Tactics Guide

Tactics quick links:



Counter Drivers

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  1. “walls”
  2. Close to the table counter drive and blocks.

 

Strengths

  1. Good hand speed and touch on blocks.
  2. Strong backhand block and counter-drive.
  3. Rarely makes a simple mistake.
  4. Ability to open up angles and force their opponents to move a lot.
  5. Fast hand speed and quick reactions.
  6. Ability to control the speed of play by clever counter and block variations and exact placement.

 

Weaknesses

  1. Lack of any real power.
  2. Balls directed wide to the forehand.
  3. Backhand opening against underspin.
  4. Slow heavy medium height loops to middle or backhand.

 

Tactics used by Counter Drivers

  1. Be consistent.
  2. Stand in middle.
  3. Hit off the top of the bounce.
  4. Drive mainly to opponent’s weaker side.
  5. Build up a rhythm.
  6. Force driving rallies early.
  7. Develop quick reflexes in training drills by having partner feed balls with increasing speed.

 

Tactics used Against Counter Drivers

  1. Serve deep backspin and side spin serves to the wide backhand.
  2. Serve middle distance serves into the hip of the opponent’s playing side then attack wide to either corner.
  3. Attack middle and weaker side.
  4. Be patient and pick shots.
  5. Use topspin loops and backspin pushes and chops to break up their rhythm.
  6. Use heavy spin and variations of spin.
  7. Avoid counter driving rallies. Don’t try to beat counter drivers at their own game.

 

Tactics Against Other Styles

  1. Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder: Serve short, only long
    well-angled serve to their backhands as a surprise. The key to defeating
    this style is successfully countering their first attack. Try to play
    as much backhand counter to backhand block as possible. To win the
    point, first backhand counter down the line, then attack the exposed
    penholder backhand.
  2. Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands: Same general advice as
    playing the pips-out attacker. However, you should direct a high
    percentage of your backhand counters towards your opponent’s middle.
  3. Against the Attacker — Inverted Looper: Serve short anywhere with an
    occasional fast dead serve to the player’s switchpoint if he uses the
    shakehands grip. Make your first attack safe; slow backhand rolls and
    heavy slow forehand loops can be very effective. Attempt to extend the
    points as long as possible. When you do get a chance to attack hard,
    attack down the lines.
  4. Against the Attacker — All-Round: Use short serves anywhere or long
    serves to the backhand. Do your best to force him/her into a countering
    exchange. Focus on placement to win the points, not changing speeds.
    Avoid using too much variation; this player is the master at variation
    and will beat you at your own game. Extend the points as long as
    possible.
  5. Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper: Use mostly short serves
    and attack or counter to the middle. If he/she covers the middle ball
    with the forehand side, then counter the next ball wide to the forehand.
    If he/she covers the middle ball with the backhand side, then counter
    the next ball wide to the backhand. Keep your opponent jammed in the
    middle and they will not be able to use their strong loops. Also
    alternate between short and long counters to keep this style from
    staying in their preferred mid-distance range.
  6. Against the Attacking Chopper: Use short serves to stop the
    chopper’s attack. Then make a safe topspin opening using your forehand.
    Do not rush your attack but mix your topspins with pushes, counters, and
    kills. You will need to play long points and try to frustrate the
    chopper into making attacking errors.
  7. Against the Close to the Table Defender: Use long mixed serves and
    lure your opponent into over attacking; often this style player has a
    weak first attack. Direct most balls to the backhand side, using safe
    counter and topspin strokes. If this player’s angles are preventing your
    attack, play steady to the middle of the table to reduce the possible
    angles. Finish with a kill shot rather than a fast loop.

–based on Larry Hodges & Richard McAfee


Blockers

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  1. Hit shots quickly off the bounce to pressure or rush opponent.
  2. Block to the weaker side.
  3. Block side to side to keep opponent on the run.
  4. Be ready to smash.
  5. Vary pace and placement.
  6. Use quick backhand blocks to set up forehand smashes.

Against Blockers

  1. Change pace to prevent blocker getting into a rhythm.
  2. Use slow spinny loops to regain position.
  3. Keep ball deep.
  4. Be patient. Wait for weaker passive blocks to attack.
  5. Attack all parts of the table.
  6. Aggressively attack aggressive blockers, but don’t give them a series of attacks to feed off.

–based on Larry Hodges


Loopers

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  1. prefers to stay within six to eight feet from the table.
  2. loop from both wings when playing another attacker.
  3. Against underspin, step around and use the forehand loop from the backhand side.

Strengths

  1. Equal power from both sides.
  2. Very strong opening shot against underspin.
  3. Very comfortable in exchanging loop drives with their opponents.
  4. Strong lateral movement.

Weaknesses

  1. Often lacks flat kill shot.
  2. Weak in and out movement.
  3. Short balls to forehand.
  4. Counter-drive play while close to the table.

Loopers

  1. Serve topspin more often to increase the likelyhood of deeper returns for looping.
  2. Flip return short serves or short pushes.
  3. Loop as early in the rally as possible.
  4. Keep loops deep.
  5. Loop to wide corners or opponent’s middle.
  6. Loop more to the opponent’s weaker blocking area (forehand, middle or backhand).
  7. Vary speed, spin and direction of loops to prevent opponent getting into a rhythm.
  8. Smash easy returns to wide corners or opponent’s middle.

Against Loopers

  1. Serve short.
  2. Occasionally serve deep to the middle.
  3. Push short (since these are hard to attack).
  4. Push deep to the corners hoping to block strongly to the other corner.
  5. Attack first (3rd ball).
  6. Hit shots quickly off the bounce.
  7. Block and counter aggressively to wide angles or to their middle. Avoid passive blocks to their power zones.
  8. Attack weak loops.
  9. Smash short loops off the bounce to wide angles.
  10. Move opponent in and out.

Tactics Against Other Styles

  1. Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder: You should use mostly
    short serves to the middle of the table with an occasional long chop
    serve to the backhand side. Try to turn the penholder into a blocker by
    elevating heavy loops to his/her backhand. In general, use slower heavy
    topspins to force slower return blocks. When you get a ball to attack,
    attack hard down the lines.
  2. Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands: Same general tactics as
    the penholder, but direct more loops towards the middle of your
    opponent.
  3. Against the Attacker — Inverted Looper: As both styles can attack
    hard, you must attack first. Use short serves and return serves with
    short drops or well-placed flips to control the opening attack. Attack
    wide to your opponent’s forehand, as his/her forehand block is usually
    weaker than their backhand block.
  4. Against the Attacker — All-Round: Once again the quality of your
    first attack will tell the difference in the match. You must force the
    all-rounder into playing defensively. During the first few points, try
    topspins at different speeds, spins, locations, and heights to determine
    what kind of topspin will force him/her on the defensive. Serve mostly
    short to limit your opponent’s attack.
  5. Against the Counter Driver: Use short serves anywhere on the table,
    mixed with long chop serves to the backhand side. Your goal should be to
    play constant mixed topspins until a loose ball is forced. Only then,
    should a fast attack be used to finish the point.
  6. Against the Attacking Chopper: Use short serves with an occasional
    long serve to the backhand side. The first attack should be to the
    middle followed by a series of safe topspins to the chopper’s backhand
    side. High returns are better flat killed than looped.
  7. Against the Close to the Table Defender: Similar tactics to playing
    the counter driver. However, even more patience is needed. High balls
    are better finished with a kill than a loop.

–based on Larry Hodges & Richard McAfee


Lobbers

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  1. Mid-distance returns are most often referred to as “Fishing”
  2. From long distance, lobbing returns are used.

Fishing

  1. Short topspin defense stroke with friction contact (spin) from
    mid-distance before the ball has begun to descend, with contact above
    the center of the ball.
  2. The ball most be kept deep and at a medium height (shoulder height).
  3. Move your returns around to try and force a weak shot and then to counter-attack.

Lobbers

  1. Only lob when forced.
  2. Keep ball deep and spinny with top spin and sidespin.
  3. Contact the the bottom of the ball and brush upward as it is
    descending and use a long upward stroke with as much friction contact
    (spin) as possibe, which carries the ball high into the air (10 to 15
    feet high).
  4. From the forehand side, add sidespin by contacting the outside surface of the ball.
  5. Vary the height of the lob.
  6. Lob to corner diagonally opposite preferred lobbing side to make it harder for opponent to smash to your weaker side.
  7. Look for balls to counter attack.
  8. Develop ability to lob from both sides to avoid smasher always going to weak side.

Against Lobbers

  1. Smash mainly to the backhand side since forehand lobs tend to be spinnier and more counter attacks start from the forehand side.
  2. Smash to the middle sometimes.
  3. Smother kill short lobs by hitting them as they rise, usually at a wide angle.
  4. Only drop shot if the opponent is a long way from the table.
  5. Vary the pace of consecutive smashes to move the lobber in and out.

–based on Larry Hodges & Richard McAfee


Choppers

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  1. An attacker who uses underspin to set up their attacking shots
  2. They will strongly attack any weak return by their opponent, as well as any third ball opportunity.
  3. Less backspin than on the previous return will often result in a pop-up that can be attacked.
  4. A heavier than normal backspin return often results in a safe push return that can be looped.

Strengths

  1. Great variation of strokes and spin puts opponents under a lot of pressure.
  2. Strong forehand drives or kills.
  3. Strong 3rd ball attacks.
  4. Good movement and physical ability.

Weaknesses

  1. Can become impatient and attack the wrong ball.
  2. Footwork when switching from chopping to topspin attack shots.
  3. Defense may not stand up under pressure.
  4. Too many options may result in some indecisiveness under pressure.

Choppers

  1. Vary the amount of backspin.
  2. Always be ready to attack.
  3. Always be ready for short pushes and drop shots.
  4. Take every shot seriously, even pushes.
  5. Be patient and confident.
  6. Develop a good flip shot for variation off short pushes.’

Against Choppers

  1. Attack middle or very wide.
  2. Smash or drive hard any short high chops.
  3. Push or use spinny loops against deep low chops.
  4. Move opponent in and out, by alternating short spiny loops with deep faster loops.
  5. Use frequent drop shots and pushes, combined with aggressive shots, to wear out the chopper.
  6. Vary all shots –spin, amount of loop, speed, direction, depth, and placement.
  7. Carefully read the amount of spin on the chops.
  8. Always be alert for attacks or topspin, especially off weaker shots.
  9. Dictate the rhythm, but be patient.

Tactics Against Other Styles

  1. Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder: When serving keep most
    serves short and always look to third ball attack if the opportunity is
    there. Your first chop should be directed deep to a corner to force your
    opponent to move and thus execute a weaker first attack. Then vary your
    chops trying to force the opponent into errors. Attack any high slow
    moving ball or long drop shot.
  2. Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands: Same general tactics
    except you can direct more first chops wide to the forehand of the
    shakehands hitter.
  3. Against the Attacker — Inverted Looper: Same general tactics as
    above but be even more careful to stay out of the middle with the first
    chop. No spin chops will be effective against this style.
  4. Against the Attacker All-Round: You will need a higher degree of
    attack against this style, as they are the most consistent of the
    attackers. Also use some mid-distance serves. If their return is slow,
    look to third ball attack. Make this style play a lot out of their wide
    forehand corner.
  5. Against the Counter Driver: Your style matches up well against the
    Counter-Driver. This style prefers topspin returns and your constant
    diet of varying backspin often befuddles this style. Nonetheless, you
    will need to be very patient against this style. Do not take chances
    with your defense or attack. Wait for a high ball then finish with a
    kill shot rather than a loop.
  6. Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper: Same general tactics as
    playing the Inverted Looper. You must be ready for their strong backhand
    loop as well. When you get an opportunity to attack, attack the middle.
  7. Against the Close to the Table Defender: Same general tactics as
    playing against the counter driver. Placing your set-up chops to the
    center of the table reduces the angles that the Close to the Table
    Defender can use against you to prevent your attack. You may get more
    opportunities to step around and use your forehand attack from the
    backhand corner.

–based on Larry Hodges & Richard McAfee


Fast attackers

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  1. Stand within three feet of the table.
  2. Contact point on all strokes is as early as possible, top of the bounce, or rising.
  3. Forehand-dominated with a strong quick pivot to use the forehand from the backhand side.
  4. Ends points as quickly as possible with a strong loop-kill
  5. Has both an outstanding slow loop and a fast loop-kill from the forehand side
  6. Can open with a backhand loop but normally do not re-loop with the backhand, instead counter drive the backhand.
  7. A more forward loop stroke taking the ball a little farther in front of the body with more forward speed.

Strengths

  1. Quick pivot to use forehand from backhand corner.
  2. Strong forehand loops.
  3. Both strong slow and fast loops from the forehand.
  4. Solid opening backhand loop.
  5. Solid backhand counter-drives.
  6. Good short game.
  7. Excellent serve and return game.

Weaknesses

  1. Balls directed towards the player’s middle.
  2. Balls directed wide to the forehand.
  3. In and out movement.
  4. Backhand re-loop.
  5. Slow heavy loops directed towards the backhand.

Fast Attackers

  1. Start with a quick deep serve.
  2. Flip short serves.
  3. Run around deep serves to the backhand side to use a forehand loop.
  4. Stay close to the table and hit shots quick off the bounce.
  5. Hit aggressive first drives and be prepared to smash the next ball.
  6. Try to hit as fast as possible while mainting reasonable consistency.
  7. Find balance between recklessness and tentativeness.
  8. End points quickly.
  9. Get into a groove.
  10. Hit to opponent’s weaker side most of the time.
  11. Hit to opponent’s stronger side when you can make a strong shot or the opponent is out of position.
  12. Try to use a slower deep spinny loop to give you more time to set up a smash.
  13. Develop excellent footwork in training to enable ability to play more forehands by running around backhands.

Against Fast Attackers

  1. Serve so the second bounce would be near the end of the table in
    order to make it hard for the attacker to decide between a flip or a
    loop shot.
  2. Serve occassional deep fast serves to the wide forehand to test it out.
  3. Attack deep serves.
  4. Attack weaker side.
  5. Attack their middle with a strong shot.
  6. Attack with loops.
  7. Attack slow loops.
  8. Attack the wide forehand side with a quick drive or block if they step around the backhand corner too much.
  9. Try to pin them to the backhand corner or move them side to side making them hit moving forehands.
  10. Don’t be intimidated by smashes or recklessness.
  11. Play high percentage shots.
  12. Vary shots to prevent them getting into a groove.

Tactics Against Other Styles

  1. Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Penholder: Serve short anywhere with
    an occasional deep underspin serve to the opponent’s backhand side.
    First attack should be either a heavy spin loop to the penholder’s
    backhand or a faster loop wide to the forehand side. Avoid
    backhand-to-backhand exchanges by using your backhand counter down the
    line when possible. Try to turn the penholder into a blocker by using
    higher trajectory heavy loops to his/her backhand side.
  2. Against the Attacker — Pips-Out Shakehands: Serve short, mostly to
    the middle of the table and follow with a strong 3rd ball attack to your
    opponent’s middle or backhand side. Be ready to pivot and use your
    forehand from your backhand side whenever possible.
  3. Against the Attacker — All-Round: Your advantage lies in having a
    more powerful forehand attack, use it. Serve short to your opponent’s
    middle and move to execute a strong 3rd ball forehand attack. Also, you
    can serve mid-distance serves and forehand attack against a weak lift.
    The key here is to force your opponent to play defensively.
  4. Against the Counter Driver: UUse short serves anywhere on the table
    with a deep fast underspin serve to the backhand mixed in. Shot
    selection is the key to defeating the counter driver. Do not over force
    your backhand. Use your backhand counter down the line to force more
    forehand-to-forehand play.
  5. Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper: To defeat this style you
    must attack first. Keep your serves mostly short and look to attack the
    opponent’s middle whenever possible. Try to move your opponent in and
    out if possible and try and play above his/her comfort level (time
    pressure).
  6. Against the Attacking Chopper: Keep your serves mostly short with an
    occasional long serve to the opponent’s backhand side. Whenever
    possible, make your first topspin a quick loop to the chopper’s middle
    and then attack his/her backhand side. The goal here is to keep the
    chopper on the defensive. Expect the chopper to third ball attack and
    try to redirect your opponent’s attack away from the side it came from.
  7. Against the Close to the Table Defender: Serve this style
    mid-distance to long serves to the middle or backhand side and attack
    their returns. Avoid long points by attacking your opponent’s wide
    forehand early in the point. You want to be exchanging forehands to
    forehands whenever possible. No spin serves and pushes are often
    effective in forcing errors or high returns.

–based on Larry Hodges & Richard McAfee


Fast attackers Penhold pips out

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  1. Stand within three feet of the table.
  2. Contact point on all strokes is as early as possible, top of the bounce, or rising.
  3. Forehand-dominated with a strong quick pivot to use the forehand from the backhand side.
  4. Ends points as quickly as possible with a strong kill

Strengths

  1. Quick pivot to use forehand from backhand corner.
  2. Strong forehand loops.
  3. Good forehand topspin against long underspin balls.
  4. Driving blocks from backhand side.
  5. Good short game.
  6. Excellent serve and return game.
  7. Very quick gives opponent very little time to react.
  8. Smooth transition from forehand to backhand no switchpoint weakness

Weaknesses

  1. Return of long serves with the backhand.
  2. Backhand block against slow heavy loops.
  3. When forced wide to the forehand, has difficulty recovering and protecting the backhand side.
  4. Backhand open against long underspin.

Fast Attackers

  1. Start with a quick deep serve.
  2. Flip short serves.
  3. Stay close to the table and hit shots quick off the bounce.
  4. Hit aggressive first drives and be prepared to smash the next ball.
  5. Hit to opponent’s weaker side most of the time.
  6. Develop excellent footwork in training to enable ability to play more forehands by running around backhands.
  1. Serve so the second bounce would be near the end of the table in
    order to make it hard for the attacker to decide between a flip or a
    loop shot.
  2. Serve occassional deep fast serves to the wide forehand to test it out.
  3. Attack deep serves.
  4. Attack weaker side.
  5. Attack with loops and slow loops.
  6. Attack the wide forehand side with a quick drive or block if they step around the backhand corner too much.
  7. Try to pin them to the backhand corner or move them side to side making them hit moving forehands.
  8. Don’t be intimidated by smashes or recklessness.
  9. Play high percentage shots.

Tactics Against Other Styles

  1. Against the Attacker Shakehands Hitter: While this style is similar
    to yours, your grip gives you an advantage in the short game, the
    forehand-backhand transition game, and the forehand lift against
    underspin. Keep the majority of your serves short to the middle of the
    table. Be aggressive in stepping around your backhand to use your
    forehand. Do your best to prevent backhand to backhand exchanges and
    attack your opponents middle often..
  2. Against the Attacker Inverted Looper: Use mostly short mixed serves,
    with an occasional fast deep serve to the opponents forehand side. Mix
    the speed and depth of your backhand blocks to move your opponent in and
    out. Attack down the line or at the opponents switchpoint (if
    shakehands grip) whenever possible. Force play at a faster pace than
    your opponent is comfortable at.
  3. Against the Attacker All-Round: Keep most of your serves short or at
    mid-depth. Follow your serve with a forehand attack to keep the
    opponent on the defensive. Attack often to your opponents middle. When
    returning serve, use the flip often. The key to defeating this player is
    to take away his confidence by forcing him to play more defensively.
    Keeping your opponent under constant time pressure is important.
  4. Against the Counter Driver: Use short serves anywhere on the table
    with a deep fast underspin serve to the backhand mixed in. Shot
    selection is the key to defeating the counter driver. Do not get lured
    into a backhand to backhand game. Use your backhand block down the line
    to force more forehand-to-forehand play. Do not to let your opponent
    dictate the pace of play.
  5. Against the Mid-Distance Aggressive Looper: Watch out for this
    opponents strong opening spin. Attack first and hit through his/her
    first loop whenever possible. Keep your serves short and attack the
    middle. When the opponent backs away from the table, mostly attack the
    backhand side.
  6. Against the Attacking Chopper: Keep your serves mostly short with an
    occasional long serve to the opponents backhand side. Whenever
    possible, make your first attack to the choppers middle and then attack
    his/her backhand side. The goal here is to keep the chopper on the
    defensive. Expect the chopper to third ball attack. Respond to the
    attack by redirecting your opponents attack away from the side in came
    from.
  7. Against the Close to the Table Defender: Serve this style
    mid-distance to long serves to the middle or backhand and attack their
    returns. Avoid long points by attacking your opponents wide forehand
    early in the point. No spin serves and pushes are often effective in
    forcing errors or high returns.

–based on Larry Hodges & Richard McAfee


Serves and returns

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  1. Spend at least a quarter of practice time on serves and serve returns.
  2. Vary the service motion, the spin, speed and placement.
  3. All serves need to be as low to the net as possible.
  4. Deep serves should bounce within 20cm of the ends.
  5. Deep serves need to be angled wide of the opponent or straight at the right hip.
  6. Short serves should bounce closer to the middle of the table, and a
    second bounce on the opponents side should be near the end line.

–based on Larry Hodges


Doubles

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  1. Serve short.
  2. Serve backspin to make it hard to attack.
  3. Serve close to the middle line to reduce angle of returns.
  4. Move sideways and backwards after stroke to make room for partner.
  5. Position yourself to receive with your best stroke – forehand or backhand.
  6. Be ready to attack deep serves.
  7. Mix in flips with short pushes and occasional deep pushes.
  8. Return shots back at the person who hit to you.

–based on Larry Hodges