How to Play a Forehand Flick in Table Tennis

how to play a forehand flick in table tennis

The forehand flick, known as the forehand flip in the States, is an attacking stroke played in response to a short ball to the middle or forehand side. It is played over the table to a ball that, if left, would bounce twice on your side.

I was teaching the forehand flick to a player a few weeks ago and only then realized that I don’t have anything on my blog explaining the correct forehand flick technique. So, here we go.

There are three ways to return a short ball

If your opponent gives you a short ball, either from a serve or a short push, you have three options for how to return it…

  1. You can return it with a short push
  2. You can return it with a long push
  3. You can return it with a flick/flip

Returning with a push (short or long) is often viewed as a rather passive choice (because you aren’t attacking the ball yourself) but depending on the ball, and your opponent, it might be a good tactical decision. The forehand push and backhand push are also significantly easier to master.

A short and low push can be a great return that sets you up for an easy attack on the next ball. Similarly, if your opponent isn’t great at looping backspin, a fast deep dig (long push) into their body or wide could win you the point outright.

There are two ways to play a forehand flick

Throughout my career as a table tennis player and coach, I’ve encountered two very different forehand flick techniques. From now on, I will refer to these as either a forehand flick or a forehand flip.

The forehand flick

The forehand flick is played with quite a lot of wrist, which generates quite a lot of spin. The best way I’ve had it described to me is like drawing a backward “v” with your bat. That means your bat starts high and with a flat or very slightly closed bat angle. Then with your wrist, you quickly flick the bat down and up (in a backward “v” shape). That allows you to generate some decent acceleration with a very quick action and brush the ball with topspin.

Flexion.Extension.Pronation.SupinationIf you have a look at the image to the right. What you are actually doing is very quickly going from a neutral position, into ulnar deviation (at the bottom of the “v”) to radial deviation (at the top).

From experience, it also helps to have your wrist cocked (extension) and to slightly fade the ball when flicking. Also, if you are left-handed it is worth pointing out that you are going to be drawing a regular “v” (left to right) instead of a backward “v” (right to left).

I will try and make a quick video at some point to show this more clearly, but the general feeling should be a bit like what I imagine it’s like to be a conductor in an orchestra, or Harry Potter waving around his wand!

The forehand flip

The forehand flip doesn’t really require any quick wrist acceleration at all. Instead, it’s a rotation (pronation) of the forearm. You are quickly flipping your forearm, and hand/bat, from a palm up position to a palm down position. This is why I like to refer to this technique as the flip.

The bat goes in towards the ball quite open (perhaps halfway between neutral and palm up) the flip on contact ends with a 90 degrees rotation (perhaps halfway between neutral palm down).

When flipping, the resulting ball won’t have much spin on it at all. However, a fast flat flip can be very difficult for your opponent to deal with. I used to train with a guy who would always flick my short backspin serves to his backhand but would flip my short backspin serve to his forehand. I have to admit that I much preferred receiving a spinny backhand flick from him than a fast flat forehand flip.

How to play a forehand flick or flip

Whether you choose to use the flick or flip technique is totally up to you. Some players only ever use one method. Others like to mix it up. However, here are some technical tips that apply to both…

  1. Get close to the ball by stepping in with your “playing foot” under the table. Stay low with your knees bent.
  2. Lean forward so that your head and body are near the ball. Your weight will be on your “playing foot”.
  3. Keep your arm out in front of you. You don’t need a big backswing.
  4. Take the ball at the peak of the bounce. This will make it much easier to attack.
  5. Your bat you follow the ball, finishing toward the net and coming slightly up.
  6. Remember to step back out with your “playing foot” and return to a neutral ready position.
  7. Get ready to loop the next ball.

If you don’t get the hang of it straight away, please don’t panic. As with all strokes, repetition is the mother of learning. You will need to practice this a lot. Perhaps you can ask a training partner to serve short to your forehand, you play a flick return, and then you play out the point. That should be fun for both of you.

Here’s a helpful video…

Coach Tao Li is a former professional Chinese table tennis player and national junior champion. This is a Coach Q&A video from his popular Table Tennis University online course.

The video mentions the “flip” rather than the “flick” but this is just because it is aimed at a US audience. In fact, Tao uses my spinny flick technique instead of the flatter flip.

It’s important to remember that every coach will have a slightly different method for teaching each stroke (and in this video, Tao is specifically trying to help a player who keeps putting their forehand flicks into the net). However, you’ll notice plenty of common technical pointers…

  • Tao steps in with his right leg (playing foot) under the table.
  • Tao gets his head and body close to the ball.
  • Tao’s arm is out in front of him.
  • Tao takes the ball at the peak of the bounce and follows through towards the net.
  • Tao finishes by stepping back out again, ready for the next shot.

Tao also adopts the “cocked wrist” position I mentioned earlier and puts a little bit of “fade” on each ball as he brushes it. This is an important part of the forehand flick technique but isn’t helpful when using the forehand flip method.

I hope that’s all made sense. As I said, I will try and film a video myself showing this at some point and talking you through the differences between the flick and flip techniques.

Do you prefer to flick or flip? Leave a comment below and let me know. And if you’ve only ever tried one, I would encourage you to give the other a try. See if it works for you.