Monday 2 June 2014

How to Deal With Heavy Topspin Opponents

I decided to get some more input from the dedicated readers out there so I will now be writing posts to help solve your worldly table tennis dilemmas! The first question submitted was from Ruth Woodhams, "How do you deal with heavy topspinners?" So my first 'response' post will answer just that, thanks for your question Ruth! :) See more from my Coaching Blog.

How to Deal with Heavy Topspin Opponents
There are a few approaches, we can split it into 2 big tactics. You can either prevent the problem, or learn to deal with it.


If heavy topspin balls are out of your comfort zone, your first step is to try and stop your opponent from being able to make that play. There are a number of options there (combinations of the three are ideal):

Play Heavy Backspin: Make the opening ball as difficult as possible, the heavier and deeper on the table you can play the better. If they want to play heavy topspin then make it as difficult as possible for them, if you do this effectively then you may cause some of those opening balls to land in the net.

Play No Spin: A heavy topspin opponent is usually generating a lot of topspin to counter heavy backspin. So what if there is no spin on the ball? The ball will be high or go over the end of the table. Mixing heavy spin and no spin can help work against a heavy topspin player, especially if they struggle to read the oncoming ball. Even half long no spin serves can be effective especially when they break the side of the table.

Place the Ball Strongly: Heavy topspin often relies on good weight transfer from the legs, which means good balance is necessary and a solid base and centre of gravity to work with. Strong placement can take your opponent out of position, aim to make them less comfortable, play to the body or wide or into space on the table. If they aren't able to keep stable then generating spin and power becomes more challenging.

Open First: Making the first attack often presents a good advantage for any player. If you are calling the shots then your opponent has a little more added pressure on them. If you open with good topspin then it may force your opponent to use more defensive or passive options.

Dealing with Heavy Topspin:

Heavy topspin can cause a lot of trouble for a lot of players, that's why table tennis is so difficult, it's high speed and lots of ball rotations per minute. So how can you deal with the spin?

Angle Adjustment: Learning to read a ball and adjust to it can be a long process and requires a lot of practice. Whether blocking or countering a heavy topspin ball it is important to close the bat angle to cover the ball more. An open angle will fail to control a high amount of topspin. The best way to improve is to practice against the technique more, so practice more against heavy topspin balls, some fast, some slow, because pace also affects your options and reaction.

Don't Overplay: Often heavy topspin balls can cause errors when the receiving player overplays their stroke. Topspin actually gives you something to work with. When blocking ensure your weight creates a stable base and have a firm grip on your bat and a closed angle to cover the spin. Players sometimes feel the need to punch at or drive through their blocking strokes when dealing with heavier topspin balls, while this can work sometimes it increases the risk level of the return and can cause a loss of control. This is the same with countering shots, be careful not to overswing or apply too much power to the ball.

Counterloop: Precise timing can result in very effective counterloop shots. You can play the ball early in the bounce which requires a strong idea of the required timing and angle, or you can counterloop top or later in the bounce and play a loop to loop style instead. Both have their merits. Again important not to overplay strokes here.

So I hope that has given you some more ideas on how to deal with heavy topspin opponents and I hope the answer was satisfactory Ruth! :)


  1. I was seeing your prevention of topspin and it days to have a firm grip on the block, ive always been taught to have a loose grip on a heavy topspin ball?

    1. I tend to make sure my grip is firm. Not necessarily tight, it just means a stable grip usually a little tighter between the finger and thumb. The thing about heavy topspin is that you need to be able to control the spin and a grip that is too loose can make that difficult.

      If I want to block softer then I will loosen my grip to take the pace off the ball and try and absorb the spin. You will see a lot of players who grip too loose against a heavy spin ball can end up losing control of the ball completely.

      So it depends on interpretation and feel, and also your teacher. I say firm, not tight, not too loose. It also depends on the acceleration of the ball, heavy topspin does not always mean slow and high arc. You have to make adjustments always so on some occasions a looser grip can have advantages.

  2. Thanks for that! Ive had some trouble recently on heavy topspin and i think it's becaude i have my grip quite loose, i shall gave to work on that!

    1. No problem. If you encounter any problems or have more questions don't hesitate to send a message via FB or the contact form on the site. I write a lot of these articles from questions sent in :)


  3. Another tactics 1. Serve topspin. Some players can really load up on underspin but not so much against top. 2. Smash those super slow high arc topspins.


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