A direct hit on the ball propelling it forward back to the opponent. This stroke differs from speed drives in other racket sports like tennis because the racket is primarily perpendicular to the direction of the stroke and most of the energy applied to the ball results in speed rather than spin, creating a shot that does not arc much, but is fast enough that it can be difficult to return. A speed drive is used mostly for keeping the ball in play, applying pressure on the opponent, and potentially opening up an opportunity for a more powerful attack.
Perfected during the 1960s, the loop is essentially the reverse of the speed drive. The racket is much more parallel to the direction of the stroke "closed" and the racket thus grazes the ball, resulting in a large amount of topspin. A good loop drive will arc quite a bit, and once striking the opponent's side of the table will jump forward, much like a kick serve in tennis. A loop drive might not be as difficult to return as a speed drive; however, because of its topspin, it is more likely to rebound off the opponent's racket at a very high angle, setting up an easy smash on the follow up. As the loop drive requires a lot of topspin, players generally use their entire body to generate the movement required. Variations in spin and speed add to the effectiveness of this shot.
The counter-drive is usually a counterattack against drives, normally high loop drives. The racket is held closed and near to the ball, which is hit with a short movement "off the bounce" so that the ball travels faster to the other side. A well timed, accurate counter drive can be as effective as a smash. When a player tries to attack a ball that has not bounced beyond the edge of the table, the player does not have the room to wind up in a backswing. The ball may still be attacked, however, and the resulting shot is called a flick because the backswing is compressed into a quick wrist action. A flick is not a single stroke and can resemble either a drive or a loop in its characteristics. What identifies the stroke is the backswing is compressed into a short wrist flick.
The offensive trump card in table tennis is the smash. A player will typically execute a smash when his or her opponent has returned a ball that bounces too high or too close to the net. Smashing is essentially self explanatory large backswing and rapid acceleration imparting as much speed on the ball as possible. The goal of a smash is to get the ball to move so quickly that the opponent simply cannot return it. Because the ball speed is the main aim of this shot, often the spin on the ball is something other than topspin. Sidespin can be used effectively with a smash to alter the ball's trajectory significantly, although most intermediate players will smash the ball with little or no spin. An offensive table tennis player will think of a rally as a build up to a winning smash; only a calculated series of smashes can guarantee a point against a good opponent. However, most players will be able to return at most one or two smashes consistently. Provided that the opponent is not too close to the table or too far away from the ball, a smash can be lobbed, chopped, blocked or even counter looped, albeit with some difficulty. A player, who smashes generally works out a series of smashes to rush the opponent out of position, put him off balance, or both. Smashers who fail to do this find it difficult to win a point against an excellent defense.
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