Hi guys – thanks for joining me. In this video I’m just going to be helping one of the guys with a question that he had, so I’ll do my best to keep it brief and not repeat myself, but it is an involved question so we may run a little bit over 5 minutes. I’ll read the question first and then we’ll go from there.
Basically this player is using Hallmark Frustration 2.0mm on his forehand on a Zhang Jike ALC blade – Hallmark Frustration being a long pimple with 2.0mm of sponge. Hallmark Frustration is known for being quite grippy and quite fast so it would be a fairly aggressive long pimples.
The strokes that he uses with his forehand are a flick, a drive, a topspin movement and sometimes he uses a sidespin stroke. His problem is that when somebody serves with backspin or backspin/sidespin long to his forehand he encounters the following problems.
- If he tries to flick the ball, the ball goes in the net.
- If he tries to drive or sidespin stroke, the ball pops out and goes long or too high.
- If he tries to hit it with a topspin stroke, the ball goes over the net but it’s an easy ball for his opponent to attack. He’s currently playing in Division 1 so obviously at a fairly high level. And he finds himself already at a disadvantage during the point. And then he gets worried because he’s worried about playing defensively when he’s actually a close to the table aggressive player.
So he asked me could I provide some guidance regarding how to handle these kind of services to the pimples. I just had to check a couple of things and what I checked with him was that
- He is starting to practice twiddling (turning the bat) but he usually changes to the inverted side on his forehand only when he serves.
- He is able to forehand loop with his inverted rubber but he’s not confident that it would be a high percentage shot.
- He never chops or pushes with the pimples, and he chops and pushes with the inverted side only when strictly necessary.
- He plays close to the table in an aggressive way, and his backhand with the inverted side is his stronger side – he is able to backhand loop with a lot of confidence and always tries to attack using his backhand loop or flick.
That’s his problem in a nutshell – we’ve set the scene. His main problem is with his long pips on his forehand, a backspin/sidespin or a backspin serve into his forehand, so what can we do to help him?
OK. There’s a few things that I would suggest here, and it would come into two different categories.
1) The first thing I’ll talk about is in terms of his current problems – some suggestions on how to fix what’s going wrong with the strokes that he is currently using, and:
2) then I’ll make some suggestions on some other things that might be worth trying.
So let’s talk about his current problems. Backspin/sidespin or backspin long to the forehand – he tries to flick – the ball goes in the net. That would make sense because if someone is serving backspin/sidespin or some sort of backspin, and you try to flick it off the long pimples, it’s going to turn into topspin off your long pimples and it’s going to tend to dip more – and the topspin will take it into the net. So the solution is if you are going to flick it, you are going to need to aim higher over the net and allow for the topspin that’s produced. So with the flick I’d be saying give it more air – more height over the net.
If you try to drive or sidespin it the ball pops out and goes long or too high – that also makes kind of sense because if you’re using a long pimple you’re not going to generate a ton of topspin – it won’t be lots and lots. So if you try and drive the ball or sidespin it and do it too fast there’s not enough topspin to bring the ball down and land it on the table. So if you want to play those shots, you’re gonna have to hit it not as hard and rely on your placement to help you win the point. But that’s a limitation of the fact that if you’re using your long pip to return the ball, you’re not gonna get that much topspin so you’ve gotta hit it softer, you can’t hit it as hard.
If you try and hit it with a topspin stroke – a real loop stroke I think is what he means – you get it on but it’s an easy ball for your opponent. And again it’s because even though the long pip will allow you to attack, you’re not going to get a lot of topspin – you can land the ball but it’s not really going to be quick and spinny, it’s going to be medium speed (Note: in the video I said medium spin by mistake) and not very spinny. So for a good player that’s a reasonably easy ball to attack if you put it somewhere where he’s waiting for it. So again that stroke could work but you’ve got to move it around the table.
OK – so that’s what’s going wrong at the moment. Those are just some suggestions on what you could do with your current strokes. Now here’s some other stuff to think about – some other suggestions.
The first thing I would suggest is think a little bit about why is your opponent giving you that serve? What is he looking for? What does he want you to do to come back to him next? He’s looking for some sort of response and it would be my guess that most of your opponents who give you that sort of serve, they’re looking for a slow to medium slow topspinny ball. They are expecting you to push it or do a little roll and the ball will come back not very fast with a little bit of topspin and they can just tee off on the next ball and attack it. That’s why I would be using that sort of serve against your long pips. So if that’s the kind of return they are looking for, then that’s the kind of return you want to avoid. We want to do something a little bit different, at least place the ball in very difficult locations, but I think that we’ve got other options we can also use for it.
So what would I be using? What are some of the other things that I would use in this situation? Well, one of the things that I would like to use and what I would suggest is to use what I call a shovel push, it’s a little bit like what you are doing already with your sidespin stuff, but trying to use that backspin to just get enough topspin. So rather than sidespinning and hitting really hard, I would actually be using it more of a not side, but forwards, just a little bit forwards and upwards and try and make maximum use of his backspin. Just a little like that. Quick as I can – making use of his topspin – a little shovel push. I’ll link a couple of examples – there’s some of me doing it and I think I’ve got one on the backhand side of the Austrian chopper Chen Weixing doing it on his backhand with the same principle – as fast as you can, not too high, using your opponent’s backspin (Note: in the video I said topspin by mistake)
The second option would be to actually turn the bat, chop it with the forehand side, the smooth side. The reason would be for that is that although you may not be very strong, you’re now giving the opponent something that he doesn’t want. He wants you to gently roll it and give him an easy ball that he can topspin, if you chop it now he has to lift the ball up and that’s not what he’s planning on, that’s not what he wants. So if you can give him a good variation of light, medium and heavy chops off the forehand, and move them all around the table, that’s not what he wants. So you’re forcing him to play against something else. And again, it’s not that hard to just push the ball with your forehand. So that would be another option to use.
You could also – a little bit more of a riskier option – you ‘ve got your pips on the forehand, inverted on the backhand, so a little bit more of a riskier option would be to take a step and topspin with your backhand – so you come over and topspin. That could work but you’re gonna have to make sure you get a nice heavy topspin so your opponent can’t really attack it really fast. You can’t hit it soft – no soft stuff. Open up hard with lots of spin and more often than not probably to his middle or to his forehand (for a righthanded opponent) crosscourt so that he can’t angle you too much down your wide backhand (Note: I said forehand in the video by mistake). Down the line is OK but you do open up your court, so you can’t do that all the time, so mainly middle or crosscourt. The angle will now come back this way, you won’t have to move too much, you won’t be too far out of position. If you go down the line, it has to be a very good shot because you could get caught coming this way. So that’s another option.
The final option I would probably think of is to actually just step over and push there. So just step and push. Step and push there and then just step back. That would work as well, it means you don’t have to twiddle – all you have to do is basically come over, good heavy push, and come back. And again, it’s a return that your opponent doesn’t really want.
So just to quickly recap off that kind of situation with the long pips on the forehand, you’ve got your existing shots that you are trying that we mentioned: the flick – a little bit higher over the net; the drives – watch your pace – you can’t hit too hard; the loop – you’ve got to place it – you can’t put it to the middle of the table – so place it. The other alternatives are to give your opponent something that he doesn’t want, which is then the fast shovel push using speed to try and get the ball on the table. That’s gotta be low over the net and you’re using every little bit of your opponent’s backpspin to turn into topspin. You’ve got the chop with either forehand chop all around the table or just without the twiddling, just chop. You’ve also got the heavy topspin. I would recommend that if your forehand is that weak, an occasional twiddle and loop would be OK. But if your forehand is not that good I would do that just now and again to make sure that your opponent knows you might do it.
That would be my first kind of thoughts on what you could do to try and stop your opponents using that serve to make you lose points. OK? Thanks.