A lot of players new to Table Tennis have trouble translating their training into point-winning strokes. With the added pressure of being surrounded by people watching, and there being an umpire authoritatively deciding the score, it can all be rather terrifying.
I remember my first time playing in the national league. I lost 28 straight sets before I won any. However, at a beginner level, almost everyone there will have an obvious hole in their play. Quite simply, that’s what makes them beginners. Quite often, this means that you can exploit this in several ways.
Don’t forget to check out our beginner’s guide, which will also help you get set up to win.
7 Tips/Tricks to Win at Table Tennis
- A lot of players tend to favour one side or the other. Some have a fantastic spinny forehand away from the table but struggle to backhand anything other than tappy no spin balls which are easy to loop back. In the warmup, try to gauge your opponent. Keep in mind that he may be deliberately throwing, but if you think that he is really going for it, find his weaker side. When the game begins, just put every ball to his weaker half. Every one. Cut the table in half. He starts winning a few points? Only put most of your balls to the weaker side. This trick is fantastic for beating players with a weak forehand especially, as they can’t compensate for it in the same way that they can on the backhand side.
- Serve sidespin. It’s the hardest spin to interpret for new players, and occasionally you’ll meet someone who hasn’t properly trained their pushes, allowing you to set up a nice flick down the line. Have a look at the tomahawk serve video for instruction on how to do this. If you can do a pendulum serve already, then I’d recommend learning to serve long with sidespin. Just grab a table and a bucket of balls and go ham. Make sure to take your time with proper form when practicing service. There’s no point serving a hundred balls half-assed and learning incorrect muscle memory.
- The right mindset is as important as anything. Momentum is very real, and very dangerous. It’s why you’ll sometimes see professional players whitewashed some 11-2 in the first game but still go on to win the match. Make sure to always use your towelling breaks to clear your head. Your opponent is scuppered for momentum breaking if he hasn’t brought one of his own. On the interval of each six points, you can have a few seconds to towel off. This one is really my weakness; I get tilted, then I get salty, then I lose in roughly that order.
- Ask to see your opponent’s racket pre-game. In the US at least, alternative styles to the conventional thick-sponge-tacky-topsheet are relatively popular, and being caught off guard by a dead rubber or long pips is never a nice feeling. The laws of table tennis state that players may request to examine their opponent’s racket pre-game. You’ve got nothing to lose, and it’s even recommended as part of the rules. What’s not to love?
- Don’t worry about point winning shots. Of course, if the ball is lobbed 10 feet into the air I don’t exactly expect you to meekly push it back over the net, but feel free to stand a little bit away from the table and just fish every ball back on. Beginners are there because of inconsistency, which will kick in eventually. This is not viable if your opponent has a good backhand punch or forehand smash, but that’s a rare sight in U1200 tournaments.
- Exploit your opponent’s saltiness if it is excessive. Mean, I know. But if they’re getting visibly annoyed they keep missing their backhand, you know what to do. Rather self-explanatory, but effective none the less.
- KEEP AN EYE ON THE SCORE. I don’t know how many times I had to correct dodgy umpiring when I was just starting off. Table etiquette is appalling sometimes. How is it possible to text your girlfriend, eat a packet of quavers and keep accurate score at the same time. Curse you, texting umpires.