Control of the Racket

Rowden Fullen (1990’s)

Many table tennis players have experienced great difficulty in producing strong, spinny loops no matter how hard they try to lift the ball, speed up the racket or adjust the angle of the bat at the instant of impact.

There are many ways of increasing loop spin. One aspect however which many players tend not to consider, is the importance of having good control of the racket swing, especially in the preparatory phase and just before the instant of contact with the ball. If you wish to produce a loop that has the qualities of high speed, good power and heavy spin then this aspect is vital.

Generally the faster the bat-swing, the stronger the spin in the loop, but this is not always the case. We are aware that it is necessary to have a ‘thin’ contact in order to achieve good spin. However if the contact is too fine, we will not produce strong spin, however much force we apply. This is of course because the ball is not given enough friction and it will just slide off the bat surface without being held long enough to obtain the required effect. Let us look at three experiments by way of illustration.

  1. Put a slip of paper on a table with a table tennis ball placed on one end of the paper and the other end which extends beyond the edge held by your fingers. Use a ruler to strike down quickly on the overhanging part of the paper strip. The paper will slide out from under the ball leaving it motionless.
  2. The same as 1. except that the paper is pulled out quickly with your hand from under the ball. As the movement of the paper is slower here it will move the ball a little and give it a little spin.
  3. The same as 2. except that the paper is pulled out slowly at first so that the ball starts to spin and then with increasing speed so that the spin increases and becomes stronger.
  • Experiment 1. shows what happens if you get too ‘thin’ a contact when you try to loop the ball powerfully. The ball just drops off the racket surface.
  • Experiment 2. although a little better is still not satisfactory.
  • Experiment 3. shows us that accelerating the speed of the racket at the moment of impact is vital to improving the spin of the shot.

From these experiments we can see that the quality of the loop depends not just on the sheer speed of the arm and the racket but on good control of the swing. Many of the world’s best players, including Ma Wenge, Gatien, Waldner and Saive, do not accelerate the speed of the racket swing until the moment of impact. In this way they are able to produce loops with immense spin.

To control the speed of the bat-swing the looper must fully relax his arm before hitting the ball. Only at the instant of impact should he suddenly contract his arm muscles to produce an explosive force. He should almost in fact try to feel that he has ‘acquired’ the ball with his racket (that it is being held by the rubber and sponge), before he accelerates the bat up to maximum speed!