Like many sports and games, table tennis or ping pong can be learned quickly. It requires you to have just a table tennis racket, or paddle, something that is not too expensive (see our ping pong table reviews). You will also need access to a ping pong table, which can be found in most community centers, clubs, and even in offices and homes. You can even turn your dining table into a game of table tennis if it is of a decent size. The ping pong balls are easily available in any sports store or even in supermarkets.
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The game of table tennis is simple and you just need to get the ball to the other side of the net away from you and to the side where your opponent is. There is a net dividing the table lengthwise and a line dividing the table breadthwise, which is only relevant when you are serving (see the official ping pong rules). When serving, the ball has to touch both sides of the table and must go over the net and land on the other side diagonally opposite. You will pick up all the rules of the game easily if you observe some games played by others, or acquaint yourself with the written rules.
Gripping the Paddle
Your paddle or racket must face flat towards the table and in the direction you want the ball to go. Most players use a shake hands grip, index finger on the backhand side, thumb tucked in on the forehand side, and three fingers wrapped loosely around the handle. There must be no gap between your hand and the top of the handle. Some players do use a pen-hand grip, but this requires some getting used to and is not recommended for beginners. The V formed by your fingers and thumb should be touching the edge of the racket.
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Stance and Posture
The feet need to be wide apart to give you a firm base and knees slightly bent so that it is easier to move from side to side. The body should be crouched and head and shoulders facing forward and slightly down. Keep your arms in front of the body. The bat should have the top edge pointing towards your opponent so that you can turn it either way depending on whether your next shot is played on the forehand or the backhand. Strokes should be soft and give you more control over direction. Smashes can be hard, but you will have less control over direction.
Perfect Your Shots
A basic technique that is important for every table tennis player to have is to learn how to have the ball land where you are aiming. This must never be forgotten and beginners are advised to practice this constantly. You can even practice this by yourself, by having bouncing the ball off a wall and having your return shot always land on a table that you are facing. Keep moving while you are practicing this, as footwork is an important technique in table tennis, and you must learn to be quick and well balanced when you are moving.
Serving to Win
Learning to serve is very vital to a good game of table tennis. There are many different types of serves in table tennis, and you can serve with your forehand or your backhand, impart spin, or even topspin. The best serves are those that have heavy backspin and are super fast. Some serves spin so heavily that, if the opponent is not able to reach them, the ball may come back to the server’s side of the table. Returning serve is a tricky business, and you need to work out the type of serve that your opponent will make. Judge the spin on the ball, so that you can know which sort of return you will have to make.
Four Basic Shots
There are four basic shots that every table tennis player must learn and master. They are the forehand drive, the backhand drive, the forehand push, and the backhand push. Of these, the forehand drive is the one that is first learned. You need a little backswing that gives you enough power for your stroke to be aggressive. The backhand drive is the same shot played with the back of the bat. Both drives should land as close to the baseline or sideline of your opponent. Both forehand and backhand are used for short balls and prevent an attacking shot by the opponent.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice is more important than playing matches, and you must practice for hours each day, if possible if you want to get good at the game. Remember the basic technique is always to see your stroke ensuring that the ball lands on the table on another side of the net and as close to the sideline or baseline as possible.
Table Tennis is a popular and fun game to play between friends or competitively. Ping pong is easy to learn and tough to master. Every new player should practice as much as possible to improve. Learning the basic techniques above will get you far in improving your game. Once you have mastered the basics of table tennis, it is time to take your skills up a notch and master more advanced techniques to take you to the next level.