The Ping Pong Strategy That Will Help You Win

Over the last few years, many workplaces and even public spaces like parks have tried to become more trendy. This has inevitably meant that office table tennis tables are starting to become much more popular.

Lots of beginners want to learn some ping pong strategies that will help them win. If you are a beginner, paddles, grips, and serving styles are some ways you can improve your game. Follow the advice here and put in some extra practice, and soon you’ll know about some table tennis tactics that will help you win most of the games you play.

Think About Your Playing Style

Many players can be seen as primarily attackers or defenders. A typical table tennis style can be mostly aggressive or passive. But at the recreational level, consistency is one of the key factors. The path to success is keeping the ball on the table for longer than your opponent. In table tennis, it is not a great strategy to play fancy points and other flashy shots. 

For every amazing shot that wins you the point, you will probably be missing twice as many easy ones. You might look impressive but you will often lose the game. It is a better strategy to focus your efforts on consistency (not missing the ball or table) and placement (which, if used correctly, can cause your opponent to miss the ball or table). 

Try and play with a high amount of control and don’t worry too much about hitting the ball too hard. Aim your shots at three spots on your opponent’s side of the table: wide forehand, wide backhand, and the middle point between the forehand and backhand areas. There is never any reason to play your shots into the middle of the forehand and backhand half of the table. This is your opponent’s prime hitting zone.

There are also a few height considerations that you should consider in the game of ping pong. The first one is when the ping pong ball has bounced and is on the way up. You have the option of hitting the ball just before it reaches maximum height, which can catch your opponent unprepared and you will often win the point. 

The second one is when the ping pong ball has bounced and has reached the highest point. This is where flat shots are usually necessary. Try to use a relaxed technique with a minimal spin for the optimal effect. The third one is when the ping pong ball has bounced and it is just about to hit the table. Forehand loops are very effective at this height because these shots often require a large forearm backswing before you make contact with the ping pong ball.

A very easy way to win a point in table tennis is to force your opponent to put the ball into the net. Many players are used to hitting balls that have either no spin at all or just a little bit of topspin. They have trained their muscle memory to play strokes based on those types of shots. If you add a heavy backspin aspect to your shots, you will quickly baffle your opponents.

The way to do that is to slice completely underneath the ball. This is called a push (or backhand push in certain cases). Try to slice completely horizontally under the ball with a cheap paddle and the ball will simply skid straight over your rubber.

However, if you do this with a paddle with tacky rubbers, the rubbers will grip the ball and send it back to your opponent with backspin. When your opponent tries to hit this heavy backspin ball, it will often go straight into the net. A heavy amount of backspin will greatly increase your chances of winning matches.


The Importance of the Serve

table tennis player serving

Serving well can give you a huge advantage over your opponent because it’s the only time in a game when you have complete control over the speed, spin, and placement of the ball.

You should try to develop a few specialized serves and long serves that go to the end of the table. Most recreational players simply start off the point with a generic serve and don’t see the importance of it. Your serve is the only point in a game of table tennis where you have complete control over the ball and aren’t reacting to what your opponent has just done.

If you have mastered the heavy backspin push, you can apply the same stroke to a heavy backspin serve. This can win you plenty of points. Try to develop a fast serve by doing some service practice until you are able to really crank up the speed without sending the ball long off the end of the table. 

Once you learn how to serve fast, it is all about placement. Remember the three zones we described earlier: wide forehand, wide backhand, and the middle. If you can serve fast into those areas, you will make it hard for your opponent to play a decent shot. A few other helpful tips include the ones below. 

Winning Ping Pong Strategy #1: Reading the Spin

The key to acquiring this important skill in table tennis is watching your opponent’s paddle right as it makes contact with the ball. If your opponent’s paddle is moving from low to high, the type of spin is topspin. If it is from high to low, the type of spin is backspin. If it is from your opponent’s left to right, the type of spin is right sidespin, and if it is from their right to left, the type of spin is left sidespin.

Winning Ping Pong Strategy #2: Compensating for the Spin

Once you determine the type of spin, you can compensate for it. If it is topspin, angle your leading paddle face down and contact the ball above its center. If it is backspin, angle your leading paddle face up and contact the ball below its center. If it is right sidespin, angle your leading paddle face to the right and contact the ball to the left of its middle.

If it is left sidespin, angle your leading paddle face to the left and contact the ball to the right of its middle. While holding your paddle at that angle, stroke gently forward. Only after you have developed a feel for the spin should you stroke the ball harder.

Winning Ping Pong Strategy #3: Use your Whole Body

Xu Xin

Try to rotate your hips and shoulders backward during the backswing and then forward into the ball as you stroke your forehand. This motion can be done together with a transfer of your body weight from your back foot to your front foot.

The harder you hit your forehand shot, the more forceful your weight transfer needs to be in terms of your footwork. A common forehand mistake among beginners is to use only your arm to hit the ball, which can put a limit on your power and consistency.

Winning Ping Pong Strategy #4: Stay Ready 

A good ready position is when you are balanced and able to move instantly in any direction. Use this stance when you are preparing to return serves and between strokes. The basic sequence of a table tennis rally is to put yourself in a good ready position, then move to the ball with your feet while staying balanced, then use a forehand or backhand stroke to hit the ball and return to your ready position. Repeat all of these steps until the rally ends.

Winning Ping Pong Strategy #5: Develop Automatic Strokes

When you first learn a new table tennis skill, you will need to use a lot of mental energy to formulate a clear mental picture of how the stroke is supposed to look and feel. Once this mental picture is accurate, you will need to 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 automatically and you do not analyze your shots but rather just let them happen naturally. 

Winning Ping Pong Strategy #6: Hit Your Returns Low Over the Net 

The Forehand Flick

In general, the lower over the net you place your shots, the less leverage your opponent can use and that’s what makes it harder for them to return the ping pong ball with any power or placement. Low shots over the net are very difficult to return. The one exception to hitting the ping pong ball as low as possible is if you use lobs when you will be trying to hit the ball very high over the net (and as close to your opponent’s end of the table as possible).

Winning Ping Pong Strategy #7: Develop Sidespin Serves 

Few beginner table tennis players use sidespin on their serves, but professional players use sidespin on almost every serve. Sidespin is almost always combined with either topspin or backspin, and pure sidespin is rare in table tennis. A sidespin/backspin serve can be particularly useful if it is low to the net and bounces twice on the other side of the table. This type of killer spin serve will also go a long way toward limiting your opponent’s return options. 

Winning Ping Pong Strategy #8: Practice as Much as You Can

Practice refers to all the time you spend developing your table tennis game by concentrating on a few of the skills you want to strengthen the most. The primary objective during practice is to develop these aspects of your game, whereas when you compete, your main objective is to win, not to work on your game. It is important to play practice games where the objective is to blend in a new skill or tactic into a table tennis match before you compete. 

All of these things can also be done before a competitive game in the warm-up phase. The emphasis for these practice sessions is always on development and not on winning. 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.


Winning Ping Pong Strategy #9: Get a Table Tennis Training Partner

Omron's table-tennis playing robot playing attendants at the Hannover Messe convention

Training with ping pong robots can help a player develop sharp reflexes, impeccable hand-eye coordination, and swift footwork!

To really improve, it’s important to find other people with similar goals and playing levels and spend some time practicing or training with them. A table tennis club is a great place for this. Most clubs have players of all different playing levels.

Find someone at a similar playing level as yourself and train together regularly. Also, most clubs have a table tennis coach who can help improve your game greatly. Another 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 whenever you like.

Winning Ping Pong Strategy #10: Use Your Own Table Tennis Paddle 

It is important to get your own paddle and use it all the time. Every paddle has its own feel and playing characteristics, and you will benefit greatly by using only one paddle so you are not always trying to adapt to a different/new one.

Also, take good care of your paddle. Keep it in a paddle case when you are not using it. If you are using an inverted sponge rubber (with a smooth surface), you should wash it with soap and water or a special paddle cleaner after every use.

Equipment: Table Tennis Paddles and Storage Case 

If you are serious about improving your table tennis skills, you will need to invest in a proper table tennis paddle or ping pong paddle. Most recreational players assume that all the paddles that you can get are the same but that is really not true at all. Table tennis is primarily a game of spin, so you are going to need a paddle that will let you generate a large amount of spin in all of your shots.

If you are just starting out, we recommend that you do a basic Amazon search and look for the paddles that are the easiest to find, because they will serve your purposes just fine at this stage. In general, most ESN (European rubber paddles), and Japanese paddles (such as the Butterfly Tenergy and a few other variations) are some of the best backhand rubber paddles.

Butterfly table tennis accessories use advanced technology for the best products on the market. Another good choice for beginner players is the Palio Expert 2, an excellent table tennis paddle with tacky rubbers and a free storage case.

You can pick one up from Amazon or Walmart at a very reasonable price. Using the right table tennis paddle is vital. It allows you to use the correct strokes and techniques instead of simply returning the ball back and forth across the ping pong table.

Getting Your Game On

Now that you know more about some of the most important things you can do to improve your table tennis game as well as some of the best table tennis tips, it is time to get out around the table and really start putting your new skills to use. 

Always lean forward on your toes when you are striking the ball. This will prevent you from doing the things that most beginners do, which is leaning backward over to compensate for their slower reaction times. If you lean forward instead, you will get a lot more power in your shots, since your whole body will be moving toward the ball with the correct footwork. 

Check out five more of the most effective strategies to use in table tennis. Try to incorporate all of these skills into your game when you are learning how to play table tennis and pretty soon, you will become known as one of the best players around.

Riley Draper

Avid table tennis player, world traveler, and content creator. Follow on Twitter. Connect on LinkedIn.