Many beginners disregard this aspect of table tennis, even though it’s one of the most important parts of the game, especially during the service. There are two essential parts to ball placement: where the ball lands on your side of the table, and where the ball lands on your opponent’s side of the table. Placement of the ball can make up a lot of your game, and it can determine the success of your shot.
How? Let’s start from the beginning.
Every serve starts with a ball toss. You already know the ball needs to go vertically upwards, with the minimum height of 6” (the height of the net).
But at what point do you hit the ball?
The best moment to make the contact with the ball is at the lowest point possible.
A lot of players hit the ball while it’s still higher than the net and that is one of the most commonly made rookie mistakes.
There are many advantages to hitting the ball when it’s as low as possible. When you hit the ball low, it is more likely that that ball will not bounce higher than the net on the opponent’s side of the table, and when that happens, your opponent will be prevented from making an aggressive return shot. When the ball is low, a player can not move the racket solely forward (and therefore attack the ball/opponent). The only way a player can return a low ball is by moving his racket upwards, and that will make the ball lose speed and give you more time to react to their shot.
Where should the ball bounce on your side of the table?
During the serve, you will want your ball to bounce as close to the back of the table, or your end line, as possible.
Practice this by putting a target close to the end line of your side of the table, and try hitting it as many times as you can. Repeat this until your success rate is above 70%.
Second step is to practice serving a fast ball. Serve the ball so that it goes over the end line of the table, don’t pay attention to controlling it just yet. Just focus on doing the fastest service possible.
Once you’ve achieved speed, work on your control. You’ll do that by placing a target close to the end line on your opponent’s side of the table. Practice until perfect!
Why is this important? Very early in your service development you’ll want to start focusing on ball placement. It is crucial to understand the so called “danger zone” on your opponent’s side of the table.
Imagine your opponent’s side of the table is divided into three equal horizontal fields. The one in the middle is the danger zone. Why? Because once the ball lands there, your opponent will have NO PROBLEM returning it, and not just that, you’re actually creating a great opportunity for him/her to come back with an attacking shot.
If the ball goes deep, and hits closer to their end line, your opponent will be forced to change his position fast and his chances of making an attacking effective shots will be slimmer. A short serve is also a great option because it disables your opponent from making an attacking shot.
So, either make your serves fast and deep (closer to end line) or short (closer to the net).
One of the best tips you can get is to watch your opponent, and pay close attention to his strengths and weaknesses. Sports are not just about athleticism and skills, a large part of your success will be determined by whether or not you can play smart. So, scan for your opponent’s weaker side, and use them to your advantage.
What it all comes down to!
The best players have always been, and always will be, the ones who love playing. Learn how to enjoy the game and keep in mind that passion and success go hand in hand!