10 Common Mistakes in Table Tennis and How to Fix Them

One of the most common mistakes in table tennis is holding the paddle incorrectly. This limits how well you can perform.

I’ve seen virtually every mistake as a table tennis player of over ten years. Here are the 10 most common mistakes you need to watch out for:

  1. Holding your paddle incorrectly
  2. Holding your racket too tightly
  3. Standing too close to the table
  4. Poor stance
  5. Poor footwork
  6. Inability to read spin
  7. Trouble producing spin
  8. Not spending enough time practicing serves
  9. Hitting the ball too hard
  10. Not addressing weak areas

In this post, I describe each of these mistakes and explain how you can rectify them. So, if you ask, why am I so bad at ping pong? Consider reading to the end to ensure you don’t miss out on this valuable info.  

1. Holding Your Paddle Incorrectly

mistakes in table tennis holding the paddle incorrectly

Getting your grip right is a big deal. It quite literally benchmarks what your ability can be. The trouble is that many beginners overlook this fact, as they don’t know the importance of adopting a sound grip.

The most beginner-friendly grip is the shakehand grip, and it’s by far the most common globally. So this is the grip I recommend to use. Hold your racket as if you are shaking hands with it. Your index finger rests on the edge of your backhand rubber while your remaining fingers wrap around to grip the blade.

2. Holding Your Racket Too Tightly

Table tennis is a game of fluid motion and high spin. You might think that the firmness with which you hold your paddle has no bearing on how you play, but you’d be wrong.

A loose grip helps keep you nice and loose and makes it much easier to control the ball. In my earlier days playing the sport, I’d have a habit of stiffening up my grip during big matches. As a result, I was slower to react, but my swing wasn’t quite right, and I wasn’t as effective at producing or returning spin.

I recommend giving your racket a tiny bit of wiggle room in your hand, such as a relaxed grip. Ensure it is secure enough that it won’t fly out of your hands!

3. Standing Too Close to the Table

mistakes in table tennis standing too close to the table

Many beginners stand right next to the table and, as a result, often hit the ball early. While this isn’t ideal for most strokes, the more pressing issue is that standing close to the table makes it hard to return deep balls.

Instead, try standing half an arm or one arm’s length away from the table. This way, you’ll find it easier to return deep balls. You’ll also have more time to play your shots. For the balls that land short, you simply step in to play the shot before taking a step back.

4. Poor Stance

While amateur players with good intuition don’t commit as many common mistakes in ping pong, I’ve never seen an absolute beginner with a good stance. This is because there are quite a few criteria to tick.

For starters, your feet should be at least shoulder-width apart. This gives you a solid base with a good balance. You should also bend at the knees. Table tennis involves much loading up, so bending at the knees helps prepare you for your next shot.

Furthermore, you should also place most of your weight on the balls of your feet. This is because leaning back reduces your ability to generate power and leads to a form breakdown. Finally, you should hold your racket out in front of you, favoring neither the forehand nor backhand with a 90-degree bend at the elbow. Combined with all these steps, you’ve successfully adopted the ready position.

5. Poor Footwork

mistakes in table tennis poor footwork

Similar to poor stance is poor footwork. And it’s one of the most common mistakes in ping pong that I see across every skill level.

Concerning beginners, they barely move their feet at all. As a result, they have to reach for the ball, meaning they can only defend, thus putting them on the back foot.

Instead, players should anticipate where the ball will go and move accordingly. This enables them to prepare a higher-quality shot and put the opponent under pressure. If you struggle to move quickly enough, focus on having a wide stance and leaning forward as you prepare to receive the ball.

Read More: Ping Pong Rules: How to Play Properly

6. Inability to Read Spin

No racket sport does spin like table tennis, so it’s an absolute nightmare for beginners. To put it into context, a beginner has virtually no chance of returning a high-quality serve from an elite player or pro.

However, if you’re attentive, you can quickly pick up this whole spin business. I taught myself that whichever way the racket moves, that’s the direction the spin wants the ball to go. To combat this, adjust your racket angle and aim the ball the other way.

7. Trouble Producing Spin

Having a high-spin game is one of the easiest ways to win matches. Trust me. It’s quite literally my style. And the amount of free points I win from low-risk spinny shots is astounding.

Many players produce light to moderate spin as they lack the proper technique to break through into high spin.

The key to producing heavy spin is speed and faint contact. The faster you strike the ball, the more spin you produce. However, this contact needs to be faint; otherwise, it will translate to elevated spin rather than speed. Proper wrist action is key.

8. Not Spending Enough Time Practicing Serves

mistakes in table tennis not spending enough time practicing serves

You may have heard that “Serves are the most important shot in table tennis as they are the only time you have complete control of the ball,” this statement is right on the money.

Serves set the tone for the rally ahead, and you get half of them, so you’d better make them count! You need to dedicate enough time to refining your serves to do this. Unfortunately, many beginners use it more to get the rally going than win points. This is a big mistake.

Spend 15 minutes per week drilling your serves so that you have good control over placement, spin, and speed. This will make you a more proficient server and win you many points.

9. Hitting the Ball Too Hard

We all know smashing is fun, but don’t push it. You lose overall if you only successfully execute 3 out of 10 smashes. Instead, take some of the conviction of those hits and yearn for higher consistency. Reserve more powerful shots, such as high balls, for when they are easier to perform.

10. Not Addressing Weak Areas

New players practice areas they are good at because they are the most enjoyable. However, this leaves them vulnerable in matches where they have easily exploitable bad habits.

Everyone has weaker areas, even the pros, and if you care about improving at all, you need to identify your weak areas and then put measures in place to improve them.

Closing Thoughts

So there you have it. Those are 10 common mistakes in table tennis that I frequently see, and some advice on how to fix them. Of course, you might be guilty of many more faults in table tennis, but I didn’t want to make this list too long!

If you’re interested in learning more, consider checking out our guide, where we cover 15 Tips to Help You Improve. More specifically, if you want some exercises for your training, here are 7 Ping Pong Drills to Improve Your Match Play.

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Freelance writer. Table tennis enthusiast. Lover of all things online. When I’m not working on my loop game I’m probably binge-watching some fantasy show.