Master The Sport Of Table Tennis: Table Tennis Strategy

The best strategy in table tennis involves using psychology to read your opponent's intentions (and to hide your own).

Table tennis (or ping pong) is considered to be a game of skill and strategy. But recognizing its psychological aspects and using them as part of your game strategy can make the difference between victory and defeat when two like-skilled players meet. Here are some psychological "table tennis tips" that can help the ball to bounce your way.

Visual Cues

A good ping pong player notices the smallest details about opposing players. Your stance, for example, can clearly show where you intend to serve the ball. Likewise, the way you hold the paddle also can reveal your serve's intended destination.

If you're on defense, observe the opposing player's stance and the direction of his or her paddle before each serve is delivered. A serve to your forehand by a right-handed player may be forthcoming when your opponent's waist is twisted slightly to the right and the paddle is pointed toward your forehand side. If the player's body is twisted even further to the right and the paddle is pointed toward the middle of the table, then a serve to your backhand may be coming. Every opponent requires a new analysis since people hold their ping pong paddles differently and because their stances vary according to weight, height, and level of coordination.

By analyzing several of your opponent's serves--before and during a game--you can determine with a fair degree of accuracy where the ball will be delivered and thus can prepare yourself to return the serve successfully. But be careful. Astute players will read your own visual cues and respond by changing their game plan. Many players, however, focus only on their own offensive strategy and thus neglect to read their opponent's unintended signals.

Eye Gaze and Fake Starts

A smart defensive player will analyze not only your stance and the manner in which you hold the ball, but also the direction of your gaze. All three are potent visual signals that can betray a player's intentions. Basketball players have mastered the art of reading the moves of other players. We all have seen offensive players who look one way and pass the ball in the opposite direction. Ping pong players can do the same while serving the ball. For example, look to your opponent's forehand side while serving the ball to his or her backhand. If you're on the receiving end of the serve, observe the gaze of your opponent's eyes. People instinctively look toward the spot at which they're aiming.

Basketball players also will quickly fake a shot or fake a pass, evoking an instinctive opponent reaction that provides an opening toward the hoop and an easy basket. When playing table tennis, fake the intended direction of a serve by holding your paddle one way and then changing it immediately before contact with the ball. Distorting the visual cues of your game can give you a distinct edge over your opponent.

Light and Lightning Returns and Serves

Ping pong players often hit the ball as fast and as hard as they can, thus driving opposing players further away from the table. If you notice your opponent standing a foot or two behind the table during a heated exchange, alter the speed of your next return. Instead of hitting the ball hard to the back of the table, lob it softly so that it barely goes over the net. Most of the time, your opponent will concede the point. At other times, he or she will lunge toward the ball and return it successfully. But even then the point can still be yours since your opponent's balance will be compromised by the desperate return. Just hit the ball hard to his or her off-balance side.

This same light versus lightning strategy can work effectively for your serves as well. A fast serve to the back of the table one time, followed by a light lob that barely falls over the net the next time, will keep your opponent guessing and off balance.

When it comes to winning in sports, smart players have one distinct advantage over equally-skilled players: they realize that success is determined by brains and brawn. Skill is important, but attending to the psychological aspects of ping pong can help improve your game . . . and your win/loss record.

© High Speed Ventures 2011