Dangerously Fast Table Tennis

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. 

3 Replies to “Dangerously Fast Table Tennis”

  1. Timing is perfect. I started working on playing faster about 4 or 5 weeks ago. I’ve come along way but I still do not have the confidence to use it during match play. Or at least naturally, it’s forced. Looking forward to being able to change the pace of the ball with speed without having to think about it. I’m also working on returning my blocks with a little punch to increase the speed. This seems to be more advanced than my forehand at this point.

    Here’s a question, I usually play close to the table, do I need to step back some to give the ball a chance to loop when adding speed to the ball? Thanks.

    1. Hi Bruce. I’ve had a chance to see you play, and I think you are showing some real improvement. I think you could improve even more in three areas. 1. This is the big one. Get yourself into position for your shots. That might mean backing up sometimes, or moving into the best possible position for whatever shot you are attempting. Your serves are excellent, but you need to focus on getting into position after the serves for the possibly unpredictable returns. 2. Practice at a faster pace but don’t force it in matches. If you get used to playing faster, it will start working it’s way into games. 3. Work on improving your loop. I know it has a lot of spin, but you are frequently in a bad spot to execute it (see 1.) I expect your loops are inconsistent because your mechanics are unorthodox, and you are out of position. Hope this helps. Thanks, Jon

  2. Excellent. Thanks Jon. Luckily I play an hour everyday during lunch with a group of friends who are very good. We help each and efforts to improve our game. I just wished my job didn’t get in the way, lol.

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