Lessons From One Billion Backhands

There may be some coaches that have some disagreement about what I’m about to share about the backhand stroke. Some of what I’ve learned came from other coaches, and some I’ve discovered on my own. I generally hit far more backhands than forehands when I coach, and when I play. I don’t have any idea how many I’ve hit, but one billion is probably less than the real number.
The first thing that comes to mind about hitting backhands well is that you shouldn’t really be hitting the ball at all. Hitting is probably the least accurate word to use when describing table tennis shots. Hitting implies that the primary way you are propelling the ball from your racket is with force. Every backhand you hit will require some element of friction. Good players are doing far less hitting, and far more rubbing of the ball. See The Misunderstood Flat Hit
I usually start beginners doing backhand blocks with a neutral racket angle. This is usually the one shot that recreational Ping Pong players come in the door with. It doesn’t hurt for players to learn how to redirect the energy that is already on the ball before they start adding the energy themselves. My case for learning good blocking skills early is that having a neutral racket angle can be the starting point for drives and loops. It also puts you in the perfect position to redirect fast shots without making major changes to the angle of your racket.
Making more aggressive topspin shots then just becomes a matter of following through, and rolling your racket over the ball by turning over the forearm. Contact should be made out away from the body, so that your arm extends naturally. More power can be achieved with faster racket speed, but simply doing the full stroke can create a quality shot at any speed. It’s interesting to watch the variety of backhand shots that can be made by Kalinikos Kreanga.
The Kreanga backhand is one of the best in the world. Few players will ever have the ability or confidence to use their backhand the way Kreanga does. One billion backhands probably won’t be enough.

2 Replies to “Lessons From One Billion Backhands”

  1. Great article, Jon. For those nerds out there (like ME)…if you hit 1 backhand per second without stopping for sleep, bathroom and food breaks, you’d be at it for almost 32 years! Surely one would have to improve, right?

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