Training Themes

Rowden February 2021

Speed -- Emphasise 3 speeds, off the racket, through the air. and after the bounce and how to change each.

Look at how the power input and timing can change the form of the rally, the differences between using 90% power, 55% power or merely using the opponent's power to return the ball. Bear in mind we are not looking just at speed, but at lack of speed and there is a big difference in what happens with the ball between hard drive, slow roll, soft or forcing or stop and sidespin blocks.

Movement -- Examine first which is the most effective playing distance from the table for each individual player and does he or she spend most playing time in this area? If forced away from the best area does the player have the right weapons and movement patterns to return to this distance quickly and without problems. All players must be efficient in 'short and over-the-table play'. We must look at side to side patterns and also in and out, bearing in mind that movement must be economical incorporating as few steps as possible.

Opening -- Being able to open effectively and get on the attack is crucial, especially in the women's game. Players must be able to do this, both close to the net and in 'over-the-table' play, as well as at the end and when back some distance. Having the capability especially to open effectively against backspin and in differing ways is a game-changer; flick, fast and slow topspin, slow roll, sidespin loop, hard, early-ball drive or flat hit. Statistics taken at World Championships have shown women are much more comfortable in fast play and make more mistakes when trying to open.

Length -- This is critical in the modern game and with the plastic ball. A ball that bounces mid-table is easy for the opponent to attack, a ball that hits the table in the last 5 - 10 centimetres, especially if this arrives very quickly, is much more difficult. Also balls targeted at or along the side lines, cause all sorts of problems. The length criteria don't only just apply in rallies but are absolutely crucial in service. The serve which hits the end white line at speed and also with varied spin and placement, can either be a winner or open up attacking opportunities.

Placement -- There are a number of obvious targets to aim for, the opponent's crossover area, particularly from a right-hander's BH to another right-hander's body. Also the table corners and down the line shots. Bear in mind to use the table effectively when meeting left-handers. Above all look at the major benefits of changing pace and length, hard and soft, short and long. If most of your play is either very short or very long, you will certainly pressure your opponent.

Spin -- This is of course less effective with the plastic ball; the small ball as tested by the Chinese National Team achieved at maximum around 150 revolutions per second. This has just about halved with the plastic ball, but also in addition the new ball loses spin much more rapidly through the air due to the larger size and the different polymers used in construction. But all is not bad news. Tests in a number differing countries have shown that sidespin is still very effective with the plastic, whether combined with another spin in serve or with another stroke in rallies. It can be very useful for example to loop to your opponent's FH with heavy sidespin, which pulls him or her wide to the FH side, or to push very early and quickly with sidespin against a backspin ball. The BH 'banana' flick over the table can be equally effective.

Serve and 3rd Ball -- As we stated under 'Length', this is critical. Long serves should be both very fast and very long, in the last 5 -- 10 centimetres of the opponent's half, with varied spin, directed at key areas, corners, crossover, with as deceptive service action as possible. The opponent should find it difficult from your action to determine whether the serve is topspin or backspin (with sidespin) or just float and equally exactly where the serve will be directed. Try also to use a very similar grip. Experiment with the high throw, with these it's difficult to see direction especially if service action is very quick. Don't neglect very fast float combined with some topspin and the shorter very wide serves off the side of the table.

Short serves should also be very short and with plastic are best directed spinning out and away from the opponent, using predominantly sidespin, to pull them out wide on BH or FH. Bear in mind that short serves to the middle are more easily attacked with the opponent's BH. Half-long serves mainly backspin and sidespin can still be effective, particularly if they 2nd bounce on the white line. Try too to shorten the service action so that there is minimal time between the movement of the racket, the contact on the ball and the contact on the table. This gives the opponent less time to evaluate what is happening.

All serves should occur with a purpose -- winning the point. You should always be ready and eager to be positive on the 3rd ball. You should also have a good idea to which part of the table your serves are normally returned and be able to attack strongly. However also train with your sparring partners to return to unexpected areas so you can handle the unforeseen situations. Bear in mind too that we are not always attacking hard. The short drop shot, the slow roll, playing against the spin, the long push, can all open up attacking opportunities. One cap does not fit all.

Receive -- The key theme here is to take the initiative away from the server and gain control of the point. One critically important aspect here is to have alternatives. Against the short serve not only the capability to flick strongly over the table, but to drop short or push long with differing spin. Against the long serve not only looping hard but at times driving, blocking (even stop or sidespin variations), rolling slow or chopping. Sidespin is particularly effective with the plastic ball.

Bear in mind too that it is easier to attack over the table with the plastic, especially with the BH wing. All players now need to be proficient in the two areas, both over and off the table.