The Loop: Advanced Coaching Elements

Rowden Fullen (1970’s)

Long-arm Loop

Long pre-swing usually knee high or higher and beginning a couple of feet behind the right leg (for a right-handed player). The right shoulder is dropped prior to contact and there is strong body rotation and knee lift, the weight being brought forward from the back to the front foot for speed and power. The wrist may be adducted (dropped) throughout the stroke but remains constant and is not used in the stroke. The left elbow can begin the shot to bring in good rotation and to use both sides of the body and thus guard against injury to the back. This loop is often played from a little deeper position.

Use area – In the fast modern game counter to just about any shot, another loop, topspin drive, long push or chop, any ball that comes off the end of the table and especially one which carries a little deeper or which has more power to it. A good way of turning defence into attack or slowing down attackers when used as a counter from the mid-area, due to the excess spin and power either forcing the opponent back or reducing him to a more passive blocking game. A useful weapon for getting the defender well away from the table and often wide, because of the ease of applying sidespin. The wrist is not used in the stroke as the prime force is exerted through body rotation and from the shoulder. The long, trailing bat arm is accelerated through the shot and the free arm is utilized as a counter-lever and balance-assist to aid rotational speed. However the shot is often played with a dropped wrist (adducted) as sidespin can easily be initiated when the racket is brought round the outside of the ball instead of over the top. In the case of sidespin the racket will normally start behind the body and is best played against a ball that is a little wide of the outside knee.

Slow Loop

Knee high or lower pre-swing, with the racket starting close to the right knee (for a right-hander). Short arm and use of the wrist, the dropped wrist (adducted) is abducted at impact, the dropping ball (taken late) is played from the top shoulder of the racket down the full length of the blade. The body should be shifted forward under the ball and the prime racket angle will be upwards emphasizing spin rather than speed. There will be pronounced knee lift, limited rotation and transfer of weight and a rocking action of the shoulders.

Use area — Against choppers, blockers or short to the penholder’s backhand. Primarily used against the slower ball to open up attacking possibilities or as a weapon to pry open the defensive or mid-field game. It is more difficult than the fast loop to block or to counter-loop (Magnus effect) and is particularly effective against the heavy spin choppers. The slower ball will be taken at a later timing point as it drops and closer to the body, with the body weight being shifted under the ball. Beware trying to use too much in every situation in the faster modern game as good attackers have time to move across and kill the loop with their forehand wing. It is rather more important with this loop that players work much on achieving good length, either very short just over the net or very long (up to the base line) and also that they are able to drive or kill at the earliest opportunity. This will obviously mean that after each loop that the racket is kept up ready for the smash in the standard recovery position and does not drop back below table level.

Short-arm Loop

Short pre-swing with the racket starting close to the right knee or higher (right handed players). Good body rotation and knee lift, with dropped right shoulder and weight coming forward from right to left foot. Power and spin are primarily achieved by rotation and the speed of forearm fold. The elbow of the short free arm should be used as a counter-lever to accelerate angular velocity.

Use area — Against block, drive or loop or even push or chop. Can be fast or slow depending on which timing points are used and is particularly useful against the shorter ball which does not come through too deep. It is important to use the free- arm elbow to initiate the stroke as short-arm rotation from a standing position puts much stress on the lower back muscles. Many women use this loop and are not as strong in the back as men — it is therefore even more crucial that they have good technique from the start. The shot can be played with a dropped wrist, straightened and abducted at the moment of contact, though the prime spin will be achieved by the speed at which the bat-arm elbow is folded over. This loop is particularly useful for close to the table players as it enables quick recovery.

Coaches — When coaching loop pay especial attention to the free-arm side of the body — very few players use it effectively. Also watch where the racket starts. Many players don’t get effective topspin because they commence the stroke too far behind the body. To achieve topspin then requires two distinctly separate movements!

Backhand Loop

In the modern game this is usually initiated from the left hip (right-handed player), with the right shoulder forward. There will be a little knee lift, a little body rotation and fast forearm extension. It is this forearm extension and use of the wrist which give maximum spin. The wrist often commences in an adducted position (dropped) and is straightened and abducted at contact. The balance of pressure between the thumb and forefinger on the racket is important. There will be more body rotation and knee lift if the shot is played from a deeper position.

Use area — Virtually against any ball, topspin, drive, block or backspin. Particularly effective when used at an early timing point or if the player can mix this in from a drive or block situation, perhaps even changing direction at the same time.

Backhand Slow Loop

Still best initiated as they did back in the 1970’s from between the legs as per Klampar. In this case the ball is taken at a later timing point with the racket head dropped. There will be pronounced knee lift and the right shoulder will start in a forward position. Rotation is very limited as the main emphasis is upwards. Spin will be achieved primarily by strong abduction of the wrist and fast extension of the forearm and the pressure of the thumb on the racket is important.

Use area — Mainly against the backspin ball and often this loop is thrown up high into the backhand corner where it is more difficult for the opponent to control. Many players have difficulty in reading just how much spin there is from the backhand side and have problems in controlling the backhand loop.