If you’re not using the backhand loop as the primary attack shot on the backhand, then adding in the backhand smash can be a nice addition to your arsenal. The backhand smash is a unique skill that presents its own set of circumstances for your opponent to manage. This is the shot that must be developed if you have never developed the backhand loop, or the backhand loop doesn’t work for the type of game you have. It seems as if the unwritten rule is you MUST have a backhand loop. I’m going to make a case that you can still compete at a high level without it.
Benefits of the Backhand Smash
One of the best benefits of the backhand smash is it’s unique travel path. This can be disruptive to your opponent that doesn’t respond well to a flat travel path. The ball speed is also faster than the loop because it travels in a straight line. The backhand smash type of contact is “Flat”, and there is a percentage of players that won’t respond well to the ball having no spin on it. The more often you make an attempt to use the smash, the more aware you will become exactly how it fits into your shot selection.
Mastering the Stroke
Unlike the loop stroke that may result in arm being straight at the end, the backhand loop stays in a 90 degree angle the entire time. This will ensure that you have used your forearm to generate the snap. And it also ensures that you are in neutral position after the smash. Observe the 90 degree position before and after the backhand smash.
Type of Contact
The type of contact for the Backhand Smash is “Force Over Friction”. The only way to ensure that you have a flat travel path is for the Force to be 90% or more. The 5-10% friction will come by way of the forearm naturally turning over. This is not enough friction for your opponent to hold their racket out and return the ball. They will still have to navigate racket angle open to return the ball that is mostly flat.
When this type of shot is executed perfectly, you opponent will have a tough time managing what to do with it.
Setting up the Backhand Smash
Now that you are committed to the backhand smash, the next thing to develop is a way to set it up in competition. In this clip you see a serve to the middle, and a backhand smash to the wide backhand.
Serving the ball just off the end of the table is one of the best ways to neutralizes your opponent from attacking the ball aggressively. If your opponent rolls the ball safely, it is a perfect opportunity to attack a ball that doesn’t have much spin.
When you are not serving the ball right off the end, serving the ball deep into the backhand court is another fantastic way to set up the backhand smash. The most important aspect of this sequence of play is making sure the serve lands deep in your opponent’s court. If they are surprised, they will return the ball to the middle of the backhand court which give you leverage to clear your backhand smash over the net.
Here is another example of teasing the player to roll the serve that is right off the end, only to execute a backhand smash.
Targeting the Open Court
As long as the deep serve is surprising your opponent they won’t have enough time to attack with enough force to take control over the table. Their return presents an open court attack to use the backhand smash.
In this clip you will see the fast serve creates an open court in the backhand where the opponent is already standing. How well you can execute this attack, will be how well you can gain the proper body position after the serve.
If your opponent exposes the open court, your job is to make sure you smash it redirected away from them.
Targeting the Middle
The biggest grey area to operate in for the backhand smash is the middle. It provides you with the most leverage to disrupt your opponent while taking control over the sequence of play.
In this clip you can see that I’m pushing the ball to the middle where my opponent opened with a backhand attack from the middle. Because he is likely to return back to neutral, I placed the backhand smash right back to the middle.
Inside this sequence you can see that serve is the unsung hero, because it eliminates the opportunity for my opponent to attack, which leads to a clean smash to the middle.
When you are considering which skill you want to develop in your game, make it a point to add the backhand smash to your arsenal. If played correctly in the right situation, it can be as effective as any shot you can use to win. Now, get out there and put some backhand smashes in your table tennis bank.
I’m Brian, and I’ll see you on the table.