July 20, 2015 - The Tricky Side of Table Tennis

Here are ten tricky things you can do to win a few points here and there – as well as make the game more interesting!

  1. Muscle-Tensing Ball Clench. When hiding the ball under the table at the start of a match to see who serves first, subtly clench the muscles in the hand not holding the ball, and you're opponent will likely choose that hand, giving you the choice of serve, receiver, or side.
  2. The Left-Right Shuffle. This is for when you are playing someone who will almost for certain push your serve back, and who will push to your wide forehand if you leave it open. (We'll assume both players are righties for this.) You serve backspin to their backhand, and then, before the opponent hits the ball, you step to your left as if you are looking for a forehand from the backhand corner. Then, just as the receiver is predictably pushing to your open forehand, you step that way and have an easy forehand loop.
  3. The Server Stare. As you are serving look intently at one spot, but serve to another spot.
  4. Ready Position Switch. As the opponent serves, change your ready position. You can vary from a neutral position, a backhand position, or a forehand position.
  5. Funky Serves. There's nothing like a weird serve to throw an opponent off. For example, did you know it's legal to serve off the back of your hand? The racket is considered to include your playing hand below the wrist. Or any weird or "funky" move as you serve. Some Japanese players are infamous for rather weird arm contortions as they serve. Or just develop some sort of rare serve that might not be so effective on its own, but because they don't see it often, if you use it sparingly it becomes effective.
  6. Varying Bounce Serve. Before serving, bounce the ball on the table a number of times, as many top players do. Most of the time do the same number of bounces – say, five – and then quickly serve. Then, at a key moment, only bounce it once, and then quickly serve. It may throw off your opponent's timing.
  7. Fake Loop. When an opponent pushes, wind up as if you are going for a big loop, but at the last second push. Your opponent will likely be getting set to block, and so will be caught off guard by this.
  8. Dummy Loop. Loop the ball, but keep your wrist up so there's little snap into the shot. Exaggerate your follow-through. The ball will look spinny but will be relatively dead, and your opponent will likely struggle to adjust or he'll go into the net.
  9. Dummy Push. Push, but use no wrist at contact, and just pat the ball back rather than spin it. Right after contact do a big wrist snap. The push will look spinny but will be nearly spinless, and the opponent will likely pop it up or go off the end.
  10. Last-Second Changes. With any shot, aim one way, and change directions at the last second. This is especially effective with short, quick shots, such as pushes and blocks, but also works for other shots, including loops.