Once you find this point, make a note of it. With regular practice with your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000, you will quickly see a rise in this baseline and your overall reaction time. 

Drills

Pyramid Up (Half Table)

Set your Newgy Robo-Pong to oscillate over one half of the table, either to your backhand or forehand side with topspin. Set the ball frequency level to 4. Set the ball speed in a comfortable range. Gradually increase the ball frequency, staying at each level for about one minute. Your goal is to make as long a stroke as possible while still being successful at least 70% of the time. At level 4, you should be able to use a kill stroke (long stroke) continuously. As the ball frequency increases, you will find that you have to shorten your stroke to keep up. At the highest frequency setting (10), your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 will be delivering balls at approximately 90 per minute. At this speed, you probably will have to switch to a very short stroke (block). However, continue to push yourself to make as long a stroke as possible (counter or kill) while keeping inside the 70% success rate.

Pyramid Down (Half Table)

Set your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 as described above. However this time start out with the ball frequency setting on 10 and slowly work down. Spend one minute at each level. In the beginning of this drill, you may only be able to block the ball back. As you decrease the ball frequency, try hard to lengthen your stroke. Work back down to a level where you can execute a full kill stroke successfully at least 70% of the time.

Advanced Reaction Drill

Set your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 for full oscillation (3-4), topspin, set ball speed at 5 or 6, set ball frequency at 9-10, and oscillator speed at 9-10. These settings will produce random balls covering the whole table at 90 balls per minute. Start off with just trying to block as many balls back as possible and slowly try to move from blocking to counter strokes. If you are able to return 70% successfully, then increase ball speed.

Basic Elements to Remember

(1) By overloading your Central Nervous System you can increase your reaction time.

(2) To make the drill more difficult you can also increase the ball speed.

(3) Drill both the forehand and the backhand sides.

(4) Retest your baseline reaction as described above to note your improvement.

Final Note

Every player must be able to attack, defend, and counter attack. Quick reaction times are a key element in a player's ability to do all three. The quicker your reaction time becomes, the more often you will be able to attack, the better your defense will be, and the quicker you will be able to counter attack. It is not enough to just have good stroke technique; quick reactions are essential to our sport. As a full time professional coach, I know of no better way to train this part of your game than working against the ultimate practice partner, the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000

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The Natural Progression of Drills

Jena Newgarden

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

You’ve made the big plunge — plunked down the money for a Newgy robot, and now have high expectations for your table tennis game. And you should — as long as you practice correctly. It’s very easy to train incorrectly, and not improve as fast as you could.

This is the first of a series of monthly columns on training with the Newgy robot. The goal of the articles is to help you maximize your improvement with your own "Deep Blue." Each column will go over some technique that can be practiced on the robot, from the perspective of players from beginning to advanced.

It doesn’t matter what your level of play is, a robot can help you. A robot is for developing, tuning, changing, or improving existing techniques. That covers the spectrum from beginner to advanced. A new generation of players is developing with the help of the Newgy robot — Barney J. Reed, Dave Fernandez, T.J. Beebe, Keith Alban (to name a few U.S. players), and many more.

There is a natural progression of drills as a player develops from beginner to advanced. They are:

• Beginners: Stroking drills to develop proper and consistent strokes.

• Intermediate: Stroking/footwork drills, to learn to move and stroke.

• Advanced: Random stroking/footwork drills, to learn to react to an unpredictable ball.

BEGINNING SECTION

Beginning drills are relatively simple. At this stage, you should be learning the forehand and backhand drive (also known as forehand and backhand hits, counters, or counter-drives) against topspin, the forehand (and perhaps backhand) loop against backspin, the forehand and backhand push against backspin, and serves. (The net that comes with the Newgy robot makes service practice very convenient — and you should be practicing your serves regularly.)

To learn the techniques, it helps tremendously to have a coach. A coaching book or video helps, but does not replace a coach who can immediately point out the problems with any technique and correct them. To find a coach, go to the USATT Coaches listing at USA Table Tennis Coaches or contact USATT at 719-578-4583. If you can’t find a coach in your area, you’ll just have to get by with books and tapes. Use the Player’s Instructional Manual that came with your robot, look up previous coaching articles in our Coaching Forum Archives, or call Newgy Customer Service for other videotapes and books that are available.

It is important that you learn proper techniques as soon as possible. If you practice a shot incorrectly, all you are doing is ingraining a shot that is incorrect and that will be difficult to fix later on. If you learn and practice the shots correctly early on, you will ingrain the proper technique, which will soon become second nature to you.

Here’s the simple formula for developing a new stroke: Correct Techniques + Constant Repetition = Well-Developed Strokes.

INTERMEDIATE SECTION

It’s assumed here that you have pretty good technique and control of your shots. You now have to combine your strokes with footwork. Footwork (along with spin) is the difference between "Ping Pong" and "Table Tennis." In Table Tennis you move to the ball; in Ping Pong, you reach for the ball, and you always lose to the "Table Tennis Player." Which do you want to be?

Just as with learning new strokes, you have to develop your footwork correctly, especially side-to-side footwork. The first type of footwork you want to learn is commonly called "2-step footwork." Once again, you may need a coach or top player to show you the proper technique. Once you have that, you are ready to move to the ball. See the articleFootwork in our coaching archives.

Set the robot’s Ball Frequency at 3, and its Oscillator Speed at 3.5. (You can judge for yourself how fast you want Ball Speed to be set, but don’t go too fast — this is a footwork drill, not a reaction drill.) Then set it to sweep over the forehand half of the table by setting the Sweep control to 1-4 (if you’re left-handed, set the levers to 3-6). The robot will now shoot out a ball about once every two seconds, one to the wide forehand, one to the middle of the table. Return each shot with your forehand, moving side-to-side with the 2-step footwork you learned from a coach, book, or video.

No matter how much you adjust the controls, you will probably experience some "drift" — the robot’s timing is not perfect, and will not always keep the ball to the same two spots, but it will correct itself quickly when it starts to drift off. You should follow the robot’s direction, and continue hitting forehands no matter where the ball goes. (You may want to "fine-tune" your robot as well to minimize drift by experimenting with the Ball Frequency and Oscillator Speed settings. Robots vary, so the settings for your robot may differ from those given here.)

When you become comfortable at this pace, increase Ball Frequency to 4, and Oscillator Speed to 5. This will shoot out a ball about once every 1.5 seconds. When you are comfortable at this pace, try setting Frequency to 6, and Oscillator to 8, which shoots out a ball about every 1 second. You can also set the Sweep control levers to 3-6 (1-4 if you’re left-handed), which will shoot balls to your backhand half of the table. Or increase the amount of ground you have to cover by setting the Sweep control levers to 2-4 (3-5 if you’re left-handed), which will send balls to the forehand two-thirds of the table.

Make sure to move side to side in a nice, smooth fashion, with your weight centered and balanced. Top players do these type of drills throughout their careers. So should you.

A variation of this drill is to have the balls hit to one spot on your backhand only, and you alternate hitting forehands and backhands from the backhand corner. Another is to set Sweep at 3-4, so that it covers the entire table, and alternate hitting forehands and backhands. Still another variation is to aim the robot to one spot on the table at a relatively slow pace. Alternate between hitting a forehand against the robot’s ball, moving to another position and shadow-stroking a forehand, and moving back in time to hit another forehand against the robot’s next ball.

ADVANCED SECTION

It’s assumed here that you have good technique, and can move side-to-side and play all forehand in a footwork drill. You must now master random footwork.

Random means just that — you don’t know exactly where the ball is going, as in a real game situation. Set the robot to sweep over half of the table, and play all forehand. (Later, try two-thirds of the table.) This time, set the Oscillator Speed and Ball Frequency so the balls come out randomly. Your job is to return them all with your forehand in a nice, smooth fashion. Make sure to turn your waist mostly sideways, and hit the ball roughly in front of your right leg — this gives you a larger hitting zone and more backswing (for power) than hitting the ball while facing the table too much. Try not to anticipate where the ball is going — simply watch and react. As the robot is about to deliver the ball to you, lightly flex your knees in anticipation of moving. Don’t wait and see if you have to move to the ball — always assume you will have to move. Even if you only have to cover one inch, move that one inch. Developing this habit of moving will be one of the most valuable techniques you can learn.

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