How to Play a Forehand Drive in Table Tennis

The forehand drive is always the first of the four basic strokes that I teach. It is also Day 4 of my How to Play Table Tennis in 10 Days course (following grip, stance and footwork).

Once mastered, the forehand drive will become one of your most used table tennis shots. It forms the basis for more advanced strokes such as the block, the loop and the counter loop, so it’s really important to develop a strong and consistent stroke.

This post will highlight the correct technique for playing a forehand drive in table tennis. I will use my own knowledge as a table tennis coach and a video featuring Head Table Tennis Coach at Greenhouse Charity, Jason Sugrue.

What Is The Forehand Drive?

  • The forehand drive is one of the four basic table tennis strokes. The other three are the backhand drive, backhand push and forehand push.
  • The forehand drive is an attacking stroke played with a small amount of topspin. It is a drive shot and not a topspin loop!
  • The forehand drive is played against long or medium length topspin or float balls. You can’t play a forehand drive off a short ball (that would be a flick) and you can’t play a forehand drive off a backspin ball (that would go into the net).
  • The forehand drive is usually played from the forehand side but players are also encouraged to use their forehand drive against balls that come to their middle. Advanced players will even sometimes move around to play a forehand drive from their backhand side, if they see the ball early enough!

Jason Sugrue’s Video

Here is a really good video going through some of the key points for the forehand drive. There are a few things it doesn’t mention, such as weight transfer, but overall it does a great job for a two minute video.

My Coaching Points

Here are my key coaching points. I’ve tried to go into a bit more detail than the video. I break the forehand drive down into four sections; the stance, the backswing, the strike and the finish.

The Stance

  • Feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • If right-handed, the right foot should be slightly further back than the left.
  • Knees should be slightly bent.
  • Body should be leaning forward.
  • Both arms should be out in front of you.
  • About a 90-110 degree bend at the elbow.
  • Stand quite close to the table, an arms length away.
  • Weight distributed on both feet and on the balls/toes, not heels.

The Backswing

  • Rotate your body to the right, from your hips.
  • Elbow and bat rotate back with you.
  • Bat angle closes.
  • Weight shifts onto the back foot, right foot for a right-handed player.
  • The body is moving the arm, not the other way round!

The Strike

  • Hips and shoulders rotate forwards to meet the ball.
  • The arm moves forward with the body.
  • Accelerate the forearm slightly as you make contact, similar to doing a military salute.
  • Weight transfers to the front foot, left foot.
  • Bat angle stays closed throughout the shot.
  • Take the ball at the peak of the bounce and out in front of you.
  • Keep a small gap between the elbow and the body.

The Finish

  • Follow through, forward and upward.
  • Your bat should finish roughly pointing where you have hit the ball.
  • Always get back to the ready position.

Common Errors

Here are some common errors to look out for in your own shot.

  1. Ensure your weight is moving from back foot to front foot during the strike. Some players end up with their upper body moving forwards while their lower body moves backwards.
  2. Rotate from your hips not your shoulders. The forehand drive should come from the hips. You will sometimes see players twisting back their shoulders and not moving their hips. They will look a bit like a robot playing the stroke. The lower part of your body is very important.
  3. Keep a gap between your elbows and body. A common mistake is tucking the elbows into the body, giving a very limited rotation and later on, little power.
  4. Let your body move your arm. Beginners will often swing their arm at the ball without moving their body at all. A correct forehand drive should have the rotation of the body moving the arm. The power will come from the body and good weight transfer. The arm is just for control.
  5. Keep your wrist relatively straight. Some players drop their wrist through the forehand drive so that the racket is facing downwards. This makes the shot harder to control and usually softer.
  6. Finish the shot with the bat pointing where you hit the ball. Many players over rotate and end up with the bat across their body or over their neck. This is fine is other racket sports such as tennis but not in table tennis. You should accelerate on contact with the ball and then make a solid finish with the bat out in front of you.
  7. Take the ball at the peak of the bounce. It may seem easier to wait for the ball to drop slightly before making contact but this is not a drive. On some topspin loop shots our contact point is lower but the drive is always peak of the bounce, over the table.
  8. Keep the bat angle closed throughout the stroke. Don’t try to change the angle of the bat during the shot. Some players start with a neutral bat angle and try to close it after the backswing as they strike the ball. This is not a good technique.

And that’s everything you need to know in order to master the forehand drive!

I have spent the last few years coaching thousands of children the forehand drive in group sessions and individually, and it is usually the ones that are best at listening that make the biggest improvements. There’s a lot to take in!

Try to add one point at a time to your technique to combat any brain overload. Once you have made an improvement there, add another pointer. There’s no rush and learning in this way will increase your ability to remember the key tips.

If you’ve enjoyed this article please check out my How to Play Table Tennis in 10 Days course, which goes through the 10 fundamental table tennis skills you’ll need to master in order to play the game correctly.