Topspin in Table Tennis: The Most Dominant Stroke

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  • Post last modified:September 24, 2022
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In table tennis topspin play is a must learning to develop your skills. If you watch modern table tennis, you will find the attackers using topspin in most of the shots. In the era of hardwood, spin had no importance in table tennis and the rallies continued for a long duration.

But from 1950, after the introduction of the sponge as a part of rubber, spin has become the most dominant factor in table tennis and it is the topspin for aggressive players. The better you are in topspin play, the more unbeatable you will be.

But before proceeding, ensure that you have learned:

Let’s come to the most vital topic of topspin in table tennis.

What is Topspin in Table Tennis?

Concept of the formation of topspin in table tennis

The topspin is the angular momentum imposed on the ball by the disturbance of air when the ball rotates against the direction of the air. Your brushing action at the top of the ball creates the topspin that forces the ball to dip and after the bounce, the ball skids at a low trajectory with high speed.

When you brush at the top of the ball, the upper surface collides with air, whereas the bottom surface accelerates the movement of air. For that, there is a higher pressure region above the upper surface and a lower pressure region below the lower surface. Hence there is a resultant force acting downwards and for that, the ball dips and travels less than a non-spinning ball.

The trajectory of topspin in table tennis

After hitting the surface, the bottom surface of the ball tends to slide backward and the frictional force reacts just in the opposite direction as a forwarding motion and it forces the ball to skid with a higher speed and low trajectory.

Types of Topspin

There are two types of topspin, one is forehand topspin and the other one is backhand topspin. When we create the topspin by the forehand side of our racket, it is the forehand topspin and the topspin by the backhand side of the racket is termed as backhand topspin.

As the forehand is our natural side, it is easier to play the forehand topspin than the backhand topspin.

How to Do Forehand Topspin in Table Tennis

Forehand topspin in table tennis
Photo: Erik Jacobs/ Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The forehand topspin is the major contributor among all strokes in the game of modern table tennis. You can’t advance further without the topspin play.

It is a stroke that can be played against every shot. When there is a more powerful topspin, then it is loop stroke, and when less, it is drive or counter-hit.

The selection of these strokes depends on the type of return that you receive, the situation in the match, and your intention for the play.

The forehand topspin consists of three stages.

Stage-I

  • Stand one forearm distance from the end of the table
  • Take a slight side-on stance with your left leg slightly ahead of your right leg (for the right-handers).
  • Your legs should be more apart than your shoulders.
  • Bent your knees to make your center of gravity low for a stable stance.
  • Initially, your weight should be on your right foot with your bat at the knee or slightly above the knee level.
  • Hold the bat with your natural grip, it should look like an extension of your arm.
  • Your body should be forward with a bent knee and the bat facing towards the line of play.

Stage-II

  • The rotation of your trunk is very important in topspin play.
  • As the ball approaches you, rotate your trunk counterclockwise and at the same time forward your bat from knee height to head height.
  • The movement of your racket should be upward as well as forward.
  • Your lower arm will be closing the angle with the upper arm.
  • Brush on the top of the ball at the top of the bounce.
  • Transfer your weight from the right foot to the left foot to generate power and maintain balance during the stroke making.

Stage-III

  • Forward your bat not crossing the center of your body.
  • For more topspin, your bat should end at the head high level, and with less topspin and more speed, it will end slightly lower than that.
  • Return to your ready position and prepare for the next shot.

For visual learning of the topspin, check Spins N Skills on the ITTF YouTube channel.

How to Do Backhand Topspin in Table Tennis

The player is executing backhand topspin in a match
Photo: Gaël Marziou/ Flickr, CC BY 2.0

With the invention of new rubbers in 1950, the game of table tennis is becoming faster and faster day by day. There is very little time for reaction playing forehand shots when you get the ball on your backhand side.

So it is becoming essential to strengthen backhand topspin play and the players with a good backhand topspin have a distinct advantage over the others.

Stage-I

  • Stand close to the table with your legs 1.5x apart from your shoulders.
  • Take a square-on stance on the table.
  • Your knee should be bent with the core low for a stable stance.
  • The right shoulder should be in front and slightly low than the left shoulder(for right-handers).
  • Your wrist should be flexible.
  • Your forearm should take an “L” shape with the upper arm and also with your flexible wrist.
  • Bring your wrist back with the bat close to the left hip.

Stage-II

  • Swing your bat to brush the ball and at the same time rotate your right shoulder in the clockwise direction.
  • The movement of your bat should be upward as well as forward.
  • Brush at the top of the ball to generate the required topspin.
  • The flexible wrist and the forearm are the main anchors for the backhand topspin.

Stage-III

  • Move your bat up to the head height to complete the stroke
  • Your upper arm, forearm, and wrist, all should be in a straight line at the time of the completion of the stroke.
  • Both of your shoulders should finish at the same level with a square-on position against the table.
  • Come back to your ready position and prepare for the next shot.

When you impart the backhand topspin away from the table, you will get more time for your shot. At that time the rotation of your hip will be more to swing your racket through a greater arc.

Check the YouTube channel of the official site of ITTF for the visual explanation of backhand topspin in table tennis.

Forehand Topspin Vs Backhand Topspin

Though both in forehand topspin and backhand topspin, the purpose is to brush at the top of the ball with an upward and forward movement to generate the topspin, there are some differences between the two techniques.

  • The backhand topspin is taken closer to the table than the forehand topspin.
  • In the forehand topspin, the stance is side-on to the table whereas, in the backhand topspin, it is square-on.
  • Your shoulders play a major role in generating power in the forehand topspin but it has no importance in the backhand topspin.
  • The thumb is on the rubber to exert pressure in the backhand topspin but in the case of the forehand topspin, the thumb stays below the edge of the rubber.
  • In the forehand topspin, the whole body is involved but in the backhand topspin, the upper part of the body takes part.
  • In table tennis, the forehand topspin is relatively easy to generate than the backhand topspin.
  • The forehand topspin is more popular than the backhand topspin.

How to Improve Topspin in Table Tennis

First Your focus should be on spin, not speed. For that, you have to ensure that your brushing action is always upward rather than forward to generate spin not speed.

As you progress and are confident in the vertical brushing action, you may add extra speed by slightly forwarding your bat during the stroke but remember it must also be upward.

When the movement of your bat is forward as well as upward, you have to increase your racket speed with a slightly closed angle to generate the required topspin.

The starting point of your stroke should be around the knee height level and it will end up to the head high to maximize the length of the arc which effectively increases the racket speed.

Your follow-up action should not cross the vertical centerline of your body.

Always keep your wrist and lower arm flexible.

To generate more racket speed, always aim to hit the ball with the top part of your racket.

Wrapping Up

Learning topspin is the key to achieving success in the journey of table tennis. Make it a habit to play it consistently to gain confidence and for that first focus on spin. For that take help from your practice partner or you can use a robot.

Once you can get the feeling, you can vary the angle of your racket to experiment more and gradually become a very good topspin player.

Indranil

I am a table tennis enthusiast and with a playing experience of 20 years, I like to share what I have learned for the development of skills in the early stages and proper equipment reviews for the best outcome. For any queries, mail me at info@tabletennisarena.com

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