This article, dedicated to basic table tennis offensive strokes, describes the 4 main types of strokes employed by offensive players. These types of strokes can be easily reproduced and put in practice by intermediate and even beginner players.
Before getting started with the strokes, players should know that for all the strokes, a relaxed upper body position is highly recommended, with little to no movement of the upper arm. All strokes are described from a right-handed viewpoint. So if you are left-handed, just replace the right with the left and vice-versa when reading the explanations.
The Drive, also known as “Speed Drive”, is an offensive stroke used to produce light-topspin strokes, that do not arc much. Due to its relatively low trajectory, this direct hit is usually used to force errors on the adversary, by propelling the ball with enough force and speed, so it would be difficult to return. The position of the racket when executing this stroke is perpendicular to the direction of the ball, applying energy to the ball, and thus producing greater speed and smaller spin. Like any other offensive stroke, the Drive can be executed by using either the forehand, or the backhand.
- Forehand Drive: The starting position for this stroke is by forming a 90 degree angle between the upper arm and the forearm, while keeping the upper arm close to the torso. With the forearm at a 3 o’clock position, the waist turns naturally and follows the arm, applying the weight of the body on the right foot. The left foot comes a bit in front on the right foot, for balance. The upper arm and the elbow remain almost still throughout the stroke,providing a pivot for the forearm. Also, the racket is closed (slightly facing downwards) during the follow through. The forearm swings forward with a subtle upward movement, using the waist to provide additional force to the movement. While executing this movement, the weight of the body shifts from the right to the left foot. The stroke finishes when the paddle comes close to the left shoulder, being perpendicular to it at the same time. After execution, the player returns to ready stance, positioning the left foot a bit in front of the right one.
- Backhand Drive: The player turns its waist to the left, keeping the racket in a 9 o’clock position. The forearm and upper arm are in a position similar to that of the forehand drive. During the follow through, the arm moves to the right, together with the torso, making contact with the ball in front of the body, after the top of the bounce. Just like the forehand drive, the upper arm and elbow act as a pivot for the forearm and the latter follows a slight upward trajectory. The follow though ends when the forearm reaches the 1 o’clock position.
- Counter Drive: This type of stroke serves as a counter attack against drives, as the name indicates. For this stroke, the paddle is closed and near the ball and the racket hits the ball with a short movement, called off the bounce (immediately after the ball hit the table, after the bounce). This hit results in a high-speed propelling of the ball, used to force mistakes on the opponent. The follow through is very short, ending usually at eye level, in order to get back quickly to the ready position.
This offensive stroke is considered the opposite of Speed Drive, in terms of racket positioning. While the Drive requires a perpendicular position of the racket, for the Loop, the racket is parallel to the direction of the ball. Like this, the racket only touches the ball in passing and produces great topspin. The Loop arcs more then the drive and is a stroke which isn’t very difficult to retun. However, as the ball jumps relatively high after hitting the opponent’s court, it is very likely to rebound from the latter’s racket at high angle, preparing the ground for a kill follow-up.
- Forehand Loop: The player stands close to the table, placing weight on the right foot. The right shoulder is slightly tilted to the ground and the paddle is also a bit lower than the Drive starting position. The player pushes upwards using the legs, grazing the ball as it starts to descend, with an ascending arm movement. For counterbalance, the left shoulder and arm descend at the same time as the right forearm goes upward.
- Backhand Loop: Similar to the forehand Loop, the difference is that the backhand Loop starts from a squat position, with the knees more flexed. As the player pushes upward using the legs, the racket grazes the back of the ball. The weight of the body is transferred from the left to the right leg and the hand follows a semi circle upward trajectory, starting from between the knees and ending near the head level, slightly towards right. The ball comes in contact with the paddle halfway thought the trajectory, slightly under the chest level.
Tips: The arm should rotate from the elbow. The finer the grazing motion, the bigger the spin effect. If you aim for more speed, make sure that the ball makes longer contact with the sponge.
Also known as “Kill” or “Slam”, this stroke employs a large backswing and rapid acceleration, in order to give as much speed as possible to the ball. The porpose of propelling the ball with great speed is that the opponent will not be able to return the ball. However, a good defense can still retun a good smash. Experienced players usually plan series of smashes in order to rush the adversary and force him off balance. All Smash strokes are similar to Drive strokes. The main difference is that the ball is contacted at the top of the bounce, when it reaches the highest point in its trajectory
- Forehand Smash: The particularities setting a Forehand Drive and a Forehand Smash apart lay in longer backswing and faster, more powerful stroke of the ball. Also, the waist turns more and there is a substantially greater weight transfer from the right to the left leg during the swing. Like this, the player uses its entire body to hit and the follow through is longer. However, players should bare in mind that, however difficult, a smash is not impossible to return and a response should be anticipated.
- Backhand Smash: Just like the Backhand Drive, the payer’s right hand and torso are turned to the left. However, when executing a Backhand Smash, the waist is turned more and the hand with the racket is brought to a 7 or 8 o’clock position. Moreover, the right wrist is bent more, to allow for bigger snap at contact with the ball. This stroke finishes as well in long follow through. However powerful this strike, a response can be anticipated.
Tip: Try to direct the ball towards a place where it is the more unlikely to be hit back.
This stroke is used when there isn’t enough space and time to construct a backswing. The ball is hit before it has bounced beyond the edge of the table, the backswing motion being compressed into a wrist movement. The Flick can resemble a Loop or a Drive in terms of effect, only it doesn’t demand so much waist and elbow flexibility, requiring instead a lot of wrist movement and force.
- Forehand Flick: The right foot moves forward to approach the ball and points towards the direction of the contact zone. The forearm forms a 150 degrees angle with the torso. The racket hits the top of the ball. There is a simultaneous movement of the right arm and left leg and the weight moves to the right leg during follow through. As the movement is from the wrist and not from the elbow, the direction of the ball can be changed last minute, by a slight change of the wrist-forearm angle.
Tips: Keep legs close to each other in order to return to the ready position quickly. Do not overstretch the left leg so you won’t loose your balance.
- Backhand Flick: The right leg moves to the right, towards the ball, while the left foot remains on the ground. At the same time, the right hand is brought in front of the chest, bending the wrist and keeping the elbow in straight line with the racket, parallel to the ground. The body weight moves to the right leg in the moment of the strike and the player hits the top of the ball, with a upward wrist movement, using the elbow as pivot.