Learn the basics
For beginner and intermediate players, you can often beat your opponent just by understanding the basics of table tennis. The majority of recreational players are not aware of the proper grip, basic footwork, or the effect spin has off the paddle. You can turn these weaknesses into strengths and put away your foe with ease. They won’t know how you are beating them, they will just get used to the feeling of defeat!
Understand and utilize spin
Spin is often a weakness for players of all skill levels. Understanding it can help you not only counter your opponent’s spin, but use it to instantly win points or set up your next shot. Here are some basic tips on the effect spin has off of your opponents paddle:
- Watch the logo on the ball to determine the speed of the spin; the more unclear the logo, the greater effect spin will have on your return
- Watch the direction of your opponent’s racket when they hit the ball; the ball will come off your paddle in the same direction your opponent’s racket moves
- Advanced players can be tricky with their spin – especially on serves – and can make a downspin/backspin stroke actually produce topspin
- Watch Understanding Spin Video
Shorten Your Swing
This is especially important for people who play other sports like tennis, baseball, golf or softball. These sports typically encourage longer swings than are appropriate for table tennis. A longer swing gives you a higher margin of error and slower reaction time due to the extended time it takes to get your arm and body back in position. Table tennis is best played with a compact swing on both the forehand and backhand, limiting follow through on most shots but reserving a longer swing for offensive, topspin shots. Shortening the swing will also increase accuracy and help you to be more precise with your placement.
Often times, novice players try to smash the ball any chance they get, hitting it into the net or off the table, losing the point. The key to table tennis is picking the right ball to attack. If you watch a professional match, they often hit the ball very softly back and forth after the serve. The reason for this is because the balls are hit short and low to the net with heavy spin – making them poor candidates for offensive shots. However, the ball typically loses spin after multiple soft shots. Wait for your opponent to hit one back just a bit too high and/or long – then attack that ball and win the point with ease! Sometimes it’s better to let your opponent lose the point than trying to win it.
Ditch your crutch
We all have our strengths, but the all around players are the ones who will prevail in the end. Players who favor either their forehand or backhand often overcompensate so they can hit that stroke. This can be effective in the short term, but a smart player will lean on your weaknesses and prey on them. Force yourself to play your weaknesses - even if it costs you a couple losses – and you will be a much better player in the long run.
Get the right equipment
Easy to say for a company that sells equipment! But honestly, nothing is truer. You will see an instant improvement switching from your typical hardbat or cheap-rubber paddle to a high quality blade with performance rubber. The cheap stuff provides little power and virtually no spin. If your opponent is using quality equipment, you will have a very hard time countering these elements with a sub-par paddle. On the other hand, if you have performance equipment playing against someone with the cheap stuff, you will prove overpowering and have the ability to produce spin they will not be able to handle.
Learn the serve
Former world champion and Killerspin pro Chen Qi says, “If you can’t serve, you can’t win!” Every point starts with the serve. A strong serve can not only end the point immediately but be a very strategic element in setting up the point to your advantage (i.e. sidespin so the ball is returned to your strong side).
Some helpful tips:
- Short serves are most common at the pro level and make it difficult for your opponent get any kind of velocity on their return shots
- Keep your wrist loose and relaxed for maximum spin
- Instead of trying to “ace” your opponent, your serve should set up your next shot
- Watch better players serve to pick up some of their secrets – watch the wrist and the movement of the racket upon contact of the ball
- Watch Serve Training Videos
It feels good to be the champion among your family, friends or community. If this is you, then you know the warm and cozy feeling we’re talking about! It’s hard to go from being the best to the low man on the totem pole, but it is truly the only way get better. Find your local club and challenge the best players. You will learn more in a week against them then you do in a year with your friends.