Quick Backhand Topspins
Butterfly Table Tennis Coaching
by Han Xiao
Today, we’re going to go over how to perform quick backhand topspins against topspin, some tips that can help you improve this shot, as well as some of the common mistakes people make that you can avoid. Since modern table tennis has evolved and players need to become more complete and all around, the backhand topspin has become extremely important, especially in situations close to the table where you don’t have a lot of time to prepare. Being able to play a quality shot in this situation gives you a big advantage over the opponent. Since this is one of my favorite shots personally, I hope to be able to give you some insight into performing this stroke.
Let’s begin with the overall feeling of the shot. The overall feeling that you want is to start with a low center of mass and a solid base, feet firmly planted on the ground. As the ball approaches, use a short backswing and cock your wrist back with the backhand side of your racket facing down towards the ground. As you make contact, push up slightly but quickly with your legs and snap your forearm and wrist through and over the ball. Follow through and return to ready position. Overall, want to feel that you are quickly snapping your wrist over the ball as if you were throwing a frisbee. Just don’t let go of your racket afterwards!
Some tips that will help you improve this particular shot:
- When you begin to practice this shot, don’t go for extreme speed and quickness. Doing so will cause a lot of errors. You may get the quality that you want on the shot, but you won’t have the consistency required for the shot to be effective in a match. Start out by grazing the ball more and trying to snap your wrist and forearm only after the ball has contacted your racket.
- Make sure you spin the ball rather than push the ball. Keep the backhand side of your racket closed, facing down right before contact and contact over top of the ball. If you hit a shot into the net, try pushing with your legs or make slight adjustments right at contact and during the follow through. Don’t change your racket angle too much before contact, as contacting with more of an open racket face will either cause you to push the ball or spin the ball upwards. Both will cause an abundance of errors against any kind of topspin from the opponent.
- Use a short backswing unless you are presented with an easy opportunity to finish the point. If you find that you are mishitting a lot off the edge of your racket, don’t compensate first by opening your racket angle. Try to adjust your footwork first, then try to make sure you aren’t swinging your arm too far back or too far down. Using a short backswing should alleviate most timing and mishit issues.
- Make sure your grip is very stable but your wrist is flexible during the stroke. Using your thumb to stabilize the racket as a shakehand player will make this shot more consistent. You can also use your middle through pinky fingers to apply pressure to the racket handle and add a little kick to the shot once you become more familiar and comfortable with the overall feel of the shot.
- The follow through is extremely important for the quick backhand topspin. Pulling up short on the follow through reduces consistency a lot and limits your ability to play the shot aggressively, especially against an opponent who can also utilize this shot. As you contact over the ball, make sure to snap through with your wrist and extend your wrist as much as is comfortable or natural. This will also add extra topspin.
- Practice hitting this shot to multiple spots on the table. Practice going crosscourt and to the middle first, but you also need to be able to switch the ball down the line. Try to maintain your follow through when hitting this shot down the line, but take a little bit off of the ball in terms of speed and add a little more spin in order to control the ball since you’re working with a shorter trajectory.
- Keep your racket up above table level as much as possible during the entire process. This will help with your transitions and give you more time to react in actual points. When doing randomized drills involving the backhand, note whether you’re able to topspin the backhand or whether you have to resort to blocking due to not having enough time to execute a topspin. Also note whether you are dropping your racket before hitting backhands, which can limit your ability to play backhand topspins aggressively. If this is the case, make a conscious effort to keep your racket up above table level to improve transitions and allow you to play these quick backhand topspins as much as possible.
I hope that these tips help you develop a stronger backhand. Backhand play is essential to being a successful modern table tennis player at all levels, and a strong backhand at intermediate levels of play can completely dominate matches since most players will play mostly into the backhand corner when trying to play safe. As with practicing any shot, make sure that you feel good about the overall feeling of the shot before making smaller adjustments, as if you feel uncomfortable it may be a sign that your current mechanics are incorrect or will not translate consistently to match play. Hopefully, with practice, you can develop a strong and reliable backhand topspin to control your opponents and even win points outright.