Photo source: Screenshot of below YouTube video uploaded by PintoTM
Why read this?
Kenta Matsudaira is a great exponent of the sidespin/backspin chop block. This great slow motion video was recently uploaded to YouTube of Kenta executing this shot to aid your learning. Furthermore, on the advice of my coach, I myself have been practicing this shot so am somewhat qualified to talk about it.
Without further ado, here's the video. The sidespin block is shown in the second half, as well as 2 match examples against Ma Lin and one against Ma Long.
So, who should use this shot?
Backhand dominant players with a strong backhand loop or block often have what is known as a ‘big middle’; a relatively large area of indecision between backhand and forehand. For these players, deliberately learning and practicing this shot will give you another option for dealing with balls that come into this area, and the unexpected spin imparted by the shot hopefully confuses opponents and makes them decide to instead play to other areas where you are hopefully stronger.
When should I use this shot?
You can use this shot against any right- or left-handed opponent who likes to play topspins crosscourt into your backhand half of the court and who can consistently make multiple strong loops in a row. It is especially effective against players of the same handedness as you who like to pivot and play forehands from their backhand corner.
You’ll want to play at least one fast, deep regular block to force your opponent back from the table slightly before playing it, as a benefit of this shot is it often holds up in the air and drops shallower on the table because of the backspin. Perfect technical and situational execution of this shot will often mean the ball is already past the top of the bounce by the time the opponent reaches it, making it even harder to lift over the net, and giving you the initiative in the rally. This is the case in all 3 match examples at the end of the YouTube video.
Lastly, always play this shot down the line from your backhand corner. The wrist and forearm position required to play it crosscourt is too difficult to reach from the same starting position as your regular block, costing you time and drawing too many errors.
Top tips for playing the shot:
- Start with your racket tip pointing skyward, and take the ball just outside your playing shoulder, moving your racket in a circular motion sideways and down away from your body.
- Don’t press your racket forward at the ball. You want to transfer as much of your opponent’s speed into spin as possible, so the ball drops short over the net.
- For help with the above, keep as quiet a contact as possible. This means you’re taking pace off and adding spin to the ball. Racket angle should be only slightly closed. For a comparable contact sound and racket angle, try a few regular chop blocks first.
- Keep your racket out in front of your elbow, but not so much so that your wrist has to cock back toward your elbow at an uncomfortable angle.
- Practice! Practice! Practice!