The Half Long Ball in table tennis

The Half Long Ball in table tennis

In table tennis, there are three main types of balls that can be served or received ( from the perspective of ball depth )

The ping pong ball can either be

  • short (the ball will bounce twice on your side if you don’t touch it)
  • long (the ball will only bounce once on your side and will come off the end of the table)
  • half long (the ball’s second bounce is very close to the edge of the table).

Often when a match is close, players will find it hard to control how short they serve the ball and the shot ends up becoming half long. Which gives you the chance to attack it.

However, returning this type of balls will require some practice because you require a shorter stroke with more wrist.

Tactical options against half long backspin shots in table tennis

It is a fact that the longer a short serve or push is the harder it is to flip. A flip off a shorter ball gives you more angles and makes the opponent rush but off the longer ball it is less effective.

That is why players often try to serve and push so that the second ball is near the edge of the table.

The most important thing is to be able to recognize half long balls early. One drill is to get your partner to serve or push the half long serves and you will try to predict if it comes long or short.

If they turn out slightly longer, you can loop them as long as you are able to anticipate and react quickly. With this, you can set up against the table, looking down at the edge with the racket below the edge and lift the ball up and forward.

You can loop a short ball if the second bounce is near the edge by going over the table, especially against a side spin or top spin serve.

It is easy to push back a half long ball that is going into a corner, however if it goes into the middle, it is tough because you have no angles to hit to.

half long ball

Attacking the half long ball

Here are a few things that you should keep in mind when attacking a half long ball:

1. Make sure that you keep your stroke compact

2. Use a lot of wrist to spin the ball and make up for your short stroke

3. Stay as low as possible

4. Remember that many in between balls can be looped over the table

5. Keep your feet parallel to the table when attacking the half long push

6. Step slightly forward with the right foot when attacking the short push, left foot for lefties

7. take the wrist back and low for the backhand flip and loop

8. Open the angle for the forehand flip

9. Turn the shoulders for both the forehand flip and loop


few more tips for attacking the half long ball

Judge the contact point

Against a half long ball, you have to decide to hit over the table surface or let the ball drop a little from the apex. This requires some experience but body positioning is most important


Move your foot on the side of your playing hand forward to get closer to the ball, this helps you get close to the ball, thus you do not need to use as much body weight transfer as you will be relying more on your arms and feel.

Do not try to finish the point

This is more of a feel and placement shot. You should aim to keep the ball low and try to generate as much spin as possible. Do not try to finish the ball, it is better to use this shot to set up your game plan.

Commit to making the shot

This is probably the most important thing to remember when making this shot. Be decisive and confident, you need to be completely sure of what you are doing.

Recommended books

Table tennis tactics for thinkers

Learn table tennis tactics from USATT Certified National Coach and Hall of Famer Larry Hodges. Includes tactics against different styles, grips, and surfaces as well as tactical and strategic thinking. The book opens with this: “Tactics isn’t about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work.” The book then explores the tactical and strategic development needed to have the specific tactical tools needed in any given match – your “tactical toolbox.”

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