Table tennis is a fun and exciting sport, but playing against a chopper can be a frustrating experience.
Their defensive playing style and ability to prolong rallies can make it difficult to score points and win games.
As a chopper, I understand the frustration that offensive players experience when they continuously make mistakes during a game. I have witnessed countless opponents lose their patience and become visibly angry during our matches. At that point, I know they’ve lost the mental battle.
Winning against a chopper requires not only technical skill but also psychological fortitude.
So, let me provide you with several simple and effective steps to beat a chopper in table tennis.
These tips will help you overcome your opponent’s defensive strategy and improve your chances of winning. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, these strategies will give you the confidence you need to take on a chopper and come out on top.
1) Always check your opponent’s racket
Before any table tennis match, it’s always a good idea to check your opponent’s racket. It gives you some clues about their playing styles and preferences that allow you to start building your match strategy.
However, when you’re about to play any defensive player, it’s not just a good idea. It’s absolutely critical that you identify what kind of rubbers they’re using.
You need to know if they’re using long pimples, short pimples, inverted or anti-spin (the 4 main types of rubber) because your strategy will vary significantly according to their rubbers. Each return from their racket will have a different spin depending on the rubber type.
Simply knowing how your opponent’s rubber will change the ball’s behaviour is half of winning the battle against a defender.
You can now adjust your game to target the weaknesses their rubber choice presents.
2) Quickly work out your opponent’s attacking capability
Generally, there are two types of choppers in table tennis.
The first type of chopper is those who attack when the chances arise. They create opportunities by moving their opponent around and capitalize on counter-attacks when they arise. They’re using our 5th defensive match strategy.
The second type is players who rarely attempt attacking strokes. These choppers primarily chop and push the ball until their opponent makes a mistake. They’re unlikely to play a winner themselves.
The first type of chopper is more commonly seen among male players, with the most notable example being the Korean table tennis player Joo Sae Hyuk. The second type is often seen among female players, with many of them relying solely on chopping and rarely attacking.
Therefore, during the first game of the match, it’s important to assess the opponent’s attacking ability through testing. This can easily be done by sending one or two balls with topspin or sidespin to their forehand area and observing their reaction.
Your tactics will vary depending on whether you’re playing an attacking or defensive chopper.
3) Use topspin to your advantage
Topspin is often considered the secret to beating a chopper in table tennis.
However, topspin is a wide spectrum. On one side, you can play topspin that has a relatively high arc and travels slowly, but the ball has heavy topspin. The other side of the spectrum is more aggressive, with a faster shot and a more forward hit by the player, but with less rotational spin.
When a chopper sends the ball back with heavy backspin and a low arc, it’s advisable to lift it up with a higher arc and stronger topspin. Attacking the ball with a strong forward motion can easily result in the ball failing to gain the necessary height to go over the net.
Adding in strokes with very heavy topspin makes it significantly more difficult for choppers to return, especially because they can’t use any of the pace on the ball. They have to generate their own power on the ball.
However, there are two important factors to consider:
Playing the same style of topspin shot repeatedly is unlikely to be a match-winning strategy. However, the best approach is to vary your shots and play a mix of topspin strengths.
Once you discover what your opponent is struggling with, play more of those shots.
4) The ‘In/Out’ strategy
The ‘In/Out’ strategy is widely used by attacking players when playing against a chopper. You can see that even the top players like Ma Long or Xu Xin also use it when faced with choppers.
The strategy involves using a combination of shots that land close to the table (in) and shots that land further away from the table (out). In practice, this looks like playing one or two attacking shots followed up by a short push to bring your opponent closer to the table.
The ‘In/Out’ strategy is effective because choppers are typically more comfortable playing at a distance from the table where they can generate more spin on their defensive shots.
When the ball is played close to the table, it can be difficult for a chopper to generate enough spin to keep the ball low and consistent.
The other major advantage is that you are disrupting the chopper’s rhythm and making it much harder for them to anticipate your shots.
5) Use wide angles
Choppers typically rely on their ability to control the ball with heavy backspin, often returning shots straight back down the middle of the table. By attacking at a wide angle, you can force the chopper to move out of position to reach the ball. As a result, it becomes more difficult for them to control the spin and placement of their returns.
By playing shots closer to the table, offensive players are able to find hit shots that find the very left or right side of the table, and then play the next shot to the opposite side.
If you watch some of the games played by Xu Xin, you can find that his shots often have a wide angle that makes choppers feel uncomfortable. It’s a primary reason why Xu Xin rarely loses to choppers.
This strategy definitely requires good control and excellent feeling as hitting the ball with too much force can result in missing the table altogether. Therefore, I recommend building exercises into your training that help you become familiar with finding those wise angles.
From my experience, it appears to be much easier for penhold grip players to find very wide angles to attack. There are many times that I’ve lost to penhold players and they tell me it’s easy for them to adjust the placement and angle by adjusting the motion of their wrist
6) When playing safely, aim at the body
When playing against defensive players, you’ll get lots of attacking practice. Each rally is likely to end up with you attacking their defensive shots. We’ve already talked about moving your opponent around with wide angles, but that can be a risky strategy.
Where is the best place to aim your shots when you want to play it safe?
You should try to aim at their body, or more specifically the cross-over point.
Generally, choppers are less intimidated by powerful shots aimed at their forehand or backhand. However, when the ball is directed towards the elbow of their playing arm, it becomes difficult to return.
In many cases, choppers are unable to adjust their positioning and movement in time to play a shot with good technique, resulting in a poor return and creating opportunities for offensive players.
7) Change the rhythm of the game
In a match against any opponent, it’s important to avoid falling into your opponent’s tactics and rhythm. In strategy four, we talked about impacting a chopper’s rhythm with the ‘In/Out’ strategy. However, it’s not the only way you can pull your opponent out of their comfort zone.
Even if you have a solid looping technique and can attack consistently, it is still difficult to gain an advantage as your opponent has practiced dealing with the same loops at every practice session.
To disrupt their rhythm, a smart strategy involves diversifying your stroke patterns. For example, this might include alternating between attacking the wide corners and playing short balls. Alternatively, you can try mixing up in/out strategies or attacking at a wide angle followed by a loop aimed at their body.
The key is to keep your opponent from becoming too comfortable with their defensive or looping game.
The best way to win against a chopper is to stay unpredictable and creative with your shots. By doing so, you can throw off their game and create opportunities for offensive plays.
8) Do physical training
Playing against choppers can be exhausting, as it often requires constant energy exertion through playing looping shots.
With good defenders, it’s not uncommon to find yourself playing a full 5 sets to determine the winner.
As a result, many offensive players lose the game because their arms become too fatigued to continue attacking with high-quality strokes. It definitely requires much more energy to attack than it does to defend.
During the match, the most common advice my coach gives to me is to hang in there and take advantage of my opponent’s exhaustion. He often says, “Xinyu, your opponent is exhausted now. They can’t even catch their breath, and their arms must be incredibly sore. Keep chopping and they’ll eventually give up the victory to you!”
Don’t let this happen to you. The fitter you are, the better chance you have of outlasting a chopper.
9) Be patient
“Be patient” is the ultimate and most critical strategy.
Don’t mentally become like some of my opponents who lose the game due to anger and frustration. I’ve watched plenty of opponents throw their racket on the floor after losing a long rally with a missed forehand loop.
Stay calm, even if you are making a few too many mistakes. It can be frustrating, but you have to accept that you won’t win every single point even if it feels like you have the advantage. Even Ma Long makes mistakes when facing Joo Sae Hyuk, so why can’t you be a little more forgiving of yourself?
If you lose your temper, you have already lost the game regardless of the score. Remember, in sports, victory doesn’t depend solely on technique. Psychology plays a significant role too.
So, keep my words in mind and stay patient. Winning a game requires a composed mind and a patient approach, especially when facing challenging opponents. Keep your emotions in check, and stay focused on the game. Success will follow.
Never lose to a chopper again
Playing against choppers can be challenging, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to test your skill and training progress. It can help you deepen your understanding of table tennis games and significantly improve your skills. Therefore, if you are faced with a chopper in your next game, cherish the opportunity and apply the strategies I’ve shared with you today.
Remember, playing against choppers requires patience, adaptability, and a willingness to mix up your strategies. By staying calm, varying your shots, and taking advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses, you can overcome their defence and come out on top.
So, don’t be intimidated by choppers – embrace the challenge and use it as an opportunity to improve your game.
Xinyu started playing table tennis when he was 8 years old in China and he's also the owner of popular table tennis blog ppongsuper . He has trained with the Chinese provincial team and now plays competitively in the Spanish national league. He's constantly striving to improve his skills and tactical abilities, as well as deepen his understanding of table tennis. He joined the Racket Insight team to share his passion and promote table tennis to more people!
Blade: Nexy Joo Sae Hyuk | Forehand:Butterfly Sriver FX | Backhand: Dawei 338d-1
Playstyle: The Defender