Table Tennis/Printable version

Table Tennis

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Basic Serving

In table tennis the ball does not hit the servers side before play. You must strike the ball and cross the net to the opponents side of the table

The ServiceEdit

Service at the 2017 world tour. Note the form of the palm.

Most social players won't call any rules on you for serving, but there are some widely accepted guidelines. First, you can't serve the ball off the bounce; you must have it in your hand and hit it before it touches anything else. It then hits your side once and then your opponent's side, clearing the net. If the ball hits the net but goes over (colloquially referred to as a netball), a let is called and the server is allowed another try. If the ball hits the net and doesn't go over, a net is called and the receiver gets the point.

Basic strategy for beginning servers is all about control. Try to serve low over the net, but not at the expense of hitting the net more than necessary. Don't serve a high and short ball that bounces vertically, because you give the other player a chance to slam it right back at you, with minimal chance of a return.

Ball Placement

Ball placement is the basic factor that most influences the winner of a game. Mastering ball placement will make you the puppetmaster of players who have not mastered it. You can move them at will, forcing them to run from side to side, or lean back for a far shot then jump forward for a near shot. You can make your opponent catch the ball with his hand when you place your shot in a far corner that he knows won't make it (and this will happen). If you haven't gotten it yet, ball placement is very important.

Bad placementsEdit

Figuring out where not to hit the ball is just as important as placing those corner shots. This actually ties in with the section Types of Player. Here's an exercise to help: Think of shots that you love to hit, forehand, backhand (not very common), or whatever. The odds are that your opponent likes at least a few of those shots too. Do not give those to your opponent. One shot that should be avoided at all costs is a medium-to-high-bouncing ball with no spin (you'll learn about that later) that is three-quarters of an arm's length away from your opponent. That's called asking for a slam.

Good placementsEdit

Backhand vs. ForehandEdit

Most players prefer to hit balls on their forehand. That means that most players are likely to be less proficient hitting backhands than forehands. Therefore, hitting to your opponent's backhand is preferable to hitting to their forehand. This doesn't apply at all times. If you've just sent a ball to your opponent's far backhand, you might want to consider hitting to their far forehand once they return it.


The vast majority, if not all, players dislike hitting balls near their body. This is a great thing to take advantage of. One thing to consider, is that the farther away a player is from the table, the less this dislike will affect their ability to return it. Of course, the opposite also applies. If you notice that your opponent is almost or actually touching the table with their body, the next shot you make should be directed towards his body and should hit the table as far back as you feel you can make it (don't go so far that it could go off the table). After this shot, you should back off the table since their return will either hit the net (very likely), hit your side far back with moderate power (a little likely), or go off the end (even less likely).


A simple concept, and also used often in tennis, is hitting to alternating sides such that your opponent must use a considerable amount of energy to get to the balls. This is especially effective when playing in warm, humid weather in such venues as garages.

Near vs. FarEdit

A variation on the runaround is to use the same alternating concept, but instead of forehand to backhand, you hit near to far (in relation to the net). Hitting a near shot right after a far shot can certainly throw your opponent off balance. If your opponent is able to return the near shot following the far shot, continue the cycle.

Types of Player

Determining what type of player your opponent is can help you make good decisions, most importantly, shot placement. If you have a group of people that you play with, it should be easy to recall the strengths and weaknesses of each. When playing against a new opponent, it should be your priority to determine what kind of player they are.

Aggressive or DefensiveEdit

This is the basic divide in table tennis players, and can usually be easily determined. There are many indicators of aggressiveness or defensiveness. Does your opponent seem to crowd the table even when shots are flying quickly? That's an aggressive stance and you can expect fast returns, which can go into the net or on your side. Defensive players tend to just get the ball back, waiting for their opponents to make mistakes. Defensive players tend to not slam balls, and some extremists refuse to slam even when there is almost no chance of missing. Good players can shift their style of play, just as no basketball team plays offense all the time. When a chronically defensive player and a chronically aggressive player play, the defensive player will find himself standing far from the table, returning the blazing shots the aggressive player is making. Either one could win, taking advantage of weaknesses (with shot placement) could win the game.

Forehand, Backhand, or BothEdit

This is pretty straightforward and easy to determine. Left-handed players can throw a wrench into the works, though. Simply, does your opponent use energy to favor forehand or backhand, or does he hit both with no real preference to either? If they favor one or the other, use shot placement to take advantage of their weaker side.


Spin is an essential component of an advanced game. Spin influences every aspect of the players' interaction with the ball. Not to mention the satisfying feeling you get when your side spin makes the ball curve just outside of your opponent's stroke.

When learning how to apply spin to the ball, at first the ball is likely to go everywhere but on the table. It is absolutely imperative that you keep trying. The originating author of this Wikibook made the mistake of giving up on top spin while his friends kept trying. He laughed as he beat them easily, since they were (unsuccessfully) trying to apply top spin. However, once they mastered it, he was unable to stop the onslaught of fast, curving balls, and had to play catch-up.

There are seven types of spin, which makes sense, because there are three axes of motion (forward/backward, left/right, up/down) and no-spin, which can have just as much effect on an opponent as a spun ball. The other six are: Top spin, slice, left side spin, right side spin, left corkscrew spin, and right corkscrew spin.


Understanding how spin works is important. Knowing why spin makes balls curve and jump and seemingly stop helps when implementing it. Spin actually makes the ball behave like an aircraft's wing. Take slice (backspin), for example. Sliced balls seem to float through the air and never bounce as much as a regular (no-spin) ball. This is because the rotation of the ball makes air move over the top of the ball more quickly than the air on the bottom. The slower moving air is at a higher pressure than the faster moving air above the ball. When there is a difference in pressure, high pressure air tries to move into low pressure areas, so the pressure difference imparts lift on the ball. This pressure difference is responsible for the behavior of all spins. When the ball hits the table, it is spinning backwards, so when it grips the table for a moment, that backward rotation is applied to the table and it seems to not bounce as much. Advanced players can apply slice with such energy that the ball will jump backwards when it hits the table.

Top SpinEdit

Top spin is the bread and butter of most advanced players' strokes. Just like in tennis, top spin in table tennis causes the ball to curve downwards. This allows players to impart considerable power to the ball, but instead of soaring off of the table, it will curve down and strike his opponent's side.

Top spin is applied by forcing the ball to spin end over end in an upward manner relative to the player who hit it. In other words, if you hit the ball with the label pointing straight at you, you would see the label move from the bottom of the ball to the top of the ball, and it would not move from left to right. This can be done with several strokes.

One way to impart top spin is to add a wrist flick to the standard stroke. This is a good, basic way to start.

An alternative to the above stroke is to push the ball. Instead of bringing the paddle back towards the body when finishing a stroke, a player would continue the forward movement, so that the paddle only moves in one direction, forward. This stroke has the advantage of being more easily learned for the backhand, which is more difficult with the other strokes.

Some players choose to only flick their wrists upward when hitting the ball. This has the advantage of being able to impart an insane amount of spin without hitting the ball extremely hard. However, it is also one of the more difficult ways to do it.


Slice, also known as backspin, is a powerful spin and can easily catch an opponent off guard. Sliced balls seem to float through the air, and never bounce as one would expect. The degree of spin affects what the ball will do when it hits the table. With less powerful spin, the ball will not bounce as far as a no-spin ball. With more powerful spin, the ball will either bounce straight up or backwards (toward the player who imparted the slice). However, it becomes more difficult to get the ball to hit the other side as the amount of slice imparted increases, since the more slice the ball has, the more it floats. When first learning slice, don't be surprised when most of your sliced balls float right off the end of the table. With practice you will gain control of the slice beast.

Almost all methods for imparting slice involve getting the paddle either entirely beneath or mostly beneath the ball and striking it so that it runs along the paddle while the paddle moves away from the player. Slice is called slice because the stroke it uses, for lack of a better word, slices at the ball. If correctly done, the label on the ball will move from top to bottom, and not left or right. if you hit the ball from the top the ball will go back up ward toward to you

Side spinEdit

Side spin is very versatile. It is quite possible to use side spin on every shot in a rally and remain competitive, which is much harder to do with top spin and slice. Also, strokes for side spin are much easier to learn. The only action required is moving the paddle laterally when hitting the ball. When correctly done, the label on the ball will move either from left to right or right to left with no up or down movement. There are two methods of imparting side spin.


Push side spin results from moving the paddle laterally away from your body when hitting the ball. Push side spin doesn't require you to impart as much speed to achieve the same amount of spin as pull side spin. The risk you run with push side spin is that you can hit the ball with the leading edge of your paddle instead of allowing it to glide across. The ball whizzes off with no hope of hitting anything but a spectator or wall.


Pull side spin can be extremely effective. Pull side spin results from moving the paddle laterally toward your body when hitting the ball. You must be selective when using it, because although it can generate insane amounts of spin, the speed of the ball increases with spin. With no top spin to get it down on the table, it can fly off the table quite easily. Practice is essential, because once you master it, your pull side spin shots will be fast and curve right past your opponent's paddle.

Corkscrew spinEdit

First of all: This type of spin is almost exclusively seen at the highest level (world class) of play. Occasionally novices may hit it by accident when hitting a low (below the playing surface) ball. Corkscrew spin can be described as side spin turned on its head. This is the most powerful spin, and is accordingly the hardest to use, much less master. When hit correctly, a ball with right or left corkscrew spin will jump to the right or left (respectively) when it hits the table. And they jump. If the label is facing you when the ball is hit, the label will seem to rotate in the center, not moving up, down, left, or right.


Feigning is an excellent technique, and when used sparingly will almost always catch your opponent off guard. The great thing about feigning is that it can be applied to almost everything in this Wikibook so far.

Feigning PlacementEdit


A basic, but very effective, feign is the placement of your service. Very few players will look at your paddle to determine where the shot will go. Absolutely critical to making the feign believable is your eyes. You must look at where you want your opponent to think the shot is going to go. Also important, but usually only caught by players who have had feigns used on them for a while, is not interrupting your service routine. Don't change anything, and your opponent won't know when to expect a feign.


Rally feigning is a bit different from service feigning. It is more versatile, however. A common feign is used when performing the runaround. After settling into the forehand-backhand pattern, interrupt it by hitting to the same side (instead of the opposite side) that your opponent returned from. This works flawlessly on unanticipating opponents.

Feigning SpinEdit

Feigning spin is more complicated than feigning placement. First, your opponent must be advanced enough to recognize spin. If you can convince your opponent that you always spin, you can win critical points by not spinning the shot. They will anticipate the spin and either completely miss the ball or miss the sweet spot.