By Thierry Verviers
Prestige Table Tennis Club Coach (Montreal)
August 31, 2020
The objective of the beginner player is to hit the ball with their racket and to make a successful shot, i.e. to put it on the opponent’s half table. But professional table tennis players have a much more advanced vision. For them, it is not enough to simply touch the ball and put it on the other side to make a successful shot.
Advanced players see the ball as a large globe with hundreds of potential contact points that they can choose to make a very specific shot.
Their higher level of play means that the racquet must make very precise contact with the ball to make accurate shots in terms of placement, spin and trajectory in order to gain an advantage over their opponents.
Their contact with the racket ranges from a very intense and strong brushing action to a soft and fine touch for serves and returns that keep other players on their toes.
If you are a true table tennis fan, you know from watching the sport that the best players are incredibly accurate in their strokes. They have trained for thousands of hours to develop these skills. Most of them started playing at a very young age and train at least 1,000 hours per season. This way, they have learned to master more and more how to achieve ideal ball contact with the racquet.
International professional table tennis players sponsored by table tennis equipment companies have exceptional skills in racket/ball contact during play. Just think of players like Ma Long, Timo Boll and others. They can touch the ball in any way they choose to produce both spin and power and very subtle trajectories. They can also dampen the ball or deflect it on the table.
Beginning players looking to improve their table tennis game should pay attention to racket/ball contact. If you are able to hit the ball regularly on the other side of the table, it is high time to add a few technical strokes to improve your game. For example, start by experimenting with topspin. Brush the ball upwards with an upward motion. You’ll see the difference it makes. The ball will fall faster on the table and you will be able to hit faster and harder. Afterwards, try to learn how to make underspin on the ball. This requires a downward cutting movement of the ball. You will then see your opponent hit the ball into the net.
In table tennis, as in all racket sports, the serve is very important. You can brush the ball from right to left or the other way around to give it a side effect. You will then see your opponent send his return off the table. All these techniques of brushing the ball give you more possibilities as a player.
Training is necessary if you want to get serious about your game and working with a coach at a club is very helpful. You will have even more fun once you master these basic techniques.
It is essential to visualize the many points of contact of the ball and to learn how to use them. For example, more advanced players know how to touch the ball at different points. Since they see the ball as a globe, they can touch the ball at the North Pole, Montreal, the equator, Sao Paulo or the South Pole and produce complex effects and trajectories. For example, they can make a ball roll on the table. A ball that rolls does not bounce and literally rolls on the table, making it impossible for the opponent to return it.
Keep in mind that it is even more satisfying and exciting to play table tennis with a greater control of your racket/ball contact. Start with the basics, and then don’t hesitate to go to the better players and ask them to explain their little tricks to you. Have fun with your new discoveries.