A flick (a.k.a. flip) is most often used to aggressively return a short serve that is a bit too high. Forehand flick is used more frequently than backhand flick, probably because returning short serve to the backhand side can be much more aggressive using (backhand) banana flick. The forehand flick can still come in very handy even if only to vary the type of return to keep the opponent guessing.

There are slight variations between returning short backspin (underspin) and short topspin serve. You will need to adjust racket angle.

Forehand flick

Here are some good videos presenting forehand flick.

The recurring theme seems to be.

  1. Get close to the ball by stepping under the table with your racket hand leg – right leg for right handed players. This needs to be a fast movement because on the short serve the ball is at the top of the bounce for a shorter time than on a long serve. Some coaches advise moving with both legs i.e. first make a small step with your left foot and then deeper step with your right foot under the table. Other coaches say it is too slow and you should only make one step. In my view, two steps have the advantage because you get your center of gravity closer to the ball so your position will be more balanced and stroke will be easier to execute. If you only step with one leg and the ball is very short you will be stretched too much and less balanced. How close is close enough? Some coaches listed below advise that the racket should be a fist length away from the ball.
  2. For underspin serve, which is the most common serve, open the racket angle a bit so your point of ball contact will be at 4 pm. For topspin serve the racket can be perpendicular to the table surface.
  3. Bend the wrist backward a bit so you can add speed to this shot. If you don’t add speed the shot has a higher chance of being returned by the server. You can gradually add speed as you get better but this is how you do it. You shouldn’t take a bigger swing with your arm because then your timing (hit at top of the bounce) is more likely to be off.
  4. When the ball is at the top of the bounce, hit (flick) the ball fast by moving your wrist forward and up to give it a bit of a lift. At the same time close the bat so that you end up with racket perpendicular to the table surface.
  5. Push back fast with your under the table foot to return to the ready position so you are not vulnerable to a deep return into your backhand.

Coach Yang Yang presents this shot in quite a bit of detail here.

Another excellent presentation is by a professional Hong Kong player here.

Coach Yang Guang – a former China National Team player – demonstration.

British coach Eli Baraty here.

Ping Skills demonstration stressing racket angle needed for under, side or top spin serve.

Coach Ti Long has a very good demonstration of forehand flick.

Backhand flick

As I said this shot is used less frequently these days because of the more powerful banana flick, but watch these presentations if you like to learn this shot.

Coach Yang Yang backhand flick here.

Hong Kong player BH flick here.

Eli Beraty tutorial here.

Backhand ‘Banana’ flick

This shot is all the rage now and many players invest time in learning it because you can take the initiative in the point even when your opponent serves to the ‘weaker’ backhand side.

Demonstration by Hong Kong professional player.

Another demonstration by Chinese table tennis coach.

Matt Harrington demonstration.

Australian player William Henzel’s demonstration with variations against different spins on the serve.

Coach Ti Long demonstrates 7 different flicks including strawberry flick. With super slow motion and good explanation in subtitles.

Backhand ‘Strawberry’ flick

This shot is rather rare but it is a variation on the Banana flick which can surprise your opponents, especially after you have done multiple banana flicks successfully.

Ping Skills demonstration

Here is a demonstration from Table Tennis Daily.com

Coach Eli Beraty demonstration.