Flipping is one of the primary ways to return short serves when playing table tennis. In this article, I’m going to outline the various aspects of developing a professional flip and give some details about each aspect.
Reading the Spin
There are 4 primary ways to read the spin:
#1 Watch the racket movement at contact
#2 Listen to the sound at contact
#3 Read the bounce
#4 Watch for the label
Learning to watch the racket at contact is crucial. However, seeing exactly what spin is on the ball isn’t easy, so you must confirm the spin by watching the bounce. When flipping, I would recommend letting the ball rise to the top or even drop slightly. (there are some exceptions to this) Typically, if you contact the ball on the rise, it won’t give you enough time to read the spin. Listening to the sound can sometimes be helpful especially when dealing with heavy spin or no spin; however, many players tap their foot to cover the sound. Seeing the label is a sure giveaway for no-spin serves. Not seeing the label means nothing. Sometimes on no-spin serves, you still can’t see the label. So, don’t see the label, means nothing. See the label means light or no-spin.
Reading the Depth
Within serving short there are various depths – normal short serves, very, very short floaters, and faster half-long serves, and everything in between. If your body is too close to the bounce, you will force the ball into the net. If your body is too far from the bounce, you will be reaching for the ball and lose quality. It is important to read the depth, move into position quickly, pause, then flip at the appropriate timing.
Reading the Height
Most serves are intended to be low. However, some table tennis pros do have very jumpy short topspin serves. Regardless if they try to serve low or slightly higher, you must be proficient at adjusting to the height. Usually higher serves are easier to apply more speed, while lower serve you should focus more on placement.
Getting in Position
It is vitally important to get in position as fast as possible. The faster you get in position, the more relaxed and tactical you can play the flip. If you are rushed, you typically can’t place the flip good enough, and your recovery on the next will be delayed.
Adjusting to the Subtleties
No matter how good you are at reading the spin, speed, height, depth, you need to look to adjust to the subtleties. As you are about to flip the ball, can you make necessary adjustments? These subtleties can be within the flip or even a change of stroke like choosing to push or loop instead of flip.
Flipping with Backhand
In recent years the backhand flip has become a dominant part of the table tennis game because of the amount of spin that can be produced using the wrist, the forearm, and even the core. Not only can you produce more spin but you can also produce more variations of sidespin and topspin. Also, it is somewhat easier to backhand flip half-long balls, meaning there is a blurring of the lines between short and half-long when backhand flipping.
Flipping with Forehand
Even though the forehand flip has less spin, it is still an effective weapon when used with speed, timing, and placement variations – sometimes a fast flip to the middle, sometimes a slow flip to the wide backhand, sometimes an earlier timing flip, sometimes later.
Adjusting for the Follow-up
The follow-up ball after the flip is just as critical as the flip itself. It is tough to hit an all-out winner on the flip. The flip should put you in an offensive position to win the point. If your flip is allowing your opponent to crush you on the next ball – then evaluated the quality and placement of your flip and evaluated if a push would be tactically better. Always, always, always, think in terms of shot sequences! What shots sequenced together will give me the best chance of winning the table tennis rally?!