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I have often heard it said that when brushing the ball, you should hit the ball with the leading edge of the bat for maximum spin. To make this clearer, let's assume we are doing a heavy backspin serve and so we are striking the ball with a downward motion of the bat... people say that if you want to maximise the spin you should strike the ball near the lowest point on the rubber. They may also go on to say that if you hit the ball with the trailing edge of the rubber then the ball will have very little spin. See here for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnwhP4hs6pY.

When I've quizzed people about why this should be so they often assume that the ball will somehow be skidding along the rubber gathering rotation as it goes before rebounding and losing contact with the rubber. If the ball is struck near the trailing edge then there is no room for this rotation-gathering process and the ball will not be so spinney.

I have always been sceptical about this explanation and found this video which appears to show that the amount of skidding is tiny - perhaps a quarter of an inch at most.

I have two questions really:

  1. Is it true that brushing with the leading edge of the rubber imparts more spin than the trailing edge?
  2. If so - why?

2 Answers 2

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I believe for this technique to be effective, the perpendicular contact of the ball needs to be reduced so that the horizontal stroke of the contacting rubber on the ball can be maximized. This is why sound is also so very important in reading your opponent's amount of spin.

A heavy backspin serve would need to be grazed in such a way like a topspin loop is as opposed to a topspin drive. They do not sound at all alike and I do believe that even if only a matter of milliseconds, a loop stroke does make contact with the ball noticeably longer than a topspin drive, and the same can be done with backspin, particularly on a serve, just not to the same degree.

As to the idea of producing a less-spinny backspin by making contact further back on the racquet surface, I'm not sure how much difference to the extreme of either edge would make, but I always tend to start my serves further towards the leading edge of the blade regardless of the amount of spin I'm going to put on the ball.

This is a very good question and I think it would be worth researching further.

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  1. Yes it's in principle true, depending on how the racket is moved (see point 2). I used to play table-tennis myself and my coach taught me once a backspin service with the intention to hit the ball at the outermost point of the racket. The serve looked harmless, but when done it right, it had tremendous spin.
  2. The pre-requisite for this is to do a quick, circle-like movement with the racket, rather than going straight. So you have to turn your wrist quite strongly and do a spin move with the wrist as fast as possible. In that case the outer edge of the rubber moves more quickly than inner edge, causing stronger spin on the ball. This does not work if you do a straight movement because the speed is the same on every spot of the racket.
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    If the racket is moved in a circle like manner then indeed the tip (point furthest from the handle) will indeed be moving fastest - but that's not agreeing with those that think the leading edge causes greatest spin.
    – Mick
    Mar 11, 2020 at 13:41

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