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Table Tennis Tips & Tricks

There is just so much to practice when it comes to any kind of racket sport that it’s a big job to narrow it down to just a few good “tips” or “tricks” that you can use to get the greatest improvement from your game.

But, if you’re in a pinch, and you’ve gotta play a grudge match against your brother or uncle after many years being out of practice, here’s my list of best table tennis advice to focus on before and during the match.  (I’ll be adding to this as I discover more, so if you’ve got anything I should add please comment below so I can include it!)

  1. Get a good serve in.  If you’ve got any time to practice your game before the match, practice serving.  When you’ve got the advantage you’re best off pushing it as hard as you can, and a quality serve can make a big difference in the outcome of the game.  You’ll have the serve half the time so make it count.  Here are a few ways you can keep them on their toes with your serve:
    • Mix up your serve in length, speed and spin.
    • Serve short.  Short serves give your opponent very little opportunity to get any purchase on the ball and therefore give you opportunity to clean up on their return.
    • Serve to set up your next shot rather than to ace.
    • Form a pattern of serving, and when they get used to it, break the pattern to keep them off guard.
    • Serve at the point between their forehand and backhand so they don’t have time to decide.
    • Attack on the serve.  You’re more likely to win points if you’re on the offensive.
    • Keep a “trick” serve up your sleeve for when you’re in a pinch.  Serves with a lot of forward or backward spin are good examples and can give you the opportunity to capitalise on a sloppy return.
  2. Keep the ball in play. For a lot of us, unless we’re seasoned players, we’re gonna make mistakes.  But so is your opponent. The longer you can keep the ball in play, the more chance you have of them making an unforced error. This doesn’t mean give them easy returns.  They’ll smash you all over the place if you do that.  But play a good, tight game without playing any high risk shots and you’ll wear down your opponent.  This is particularly good advice when playing someone of fairly even skill.
  3. Use the angle of your racquet to absorb the spin.  If you’re facing a top spin, angle your racquet downwards.  If you’re facing back spin, angle your racquet upwards.  Don’t hit the ball hard against a shot that’s at spin until you’ve had some practice.  Results can be unpredictable!
  4. Take advantage of their blunders, but stay in control. As stated above, people make mistakes, and in competition, it’s your job to exploit them.  So when a lose shot is played, put it away calmly and confidently.  Resist the urge to get excited and smash the ball at the slightest error or you might mess it up.
  5. Get some 3 shot patterns you can rely on.  A tight serve down the line usually encourages a lose cross court return which you can often put away down the other line with a neat topspin smash.
  6. Notice their patterns and interrupt them.  Like you, they’ll have routines they prefer and rely on, but don’t let them.  As soon as you notice that they like to play in a particular way, adjust your game to avoid giving them the opportunity to stay comfortable.
  7. Play forehands.  The forehand is generally most players’ strongest stroke, so if possible, encourage your opponent to play towards your forehand side so you can continue to play your most powerful shots.
  8. Learn to predict the direction of the spin.  You can often tell which way the ball will be spinning by watching your opponent’s setup and swing.  But be careful, some players can disguise their shots very well.  If this is the case, watch the logo on the ball.  You should be able to determine the direction and speed of the spin that way too.  Keep an eye on the angle of the racket too, this’ll give you an idea of the direction and which way it’ll spin.
  9. Keep your range of motion short.  This will improve your reaction time and ability to respond to faster serves and returns.
  10. Keep your emotions in check.  If you’ve had a few bad shots, don’t get upset.  If you do, you’ll most likely just play even more poorly.  Compose yourself and remind yourself of your basic strategy.  Get back to basics and work back up from there.
  11. Never give up.  Ultimately, it’s just a game, but while you’re in competition, it’s war and there’s always a chance to win the next point.  Even if you’re grossly out classed and your opponent is whipping your butt, take the opportunity to learn as much as you can and try a few of their tricks against them.  You might find you win a few points.
  12. Joining a club is a great idea.  I mean, you enjoy the game, right?  So it’s more than likely that by meeting other people who also enjoy the game you’ll get some great experience and meet some other like minded people along the way. So check your local community center to see if there’s a local club you can join and then get involved.  Just taking this step will be enough to get you exposure to a wide variety of skills and styles which will help improve your game dramatically.  But remember to enjoy the process.  It doesn’t all happen at once so take your time and practice regularly.  You will improve and become more competitive if you persist.
  13. Set yourself a routine and make sure you stick to it.  If the club practices once or twice a week, book that time out as busy so you don’t get tempted to go out with your other friends or just skip it all together because you forgot.  Make it a priority and it’ll soon become a habit that you enjoy.
  14. If you’ve got the room, set yourself up with a table tennis table at home too.  Invite friends and family to play with you for fun, and see if you can get a group of others together to play with outside of your normal training days.  These extra games you play for fun will add an enormous amount of experience to your steady practice schedule and will put you in a good position to compete when you get a chance.
  15. Find a coach or a training partner.  If you can find someone with a lot of experience to give you some lessons and coaching then I’d highly advise it.  Learning from a professional can really improve your game as they’ve had years of experience and made all the mistakes already!  There’s a very good chance you’ll improve very quickly with some quality coaching.
  16. Run drills with your coach or a training partner.  Even if you don’t have a great coach you can work with to improve your game, see if you can find a regular training partner who you can work with to improve each other’s games.  There are quite a lot of drills you can run together which will help you hone your technique and game plan.
  17. If you can’t access a coach or a training partner, get (or DIY) yourself a rebound board so you can do drills at home.  Heck, if you can’t get your hands on a table or rebound board just practice hitting a ball against a wall for 10 minutes a day!  But ideally, get some good equipment so you can emulate real game play as closely as possible.  There are some really good DIY options out there for rebound boards and some even better commercial solutions.  Do some good investigations first to determine your needs and make sure you buy quality over price.
  18. Take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses.  If you’ve played them before, try to remember (or even better, have notes on their play style!) how they play so you can adapt your game strategy accordingly.  In any case, do what you can to find their weaknesses and exploit them.  Many players have a weak backhand or can’t return shots that are played close to their body.
  19. Take notes. When you’ve played an opponent, take some notes on their game style and strengths and weaknesses so you can refer to them next time you play.  If you play as a team, keep the notes handy to help your team mates win too.
  20. Test, Test and Keep Testing.  Sometimes a player may not seem to have a weakness, but trust me, they do.  Every player has parts of their game that is less good as others.  So keep putting the ball in places it’s never been to see how they respond.  Try different combinations of offence and defense to see which play style they seem to enjoy best, then do the opposite!  If nothing else, you’ll keep your game varied enough to keep them on their toes and they will hopefully make more errors because of it.
  21. Move your opponent around the table. Keeping your opponent moving will tire them out in a long game and will force them to make errors.  Also, the longer distance they have to move to make a shot the more chance of error.  And again, keeping them guessing is always a good tactic, so play wide and with variety so they don’t know what’s coming next!
  22. Vary your shots.  We’ve all got our favourite shots, but if you play them too often then you’ll become predictable.  This is bad.
  23. If it’s working, keep doing it! That being said, if what you’re doing is working, then keep doing it until it doesn’t!  But always have a back up plan.
  24. Vary the speed, spin and direction of your shots. Not only vary the placement of the shots, but use the speed, spin and direction too.  There are literally thousands of combinations of shots you can use to keep your opponent guessing.  I know I sound like a broken record, but surprise is a great tactic in Table Tennis.  Have a wide variety of options in any situation and keep them guessing which one you’re going to use!
  25. In training, focus on improving your weak spots, but in the game, focus on playing to your strengths.  There’s plenty of time to train your weaknesses later, after you’ve won!  During the game do your best to keep things under control and keep things in your favour.
  26. Keep the rallies short if possible, especially on your serve.  Take advantage of the opportunity to get quick and easy points when you’ve got the serve by keeping the rally short.  Long rallies will wear you out and give your opponent the chance to edge themselves into position for a winning shot.
  27. Practice 3rd ball attacking.  When it’s your serve, use the serve to put your opponent on the defense and play a weak shot which you can easily put away with a kill.  This is called 3rd ball attacking.  If you’ve got a solid serve and can set up the next shot, you should easily win most of your own services.
  28. Choose a racket that fits your skill and playing style.  If you’re a beginner, a racket that plays too fast (ie, has a lot of padding) will cause you to have less control over the ball.  Beginners should choose a table tennis racket that has low to medium padding until they can get used to controlling the power.  Similarly, a table tennis racket with tall/long pimples will generate more spin than a racket with short pimples.  If you struggle generating spin on your own, go with longer pimples, but if you can generate spin without the assistance of the longer pimples then choose something with medium or lower pimples to suit your style.
  29. Take a look at your opponent’s racket before the match.  As part of the rules, you’re allowed to check your challenger’s racket prior to the game.  This is a great opportunity to see what kind of equipment they’re using to cover up their weaknesses (or play towards their strengths).  You can get a good guess on how they’re equipment will impact the movement of the ball by noticing things like padding and pimple height.
  30. Get used to your racket.  And don’t change it up too much.  Constantly changing your equipment will mean you’ll constantly be having to re-learn how to approach each shot.  And I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but Table  Tennis is a pretty fast paced game so there’s not a lot of time to think about it!  Get a racket that suits you and stick with it.  You’ll train your body and mind for instant response and have a much higher chance of hitting the ball cleanly.
  31. Check your grip.  
  32. Check your opponent’s grip. 

 

 

 

OK, so now you know the rules and you’ve got some good tips and tricks to help you get off the mark playing table tennis with your friends.  So what if you want to get good, really good at this game?  Well, you’re gonna need to train. The best place to start (apart from reading this article and watching some of the videos I’ve shared below) would be to join a local Table Tennis club where you can play a variety of players and possibly even get some coaching from some professionals.