Basic Tactics for Table Tennis

What are the basic tactics you should use in a table tennis match? Find out here...

 By Martin Hughes
 Owner and Editor

Basic Tactics for Table Tennis

Every time you play a table tennis match you should always have a match strategy.

We saw previously that a match strategy is a plan of action which sets out how you intend to beat your opponent.

You don't necessarily need to have it written down, but you should know what it is before you start your match.

A match strategy will consist of a number of general and basic tactics.


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Basic Tactics

Well firstly, tactics are just individual ways of achieving an end goal, so in this case they're individual plans to enable you to win a point in table tennis.

However, all tactics are primarily based on your ability to be able to play the four basic table tennis strokes. So as we discussed earlier, you first need to have developed your own table tennis skills to a sufficient standard before you can successfully implement any tactics.

After you've mastered the basic strokes you'll be able to use these basic and general tactics in order to force an error or a weak return from your opponent, which in turn will enable you to win the point.

And as your ability to play a range of different strokes improves, the more tactics you'll be able to use.

For example, if you're able to play a topspin drive you'll be able to force your opponent away from the table, but if you cannot play that stroke then you won't be able to use that tactic effectively.


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Tactical Play

Tactics play an important role in table tennis but it's important that you know what you're trying to achieve when you use a particular tactic.

You should be using it because you believe that it exposes a weakness or because it stays away from a strength of your opponent.


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Spin, Speed and Placement

Variations of spin and speed are very important tactics in table tennis and are used to try and deceive your opponent in order to force an error or induce a weak return.

At the highest levels of the game it is the subtle changes of spin and speed, together with disguise and deception, which enables the majority of points to be won.

So you should concentrate on varying the amount of spin you impart onto the ball and the speed of your shots in order to deceive your opponent.

You should try to put no spin on some of your shots and excessive spin on others. And you should play some strokes fast and others slow.

It's all about the variation and keeping your opponent guessing what will happen next.

 

Placement of your shots is also critical when you are trying to expose your opponent's weakness or keep away from their strengths.

For example, if your opponent has poor movement, the placement of your shots will be a critical factor in winning more points. With good control you'll be able to play the ball to specific areas of the table and make your opponent move sideways, or in and out, or change direction quickly, and therefore you'll dominate the rally.

However, it's also important to remember that variation of tactics is vital too.

If you use exactly the same basic tactics over and over again, your opponent will soon get used to what you're doing and will be able to counteract them more easily.


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Service and Return of Service

basic tactics in table tennis by courtesy of the ITTF

The service and return of service are probably the most important parts of table tennis.

In fact, the service is the most important stroke in the game because it provides the only situation in which you have total control over how and where you play the ball.

So you should play your services in such a way that your opponent cannot return the ball at all or puts the ball in a position where you can then follow up with your best strokes.

You need to establish what type of serves your opponent finds the most difficult and where the best place is to direct your first attack.

You also need to decide whether your opponent is better at using their backhand or forehand, and whether they prefer a topspin or a backspin shot.

Again it's vital that you vary your services so that your opponent doesn't know what service to expect.

Many players use their service to set up a "third ball attack". This just means that when your opponent returns the ball, you'll play a strong attacking stroke which will either win the point outright or put you in control of the subsequent rally.

And if you're able to develop several different ways of serving which enable you to use a third ball attack, then you'll be more successful.

The return of service should also be used in a similar way.

You need to decide whether your opponent is better at using their backhand or forehand, and whether they prefer a topspin or a backspin shot. You'll also need to consider the spin, speed and placement of your returns.

If you'd like more information about how to improve your service and return of service, I've covered this subject extensively in my book entitled "Service Secrets".

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Table Tennis Service Secrets

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Discover the fastest way to improve your table tennis by 30%

Improving your service and return of service will add three points, or more, to every game you play.

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