Ping Pong Tactics: ABCs to Help You Win!

This article will help you to understand ping pong basics and learn to use this knowledge to win!
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Last updatedLast updated: July 27, 2023
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Without a solid strategy, you cannot take your ping pong game to the next level. Strategy is the main difference between a serious tournament-ready player and a recreational player. Most ping pong tactics can help anyone improve their game, but at the end of the day, a solid strategy begins with recognizing your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll become unbeatable once you master how to hide your weaknesses from your opponents and play your strengths. Paddles, grips, and serving styles also matter in improving your ping pong game. We have compiled a list of topping pong tactics that can help you stay on top of your game as a beginner or an intermediate player. As with any sport, the first pro tip is to master the basic techniques of the game. As a beginner, you can beat the toughest opponents with the best knowledge of the game and a little finesse.

Importance of the playing style

Importance of the playing style

A ping pong playing style is either aggressive or passive. Therefore, a player will only come across as an attacker or a defender. Consistency is key in mastering a playing style. As a beginner, you need to master how to keep the ball on the table longer than your opponent first before advancing to fancy shots and points.

Trying to look impressive with amazing shots without consistency is a sure way of losing the game often. Consistency and placement should be your first priority. Consistency will help you not miss the ball or table, and proper placement may make your opponent miss the ball or the table. Most beginners tend to worry about hitting the ball too hard. Play with a lot of control and try aiming your shots at three spots on your opponent’s side of the table. Avoid your opponent’s best hitting zones which are the middle of the forehand and the backhand areas. Instead, focus on your prime hitting zones, which are wide backhand, wide forehand, and the middle point between the backhand and forehand areas.

One sure way of winning a ping pong game is forcing your opponent to put the ball in the net. As with most players, your opponent is likely to hit a ball with a little bit of topspin or no spin at all. Their muscle memory is already used to such shots. Therefore, a heavy backspin would catch them unprepared. For the perfect backspin, slice horizontally underneath the ball completely.

The paddle’s rubber will grip the ball and send it straight back to your opponent with a backspin. The ball will go straight to the net when your opponent tries to hit the heavy backspin ball.

Another key thing to consider with your playing style is height. After the ping pong ball has bounced and is on the way up, hit it before it reaches the maximum height to catch your opponent off guard. Alternatively, after the ping pong ball has bounced and reached the maximum height, do a flat shot, which is basically a relaxed technique that involves a minimal spin for the best effect. A third option would be to use forehand loops right when the ping pong ball has bounced and is about to hit the table. Ensure you give your forearm a huge backswing before making contact with the ball.

Why is serve really important?

Why is serve really important

Pick one serving style and master it. Also, you need to learn all the rules around serving correctly.

Serving is a fundamental component of ping pong that any player should master before learning other tactics. It is an integral tool that can help you get an edge over your opponent. The trick with serving well is knowing the serving you are good at. You don’t need to worry about learning multiple ping pong serves as a beginner. Once you have mastered the generic serve, you can try to develop a few specialized serves to win you plenty of points. Try and mix up serves of different lengths and spins. Some of the specialized services you could try include down-the-line, pure spin, medium-long, deep, short, and pure speed. You can gain an edge on your opponent with serves to the elbow, which tend to be highly effective because the opponent must always decide how to respond, and they often fail to do in time.

The two main components that make a good serve are placement and deception. Placement is a bit tricky to learn in the beginning, but most players don’t realize that the best placement depends on the opponent. When preparing to make your serve, look at where the opponent is standing. Deception has no formula. You only need to master your opponent’s moves and then create a different type of spin that limits their power. Also, learn how to serve fast without sending the ball off the table. Once you master fast serving, you can learn proper placement in the three prime zones mentioned earlier; the wide backhand, wide forehand, and the middle. Serving fast in the three zones will give your opponent a hard time.

Best ping pong strategies

Here are some good ping pong hacks that can help you improve your game and grow into a tournament-ready player.

Reading the spin

Reading the spin will help you discover your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Watching your opponent’s paddle as it contacts the ball is the best way to read the spin. If you notice the paddle moving low to high, they are doing a topspin. You will know it is a topspin if the ball appears drawn to the table like iron to the magnet. If the paddle is moving from high to low, then the opponent is doing a backspin. According to Sports Browser, a backspin will make the ball slide back or off the ping pong table. The left to right move is the right sidespin, and a right to left movement is the left sidespin. To spot sidespin, check if the ball leaves your opponent’s paddle at crazy angles.

Mastering the simple ping pong spins is the key to enjoying and winning the game. The more control you have over the ball, the more control you have over your opponent. One of the easiest ways to gain points in a table tennis game is to make your opponent hit the ball into the net, and you can only achieve this with heavy backspin. If you are competing with recreational players, you will scoop a good amount of points because very few inexperienced players know how to counter-spin and prevent the ball from falling into the net. An experienced will notice immediately and counter spin to neutralize your shot. At the end of the day, the winner will always be the player who can manipulate the ball more. With time, after developing advanced shots, you will notice your table tennis strategy to a counter-oriented style of playing.

Compensating for the spin

Once you have learned your opponent’s paddle moves, you can compensate. For instance, if they are doing a topspin, compensate for it by angling your leading paddle face down, then hit the ball right above its center. If they are playing a backspin, compensate by angling your paddle face up, then hit the ball below its center.

For the right sidespin, compensate by angling your leading paddle face to the right, then hit the ball on its middle left. For the left sidespin, angle your leading paddle face to the left, then hit the ball on its middle right. Stroke the paddle gently forward until you develop a feel for the spin, after which you can stroke harder.

Compensating for the spin does not come easy. You need a proper paddle and a lot of practice.

Use your whole body

Many beginners make the mistake of hitting the ball with their arms only. This limits your power and consistency. Instead, you should use your whole body to hit the ball. When doing the backswing, rotate your hips and shoulders backward, then forward when stroking your forehand. You can transfer your body weight from your back foot to your front foot while making the body motion. The harder your forehand shot is, the more weight transfer your footwork will need.

Be ready

Being ready means staying in a balanced position from which you can move in any direction instantly. A good ready position is important when preparing to serve the ball and in between strokes. To remain balanced during the rally, move to the ball with your feet, then hit it with a forehand or backhand stroke before returning to your ready position.

Learn automatic strokes

According to a BBC article, Trusted Source Table tennis forehand drive - Table tennis - essential skills and techniques - GCSE Physical Education Revision - OCR - BBC Bitesize A forehand drive in table tennis is an offensive stroke that is used to force errors and to set up attacking positions. A successful shot should land close to your opponent’s baseline or sideline. the four primary types of strokes include; forehand drive, backhand drive, forehand push, and backhand push. You can learn other types of strokes once you have mastered the essential four. All the four types of strokes constitute four parts; stance, backswing, strike, and finish. Stance is your body position before making the stroke, the backswing is the first movement after you see the ball, striking is contacting the ball with your paddle, and finishing is the position of your paddle after hitting the ball.

Every time you learn a new type of stroke, you have to train your memory muscle to remember how it feels and looks. Try and create a mental picture of how a new stroke feels, then practice it severally until you don’t have to think before doing it. You will be at your peak when you start playing automatically without analyzing all of your shots.

Hit the returns low over the net

Placing your shots low over the net puts your opponent at a disadvantage because it becomes very hard for them to return the serve with power or placement. Simply put, low shots over the net are hard to return. A high shot can also be difficult to return only if you use lobs when hitting the ball or you hit it very close to your opponent’s side of the table. Are you in the market for a table tennis net and have no idea what to choose from the sea of options? Check out our best table tennis net article for a detailed buying guide? According to popular reviews, the Come see Kioos Collapsible Table Tennis Net is one of the best ping pong nets to buy for the money. It is durable and easy to set up and remove.

Develop sidespin serves

Pure sidespin is pretty rare in ping pong, especially among beginner players. Professional players often use sidespin on almost every serve as they combine it with topspin or backspin. A sidespin/backspin that is low to the net and bounces twice on the other side of the table will go a long way in limiting your opponent’s power and return options.


Practice is the amount of time you put into developing the skills you want to strengthen. When practicing, your main goal should be to develop the skills. Winning should only be your goal when competing against other players. You can play practice games as often as possible to blend in a new skill before showing them off in a table tennis match. Also, although winning is your main goal during a competition, you can learn so much about your strategy and skills by analyzing the matches every time they are over.

When you go for practice, ensure you have a solid plan. Create a plan based on your weaknesses and how you want to improve them. For instance, if you want to improve your backhand accuracy, you should let your training partner hit you so you can hit a backhand. Remember repetition is key when it comes to practice.

Get a training partner

Finding a training partner with similar goals and playing levels can help you improve your game. A table tennis club is a great place to start if you have no idea where to get a training partner. You are likely to find players of all the different playing levels at a club. Find a partner of the same playing level and practice as often as you can. What’s more, a tennis table club is likely to have a coach who can help you hone your skills. Alternatively, you can get a tennis table robot. Again, most table tennis clubs have a robot that you can train with. You can also get yourself one for home use and practice anytime you want.

Use your own paddle

Use your own paddle

It’s hard to believe, but every paddle feels different and has unique playing characteristics.

Get one paddle and stick to it. Adjusting to a new paddle every time will slow you down as you would have to readjust your style of play to work with it. Take good care of the paddle by storing it in a paddle case when you are not using it and cleaning it with soap and water or a dedicated paddle cleaner after every use.

Take good care of your paddle

Before you even begin honing your table tennis skills, you need to invest in a high-quality paddle. According to Sports Daily, it is immensely important to have the right ping pong paddle. Contrary to popular belief, paddles are not all the same. The best paddle may not save you if your game is bad, but it sure can help you execute some techniques more effectively. Ping pong is all about spins, and to get the right amount of spins in all of your shots, you are going to need a proper paddle.

Do you need the best table tennis gear like shoes or a retractable net, and you don’t know the parameters to look for? Check out our articles on the best table tennis shoes and best retractable ping pong nets for top-rated options. Many table tennis players swear by the quality of the popular Butterfly Table Tennis Shoes. They have a unique design that can withstand the intense footwork of top players. Their thin midsole offers premium comfort.

Final thoughts

A ping pong strategy is what any player at any level needs to improve their game. Our guide covers all the ping pong tactics that can help a recreational player develop skills and become a tournament-ready player. Just remember to invest in a good quality paddle and stick with it, then master the basic techniques and rules of the game with a lot of practice before advancing to complex stuff. Read this article by Cornilleou Trusted Source ITTF - Official International Table Tennis Federation Rules For doubles, each court shall be divided into 2 equal half-courts by a white centre line, 3mm wide, running parallel with the side lines; the centre line shall be regarded as part of each right half-court. to know all the official International Table Tennis Federation rules. Most importantly, avoid changing your ping pong strategy randomly, as it will slow you down. Instead, stay consistent with your strategy and learn how to apply it to an opponent. Avoiding what you do best is a perfect example of changing your ping pong strategy. If you want to win a game easily, stick to what you know. You can save the fancy shots for practice.


Table tennis forehand drive - Table tennis - essential skills and techniques - GCSE Physical Education Revision - OCR - BBC Bitesize
A forehand drive in table tennis is an offensive stroke that is used to force errors and to set up attacking positions. A successful shot should land close to your opponent’s baseline or sideline.
ITTF - Official International Table Tennis Federation Rules
For doubles, each court shall be divided into 2 equal half-courts by a white centre line, 3mm wide, running parallel with the side lines; the centre line shall be regarded as part of each right half-court.
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