Read these 45 Table Tennis Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Table Tennis tips and hundreds of other topics.
Most players put pressure on themselves because they want to win very badly. However; putting pressure on yourself will usually make you play worse. If your goal is to win at table tennis, then to maximize your chances of winning, make your goal to play well and dominate the match with good shots and tactics. Making winning the primary goal is counter-productive.
A tall player's forehand and backhand shots are farther apart than a short player's. So he is weaker in the middle area, where he has to decide whether to hit a forehand or backhand. So against a tall player, play aggressively toward his elbow, which is roughly the midpoint between his forehand and backhand. When he's off the table, usually aim slightly toward the backhand; when he's close to the table, usually aim slightly toward the forehand.
A short player's forehand and backhand shots are closer together, and so he has less trouble in the middle. But he has more trouble covering the corners. So play aggressive shots to wide angles. You can go side to side, but often a better strategy is to play over and over to one wide angle. Why? Your opponent has to move to cover a wide angle; after making the shot, he moves back to ready position – but if you rush him, you catch him while he's still moving back into position, in the wrong direction.
Some players are too patient they mostly just keep the ball in play, missing opportunities to score. Others are too decisive they jump on every ball with little patience or judgment. Develop a sense of "patient decisiveness" in other words, pick your shots carefully, but once you've made a decision, be decisive about it. Don't be afraid to take a shot, but don't be afraid not to take a shot when it's not there. Be decisive about whatever shot you choose.
There are basically two ways to play tactically early in a match. You can either feel your opponent out to see what he can do and then adjust your tactics based on this ("The Explorer"); or you can force your game on the opponent right from the start, making tactical adjustments as you go on ("The Dominator").
The Explorer uses a variety of tactics early on as he tests his opponent. He uses all his shots - pushes, blocks, loops hard and soft, counter drives, etc. – and puts the ball all over the table at various speeds. He uses all of his serves and receives as he judges the best tactics to use in the match. Some players in this category fall into the trap of over-adjusting to an opponent, and end up letting the opponent do what he wants. Being an Explorer doesn't mean you simply adjust to the opponent's shots; it means you are willing to risk falling behind early on as you search for the best tactics. Ideally, the explorer will find a way to use his strengths against the opponent's weaknesses.
The Dominator comes in with his best shots right from the start, trying to force the opponent to adjust to his shots. Some players in this category fall into the trap of not adjusting to an opponent's adjustments, and often lose due to this lack of flexibility. Being a Dominator does not mean you simply throw your best shots at the opponent and hope for the best; it means you start off with your best game, and then make tactical adjustments.
Are you an Explorer or a Dominator? Whichever you are, perhaps you should experiment with a little of the other. To be at your best, you need some of both.
The week before a big ping pong tournament it is best to try to work on the "control" aspects of your game more than the physical parts. For example, instead of working on footwork, spend more time on serve, receive, and blocking. The practice in the week leading up to the tournament isn't going to affect your speed much one way or another, while serve, serve return and other control-type techniques can still be more significantly improved. You should still do some footwork drills, but make the drills shorter than normal, with more variety and more game-like footwork drills (such as more random-type footwork drills). One final suggestion: try playing more matches against someone who raises your confidence level, but still pushes you to play your best.
To learn to read spin, try focusing just on the contact period - ignore the rest of the motion. Imagine taking a mini-video of the split second of contact. If you do this regularly, pretty soon you'll be able to isolate in your mind the actual direction of the racket at contact. From that, you can read the type of spin. You can also read spin by the way the ball comes off the paddle, travels through the air, and from both bounces on the table. Imagine how the spin will affect the ball, and figure out what to watch for.
How often have you played a forehand-happy player, who keeps putting the ball away with his forehand from his backhand corner? The worst part of it is that even if you get the ball back, he follows with another forehand. How do you get out of this situation?
It's counter-intuitive, but at the higher levels, you'll find that players play right into the forehand of players with strong forehands. Why? So they can move the forehand player to his wide forehand, and come back to his backhand! The added benefit is that the forehand player now has to move to his (weaker) backhand, and so is not as set for the shot. You basically give up one forehand shot in return for turning your forehand-hitting opponent into a backhand player the rest of the rally.
It's wise to approach a match with the idea of using your strengths, but don't forget to test your opponent as well. You don't want to lose a match because you didn't find a glaring weakness in your opponent's game! Often you can win a match by matching your weakness against an opponent's even bigger weakness. So test your opponents – serve long & short, test their forehand, loop at different speeds, try pushing, etc. Don't risk not knowing your opponent's weaknesses!
The easiest and simplest way of beating a player is to "lock him up." This basically means forcing him to do what he doesn't want to do. The classic case is to force a player with a weak backhand to go backhand to backhand. Another example would be take away an opponent's strong loop and force him to instead block by getting the first loop each rally. How do you "lock someone up"? Often, the best bet is to base much of your tactics toward this goal. It often takes a lot of thinking and a lot of work. You've got to figure out what your opponent want to do. Then you have to figure out how, using your own weapons, you can force him to do what he doesn't want to do. Too often players think only about what they want to do, and forget about forcing their opponents to do what they don't want to do.
Learn to control the depth of your loops and other shots. Big, powerful players often jump all over deep balls that come out to them, but struggle against shorter ones. Smaller players often jump all over short balls, but struggle with ones that go deep. Every opponent is different, but if you learn to control the depth of your shots, you'll have a big tactical weapon.
Most players look to see where their opponent hits the ball before deciding if they have to move or not. You'll be much faster if you assume you will have to move, and flex your knees in preparation for moving, even before you know which way you are moving. Since you should be moving to nearly every ball - how often does the opponent just happen to hit the ball right into your forehand or backhand pocket? - How fast you are able to do this makes a big difference. Assume you will have to move to every ball and you'll move much faster.
One side of the paddle must be black, the other side cherry red, and can be either a rubber sheet or a paint sheet. Before this rule, some players would use combination paddles with rubber sheets of the same color on both sides. Then they would flip their paddles underneath the table to fool their opponents.
A backhand sidespin serve tends to be more effective to an opponent's forehand, while a forehand pendulum serve tends to be more effective to an opponent's backhand. This is because the racket angle needed to return these sidespins is less natural when done this way. This doesn't mean only serving these serves to the side that's less comfortable, only generally serving it more to that side. Each opponent is different, so try out each combination and see what happens.
One of the most common reason players have trouble blocking against heavy topspin is because they hold the ping pong racket too high. This would seem to make it easier to keep the ball down, but what really happens is that players end up holding their racket at different heights for different blocks, and so cannot really ingrain the proper racket angles. Instead, make sure to hold the racket pretty low, and take the ball off the bounce. This will allow a player to get a feel for the proper racket angle against a heavy topspin loop. It will also make sure you take the ball quickly, which not only makes the shot more effective, but catches the ball before the ball can jump because of the topspin, and so increases consistency.
• PIPS-OUT ATTACKER - Pips-out Attackers generally stand within three feet of the table. The contact point on all strokes is as early as possible, top of the bounce, or on the rise. This is a forehand-dominated style with the player exhibiting a strong quick pivot move to use the forehand from the backhand side. The success of this style is based on speed, not spin, thus pips-out rubber is ideal. Example: David Zhuang
• POWER LOOPER - This is a forehand-dominated style featuring a strong point winning forehand loop stroke. Players of this style end each point as quickly as possible. They will use a backhand loop to open a point, but then step-a-round and use their forehand loop to end the point. Example: Brian Pace
• ALL-ROUND ATTACKER This athlete typically exhibits a wide variety of attacking strokes executed with almost equal strength from both sides, and the ability to adapt his game to attack the opponent's weaknesses. Players of this style can produce topspin attacking shots from any position or distance from the table. Example: Cheng Yinghua
• COUNTER DRIVER - Often referred to as "walls", this style plays close to the table. Using forehand and backhand counter-drives and blocks, this style seeks to force their opponents into making errors. Example: Geng Lijuan
• MID-DISTANCE AGGRESSIVE LOOPER - This style prefers to stay within six to eight feet from the table. Their longer topspin strokes carry considerable power and spin, from either the forehand or backhand. Example: Zoran Primorac
• ATTACKING CHOPPER - This style can best be thought of as an attacker who uses underpin to set up their attacking shots. Players of this style most often use two different racket surfaces and will flip the racket to produce great variation in their defense and their attack. Example: Derek May
• CLOSE-TO-THE-TABLE DEFENDER This style is built around a chop/blocking game executed from close to the table. Players of this style use underpin blocks to force weak topspin shots from their opponents. They will then attack the weak topspin with a well placed drive or loop. Example: Gao Jun
• DEVELOPING PLAYER- This person has not yet played long enough to develop a set style. However, he/she wishes to purchase a Professional Quality Racket to give him/her the best opportunity to advance. We recommend starting out with a medium speed blade and a mid-level rubber. This combination will allow you to learn any style. The rubber can be upgraded in the future as necessary
Many players do the same shot over and over against varying incoming balls, whether they are ready for the shot or not. For example, loppers might loop hard against any block to the forehand, even if rushed, off balance or not in position. Or they might loop a serve at the same speed over and over, regardless of whether they are sure they have read the serve properly. Instead, learn to slow down some shots, or choose a more controlled shot, if you are not really set for the shot (i.e. rushed, off balance, out of position or not sure of the spin).
Many beginning and intermediate table tennis players want a blazing fast racket, not realizing how much this is hurting their games. There are three problems with using a very fast racket. First, it is simply too fast for most players to control. Second, since the ball flies off so fast, you get little spin – greatly hurting your loop. And third, since the ball shoots off so fast, players tend to stroke less, and end up developing poor stroking habits.
An advanced player who plays a fast, up-at-the-table game (especially with short pips) is usually the only type of player who should use a very fast racket. Instead, try one in the medium to fast range, but lay off the super fast ones.
On the other hand, if you are addicted to speed, and are willing to lose a few matches in return for this exhilarating speed – then go for it, and have fun!
Many players enjoy playing from away from the table, and some (especially defensive players) base their game on this. However, for most players, you want to stay close to the table whenever possible. Otherwise, you "give up" the table. By backing off the table, your opponent has more time to react to your shots, and you have to cover more ground to cover the wide angles and in and out movements. Basically, you are at the mercy of your opponent.
If you have trouble staying at the table tennis table during a match, try this remedy. When you practice, put a barrier behind you to make sure you stay within an arm's length of the table. You might even exaggerate it some, and really jam yourself at the table (with the barrier right behind you) so that you'll learn to do this. It will pay off in the long run.
You've probably all had the experience of playing someone who plays "different." They might use a "weird" surface – long pips, antispin, hardbat, etc. Or they might have "weird" shots – sidespin, dead balls, etc. Regardless, keep in mind that there is a reason why these surfaces or shots are not as common as other surfaces or shots – so use your head and take advantage of their weaknesses, rather than complain about the "weirdness."
Preliminary matches are often the best of 5 games. CHAMPIONSHIP matches are often the best of 7 or 9 games.
2. After deciding the serve (flip of coin), each player will serve TWO points each.
3. If a player serves a net ball (called a 'let serve'), the point is replayed. (There are no limits to the number of let serves a player may serve.)
4. The server in singles can serve anywhere: short, long, straight, or cross-court. Only in doubles do you have to serve diagonally from your right court to the opponent's right court.
5. If you volley the ball while it is still above the table surface, you lose the point.
6. If you move the table, or touch it with your free hand, during the rally, you lose the point.
7. If a you or your clothing touches the net or post during the rally, you lose the point.
8. If you hit the ball twice in succession, you lose the point.
9. If your shot hits a wall, the ceiling, or misses the opponent's side of the table, you lose the point.
10. Change ends of the table after each game.
11. The player who serves at the beginning of a game is the receiver at the beginning of the next game.
12. After the first player scores the 5th point in the final game of the match, change ends. If you forgot to change at 5, then change as soon as you realize it.
13. If your opponent distracts you by talking or yelling while the ball is in play, play a let.
14. At 10-10, the score is called "Deuce". A player must then win by 2 points. Alternate serves until one player has a 2-point lead.
15. Shake hands after every match to show good sportsmanship.
Too often players worry about their stroke techniques while playing a match. The end result is they try to consciously control their shots. The more they try to do this, the worse the shot gets; and the worse the shot gets, the more they try to consciously control the shot. The end result is disaster! Instead, think of only two things in a match. First, think about tactics – how you will use your shots. The shots themselves will take care of themselves – or at least will do better on their own if you let them go then if you try to consciously control them and make too many "fixes" in mid-match. Second, if a shot feels wrong, then the way to fix it during a match isn't to try to over-analyze it. Instead, think about the feel of the shot, and try to get the right feel. Save the stroke analysis for after the match – it rarely helps during a match.
• One of the least utilized methods for improving one's game, yet one of the easiest to do, is to study the way you play matches. What are your bread and butter shots? How do you win most of your points? What can you do to get these types of points to happen more often?
• The other thing to look for is how you are losing most of your points on. Is it serve return, your loop against backspin, or what? If you start really being aware of your weaknesses you can begin to work on practice drills to improve them.
• The other way to use videotape is to create a better mental image of your game. You may not know exactly what a stroke should look like, but most players have a general idea of what they should look like. If they see something on tape that is obviously wrong you can work on changing that technique. Once you have a better mental image of your game you can begin to realize more fully what your strengths and weaknesses are and begin to see what you must do to get to the next level.
• The other reason to videotape your matches is to measure your progress. You may not have the rating improvement you hope for every tournament, but if you are looking more fluid and making better choices in matches your results will start to show that.
A ping pong blade covered with short pips rubber with no sponge. Often used in honor of the earlier days of the sport, this paddle and style of play are considered to be the purest form of the sport. A separate branch of hardbat players exists and even has its own competitions and rating system.
At the highest levels, the most common return of a short serve is a short push, even against a sidespin serve. At the lower levels, most players just push them deep, giving opponents the chance to loop. If you develop a short push, especially against backspin serves, you will disarm your opponents, and probably get pushed returns that you can loop. The problem with returning serves short is that if you misread the serve even a little bit, you will make many mistakes and give the opponent a lot of easy pop-ups. In general, most players can't really return serves short effectively until about the 2000 level but if you wait until you are 2000 before working on this, you'll be years behind your peers. Why not start now? You may find it effective well before you reach that magic 2000 number and it might even help you reach it.
One of the best ways to improve your shots is get a good visual image of what your shots should look like just before playing. So one of the best ways to get these shots really going is to watch a top player executing these shots just before you play. You can do this live (if players are available) or watch a videotape. Alternatively, you might get a tape of yourself playing at your best (you might have to do a number of tapes to get this!), and watch that just before playing. You'll be surprised at how much it might help. (Many players learn to do this without a tape, by mental visualization.)
If you are the type of player who has trouble generating power when looping, try out these two tips, and you'll be surprised at the improvement.
First, keep your legs farther apart. Second, contact the ball more from your side.
By following these two tips, you'll automatically put more body weight into the shot. If your basic technique is roughly correct but you don't have good power, these two steps will probably be a huge help.
Professional Paddles ($75 - $200)
If you want to play like the Pro's then you need to use what the Pro's use. Most professionals purchase a single blade (and use it for a number of years), but change each side of rubber after about 50 hours of play. Speed glue is another important component if you want maximum speed and spin.
Club Paddles ($30 - $75)
The main distinctions between club and professional paddles are speed, spin, and control. Pro paddles allow for wicked spins and curves, while club paddles help keep the ball in play with control rubber and are less expensive. Paddles in this category are usually prefabricated and have the same rubber on both sides.
Home Paddles ($5 - $30)
If you know the kids are going to use the paddles for wacking more than ping-pong balls you might want to go with the cheapest and most inexpensive paddles on the market. Some of these paddles are made of plastic, while others have same color rubber on both sides.
When playing a player with pips racket – short or long – there is one simple tactic that you should use over and over and over: Keep the Ball Deep!!! This doesn't mean you can never put the ball short, but those should be variations. Pips-out players are almost always better against short balls then deep balls.
Many players try to imitate better players too much. While copying what the top players do is usually good, some players end up doing things that just don't come naturally for them. I have fallen into this trap at times. The key to getting better and continuing to enjoy the sport is to imitate some things, but to truly try to find a game that matches your personality, physical ability and table tennis talents. For example, if you are a patient person, perhaps a consistent medium-speed looping game is what you would be best at. If you are more aggressive, perhaps you should work on developing a great backhand or forehand kill. The idea is to truly imagine what you want to be and then try to figure out how to get there. If you have good touch, but are a little slow, continue to develop your footwork, but realize that your backhand and touch are going to be what wins for you, not running around to play forehand and invariably getting off balance. If you truly want to make this game something you enjoy for your whole life, develop a style that you enjoy and that works for you, and then work on improving that game, not some other game that some better player happens to have.
You can't win unless you can find tactical match-ups where you are better than your opponent. For example, you might find your block is better than your opponent's loop, or that your varied loop is better than your opponent's blocking or counterattack. The idea behind this is pretty obvious, but few players actually think this way when playing. Get into the habit of learning quickly in a match what tactical match-ups you can do where you are better than your opponent and then find strategies to force these match-ups.
Spend a few minutes each day shadow practicing. Using a regular ping pong racket, a weighted racket, or just an imaginary one, shadow practices your drives, loops and footwork especially. Yes, you may look silly (close your office door!), but your opponent will look even sillier that night when you show up with looser muscles and in better shape, with grooved stroke.
Tired of getting useless presents for the Christmas/Hanukkah holidays? Well, here's your chance to put together a list of table tennis equipment you've always wanted to try out. Make a list of rackets, sponge, whatever. Then assign each item to a different family member, and give them your list. Presto! You can now try each of these items out! Side issue – you probably have to give each of these family members a present as well. Here's your chance to introduce them to table tennis!
Have a Happy Holiday Season, even if you don't get all the table tennis equipment you hope for!
Don't let them attack. Long pips can only attack against backspin, or sometimes against a short and weak topspin or no-spin ball. So keep the ball deep, and usually either put no spin on the ball (and so get a no spin ball back) or give topspin (and so usually get a slower backspin ball return).
Take a step off the table, and return with a topspin drive of some sort. By backing off the table, you have time to react. By putting topspin on the ball, the ball arcs onto the table, and stops the long-pips player from attacking with the long pips again.
Stay at the table, open your racket, and be willing to lose a number of points as you get used to this.
Play against players who attack with long pips in practice as often as possible until you get used to it.
Carry a spare bottle of liquid rubber cleaner. Spray the bottom of your shoes about once every six points, at the break under the new 11-point rules. It lasts a little longer than just water and is a bit grippier.
Is there a certain score where you play best? When leading? Behind? Leading 10-6? Down 10-6? Then either 1) Imagine the score is always that score; or 2) learn to match that psychology no matter the score. If you are good when you are behind, when you are up 10-8, imagine, you are down 10-8 – and vice versa if you are better when you are ahead.
One of the most common reason players have trouble blocking against heavy topspin is because they hold the racket too high. This would seem to make it easier to keep the ball down, but what really happens is that players end up holding their racket at different heights for different blocks, and so cannot really ingrain the proper racket angles. Instead, make sure to hold the racket pretty low, and take the ball off the bounce. This will allow a player to get a feel for the proper racket angle against a heavy topspin loop. It will also make sure you take the ball quickly, which not only makes the shot more effective, but catches the ball before the ball can jump because of the topspin, and so increases consistency.
• There is a particularly good pattern for serving long to most players. Try these two combos:
• Serve long to the wide backhand, and following with an aggressive shot right back at the wide backhand;
• Serve long to the middle (opponent's playing elbow), and follow with an aggressive shot right back at the middle.
• In both cases the opponent will often be caught moving back into position after the first return, and will be going the wrong way when you make an aggressive shot right back to the same spot.
• When serving to the wide backhand, it helps if you can serve a sidespin serve that breaks into the opponent's wide backhand.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|