Counterlooping and the Forehand Block
(By Larry Hodges)
At the higher levels, most players essentially counterloop any topspin ball on the forehand side. (Many also do it on the backhand side.) But that’s almost inhuman. And yet, many players try to do that. Here’s the problem with doing that.
If you play close to the table and try to counterloop everything on the forehand side, you’ll be vulnerable to any strong, deep loop, since you’ll have little time to react. The smart players will also vary the placement, sometimes going wide, sometimes at the middle. And so you will likely make too many mistakes.
If you take a step off the table so you can react and forehand counterloop, you’ll be vulnerable to slow, spinny loops that drop in front of you. These balls are easy to counterloop away (or smash) if you are close to the table and don’t hesitate, but if you are a step off the table looking to counterloop, they are very tricky to counterloop – most players go off the end over and over.
So what do you do? Simple – find a distance where you can comfortably forehand counterloop against most topspins, including slow, spinny ones. But also develop your “reflex block,” where you forehand block against very aggressive balls to your forehand. You can also block the first one and perhaps then take half a step back so you can counterloop the next one. Since you’ll only be blocking against faster loops, practice against those, and unhesitatingly counterloop (or perhaps smash) anything slower. (All of this can also apply to the backhand side, though many find counterlooping on that side trickier since the body is in the way.)
On the other extreme, many players only block against incoming loops, on forehand and backhand. That’s a weakness – learn to attack a weak loop, whether by counterlooping or smashing, or at least a very aggressive block.