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2 Major Changes in Modern Table Tennis the Last Decade


When I was learning table tennis in Germany 28 years ago, there was much emphasis on giving more practice to make a good forehand loop. This is the obvious practice by a lot of players at that time.

The backhand was more of a ‘sure stroke’. It is being used in blocking the opponent’s loop, and sometimes use in hitting the ball including flat hitting. If we stand far from the table, then we could try to counter-loop with our backhand and so on.

backhand hit

However, for me, I disagreed with such practice as I was a rebel. LOL. I wanted to play every ball with my backhand and I always looking for generating more spin on every hit.

By that time, a lot of players disagreed with me and they were trying to rectify and teach me the skill that they think was the right practice to follow. They said it is too risky if follow my playing style.

That didn’t change when I came to Greece in 1997. I started earning money and even making a living through playing table tennis. I still hold on faithfully to my own playing style.

Nonetheless, the word ‘too risky’ is what entered my ears all the time. Especially when I was having a discussion on the topic with a national coach in there. For my own stubborn, I would always reply to them that I don’t give a shit on what you all think is risky. I like to play like this, I love it and so I am doing it!

Then came the 2000 Summer Olympics that being held in Sidney when the China top player at that time, KONG LING HUI, came to show the skill that I preach on. What a relief for me.

He won the gold medal, and he was the first top player who played all balls from both sides with spin. This open a lot of people eyes and I really thank god for the existent of such player who supports my playing style.

This mark a new era begin in the modern top level of table tennis. 12 years later every top player plays his backhand with spin and no one is playing with just fat block/hit the ball anymore.

Here is a video of that ‘historical’ moment:

The other big change was and is the backhand flick. At that time only PETR KORBEL did it and many of us were just smiled.

After 12 years, no one is smiling anymore as everyone is keen to imitate the ‘King of backhand flick’ ZHANG JIKE. Even if the serve is short to the forehand which was ‘UNTHINKABLE’ back then. But, times have changed.

Watch the Backhand Flip VIDEO

What’s Next?

In my opinion, the next skill that going to develop will be the forehand counter-loop down the line.

We are seeing all the time with FH/FH counter-loops which is playing again and again to the opponent’s forehand. And I always think: “Common man! What are you waiting for? It’s time to change to the backhand!”

Usually when/if that happens, either the point is immediately over, or the player who changed the placement has a huge tactical advantage. Since the other player has to play the ball back with his backhand, which is usually far away from the table, this allows player one to have time to turn around and hits the ball with his forehand to the backhand of the opponent.

A friend of mine who played for the last 2 years in French 1st division once told me: “You know, FH/FH counter-loop is over. Most of them change very quickly to the backhand now!”

However, for me, I guess the big change will come when the Chinese top player does it on a regular basis. Therefore I believe that in some time we will see just one, or the maximum two forehand counter-loops diagonally, and then it will change to the backhand, then will come backhand loop down the line. But that’s another story…

What we need to keep in mind that changes are actually always dancing around us. The question is are we aware and well prepare ourselves to adapt the changes? For most people, changes are difficult to adapt due to our die-hard habit.

But what more important than the actual idea, is who has the ‘enlightenment’. if its a ‘nobody’ then the rest just smiles at this guy’s/girl’s ‘crazy’ ideas. If we have those ideas, then we can at least use them ourselves as players or by teaching it to the kids as coaches.

If top-level coaches or players have those ideas, then the rest of the world follows. Petr Korbel was and still is a top level player. But although he did the backhand flick for many years, he was the only one who does so where nobody is keen to follow his playing style. Only after Chinese player Zhang Jike did it, now even total amateur players also want to play like this.

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