Liam Pitchford has become known as something of a master at the “behind-the-back” table tennis shot. In fact, he pulled it off twice against the legend that is Jun Mizutani!
It’s pretty impressive to be able to pull it off on the world stage. It’s even more impressive to do it during deuce in the sixth game!
But Liam is far from the first professional player to make use of this trick shot in matches. In fact, it was all the way back in 2013 we at Table Tennis University first covered how to do the “behind-the-back” shot. That was after Quentin Robinot’s shot against Kiril Barabanov during the Kuwait Open went viral!
So, you’d be wrong to think that the behind-the-back shot is a new thing. The ‘trick shot’ has been around for years and we’ve found a number of great past videos on YouTube to prove it.
- Rosskopf (vs Guoliang) in the 90’s – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H41Y0-4UReo
- Fejer-Konnerth (vs Schlager) in 2009 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3w8JNAI7ew
- Suss (vs Saive) in 2010 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RCEC4sMy0E
- Bradley Evans (our personal favourite) in 2010 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_T59Kbu2jI
The Bradley Evans one is great because of the surprise, celebration and the fact that it won him the match! And the Rosskopf one is the earliest we could find.
How to play the shot
If you would like to have a go at playing the “behind-the-back” shot then here are a few tips.
- Practice it in training – It may seem like these players have just pulled this off as an instinct (which is partly true) but they’ve all also spent time perfecting the shot in the training hall. The fact that it went on is not a complete fluke. Also, you’ll never react in that way in a match unless you have some degree of muscle memory for the shot and your brain has it stored away somewhere as an option.
- Keep your bat angle closed – The natural angle of your arm as you reach behind our back will give you an open bat angle. You will realise this after the first few practice attempts. We all know that hitting the ball flat with an open bat angle is going to send it flying off the end of the table so you will need to make an effort to close the bat angle in order to keep the shot on the table.
- Rotate your body to the right – Unless the ball is played really close to your left hip (I’m writing for a right-handed player) you are going to need to rotate your body in order to reach the bat. By rotating/twisting your body to the right you bring your right shoulder left and give yourself an extra 20cm of reach.
We’ll leave you with some stills from the Robinot video.
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