When you first start playing table tennis, it seems as if all your opponents hit faster shots than you. They probably do, but it’s a mistake to assume that the path to victory is simply hitting the ball harder. I’ve written about this before in Table Tennis…Timing is Everything. Fortunately, as your game improves, speed may start working it’s way into your game organically. Add more spin, and speed happens. After all, adding spin is adding rotational speed. Gain a little faith in the Magnus effect, and you will feel more confident with more powerful shots.
It’s entirely possible to win up to about a USATT 1800 level, and almost never have any significant speed on your shots. Good serves, control, spin, and placement, will only get you so far. Once you get above intermediate level, you’ll either need some speed, or be really great at negating your opponents powerful shots. So, what’s the answer to dealing with speed? First, realize that speed is more than just how fast the ball is moving. Fast feet and quick hands can make up for shots that might not be supersonic, but are fast enough. Don’t assume buying a faster racket is the best way to get more power. Faster equipment won’t make up for poor technique, and frequently makes things worse.
To play well against fast players, you’ll need to start playing against them as often as possible. Train at speeds that are out of your comfort zone. If you never block, it’s a good idea to start working some blocking practice into your workouts. It will take awhile to acclimate yourself to a faster pace. Playing faster can be risky, maybe even scary. Don’t sacrifice control for speed. Just get used to dealing with speed, and you might find you’re scaring some players too.