Today’s post will teach you how to beat a chopper (in just four simple steps). Choppers are extremely defensive players. They chop in order to keep the ball on the table, create long rallies, and to limit your attacking options. This is why choppers are so hard to outmuscle!
Chopping isn’t as popular today as it was – the attacking style is largely dominant – but don’t neglect training against the chopping style. If you haven’t honed your game to face choppers, you may find yourself in a world of trouble when you finally face one.
Here’s my no-nonsense, four-step guide to beating choppers.
Step 1: Identify your opponent
Before we get into the specifics, it is essential that you identify what kind of chopper you are playing. And there are many. In local leagues especially, expect to come up against the likes of short pimples, long pimples, and even anti-spin. Some will even chop with standard reverse pimple rubbers!
These unusual rubbers will make playing against the chopping style even more challenging. Some choppers will be able to generate crazy levels of backspin whilst others may rely on chopping spin variation to catch you out!
You must gauge your opponents’ rubbers and style as soon as you begin knocking up with them. The last thing you want to be is gun shy when the match starts.
Step 2: Vary your placement
Once you have assessed the kind of chopper you are playing, it’s time to think about ball placement. Some players become wrapped up with power and just try to blast balls past their opponents, disregarding placement. It’s predictable, and a lot of choppers will eat you up for breakfast.
Instead, move your opponent around a bit. Play to the corners and get them moving.
I’ve found that most choppers favour chopping on their backhand, generally speaking, as it’s an easier shot to play. So, if their forehand is weaker, focus balls to that side.
Also, consider playing fastballs straight into your opponent’s crossover. It’s a very awkward shot to play. Where most of us would try to play a block, many choppers will force themselves to chop. The resulting chop is often ineffective and it may allow you to attack.
Another key thing to note is the depth of your ball placement. Choppers are sometimes prone to drifting a little too far away from the table when you start attacking hard. Try to move them about, in and out, as much as possible. Play deep heavy loops and then switch it up with a short push or a short slow rollover loop.
Step 3: Use spin effectively
Utilizing the full potential of spin is just as effective as good shot placement.
A strategy that any looper can employ is simply to vary the spin on their loops. Not enough players do this, and I am somewhat guilty of this myself. The intermittent use of heavy spin loops and light spin loops is very demanding for a chopper. It ruins their rhythm and can be very difficult to read.
To take it a step further, try to consciously exaggerate the spin on the ball. Often when I opt for a light spin loop I exaggerate my looping motion. This gives the illusion that there is more spin on the ball than there actually is. It is a tactic that has served me well over the years and if you are not doing it, you definitely should be.
For spinny players such as myself, overwhelming choppers with heavy topspin is an equally good strategy. Most choppers are at home dealing with “standard” loops, the kind with somewhat average levels of topspin. However, in my experience, the vast majority of choppers struggle with very high levels of topspin.
When it comes to spin, this is my main strategy of choice as it suits my style. Heavy looping can force blocks out of choppers which grants you an easier follow-up. Alternatively, it frequently gives you high returns giving you the opportunity to power loop or smash.
Flat smashes should be another shot you use when facing choppers. Clearly, smashing well-executed chops is a bad idea. However, for those chops that fly just a little too high over the net, there is a small window to perform powerful smashes. The likelihood of these being returned are very slim as fast shots with virtually no spin are very difficult to chop.
Perhaps one of the lesser discussed shots to use are sidespin loops, also known as hooks and fades. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend using them regularly, they can certainly be useful in some circumstances. Chopping against balls with sidespin is fairly awkward, and some choppers may not be used to this. It will definitely give them something to think about, and at the very least it will help you to set up a big forehand follow up.
Step 4: Be patient!
The key to emerging victorious against a chopper is to play the waiting game. Many players lack the restraint to play the game they need to, even though they have all the tools they need to win.
Sure, most of us want to power loop or smash the ball past choppers, but it is not something you can do all the time. These kinds of shots are often the “winners” and they need to be set up by employing the strategies we have discussed.
Seize the opportunities as they come, but don’t pounce on opportunities that aren’t there. Choppers rely on you being impatient… Don’t give them what they want. Stick to the game plan, pick your shots, and give them hell.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Learn the matchup in your training sessions, not the matches. Choppers are indeed out there and they come in many different shapes and sizes. Be aware that even with heaps of practice they may take some figuring out on the day – it’s almost unavoidable. But hopefully, if you act on the knowledge in this post, you’ll feel far more prepared the next time you are standing across the table from a chopper!