October 1, 2018 - How to Punish those Slow, Spinny Loops

It's almost a cliché that players have more trouble with slow, spinny loops than faster ones, at least below the higher levels. There's a simple reason for this - slow, spinny loops are mostly against backspin, and come out with a higher spin-to-speed ratio than a loop against a block. But guess how we practice most of our blocking against loops? You guessed it - with someone looping against your block. And so you pretty much ingrain blocking in such a rally, but are completely unprepared in a match when your opponent loops against one of your pushes or backspin serves and the ball has that extra spin, and drops more quickly than you are used to. 

When he does this, your own backspin increases the amount of spin he can produce, resulting in a spinnier loop than you are likely used dealing with. The ball arcs more sharply, drops in front of you, and jumps out at you with a low, quick bounce. When you hit the ball, the ball also jumps more than normal. So every one of these differences is working against you. 

How should you deal with it? You have to adjust to the ball bouncing shorter than you are used to, and with more spin. To deal with the ball coming shorter, you have to do three things: stay closer to the table (or step in when you see the ball coming slower and dropping short), do not hesitate, and aim lower. The reality is these slow, spinny loops are easy to attack - if you do all three of these things. If you do, you shouldn't just block; you should block aggressively, smash, or counterloop. But most players simply aren't used to dealing with this shot, and so mess up at least one of them. (Most common problem - hesitation. It takes practice to unhesitatingly go after these slow, spinny shots.) 

How do you practice against them? You could just do so in games, like most players, or perhaps do a drill where your partner serves, you push, he loops, and you play out the point. But you can get far more and better systematic practice by doing a modified multiball drill. Get a coach or practice partner, and a bucket of balls, and do this drill. Your partner serves backspin, you push, partner loops slow and spinny, and you block or counter-attack. Do not continue the rally; as soon as your partner finishes his loop, he reaches for the next ball and does it again. This allows you lots and lots of practice against a slow, spinny loop in a short period of time. And your partner gets lots and lots of practice looping against backspin. Then you switch and you do the looping. So it's a win-win drill for both.