Table Tennis! What’s the Point?

Right. You hit the ball. I hit the ball. You hit it again. I miss the ball. That’s a point. But is it the point? People play table tennis for a lot of reasons, but I have never met anyone who plays regularly that didn’t want to get better at it. At the end of the game, having two more points than your opponent is evidence that there is at least one person in the room that you play better than. I often hear that players would rather lose a match to a good player than win a match against a weaker player; if they felt like they played well against the superior player. I get it. I’ve felt that way too, but at some point I’d like to win against better players. If you stick with table tennis long enough, and especially if you are getting quality training, you will pass by plenty of players that beat you when you first started. Of course, this never really stops. Just because you gained 300 rating points doesn’t mean that you don’t want 300 more. 
Rating points don’t always tell the whole story though.   (See The Imaginary World of Ratings Players usually have some idea how they are playing. They know if they are improving, and who they are capable of beating. It’s very possible to be improving dramatically but still not winning. Winning matches happens in a few different ways. At the novice level, up to about a USATT 1400 rating, matches are frequently won by consistency. Keeping the ball on the table for one more shot than your opponent could be good enough. Players with a decent foundation of the basic shots, who rarely take chances, tend to win. 
To get to the next level will take something more. A good foundation is still essential, but something to make your opponent uncomfortable could get you to about an 1800 rating. Faster shots with more spin are typical. As these more aggressive shots become more consistent, players can begin to move up through the ranks of intermediate play. Some players develop unusual styles at this level. Consistency and good fundamentals are essential, but it won’t be enough to win against players who are equally consistent, but have stronger shots. 
To win at the 1800 level and beyond will require a great foundation, some especially strong or unique shots, and some things that not all players possess.  Athleticism, training, and the ability to play strategically are the keys to winning at higher levels. Not every player has time to train as much as they would like. Some players aren’t terribly athletic, or they were twenty years ago, but can’t move like they used to. It’s still possible to play at this level. Playing smart and adjusting strategies during matches are possible, even if your training time is limited, and you’ve lost a step. Top players are universally athletic, but they are also universally super focused. As much as table tennis is a mental game at the lower levels, it’s even more so at the professional level. Consistency gets you past beginner status. It will take consistency and some strong shots to win against good intermediate players. To win against advanced players, it helps to have an athletic body, but it helps more to have an athletic brain. (See Table Tennis Intelligence)
It will always be a challenge to improve at table tennis. It’s not an easy sport to excel at. It will require a total physical, mental, and spiritual commitment to play your best. That’s the point. 

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