Chop is a defensive shot in table tennis that defensive players widely use. It’s an advanced skill and also a different play style. Unlike drives or pushes that every player has to learn and practice every day, the chop is a more advanced technique that only a few players will master.
Only when pros have solid basic skills and excellent techniques will they learn to chop. This is because a chop can be used to slow down the pace of the game, which can be useful for an offensive player when their opponent is making fast, aggressive shots. This is also great for mixing up their shots and keeping their opponent guessing.
Although not every player needs to practice chopping, I can guarantee that everyone will encounter choppers in the games. The chop shot can be difficult to deal with, especially for offensive players, as it produces a heavy backspin and causes the ball to drop and bounce low on the opponent’s side of the table.
Thus, this blog will discuss how to chop in table tennis and play against chop in table tennis games.
What is a chop in table tennis?
A chop in table tennis is a defensive shot characterized by heavy backspin that makes the ball drop and bounces low on the opponent’s side of the table. Choppers tend to hit with a flat backswing and brush the underside of the ball with the racket to generate quite spinny balls.
I started to learn to chop when I was 9, 2 years after mastering all the other basic techniques in table tennis. As a chopper, I had quite a difficult time at first mastering this skill as I couldn’t cut and control the ball well, so the ball sometimes can be very high, and it’s easy for my opponents to attack it back.
Choppers need to have a great amount of training time and lots of footwork during table tennis games to master this skill and have great performance. My favorite chopper is Koren table tennis player Joo Sae Hyuk, and we discussed his playstyle in our previous blog.
The chop in table tennis can be executed using both the forehand and backhand strokes. Also, players can chop the ball with inverted rubbers, short pips, or long pips as well.
The most common situation is that players use a long pips rubber or short pips rubber on their backhand and an inverted rubber on the forehand. Because the distinct rubber types can cause confusion to the opponent as the spin always varies. But also there are players chopping with both inverted rubbers on the forehand and backhand.
I first learned to chop with inverted rubber on both my wings, but later, my coach suggested I put a piece of long pips rubber on my backhand side. Since then, I have started to chop or block with long pips and chop or loop with my forehand.
How to Play a Forehand Chop in Table Tennis?
Hold the racket with a comfortable grip and take a side-on stance. But the difference between chop and drive is the distance to the table. Drives are usually supposed to play near the table, while the chopping should be executed at a mid-distance to the table. This is because the incoming ball can be quite powerful and fast. So players need a proper distance to prepare for the stroke.
Besides, the feet should be shoulder-width apart, and the knees should be slightly bent to give you stability and flexibility. Then stare in the direction of the incoming ball with patience.
Take a small step back with your right foot(if you are a right-hand player) and start with the racket at the height of your right shoulder. The most important thing in this step is that players should backswing the racket with enough height. Sometimes the racket should be raised even over the shoulder to chop the heavy topspin balls.
Chop the ball
When the ball approaches, brush the underside to create a heavy backspin. The motion is somehow like cutting a slice of meat or chopping wood. The essence of this step is to cut the ball from a high place. That’s why we mentioned that the racket should be raised at the height of the shoulder.
Players need to keep the arc as low as possible so that the opponents will struggle to attack it back. Sometimes the incoming ball can be extremely fast, and we have to react really quickly as well.
After executing a chop shot, it’s important to restore to the ready position as quickly as possible to prepare for the next stroke. This is super important because, for us choppers, our playstyle is relatively passive.
We don’t know where our opponent would locate the next shot. It can be pushed shortly or be attacked fiercely. And it can also be returned to our backhand or forehand. Thus, we have to restore rapidly and focus on the next stroke.
How to Play a Backhand Chop in Table Tennis
The backhand chop is similar to the forehand chop, and the main difference is that the backhand chop is played on the backhand side of the body, whereas the forehand chop is played on the forehand side.
Like doing a forehand chop, you should stand side-on and at a mid-distance from the table, with your feet shoulder-width apart. There is not much difference between the ready positions for the forehand and backhand chop. The only one is that the racket arm is extended towards the backhand side, and the racket is held in a more upright position for executing a backhand chop.
As the ball approaches, slightly twist the waist and left shoulder to create enough space for the backswing. This step is somehow similar to the forehand chop. Players should raise the paddle at the height of the shoulder as well but to the backhand side. It’s important to have the left leg a step back (for right-handed players) to have enough time and space to play the chop.
Chop the ball
With a smooth motion, brush the underside of the ball, using an open-angled racket to impart a backspin. The ball should be struck with a downward motion, starting from a high point and ending at a low point.
In fact, the motion is slightly different when we use a long pips rubber and an inverted rubber to cut the ball. Relatively speaking, using a long pips rubber to do the chop is much easier and has higher error tolerance.
On the contrary, using an inverted rubber to do the backhand chop requires proper timing and a great feeling to control the ball well and generate a strong spin.
The last step is also somehow similar to the forehand chop. After finishing the shot, players should restore as quickly as possible to prepare for the next stroke. In this process, players are supposed to move actively and predict where could the next shot be located in advance.
How to Play against a Chopper
Playing against a chopper is always a headache thing because a chopper imparts a lot of backspin on the ball, making it harder for an attacker to generate speed and power in their shots.
As a chopper, I have experienced a lot in that my opponents lose their patience and get angry while playing with me. Many times they spoke badly and threw the rackets to the floor after the games.
However, in my career, I have also played with many marvelous and smart offensive players that I can only get up to 5 points in one set. They have pretty sufficient experience in playing long pips rubber choppers with solid fundamental skills and great attacking technique.
Thus, in this part, I would like to share tips to beat a chopper from the perspective of a chopper himself!
Check the paddle of your opponent
Identifying the type of chopper and the specific rubber they are using can be very helpful in developing a strategy to play against them. Before the start of the game, you should check what rubber your opponent use. The way to play against them is totally different.
For example, short pimples are known for their ability to disrupt the spin and speed of incoming shots. And once the ball becomes a little bit tall, they can attack back with relatively fast speed. On the other hand, long pimples are known for their unpredictable ball trajectory, but typically it’s hard to attack directly with a long pips rubber.
Thus, the first step is to figure out what playstyle your opponent belongs to.
In our previous blogs, we analyzed why Xu Xin rarely loses to the choppers. The main reason is that he has excellent topspin technique. Attacking with heavy topspin shots can put a lot of pressure on the chopper, especially when they have to chop it back with an inverted rubber.
In fact, offensive players can loop the ball with a higher arc but longer dwell time to generate more topspin. It’s almost impossible to finish the point with only one powerful stroke when faced with a good chopper. Thus, offensive players have to prepare for several consecutive shots.
Loops with higher arcs can help you save energy and generate spinny balls. But the chopper can use it and return with a heavier backspin with long pips. So it’s suggested to place the ball to the side that the chopper uses an inverted rubber.
Vary your shots
As we mentioned, choppers with long pips can reverse the heavy topspin into heavier backspin. Thus, it’s really difficult for an offensive player to make loops consistently in this way because it becomes more and more complicated every time.
The intelligent offensive players mix up spin and placement and try to keep their opponents guessing. For example, they usually loop the first shot and return the next backspin ball with a push. This can move the choppers and make them play in a quite passive way.
Attack at a wide angle
Apart from varying your shots and keeping your opponent guessing, another tip is to attack the ball at a wider angle. Good attackers can use the table’s width and create more space for themselves.
Hitting the ball at a wider angle can put more pressure on the chopper’s defense and make them passively play the game. You can also watch the games of Xu Xin to figure out how he plays the game against the choppers.
However, it’s important to remember that hitting the ball at a wide angle also requires good placement and precision. If your shots are not accurate, the chopper may be able to reach the ball and counterattack, putting you on the defensive.
BE PATIENT. This is the word I have heard when the coach tells their players to play against a chopper. You have to keep in mind that even Ma Long can’t finish the game with only one stroke, no matter how powerful it is. So it’s essential to keep calm and play the game with sufficient patience.
Choppers usually win the game through the mistakes made by their opponents. So once you lose the calm, it means you are giving the victory to your rival by yourselves. What you should do is focus on every single shot and make sure that you make as few stupid mistakes as possible.
The last thing I can tell you is that it’s important to have a defensive teammate. You must train with him frequently to better understand the chopping and the games.
But luckily, you have read this post! Now it’s time to apply the thing I have told you to your training and games!