Is Trajectory Important?

Rowden Fullen (1990’s)

Can you make life more difficult for your opponent by changing the trajectory of your topspin shots? If you lower the trajectory and play as low over the net as possible, then it becomes much more difficult for your opponent to counter with force, especially if you feed in rather lesser power. Faced with a lower, slower ball, he or she is obliged to initiate both speed and spin to play positively and get the ball over and down on your side of the table.

There are basically four different types of topspin trajectory which can be produced by varying the angle of the racket surface, the direction of the stroke, the time of hitting the ball and the method of feeding in force to the stroke.

  1. When the stroke movement is directed mainly upwards and slightly forwards, with the racket angle almost at right angles to the table surface, the ball will travel slowly in a high, lobbing trajectory, will bounce a little high off the table and then drop down very quickly as the topspin takes effect. This type of loop can be extremely effective if taken at a late timing and played very short (just over the net) or very long (on the base line) and is a useful weapon against certain styles of play (defenders for example).
  2. When the stroke movement is directed mainly forward and slightly upward, with the racket surface tilted forward, the ball will travel fast over a lower trajectory that is almost parallel with the table top and will fly forward over a relatively long distance after striking the opponent’s side. Such a loop drive type stroke is usually taken at an early timing point or before ‘peak’.
  3. When the stroke movement is directed forward and downward the ball will travel very fast and low over the net and dip on to the opponent’s side of the table. After bouncing it will ‘shoot’ forward and dip again, often throwing off the opponent’s timing. Such topspins are usually taken at a timing point from just before ‘peak’ to after.
  4. When the ball is given a sidespin element, it will fly in a trajectory that curves forward and sideways and after bouncing, dip away quickly in a downward and sidewards direction. Sidespin loops are usually taken at a later timing point.

The trajectories achieved in 3 and 4 are rather superior to those in 1 and 2, although they too may have their uses from time to time. Trajectories 1 and 4 are easier to use with a slower ball.

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