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Playing against Anti-Spin (Part 2)

How anti-spin rubbers react to your spin

by Greg Letts - an Australian state coach, an International Umpire and one of the top ranked players in his country.

Continued from Part 1

What Happens when I Topspin?

The Short Version

As Carl Danner was nice enough to point out, the short version for both topspin and backspin is as follows - "Basically, anti-spin continues the spin already on the ball, so you get (effectively) back the opposite of what you have hit -- only slightly less intense, as you noted."

The Long Version

Since I lack Carl's ability to take a complicated idea and boil it down to it's essentials, here are a few example scenarios and an explanation of what will happen in each:

(A) Your topspin to your opponent's topspin style stroke.

  1. You hit a heavy topspin ball. Your opponent is using a medium speed anti-spin rubber that has virtually no grip. He hits the ball with a topspin style stroke and with flat, non-brushing contact. The anti-spin will have little effect on the spin already on the ball, so most of the spin will remain, and the ball will come back to you fairly quickly and with medium backspin. It won't be a heavy backspin, since the spin has been steadily getting less due to air resistance ever since you hit the ball. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return would have no spin or a little topspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will go into the bottom of the net.
  2. Same as for (1), but now your opponent brushes the ball rather than flat-hitting it. Because the topsheet has little grip, the only factor able to change the spin of the ball is the sponge giving way, allowing the rubber to wrap slightly around the ball. The thicker the sponge and the softer the topsheet, the more your spin will be reduced. Your opponent will still not be able to fully kill your spin though, so the ball should come back to you with medium to light backspin. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return would have medium to heavy topspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will bounce on your side of the table.
  3. You hit a heavy topspin ball. Your opponent is using a medium speed anti-spin rubber that has a little grip. He hits the ball with a topspin style stroke and brushes the ball rather than flat hitting it. Now both the topsheet and the sponge can help to change the spin on the ball, although it is still unlikely that your opponent will be able to kill all your spin. The ball should come back to you as a light backspin to a near-float. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return would have medium to heavy topspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will bounce on your side of the table.
  4. Same as for (3), but now your opponent hits the ball with a flat, non-brushing contact. Since his rubber has a little grip, this will act to kill the spin just a little, much less than if he tried to brush the ball. The sponge and topsheet will give way, but since your opponent is not brushing the ball they should have little effect on the spin. The ball should be coming back to you with a medium backspin, not as much backspin as in (1) above but with more backspin than in (2) and (3). Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return would have no spin or a little topspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will go into the net.

(B) Your topspin to your opponent's chop style stroke

  1. You hit a heavy topspin stroke. Your opponent is using a medium speed anti-spin rubber that has virtually no grip. He hits the ball with a backspin style stroke and with flat, non-brushing contact. The anti-spin will have little effect on the spin already on the ball, so most of the spin will remain, and the ball will come back to you fairly quickly and with medium backspin. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return would have little or no backspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will go into the net.
  2. Same as for (1), but now your opponent brushes the ball rather than flat-hitting it. The only factor able to change the spin of the ball will be the sponge giving way to wrap slightly around the ball. The thicker the sponge and the softer the topsheet, the more your spin will be increased. Since it is an anti-spin rubber though, it will not be a huge increase in spin, so the ball should come back to you with medium-heavy backspin. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have heavy backspin. Your bat angle will be slightly incorrect, and the ball will 'pop up' higher than expected from your bat.
  3. You hit a heavy topspin ball. Your opponent is using a medium speed anti-spin rubber that has a little grip. He hits the ball with a backspin style stroke and brushes the ball rather than flat hitting it. Now both the topsheet and the sponge can help to increase the spin on the ball, so the ball should come back with a medium-heavy backspin, with a little more spin than in (2) above. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have heavy backspin. Your bat angle will be slightly incorrect, and the ball will 'pop up' higher than expected from your bat.
  4. Same as for (3), but now your opponent hits the ball with a flat, non-brushing contact. Since his rubber has a little grip, this will act to kill the spin just a little. The sponge and topsheet will give way, but since your opponent is not brushing the ball they should have little effect on the spin. The ball should be coming back to you with a medium-light backspin. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have little or no backspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will go into the net.

Ok, so much for returns from your topspin strokes. But what happens when you backspin the ball to your opponent?

What happens when I Backspin?

Here are a few example scenarios and an explanation of what will happen:

(A) Your backspin to his topspin style stroke.

  1. You hit a heavy backspin ball. Your opponent is using a medium speed anti-spin rubber that has virtually no grip. He hits the ball with a topspin style stroke and with flat, non-brushing contact. The anti-spin will have little effect on the spin already on the ball, so most of the spin will remain, and the ball will come back to you fairly quickly and with medium topspin. It won't be a heavy topspin, since the spin has been steadily getting less due to air resistance ever since you hit the ball. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have little or no topspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will go 'pop up' into the air.
  2. Same as for (1), but now your opponent brushes the ball rather than flat-hitting it. Because the topsheet has no grip, the only factor able to change the spin of the ball is the sponge giving way, allowing the rubber to wrap slightly around the ball. The thicker the sponge and the softer the topsheet, the more your spin will be increased, although not by very much, so the ball should come back to you with a little more spin than in (1) above, but still a medium amount of topspin. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have heavy topspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will go into the net.
  3. You hit a heavy backspin ball. Your opponent is using a medium speed anti-spin rubber that has a little grip. He hits the ball with a topspin style stroke and brushes the ball rather than flat hitting it. Now both the topsheet and the sponge can help to increase the spin on the ball, so the ball should come back to you as a medium topspin with a little more topspin than in (2) above.Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have heavy topspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will go into the net.
  4. Same as for (3), but now your opponent hits the ball with a flat, non-brushing contact. Since his rubber has a little grip, this will act to kill the spin a little. The sponge and topsheet will give way, but since your opponent is not brushing the ball they should have little effect on the spin. The ball should be coming back to you with a light topspin. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have little or no topspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will 'pop up' into the air.

(B) Your backspin to his chop style stroke

  1. You hit a heavy backspin stroke. Your opponent is using a medium speed anti-spin rubber that has virtually no grip. He hits the ball with a backspin style stroke and with flat, non-brushing contact. The anti-spin will have little effect on the spin already on the ball, so most of the spin will remain, and the ball will come back to you fairly quickly and with medium topspin. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have little or no backspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will 'pop up' into the air.
  2. Same as for (1), but now your opponent brushes the ball rather than flat-hitting it. The only factor able to change the spin of the ball will be the sponge giving way to wrap slightly around the ball. The thicker the sponge and the softer the topsheet, the more your spin will be reduced. Since it is an anti-spin rubber though, it will not be a huge reduction in spin, so the ball should come back to you with medium topspin, but with less spin than in (1) above. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have medium to heavy backspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will 'pop up' into the air.
  3. You hit a heavy backspin ball. Your opponent is using a medium speed anti-spin rubber that has a little grip. He hits the ball with a backspin style stroke and brushes the ball rather than flat hitting it. Now both the topsheet and the sponge can help to reduce the spin on the ball, but they will not be able to kill the spin entirely, so the ball should come back with a light topspin. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have medium to heavy backspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will 'pop up' into the air.
  4. Same as for (3), but now your opponent hits the ball with a flat, non-brushing contact. Since his rubber has a little grip, this will act to kill the spin just a little. The sponge and topsheet will give way, but since your opponent is not brushing the ball they should have little effect on the spin. The ball should be coming back to you with a medium-light topspin. Why you will hit a bad stroke next - with a conventional rubber his return will have little or no backspin. Your bat angle will be incorrect, and the ball will 'pop up' into the air.

Conclusion

If you are still with me after all that heavy going, congratulations! Now go back and read it again to make sure it all makes sense. Then go out and find an anti-spin player and try it out.

In a nutshell, there are 3 basic rules that you must remember:

1. What did you just do to the ball?

An anti-spin rubber will not affect the spin that you have put on the ball very much. So the most important thing to keep track of is what was the last stroke you played - chop or topspin? If you chopped the ball, your opponent will only be able to use his anti-spin to give you a return that ranges from float to heavy topspin, and the amount of spin will increase with the more spin you put on the ball in the first place. Similarly, if you loop the ball, your opponent can only use the anti-spin to give you a return that varies from float to heavy backspin, and the amount of spin will again be in proportion to the amount of spin you gave the ball first.

2. What stroke did your opponent play?

This doesn't actually matter that much when the anti-spin rubber is used. The grippier the anti-spin, the thicker the sponge, and the softer the topsheet, the more this will have an effect. It won't be more important than Rule 1 though.

3. What side of the bat did he use?
Remember, all of the above assumes that your opponent actually hit the ball with the anti-spin side. All bets are off if your opponent twiddles the bat and uses the conventional side when you are not looking!

When in Doubt, What Do I Do?

Sooner or later, it's going to happen. Your anti-spin using opponent hits the ball and you don't remember what spin you put on the ball, or you didn't notice what side your opponent used. What is your best course of action? The way I see it, you have two choices:

  1. My own personal recommendation is to hit the ball slowly but put as heavy a spin on the ball as possible, based on the theory that if you heavily spin the ball you will have a better chance of overriding whatever spin is on the ball already, and the slowness of the shot will give you a large area of table to land the ball on.
  2. Other players I know like to hit the ball as fast and flat as they can, working on the principle that if you pick a specific spot on the table and aim for it, hitting quickly and flat should help kill the spin on the ball and it will hopefully go in a straight line towards where you have aimed.

Which theory works best for you? - try it out and see!

Photo: Butterfly Super-Anti


© 2005-2019 Greg Letts

You may also read Greg's blog and purchase Australian TT videos from Greg's own website


 


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