Table tennis, or ping pong, has been an official sport since 1926 and a part of the Olympics since 1988. The sport has a huge following amongst both professional and hobbyist players with many clubs flourishing globally. For those wanting to get started in Table tennis, there are a few key skills you will need. Alongside basic techniques, players should also have a thorough understanding of the rules and etiquette in ping pong. With the right techniques, theory and materials, you can up your game behind the table.
What are the key skills you need to play table tennis?
1. Gripping the blade
There are a few different way to grip the table tennis paddle: the penhold and shakehand are most popular. These holds are all used by professionals and have different advantages.
The penhold resembles holding a pen. In this hold, the player’s middle, ring, little fingers are curled around the racquet. There are a few variations such as the Japanese Penhold and Chinese Penhold.
The shakehold is traditionally used in western styles of play and allows the player to use the front and back of the paddle to hit ping pong balls. The grip resembles a handshake with the whole hand gripping the blade and the thumb stabilising on the opposite side.
2. Stance and position
To provide control, power, and consistency, a good stance is essential. A typical table tennis posture is a slight forwards lean with feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your knees and ankles are bent.
The majority of your weight should be on the balls of the feet since this facilitates rapid, abrupt movements and pivots critical for successful strokes. The upper arm should be near to your body but not flush. The forearm and racket should point forwards.
A relaxed posture is essential; alter your stance until the majority of the tension is gone. Just make sure you’re not too comfortable that you slump; the goal is to retain the optimal position.
Once you have your posture and stance right, it’s time to focus on footwork. The way you move your body, or footwork, should allow the player to prepare the player for an optimal shot. A strong shot will not require the player to overextend their body, instead, effective footwork will conserve energy and put the player in the most advantageous position. Poor footwork will cost time and energy, and even allow your opponent to gain points if they can take advantage of your weaknesses.
When travelling across the table, most players adopt a side-to-side shuffle. This allows you to face the table at all times, which is vital when the ball is coming in fast. When travelling left or right, the same rules apply. The foot in the direction of movement takes a small stride in that direction, and the weight of the foot is transferred.
A stroke describes how you hit the table tennis ball. Certain styles of play will lean more heavily on certain strokes, though all have their uses during play.
Backhand push is a basic backspin shot. It is generally defensive and used to alter the pace of an exchange. Position the bat in front of your stomach and flick the wrist to hit the ball.
Backhand drives are a topspin stroke strategy that is combative and aggressive. You can use drives to set up winning shots and force errors from your opponent. A backhand drive, compared to a forehand drive, will see the racket positioned at nine o’clock and the waist turned towards the left. In a forehand drive, the racket will sit at three o’clock and the body maintains an open position.
These are the primary stroke types but others, like the block and the smash, can be used to develop a dynamic gameplay at a more advanced level.
There are no particular serves that everyone must follow. However, there are several fundamental serves that beginners should know. Spin should be used mostly with the wrist on these serves.
A backspin serve, like a pushing or chopping serve, is done with an open racket clipping the bottom of the ball.
Topspin serves, like driving, can be hit with a flat racket or looped, where the player grazes the top of the ball with a closed racket for greater spin.
Sidespin is created by hitting the rear of the ball in a left-to-right or right-to-left manner. Try holding the racket in front of you to make the stroke simpler.
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