Table Tennis Tidbits #19

By Robert Ho | Feb. 27, 2018, 9:29 p.m. (ET)

John Hilton 1980 Table Tennis European Championships Winner

John Hilton - Winner of the 1980 European Championships

TABLE TENNIS TIDBITS  #19     By Robert Ho  5-23-16


The Loop Drive Comes to the U.S—Crashes Against de Walle

The loop drive was formally introduced to this country at the U.S. Open in Detroit, Michigan in 1963 by Jacobsen and Baddeley from England.  The Friday evening before the main matches of the following day, Jacobsen demonstrated the new technique.  Local aficionados lined up to take their turns returning the loop.  Those who attempted a chop return watched their balls flying “sky high” in coping with the extreme topspin not previously encountered.  A successful block return necessitated an extremely “closed”  blade to prevent the ball from going long.

A match between Baddeley and Norbert Van de Walle of  Belgium, but playing out of Chicago, was fascinating and instructive.  Van de Walle was a chopper with pimpled rubber sans sponge on both BH and FH and a top level player.  Baddeley won the first game by a wide margin with the chop returns of the loop going long or very high for easy kills by the Englishman.  In the second game more of the chops landed on the table but excessively high and the looper again won comfortably but by a smaller margin.  In the third game, many more of the chops were landing on the table and at much lower altitude.  It was apparent that Van de Valle was “finding the range” and was also to “kill” some of Baddeley’s higher balls and the Belgian won the third.  Baddeley was becoming visibly fatigued because so many of his loops were coming back at much lower altitude.  The result was that Van de Walle won the match by taking the last 3 games after losing the initial 2 .

Erwin Klein, by attacking and not chopping, took the measure of Jacobsen and Klein was to develop a very good loop drive himself.  Stroke technique evolved along with more resilient rubber so a distinction was made between the “slow” original loop and the “fast” loop.

In the ‘70s Huang Liang of China, using long pips on one side of his blade and inverted rubber on the other side (rubber of the same color), twirling the blade so that he might use either side of the blade for any stroke on the forehand or backhand, serving with blade starting below table level, and no distinct upward toss of the ball, beat a number of established European stars in one tournament by ridiculously large margins.  The Europeans were facing Liang’s tactics and use of equipment for the first time.

In the 1980 European Championships in Berne, Switzerland, John Hilton of England, using antispin and inverted rubbers on his blade, emulating Huang Liang’s tactics won the men’s singles event.  This event led to the rule that the color of the FH and BH rubbers must be different.  Also the service rule evolved to its current requirement that ball and blade must start at or above table level, behind the end line, and be tossed upward at least 6 inches.


Fortuitously during that Swiss tourney, Erwin Klein, 3 times U.S. champion, now retired, was such a continuing student of the game that he traveled to Berne to witness proceedings.  Somehow he and Hilton met and became very conversive   Apparently Klein conveyed thoughts that were useful to Hilton in winning the title.  After the match Klein avoided further conversation with Hilton asserting that he had done his job.  Reportedly it was only later Hilton learned the name and background of his “benefactor”!

The new color and service rules eliminated 2 factors that favored choppers and increased the emphasis on attacking play.

About this time it was noted that whoever attacked first in a given point was more likely to gain the initiative and win the point.  So arose the tension between attacking first but losing the point by erring in doing so, versus not attacking first but losing the initiative.  To increase the chance of success in attacking first requires much systematic practice against other players, multi ball practice, and the use of robots.  Correct technique must be established, otherwise one only reinforces poor technique which means submaximal performance.  Video technology is very helpful in this regard.  Even world class players or their coaches may be observed setting up cameras to record match performance during tournaments.