How to Play Table Tennis (Beginners Basic & Pro Tips)

Last Updated on January 25, 2023 by Sorin Petroj

Do you wish to know how to play table tennis? Then, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been playing table tennis for over 25 years and can’t get enough of it.

Table tennis is a fun experience, and it is even more enjoyable when played with friends. It’s a terrific hobby that allows you to meet new people who are also interested in the game while also improving your health. Get a list of the necessary equipment, familiarize yourself with the game’s rules, and start playing.

This is the first step in introducing yourself to the table tennis world and the beginning of what might become a lifelong fascination for this exquisitely complicated sport. The extensive article you are about to read will give all the details you need to know before starting your table tennis journey.

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These are some of the few topics that will be discussed later in this article – how to play table tennis at home, how to play table tennis by yourself, and how to play table tennis like a pro.

A Brief History of The Sport

Table tennis became a featured sport in the Olympics back in 1988. it is played everywhere, from the barren alleys of Ethiopia to the local schools in rural England, but it is incredibly popular in Asia.

The game started in England towards the end of the 19th century as an upper-class after-meal activity. It was called ping pong at first because of the sound the ball made when it hit the bat.

Table tennis became a widespread common name for the sport later on.

How to Play Table Tennis Game – Equipment Needed

Table tennis blades

Control, spin, and speed are the criteria typically used to grade table tennis paddles. A paddle with high power and low spin and speed ratings is a suitable starting blade for beginners.

As your ball control skills develop, you can start working on increasing the pace and spin of your shots by looking for a blade with less control.

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Table tennis balls

If you want to compete in a table tennis tournament, you must work hard and practice a lot, just like any other sport.

Table tennis balls are little, spherical objects made of plastic. They usually come in two colors: white and orange, and the typical regulated size is only a tiny bit bigger than 40 mm.

The quality of a table tennis ball is typically indicated by a star rating system of 1 to 3 stars. While 3-star balls are more costly and used for competitive play, 1-star balls are more affordable and used for casual play.

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The Ping Pong Table

The table is the most pricy out of all the table tennis equipment. If you want a competition-grade table, you will have to spend around a hundred to a few thousand dollars.

The rectangular table is 9 feet by 5 feet.

The table tennis net is 6 feet long with an edge 6 inches (15.25 cm) above the surface over its entire length. The table’s upper surface is a level plane 30 inches (76 cm), well above the playing surface.

The net is positioned 1.75 meters from the table’s center line so the ball will travel with a headwind. A 6-inch-high (15.25-cm) backstop is installed 4 feet, 7 inches (1.4 meters) from the table’s center line, parallel to it. The detailed ping pong table dimensions are listed here.

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How to Play Table Tennis – A Step-By-Step Guide

Finding a partner

You should generally start by playing ping pong against someone on the same level as you or slightly better, particularly someone who isn’t overly competitive.

You may learn to play while having fun in this manner. Also, you can play one-on-one or in doubles, which is played with two teams.

If you don’t have access to the necessary equipment, you should find a partner with all the tools you need to start practicing, like table tennis blades, balls, and a ping pong table.

Working on your grip

A proper grip is the first essential skill you should learn.

Table tennis players use two primary grips: shake hands and penhold. The penhold is a traditional Asian grip where the paddle must be held between the index finger and thumb. Although the penhold grip has some benefits, it is also challenging to perfect.

 
Players who play penhold must either master the challenging reversed penhold backhand stroke or serve with one side of the blade for both the forehand and backhand. Penhold players continue to dominate the World rankings, but the popularity of this style of play is slowly decreasing.

The traditional European grip known as the “shake hands” is now used more often by Asian players. The shakehand grip involves placing your grip on the blade’s handle and wrapping your fingers lightly to simulate a hand-shaking gesture.

Learning how to stance properly

Getting your stance correct is essential before you begin hitting balls. Being low and comprehensive are the two main elements of a good posture.

This means you should lower your center of gravity as much as you reasonably can and space your feet at least 1.5 inches apart, if not more. It can be a little exhausting to stand and move around in this position; it’s much simpler and more convenient to remain up straight with your legs closer together, but you must build the strength necessary to hold this position.

how to play table tennis stance properly

You may also have heard the phrase “ready position.” It’s normal to use the terms “stance” and “ready position” interchangeably.

When the player is in the “ready position,” they are standing with their feet relatively wide apart, their knees bent, their bodies hunched down, both arms out in front of them, and their ping pong paddle in a balanced position. It’s crucial to have a neutral stance.

Relax the muscles in your upper body so that your arms and shoulders may even dangle forward somewhat like a gorilla! The muscles in your legs will need to be more active and prepared to move.

How to serve in table tennis

The ball should be shot out of your open palm and free hand vertically, at least 16 cm from beyond the end line, and then struck with the paddle so that it initially hits your side of the table, goes over the net and reaches your opponent’s side.

The server may serve at any spot on the opposition’s end of the table when playing singles, and the receiver must then return the ball.

how to serve in table tennis explanation

When playing doubles, the serve is shifted back and forth between yourself and your opponent. The ball must bounce on your table’s right half side before being delivered across the court to your opponent’s side.

Focusing on footwork

Many players learn all the strokes at once from a still position and learn about movement and footwork later. It’s a horrible idea to do this.

You must constantly move from side to side when delivering or returning shots. The footwork in table tennis is peculiar because you generally need minor foot modifications and don’t need to travel very far.

You must spend a lot of time mastering the footwork to get good at table tennis.

Deciding the first server

The opportunity to select whether to serve first is determined by tossing a coin, with the winner picking whether to serve first or which side they prefer.

However, in most social table tennis matches, the first server is determined by a guessing game. The player holds a ball in his left or right hand, and his opponent must guess where the ball is.

If the opponent correctly guesses which hand the ball is in, they get to serve first, and vice versa.

How to Play Table Tennis – Returning a serve

It can be exceedingly challenging to return your opponent’s shots. A serve can change depending on the ball’s speed, positioning, and spin.

When receiving a ball, you usually have to try to determine the service your adversary is using, watch where the serve is going, modify your position, choose the best shot to reverse the serve, and then effectively carry out your return.

returning a serve in ping pong example on a short service

This explains why most new and less experienced players need help returning serves. They feel overwhelmed when taking all the factors in to judge the style of the shot.

The most critical step in returning a serve is determining the sort of spin that the ball has. You can choose which shot to play to return it once you know that. Also, you must drive the ball back if it has topspin on it.

You must push the shot back if it has been given backspin. It’s that easy. All of it boils down to “reading” the ball’s spin.

Securing Points

The ball can land wherever on the table after your serve. The exchange will continue if your opponent successfully hits the ball straight at you after it has bounced once on his side, having returned the serve. But you get the point if the ball bounces multiple times and your opponent fails to return it.

When the table tennis ball strikes the net, It still counts as a hit if it lands on your opponent’s side and bounces. According to table tennis rules, if this occurs during a service, it is referred to as a “let,” and neither side is penalized; instead, the player serves again.

If you smack the ball before it bounces on your side, that term is known as a volley. It goes against the rules of table tennis, and if you perform a volley, a point will go to your opponent. If you follow these steps to play table tennis, you’ll be a pro player in no time.

How to Play Table Tennis Like a Pro – More Advance Tips on Developing Skills

Practicing regularly

Practice is all the time you put into improving your table tennis game by focusing on the area you want to improve. The main goal of practicing is to improve your game.

On the other hand, your primary goal when competing should be to succeed rather than to improve a particular aspect of your performance. Before participating in matches, it’s crucial to play warm-up games to integrate a new skill or strategy into a match-like scenario.

In these training games, improvement still comes before winning. And when you do participate, even though your primary objective is to win, you may still learn a lot about your abilities and strategies by reviewing your previous matches.

 
Developing instincts

When learning a new table tennis move, it takes a lot of mental effort to create an accurate mental image of what the stroke feels and looks like.

Once this mental image is clear, you should repeatedly practice the skill until you can accomplish it without thinking about it. Your automated phase is now.

You’ll perform at your best when you play automatically without scrutinizing your technique.

Smashing the ball

Smashing the ball involves striking it hard and fast enough that it should be unplayable. Although a smash is dangerous, it can be challenging to wield it precisely.

You might notice that your smashes first hit the netting or go well off the opposing side of the table. But don’t be disappointed and keep practicing it until you perfect it.

How to Play Table Tennis Rules – The Point System

Games are typically played like a tennis tiebreak, except the goal is 11 points, and a player must win by a margin of at least two points. If both players reach 10, the game switches to a “deuce” format where serves are exchanged after each point. Here, a two-point lead is essential.

The player who finally has a lead of two points wins the game. There is one exception, though, the classic 21-point game, in which service switches after every five points. Every two points in table tennis doubles, service switches between teams and participants on the same side.

how to play table tennis winning point of the game

All singles rules apply, except players must serve the opposing sides of the court, which you can’t do in singles. The first team to get wins in four games in a match wins.

However, in competitions, such as the ITTF tournaments, this can also be the best of five or even nine games.

How to Play Ping Pong – FAQs

     1. What are the rules for playing table tennis in doubles?

The rules of table tennis require doubles players to serve diagonally from one corner on their side, across the net, and into a designated space at the other end. The ball lands on the opposite diagonal sides. But there’s no such requirement for singles matches!

While it may be tempting, opponents must wait until they control their own court before returning their shot. Volleying could result in you taking home an instant point. These are the basic rules.

      2. Can I switch the table tennis bat in my other hand during the game?

Table tennis is a sport of flexibility and agility, allowing players to switch the bat into their other hand anytime during play. Official rules allow switching hands during the point.

Timo Boll, one of the World’s top table tennis stars, has popularized this masterful move! The strategic change can be made any time to gain an advantage over your opponent – whether on a serve or mid-rally.

 
So, why not give this game-changing technique a try? Every table tennis player can try it sometimes.

Experiment with switching hands for more creative shots that will surely surprise your adversary!

Conclusion

So there you have it. The basics of how to play table tennis. If you just started playing table tennis, make sure you get yourself some ping pong paddles and a ping pong ball and find an opponent to practice with.

Be sure to also learn the backhand push stroke and the serve if you want to be competitive in table tennis. Many recreational players learn the forehand and backhand drive. But you need to know other advanced strokes to be good at this sport.

You must win at least 11 points per set to win a game. Good luck!

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