February 8, 2016 - Looping Against Backspin Drills

It's easy practicing topspin rallies since you can do them over and over in the same rally. The same is not true for practicing against backspin, unless you happen to have a chopper to practice with – and that's not quite the same either, since a chop against topspin comes out differently than a push, and you don't get practice switching from playing against backspin to playing against topspin or block. So how should you get your practice against backspin? There's a three-step process.

1. Multiball. Here's where you learn and hone the forehand and backhand loops. You can do this with a coach or a practice partner where you take turns.

2. Serve and Loop Drills. You serve backspin (usually short), and partner pushes it back long so you can practice looping. In each case you should play out the point. There are four main variations of this given below, in progressing difficulty. In all four of these variations you should probably do your first loop to the same spot each time so you can start off each drill with your partner making a good block. You might also arrange so your partner's first block goes to the same spot, depending on your level. For example, your first loop might go to your partner's backhand, he blocks to your forehand, and then you play out the point. There are many variations of these drills; decide what you need to work on and design the drill around that.

  • Partner pushes to one spot, such as wide forehand or wide backhand, and you forehand or backhand loop, then play out the point.
  • Partner pushes to wide forehand or middle and you forehand loop, or partner pushes to wide backhand or middle backhand and you backhand loop. While you know in advance whether you'll be doing a forehand or backhand loop, you now have to move to do so. Note that you should generally cover more of the table with the forehand (where the body is not in the way so you have more range, plus it's usually more powerful), which is why the backhand drill covers less of the table. But if you prefer backhand looping from the middle, make that adjustment. If you are a forehand player who covers a lot of ground with the forehand, then have them push to 2/3 of the table, or even the whole table, and you follow with a forehand.
  • Partner pushes to either wide forehand or wide backhand and you have to react with either a forehand or backhand loop. Partner should practice deceptive pushing starting here – sometimes aiming one way, then going the other direction, and try pushing quick off the bounce.
  • Partner pushes anywhere randomly and you have to react with either a forehand or backhand loop. Again, partner should sometimes aim one way and then go the other way, quick off the bounce.

3. Improvised Games. Do the very same drills you did in the Serve and Loop Drills, except now you should play games that start out in these ways. Keeping score makes sure both players fight hard, and very closely resemble real game situations. Choose what's needed for you. At the advance levels mostly use the variation where your partner pushes the serve back anywhere and you loop, and then play out the point.