1. Know what spin is on the ball
The key to acquiring this important skill in table tennis is to carefully watch your opponent’s racket when it makes contact with the ball.
If your opponent’s racket is moving from:
- Low to high ― the spin is topspin
- High to low ― the spin is backspin
- Their left to right ― the spin is right sidespin
- Their right to left ― the spin is left sidespin
- If topspin, angle your leading racket face down and contact the ball above its center
- If backspin, angle your leading racket face up and contact the ball below its center
- If right sidespin, angle your leading racket face to the right and contact the ball to the left of its mid-line
- If left sidespin, angle your leading racket face to the left and contact the ball to the right of its mid-line
While holding your racket at the suggested angle, stroke gently forward. Only after you have developed a feel for the spin should you stroke the ball with more force.
3. Use your whole body when you stroke your forehand
Make sure that you rotate your hips and shoulders backwards during the backswing and then forward into the ball as you stroke your forehand. This motion is coordinated with a transfer of your body weight from the back foot to the front foot. The harder you hit your forehand, the more forceful your weight transfer must be. A common forehand mistake is to use only your arm to hit the ball, which severely limits your power and consistency.
4. Maintain a good ready position
A good ready position is balanced and prepares your body to move instantly in any direction. Use it when preparing to return serves and between strokes.
The basic sequence of a table tennis rally is:
- Put yourself in a good ready position
- Move to the ball with your feet, staying balanced
- Stroke the ball
- Return to your ready position
- Repeat B, C and D until the rally ends
5. Train your strokes until they are automatic
When you first learn a new table tennis skill, you use a lot of mental energy to formulate a clear mental picture of how the stroke looks and feels. Once this mental picture is relatively accurate, you should then practice that skill repeatedly until you no longer have to think about how to do it. This is your automatic stage. Your best performance will come when you play on automatic and you do not analyze your skill. You just let it happen naturally.
6. Use your own table tennis racket
It is important to get your own racket and use it exclusively. Every racket has its own feel and playing characteristics, and you will benefit greatly by using only one racket so you’re not always trying to adapt to a different/new one. Also, take good care of your racket; treat it with respect. Keep it in a case when you’re not using it. If you’re using inverted sponge rubber (smooth surface), you should wash it with soap and water or a special racket cleaner after every use.
7. Develop sidespin serves
Few beginner table tennis players use sidespin on their serves; whereas, top players use sidespin on almost every serve. Sidespin is almost always combined with either topspin or backspin; pure sidespin is extremely rare in table tennis. Particularly useful is a sidespin/backspin serve that is low to the net and bounces twice on the other side of the table. This type of serve will seriously limit your opponent’s serve return options.
8. Keep your returns low over the net
In general, the lower over the net you place your shots, the less angle your opponent can use and the harder it is for them to hit it with power. The one exception to this is if you use lobs, you will want to place the ball very high over the net (and as close to the end of the table as possible).
9. Practice more than you compete
Practice refers to all the time you spend developing your table tennis game by concentrating on some aspect(s) you want to strengthen. The primary objective during practice is to develop your game. On the other hand, when you compete, your main objective should be to win, not to work on some part of your game. It is important to play practice games where the objective is to blend in a new skill or tactic into a match-like situation before you compete. The emphasis for these practice games is still on development, not winning. And when you do compete, even though your main goal is on winning, you can still learn a lot about your skills and tactics by analyzing your matches after they are over.
10. Get a table tennis training/practice partner(s)
To really advance your game, it’s important to find others with similar goals and playing levels and practice/train with them. A table tennis club is a great place to do this. Most clubs have players of all different playing levels. Find someone at a similar playing level as yourself and commit to practicing/training together on a regular, consistent basis. You should periodically assess your progress by playing with players at a higher level.
Also, most clubs have a table tennis coach who can help improve your game greatly.
Another practice/training partner option is a table tennis robot. Many table tennis clubs have robots to practice and train with, or you can get one for your home and be able to practice and train anytime you want, for as long as you want!