Introduction: How to Go From Being an Average to Competitive Table Tennis Player

There are plenty of tutorials on how to play table tennis that focus on basic play or very advanced play, yet there are hardly any that help players go from a basic level to being competitive. The intended audiences for this instructable are people that have already mastered the basics of table tennis and have the desire to take their skills to the next level. This will teach you how to create a serve that will force your opponent to play into your strengths, how to make your opponent pay for leaving the ball too high in the air, how to return a ball with a lot of spin on it, and a general strategy to keep in mind while playing. The amount of time that it will take to master these skills varies for every person, but with practice anyone can master them.

Materials Needed:
  • Table tennis racket
  • Table tennis balls
  • Table tennis table
  • Practice partner that is at least equal to your skill level

Step 1: Find a Paddle That Is Right for You

The very first thing you must do as an aspiring table tennis player is find a racket that suits your play style. Buying your own racket is one of the most important things to do when trying to improve. Everyone has their own preference and I can not tell you which one will be best for you, but here are some basic guidelines:

1. Choose the rubber type.

  • If you prefer a defensive play style, choose a paddle with rubber that reduces spin. If you prefer an offensive play style ,you will want a rubber with a high amount of stick to increase your spin capabilities.

2. Choose a sponge thickness.

  • You also need to consider the thickness of the sponge underneath the rubber. The thicker the sponge, the more the ball will spring off the paddle. Thicker sponges are generally suited for offensive players.

3. Choose a handle.

  • Of course you cannot forget about the handle. You want to ensure that the handle is comfortable with your preferred grip. The most popular types are straight and flared.

Step 2: Create a Serve

Now that you have a paddle that suits your play style, you need to create a serve that forces your opponents to play to your strengths. Your serve sets up how the entire point is going to be played, therefore it is very important that you develop a few strong serves. A good way of doing this is adding spin to your serve. When there is spin on the ball, the ball will bounce off your opponents paddle favoring a certain direction depending on what kind of spin is on the ball.

After hitting your opponents paddle each spin has different effects:
  • Top spin makes your opponent pop the ball up and hit it long.
  • Backspin makes the ball go down and often hit it into the net.
  • Left spin forces the ball to your left
  • Right spin makes the ball go to your right.
Using the above information, you can put the correct spin on the ball to force your opponent to hit where you want them to.

  • If your backhand is your strength put left spin on the ball (move your paddle to the left while hitting the ball).
  • If your forehand is your strength put right spin on the ball(move your paddle to the right while hitting the ball).
  • If you prefer playing at high speeds and away from the table put top spin on the ball (move paddle up while hitting the ball).
  • If you prefer playing at lower speeds and close to the table put backspin on the ball (move paddle down while hitting the ball).
Once you get the hang of adding one type of spin to your serve, you can begin to combine either top spin or backspin with a sidespin to further suit your play style.

Step 3: Handle Your Opponent's Spin

After you have mastered your serve, it is important that you are able to handle your opponents return to your serve. If your opponent was able to return your serve there is likely some sort of spin on the ball. Your opponent will either try to over power your spin with another type of spin, return the ball without adding spin of his or her own, or add even more of the same type of spin. The way to tell what kind of spin is on the ball is to watch the direction of your opponent's paddle while he/she is striking the ball.
  1. Find a practice partner.
  2. Serve to your partner and have him or her put spin on the return.
  3. Practice returning these shots.
  • If your opponent does not add any spin to the ball then the only thing you have to worry about is the spin you originally put on it.
  • If your opponent's paddle moves in the same direction as you did to put your spin on the ball (you put left spin on the ball and your opponent moves their paddle to your left), then he/she is countering your spin. Depending on how much spin you put on it in the first place, your spins will cancel and you are free to do as you please for your next shot.
  • If your opponent's paddle moves in the opposite direction as you did( you put left spin on the ball and he/she moves his/her paddle to your right), then he/she is adding to your spin. In this case you have to be very careful with your return because there will be a high amount of the same spin that you originally put on the ball. To deal with this you should not try to do anything too aggressive and just try to return the ball by aiming in the direction that you originally moved your paddle to serve.

Step 4: Learn to Hit a Powerful Return

It is essential that you have the ability to make your opponent pay for hitting the ball too high in the air. Having the ability to powerfully hit the ball back over the net makes it very difficult for your opponent to return, but also, makes your opponent worry about hitting it to high on every shot he/she makes. This often ends up with them hitting the ball into the net, giving you a free point. The steps to accomplish are:
  1. Find a practice partner.
  2. Have him or her hit easy shots to you.
  3. Get in a solid, athletic stance.
  4. Once the ball is in the air, lower your arm.
  5. Angle paddle slightly forward.
  6. Sweep arm upward and forward at the same time while striking the ball (It is very important to sweep both forward and upward because this allows you to put a lot more power behind your shot while at the same time adding top spin).

Step 5: Use Your Opponents Weakness

Now that you have some of the fundamental aspects of table tennis down, it is time for you to learn a basic strategy to use while playing. Ever player has a weakness that they are hoping their opponent does not figure out and use against them. To do this:
  1. Figure out a weakness of your opponents - a good time of doing this is during warm ups and the early points in a game.
  2. Hit to zones your opponent is weak in.
  3. Switch it up - do not always hit it to one spot just because you believe it to be a weakness of your opponent, you still want to keep him or her guessing.
*Caution* - trying to always play to opponents weakness can result in attempting shots that are harder than they need to be. Do not go out of your way to hit it to the area of weakness instead play shots you know you can land.

Step 6: Conclusion

Table tennis has many aspects to learn and master, but if the previously stated steps are followed and practiced, you will become a much better player. The more that you play, the more you will realize exactly how much practice is needed, but it can be done and the results will be very rewarding.

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