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Backhand (And Some Step-Around Footwork)

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    Posted: 07/06/2017 at 2:35am
This year I've been working a lot on my backhand. It's still a work in progress, but before I go any further, I was hoping to get some advice. I'd hate to find something completely wrong with what I'm doing later down the line!

During this exercise I was doing a few backhands, then whenever I felt comfortable to, stepping around and transitioning to forehands.

I was trying to return the ball to my opponent's backhand, but sometimes I went down the line by mistake.

I did this for maybe 30 minutes. This is the first 10 minutes cut down into 4 minutes. It was a really hot and humid day, so I had to stop to wipe sweat and drink multiple times. I generally kept all the shots in the video, but I did cut a few out to make it shorter (like serve miss, missing the first ball).

Any advice or comments appreciated.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote zeio Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/06/2017 at 2:56am
Form looks so good it makes Mark jealous.   

You're getting there. The transition b/w fore-/backhand, the timing of stokes, and the whip-like acceleration. The only missing link is trunk rotation when moving.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BMonkey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/06/2017 at 4:36am
Pretty good stuff. Clap If I was going to offer advice there'd be 2 pieces.

First, your backhand doesn't seem to have a lot of backswing, aka you don't seem to have a ton of acceleration before contact. It's kind of weird that your partner is doing backhands from the forehand side. I wonder how it'd work out if you did backhands down the line or they did more dead blocks with their forehand crosscourt. You could even try and move back to mid distance. I think any of these options would force you to generate more on your own, rather than rely on the energy in the ball from your partner.

Jike's backswing gives him great backhand acceleration here.


Second, when you step around, you should try and use two steps rather than one. You seem to get stuck not quite in the right position and play an off balance forehand because you are using one step to turn.

Wang Liqin's 2 step turning footwork allows him to fully get his big frame turned around.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blahness Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/06/2017 at 10:55am
Can I just say you're probably the one who improved the most on this forum for this year or two ClapClapClap

In terms of a stroke length, a short stroke is almost always good in today's game, what you need is more power off a short stroke, not to lengthen the stroke...

I feel that given your consistency against topspin, you can probably start with adding some wrist into your strokes, which is probably what's missing. I honestly do not think you can learn that from doing counters, you'll have to start practising the BH opening loop against underspin, and the chiquita (my favourite stroke! Tongue ). Try to get a good feeling for the ball and increase the amount of spin you get for these two strokes.   

In terms of wrist action, I find that the approximately correct way to judge it is to observe where your bat is pointed towards. Ideally for powerful BH's, during your backswing, the bat should be pointing diagonally towards yourself, and at the end it should be pointed diagonally away from yourself. Right now the feeling I get is that during the backswing your bat is oriented horizontally to your right.  

Have a look at Fan Zhendong's video hitting with Dan, you can clearly see where his blade is pointed towards when he's loading up for a powerful stroke. 



 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blahness Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/06/2017 at 11:32am
One thing I would like to add is you're also kinda missing the body rotation in the BH stroke, it's not as pronounced as the FH but it's always good to add a bit of it into it... but don't overdo it! 

I'm so jealous that you actually have a hitting partner who is willing to block for you... At the clubs I play, most of the players there are assholes who try to load up on the spin and attack hard even during practice, and never want to block (even the higher rated players!). As a result, my blocking level is a lot higher than my attacking level right now...  Cry But they find out that during matches, they don't get to attack so easily because I'm jamming them all the time and even when they do get to attack they find out that there's always this extra pesky ball that gets back onto the table :) My problems usually come when I'm given easy balls to attack, where counterintuitively my success rates are just terrible... I think I have a better success rate of blocking a fast loop than attacking a medium high serve receive!

Don't ever cease on the counter training, because when you are able to out-counter and out-block most of your opponents you can wear them down pretty easily just simply because you're always getting one more ball back on the table and never giving them easy points. 

I'm really attracted to this kind of playing style (similar to the women's game). It's like being a Zen master like Zhang Yining and Ding Ning, and Samsonov/Kong Linghui/Oh Sang Eun in the men's game. So the idea is that you have to design your game around high percentage play and to stay balanced all the time. You never compromise on position to do a stronger shot. So for example would be 

1) training a lot more on easy safe opening loops than flashy loopkills against underspin, and train to link it with your topspin game. 
2) training to use small strokes to convert awkward spin balls to topspin so that you enter the rally phase in a good balanced position. 
3) favouring close-table short stroke rather than a mid-range long stroke.
4) aim to get your opponents into awkward positions through good placement rather than looking to kill the ball outright
5) use the chiquita and flips to convert short serves to be topspin play where you are favoured. I try not to push a lot these days as I would much rather face a faster medium spin loop than the dreaded slow and really spinny opening loops.    
6) when forced to push, use a lot of variation to throw your opponents off to reduce the quality of their opening loop. The most important variation is how to do similar looking no-spin and heavy underspin pushes by varying the wrist action at contact.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rocketman222 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/06/2017 at 1:24pm
Wow. You and Mark are really improving a lot, I wish everyone on the forum(including me) was so focused on the game as you two are.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BMonkey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/06/2017 at 1:51pm
Originally posted by blahness blahness wrote:

Can I just say you're probably the one who improved the most on this forum for this year or two ClapClapClap

In terms of a stroke length, a short stroke is almost always good in today's game, what you need is more power off a short stroke, not to lengthen the stroke...

I feel that given your consistency against topspin, you can probably start with adding some wrist into your strokes, which is probably what's missing. I honestly do not think you can learn that from doing counters, you'll have to start practising the BH opening loop against underspin, and the chiquita (my favourite stroke! Tongue ). Try to get a good feeling for the ball and increase the amount of spin you get for these two strokes.   

In terms of wrist action, I find that the approximately correct way to judge it is to observe where your bat is pointed towards. Ideally for powerful BH's, during your backswing, the bat should be pointing diagonally towards yourself, and at the end it should be pointed diagonally away from yourself. Right now the feeling I get is that during the backswing your bat is oriented horizontally to your right.  

Have a look at Fan Zhendong's video hitting with Dan, you can clearly see where his blade is pointed towards when he's loading up for a powerful stroke. 
 
+1 to adding wrist to the bh stroke. What I was calling not enough backswing.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mjamja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/06/2017 at 2:34pm
Mickd,

One of the things I noticed is that on the Bh the tip of the blade is pointed out to your right instead of pointing to the corner of the table where you are hitting,  What this indicates is that you are using a "long" blocking stroke instead of a counter/loop stroke.  In the blocking stroke the elbow and the hand are pushed forward at the same time so the blade tip barely changes direction.  It works well for blocking, but when you make the stroke longer for more power the blade angle tends to change in the hitting zone resulting in inconsistency.  For the counter/loop stroke the elbow stays fixed and the hand and forearm move in a 1/4 circle path so that at the finish there is almost a straight line from your shoulder through the elbow and hand and the point where the ball lands on the table.  In the counter the blade angle is more neutral while in the loop the blade angle is closed.

As BMonkey described, more advanced players will add even more wrist action to the loop version for more power and spin.  When you do that the blade tip should end up pointing off to the left (since you are left handed) of the point where the ball lands on the table.  

I should note that even when done correctly, the elbow may go slightly forward.  The difference is that in the correct version it does not move forward until late in the stroke after ball contact.   In your version the elbow seem to start forward at the very beginning of the stroke.

You are definitely improving faster and looking better than I am.

Mark




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mickd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/06/2017 at 11:31pm
Thanks everyone for the positive words and great advice!

Some of the things I've been concern about have been brought up by you guys, which is great because it means I have a generally correct idea in my head!

Good point, zeio. I think what's happening is that I am rotating my trunk, but when I have to cover a larger area, I end up being late with my footwork, and end up being jammed up, causing me to only be able to push the ball forward with my arm, resulting into a net ball.

I think the 'two-step footwork' BMonkey mentioned will help solve that problem. There were several rallies where I was able to execute the two-step footwork and was generally able to get into position in time. I think it's the faster balls which I fail to pull it off since I lack time. Maybe the better choice would be to use my backhand again in those cases, and wait for a better opportunity to step around the table. I notice the ones I pull off better are when the ball comes towards my elbow, making me return the ball much weaker and slower, and usually slightly off course. My partner then reacts and usually returns a slower ball, giving me plenty of time to move twice and get into position. This probably happens less in a match because your opponent would probably capitalize on the weaker ball to do a strong forehand attack, sadly. I'll need to work on this..

My partner was switching between using his forehand and backhand to block, but I think he prefers blocking with his backhand, so that's why he was blocking from his forehand side.

I've actually been thinking about increasing my wrist usage. I mentioned that at the end of that session to my practice partner, and he said that he thinks I'm using plenty of wrist at the moment. The video shows pretty accurately what I feel is happening too, and what most of you also mentioned, how my racket head is pointing to the side during the backswing, not diagonally towards me. 

I'm not sure if the camera angle makes it difficult to see, but after many of the points, the bottom part of my forehand rubber is covered in sweat because it swipes the front of my shirt during my backhand backswing. So I think there are times when my racket head points a little more diagonally backwards. Or maybe my shirt is too loose LOL

I'll make another post soon about the other replies (by the way thanks again everyone, I really appreciate all comments) since I have to go back to work now haha.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mickd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/07/2017 at 2:39am
Thanks for the kind words, blahness. My backhand has always been a big weakness in my game. I have a decent block, but I never had an opening, or a counter. My plan was to start developing my opening (first against no spin/light underspin, then against heavier underspin) after getting a good feel for the counter. I think you're right and it's probably a good time to start working more on it.

I can't wait to get to the chiquita, too. I think people who have a consistent chiquita are at the level where they've got most of the foundations down well. For now, I'm going to work on opening against longer balls. I do flick shorter balls every now and then, but I haven't really developed the stroke yet, so it's not really consistent.

As for the wrist action, that's exactly the way I've been picturing it in my head lately. Good to hear that's the way others see it too Smile Recently with my backhand, I feel like the dwell time on the racket is much longer. I don't want to turn this into a scientific battle, though. But it definitely has more of a feeling of the ball moving with the racket. It might also be because earlier this year I switched to a wood only blade (after starting with a carbon blade and using that for over 2 years).

The body rotation for backhands I'm struggling a little with. I feel like the moment I rotate my body, even a little, I end up using my shoulder and elbow more than my forearm. Right now I do this thing (which I'm not sure if I should try and stop, by the way) where I kind of get lower with my legs and lean a little more forward, then suddenly push up a little as I swing forward. Alois from PingSkills mentioned to me about keeping my head still during a backhand drive against no spin/little underspin drill I was doing, so that's something I'm thinking about still.

By the way, those easy balls are NEVER easy, haha. I've struggled with them for so long. I practice with a lot of middle school students, too, and they have a lot of those balls, so I think I'm finally getting used to them. I also play a lot of adults with very unconventional form and style, which produces a lot of those balls, too (you can see some from my "My Progress Over Time" thread in the videos section). Even then, I still miss my fair share. 

My practice partner also mostly plays with students, too, so he ends up blocking a lot for them to practice. I end up doing the same when I play students, too. So actually I feel like my forehand and backhand block is very consistent, as long as the opponent doesn't go too far off target. But it's true, most adults can't (or don't like to) block, and without that, it's so hard to do drills of any sort..

By the way, the list you gave is very close to what I'm aiming for :) I think that produces extremely elegant table tennis, which is something I've been striving for (more so than things that win). Smile


Edited by mickd - 07/07/2017 at 2:39am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mickd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/07/2017 at 2:51am
Thanks, rocketman222! I wish it was always ups like this. I've been on the verge of quitting several times because I felt like I couldn't get things right. It's really tough on the brain when you overthink things, too. I think Mark and I might both do this. He's probably more mentally stable than me, though! LOL

Thanks, Mark. I've been working on my backhand all year, but only from a little over 2 months ago have I really pushed to develop it, and that includes keeping the elbow as steady as possible (I used to use my shoulder, and none of my forearm, basically). I'm happy with some of the balls I hit in the video, especially the ones that come towards the right side of my body (as a left hander). The ones that come closer to my elbow, well, the form completely breaks down. I felt a little better after watching the video that blahness linked because sometimes FZD didn't really move for his backhands, and did a very small wrist stroke when it came towards his elbow, resulting in a slightly weaker ball. He wasn't playing very seriously in that video though, but it's good to see a pro do things like that too, when just taking it easy Smile

I'll start working on adding more wrist, and opening on long backspin balls!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blahness Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/07/2017 at 6:23am
Originally posted by mickd mickd wrote:

Thanks for the kind words, blahness. My backhand has always been a big weakness in my game. I have a decent block, but I never had an opening, or a counter. My plan was to start developing my opening (first against no spin/light underspin, then against heavier underspin) after getting a good feel for the counter. I think you're right and it's probably a good time to start working more on it.

I can't wait to get to the chiquita, too. I think people who have a consistent chiquita are at the level where they've got most of the foundations down well. For now, I'm going to work on opening against longer balls. I do flick shorter balls every now and then, but I haven't really developed the stroke yet, so it's not really consistent.

As for the wrist action, that's exactly the way I've been picturing it in my head lately. Good to hear that's the way others see it too Smile Recently with my backhand, I feel like the dwell time on the racket is much longer. I don't want to turn this into a scientific battle, though. But it definitely has more of a feeling of the ball moving with the racket. It might also be because earlier this year I switched to a wood only blade (after starting with a carbon blade and using that for over 2 years).

The body rotation for backhands I'm struggling a little with. I feel like the moment I rotate my body, even a little, I end up using my shoulder and elbow more than my forearm. Right now I do this thing (which I'm not sure if I should try and stop, by the way) where I kind of get lower with my legs and lean a little more forward, then suddenly push up a little as I swing forward. Alois from PingSkills mentioned to me about keeping my head still during a backhand drive against no spin/little underspin drill I was doing, so that's something I'm thinking about still.

By the way, those easy balls are NEVER easy, haha. I've struggled with them for so long. I practice with a lot of middle school students, too, and they have a lot of those balls, so I think I'm finally getting used to them. I also play a lot of adults with very unconventional form and style, which produces a lot of those balls, too (you can see some from my "My Progress Over Time" thread in the videos section). Even then, I still miss my fair share. 

My practice partner also mostly plays with students, too, so he ends up blocking a lot for them to practice. I end up doing the same when I play students, too. So actually I feel like my forehand and backhand block is very consistent, as long as the opponent doesn't go too far off target. But it's true, most adults can't (or don't like to) block, and without that, it's so hard to do drills of any sort..

By the way, the list you gave is very close to what I'm aiming for :) I think that produces extremely elegant table tennis, which is something I've been striving for (more so than things that win). Smile

I think you've only got one part of the body weight transfer correct, you are doing it the old way instead of the modern BH which has a distinct emphasis on sideways rotation and pushing off of your left feet. It is actually very similar to the FH, with weight transfer between feet and core rotation.

Look at Ma Long's backswing before he unleashes a powerful BH. He brings his playing arm shoulder in front of his body, rotates his body (look at where his body is facing), shifts his weight on his left foot (right for you), and the tip of his bat is angled diagonally towards himself. 



But normally you wouldn't use such a exaggerated stroke for most balls (especially topspin), only the easy ones that you want to finish. But the principles has to be the same, so even with a "small" stroke there is still a very small component of core rotation and weight transfer (there's no arm only strokes at the professional level). 

Think about pulling a weighted cable from your right hip to the left, or a pulling out a sword from its sheath like a general. How would you do it naturally? Feel free to test it out at the gym (with light weights of course!), it taught me a lot about the mechanics of the BH in general. This sideways "pull" can be extremely powerful and flexible and it is the foundation of your BH. I believe Kreanga made it popular (albeit very exaggerated at times), and nowadays not many players use the old type of BH anymore. For me personally, this stroke close to the table is even more powerful than my close-table FH.  

The way you normally progress with your strokes in a balanced way is to try out the stroke against various balls once you've reached a basic level, don't wait too long! It keeps things interesting, works on different aspects of the same mechanics, and you can always go back to counter training with new appreciation of certain aspects of the stroke. So you would want to start training up your loop against backspin (which is 80% of the balls you would face at lower levels anyway) once you've got a basic counter going on. Training against backspin also has the advantage of forcing you to generate your own power to overcome the spin, and to develop sound mechanics. The chiquita trains your wrist action and understanding on how to use different blade angles to deal with different types of balls. I found that it helped me improve how I dealt with mixed spin balls on my BH. 



Edited by blahness - 07/07/2017 at 6:25am
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Edit: please delete

Edited by blahness - 07/07/2017 at 6:24am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wanhao Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/07/2017 at 8:53am
U just need a better training partner to improve..
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mickd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/09/2017 at 11:58pm
Thanks blahness. I really like that picture. Was it taken form a match video slowmo? If so, I would love to see that particular part in action.

I'll definitely work towards add more of my body into the stroke, and I think like you mentioned, practicing against underspin will force me to add some.

I actually quite like my training partner. He's not very strong, but he is willing to work with me to practice whatever I want. And I think that's the most important. He blocks if I ask him to, and he does whatever type of receive I want. A lot of me being able to improve is thanks to him.

Finding a better practice partner probably won't be an option, unfortunately. The better players all just want to play games, and won't hit with me..

In an ideal world, everyone would have great training partners :(
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blahness Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/10/2017 at 1:43am
Originally posted by mickd mickd wrote:

Thanks blahness. I really like that picture. Was it taken form a match video slowmo? If so, I would love to see that particular part in action.

I'll definitely work towards add more of my body into the stroke, and I think like you mentioned, practicing against underspin will force me to add some.

I actually quite like my training partner. He's not very strong, but he is willing to work with me to practice whatever I want. And I think that's the most important. He blocks if I ask him to, and he does whatever type of receive I want. A lot of me being able to improve is thanks to him.

Finding a better practice partner probably won't be an option, unfortunately. The better players all just want to play games, and won't hit with me..

In an ideal world, everyone would have great training partners :(

I'm not sure where that came from, but you can watch many of his matches on Youtube and that's how he loads up. But for normal fast counters that you're doing, a simple little "swaying" movement of the body to "bump" the ball towards the direction you're hitting would suffice. You can see it even in Fan Zhendong's blocks in the Zhang Jike video. With this you can shorten your arm stroke even more and even increase the amount of control and power you have.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote zeio Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/10/2017 at 3:00am
That's probably from a World Tour in 2010 to 2011. His backhand has changed a lot since then. It's advisable to look up his video from 2014 and onward.
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