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Table Tennis Tactics

Your table tennis tactics are crucial during a match.
But what tactics are right for you?

Table tennis tactics by courtesy of the ITTF

Why do you need table tennis tactics?

After all, the aim of the game is simple - to keep the ball in play for longer than your opponent.

Well, we all know that there's more to table tennis than that, if you want to win consistently.

Tactics generally rely on three main skills:

  1. The ability to keep the ball in play
  2. The ability to play the ball to certain areas of the table, and
  3. The ability to apply pressure on your opponent by using different types and amounts of spin, and different speeds, in order to create openings and hit winning shots.

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6 Table Tennis Tactics

Use the following tactics to improve your game:

  1. Play on your opponent's weaknesses
  2. Play consistently and don't make unforced errors
  3. Move your opponent around the table
  4. Vary your strokes
  5. Vary the speed, spin and direction of your strokes
  6. Play to your own strengths

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Tactic 1 - Play on your opponent's weaknesses

To play on your opponent's weaknesses, you'll first need to work out what they are.

If you haven't seen your opponent play before, you'll need to discover them for yourself during the match. Play the ball to different areas of the table, using different strokes, until you find a weak spot.

Once you've discovered a weakness you'll then need to try and exploit it.

Perhaps your opponent is weaker on the backhand side than the forehand side. Or maybe they're weak against high returns or against heavy backspin or heavy topspin.

Remember, the weakness may not always be where you expect it.


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Tactic 2 - Play consistently

One of the best table tennis tactics you can employ is simply to keep the ball in play for longer than your opponent.

By becoming consistent on all your strokes you can often win points by default, as your opponent will make unforced errors.

This obviously requires practice, practice, practice.

PRACTICE DRILLS - Here are some practice drills you can use to help you develop this tactic.


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Tactic 3 - Move your opponent around the table

Is your opponent agile? Does he have good footwork?

By playing your shots to different areas of the table, try to work out the most advantageous areas where you can place the ball to move or wrong-foot your opponent.

For example, change direction from forehand to backhand ... or play to wide positions. Alternatively, vary the length of your shots, playing one close to the net and then one towards the end line of the table.

PRACTICE DRILLS - Here are some practice drills you can use to help you develop this tactic.


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Tactic 4 - Vary your strokes

If you play the same shots time and time again, your opponent is more likely to get used to them, and be able to anticipate them. So you should try to use a variety of strokes to beat your opponent.

For example, don't play all your shots to the same place on the table. Also, vary the speed of your shots and try to use a wide variety of different strokes.

PRACTICE DRILLS - Here are some practice drills you can use to help you develop this tactic.


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Tactic 5 - Vary the speed, spin and direction

As I said in table tennis tactic 4 above, if you play the same shots time and time again, your opponent is more likely to get used to them, and be able to anticipate them. So you should try to vary the speed, spin and direction of your shots.

By imparting topspin, backspin or sidespin on the ball you can make it more difficult for your opponent because the flight path of the ball and the height of the bounce will vary.

PRACTICE DRILLS - Here are some practice drills you can use to help you develop this tactic.


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Tactic 6 - Play to your own strengths

Whilst the above five table tennis tactics are important, it's also important to remember that you should play to your own strengths.

You should try to impose your style of play on your opponent and not let him dictate the match.

For example, if you have an attacking / offensive style, try to play your best shots as early as possible in the rally. This will stop your opponent from dictating the course of the point.

Let's look at three general styles of play and their relevant strengths and weaknesses ...

 

1. Attacking / Offensive style

Strengths

  1. Will gain maximum advantage from third ball attack
  2. Can vary spin and speed
  3. Continual use of topspin makes it difficult for opponent to make opening

Weaknesses

  1. Very physically demanding
  2. More time needed to recover, slightly longer strokes
  3. Vulnerable to changes in pace, to upset timing

 

2. Counter Hitter/Blocker

Strengths

  1. Speed of reaction and anticipation
  2. Take ball early
  3. Uses opponent's speed and topspin

Weaknesses

  1. Vulnerable to changes in pace and spin
  2. Often finds severe backspin difficult

 

3. Defensive style

Strengths

  1. Patience and consistency
  2. Will vary the spin
  3. May use a racket with different rubber on each side to produce different effects on the ball

Weaknesses

  1. Very physically demanding. Can be moved about a great deal, in and out and from side to side
  2. May not be able to attack short balls

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MORE PAGES ABOUT
HOW TO PLAY TABLE TENNIS
For more information on how to play table tennis and improve your game, take a look at my other tips and techniques articles...

Basic Skills

And watch these video demonstrations...

 

Advanced Skills

 

Strategies and Tactics

 

Tips

 

Skill Tests

 

Exercises

 

E-Books

 

Personal Coaching

 


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