amateur 101 wrote:
I have been a fan of the less spinny Spectol for the past few months but lack of spin of my FH shots have made my returns often hit too long or into the net.
It probably is not lack of spin that made you hit long. A ball that goes long is mostly going too flat. This may be caused by:
1. too much forward motion of the arm, e.g. when you use your whole arm (instead of only your underarm) when you drive or hit or smash a ball over or closely behind the table. Watch your arm when you are training; if after you made a stroke (especially a fast or powerful one) your upper-arm is pointing forward when at the same time it is making an angle of about 90 degrees with your torso, you have used your upper-arm. Remedy: try and keep your elbow closer to your body all the time and do not really lift it. The stroke should feel as coming from your under-arm only and your upper-arm and shoulder should be relaxed. Only when you drive or smash from more than about a meter away, you can start using your upper-arm, because at that distance the ball will drop (gravity) even when hit powerfully forward. If you want to exert more power close to or over the table, use the rotation of your torso instead of your whole arm.
2. bad timing. When you contact the ball too late (on the top with less spinny balls, after the top with spinny balls) you will compensate without thinking and lift it a little, by opening your blade, or following through upwards, or applying topspin with the wrist. The result will be a flat trajectory that makes the ball stay about as high as when you made contact with it. Watch the ball and the bat when training and see if your timing tends to be off. Especially against slow balls and against fast low balls this may be the case. Remedy: take each and every ball on the same height, about net-high, on the rise - estimate the trajectory of the incoming ball when it is over your opponent's halve of the table and do not hesitate or wait but start your stroke when the ball leaves the table and not later.
3. faulty blade-angle. It is pretty difficult to be sure whether you are actually hitting through the ball or making a half-loop; against fast balls with decent topspin you have to close your bat a bit (against heavy spin quite a bit) in order to make contact with the back of the ball and this closed angle may make you instinctively perform a more or less brushing stroke. Especially players who have been loopers and have been used to loop with a curve (starting with the bat slightly closed and closing it more while swinging up) may do this unconsciously. Watch your arm and hand when you are training and see if you close your bat when driving. Remedy: practice hitting, driving, smashing while keeping your wrist out of it; your wrist should not rotate.
4. eagerness! A lot of SP players tend to think that it should be possible to flat-hit through any incoming ball whatsoever. This is a mistake. Low balls, short balls, balls with decent backspin cannot be smashed; you have to return them fast and precise and without the intention to win the point. This is very important. When playing with SP you have to set up your kill patiently and skillfully, even though "patiently" may just mean driving one single well-placed ball. When you watch videos of matches from 2000 or before, you have to realize that SP players like Liu Guoliang, Wang Tao, Jiang Jialiang, and so on, attack a 38 mm ball which tends to be faster and can be still on the rise when already several feet away from the table. The 40 mm ball will definitely be dropping at that point. "Modern" pips out play is different because of that. When you watch Johnny Huang or He Zhi Wen in matches after 2000, you will notice that blocking over and closely behind the table has become a much more important element of the style. Watching female players can be misleading too, because they will mostly punch-block (backhand stroke) over and closely behind the table; this looks like a fast drive, but is an active block, and should be compared to a man's flick - male players can't build their attacking game around this stroke.
I also noticed that there is hardly a pro these days that still play with less spinny pips on both sides. (I might be mistaken.)
The differences in topspin producing capacity between spinny pips like 802-40 and less spinny pips like regular 802 are exaggerated, in my opinion. 802 on a thick softened sponge will produce at least as much topspin as 802-40. Modern pips are combined with fast, dynamic, therefore soft sponges, which tend to make the contact or dwelling time so short that ordinary short pips topsheets would get qualities of a medium or even long pip; to prevent this, topsheets are made more grippy; but the overall result is not a big difference in the capacity to produce topspin - modern pips generally do what classic pips did, only with more forward speed and (mostly) somewhat less control. Most pro's play with modern equipment they get from their sponsors, so they use modern pips, which may suit them because of the increase in speed, but you will not see them loop with short pips. They will have to train hard to overcome the problems these rubbers pose with blocking, since they are more sensitive to incoming spin. And some players will just stick to using classic equipment, like He Zhi Wen, because it is just about perfect for the job - especially with the men, blocking has become more important in modern play and classic rubbers block best.
When you develop as a pips out player, there will be times you seem to stand still instead of go forward, and you will seem to have problems with players you should be able to beat. This is normal. Development means moving on in stages or jumps; the jumps occur when the new skills you have mastered join and make a new whole; but in between these jumps you will have to learn to apply your new skills and use the new whole, so you will find out its limitations and ways to go beyond them again, and make a new jump. Changing equipment, though tempting, is generally not a good idea in between jumps because of this: you have to learn to use the old equipment in new ways. If you'd change equipment, you'd have to start all over again with it, so it wouldn't bring the gain you were hoping for. As a rule it is better to focus on your style and find out your limitations, then start working on overcoming them with the equipment you have. After all, it's not the equipment that is making your mistakes. You must find the conviction and trust that you will develop as long as you put your back into it.