Saturday, June 12, 2010

Table Tennis

Table Tennis or Ping Pong- This is a game which I now play daily but which for the past 25 years of my life, I never even touched. In this post, I will be writing about the game in general, what I have learnt and observed.

Starting with the game, if you are wondering what the difference is between Table Tennis and Ping pong,
 The name "ping-pong" was in wide use before British manufacturer J. Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked it in 1901. The name "Ping-Pong" then came to be used for the game played by the rather expensive Jaquesses equipment, with other manufacturers calling theirs table tennis. A similar situation arose in the United States, where Jaques sold the rights to the "Ping-Pong" name to Parker Brothers.

The game has evolved and there have been some rule changes regarding the rackets, thickness of sponge, the colour on both sides of the racket, size of the ball from 38 to 40-44 mm and changing the scoring system from 21 to 11 points just like Cricket from 50 overs to 20 overs to make it faster and exciting.

Now coming back, me and my friend, both had never played this game before and we did not not whether we would even like it. But we bought the equipment and now it's a part of our daily life and we have improved really well in a relatively short time. Based on my singles recored here specially and this website- http://tabletennis.about.com/od/beginnersguide/a/playing_levels.htm I can say that I am now at an intermediate level. Of course as per the standards at the place where I play.

Table tennis is rated as second out of all the sports in terms of hand-eye coordination-  An amazing 8.88 out of 10 points. After that, it rates high of 'Analytic aptitude' skill (6/10) followed by Agility (5.88/10) , Power (4.63/10), Flexibility (4.25/10) and Speed (4.13/10). (Source: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/sportSkills?sort=handEye#grid).

Starting with the Grips, there are mainly 2 grips- The penhold and the shakehand. I have more of a shakehand grip but not exactly because my index finger is more straight up the middle against the racket often coming in the way while hitting. ( See the figure below, the position of index finger as it should be)This is because at that time we did not know what is a correct grip. For beginners, it is very important to start with a correct grip because it becomes difficult to change later on. In terms of the racket, you need to have what works best for your type of game and which you are comfortable with. I prefer small pimpled on one side.

Shakehand grip - Views from the front and back 

From playing the slow game at the beginning, we have evolved to the more faster game. I also did a bit of a research on this game, reading about it, watching videos and Waldner has impressed me. Another aspect of the game is returning a hard smash safely on the other side, which is always enjoyable. All players will generally have one stronger side and one relatively weaker side. I have always had a stronger forehand compared to my backhand.





Back spin

One of the most important component of the game is the serve. That is where you have the upper hand, the advantage, specially in the singles game to control it and direct it the way you want. Before experimenting with the serve, it is important to first gain good control because without that you will give away more points than you earn. After you feel you have the desired control, try various types of serves. It should also vary as per the opponent, his strengths and weaknesses and also an important factor is the way the opponent is standing which can give you a good clue. Always keep one strong serve to use as a surprise weapon and use it sparingly. Another thing is, you should always have a "go-to" serve- in crunch situations, the one you are confident of in terms of being good as well as carrying it out. Top spin and Back spin generally give good results against inexperienced players. Top spin will cause the opponent to clear the table and back spin will make him hit the net. Using one after the other works perfectly but later on you should keep mixing them and not allow him a set pattern. Specially in the singles game, you can vary the pace with which you hit the ball and without any change whatsoever, you should be able to serve one right across diagonally and one just straight which can unsettle the opponent.




Top Spin


As important as the serve is returning the serve, and not just correctly returning but doing it in such a way that he has trouble returning it back. For a top spin serve, return it with back spin or just try to keep it down because here the ball will "jump" and there is a chance of the ball going long, clearing the table; similarly return a backspin serve with top spin or giving it some height because the ball will "dip" and there is a chance of hitting the net. In addition to these, you can use side spins in combination with a top or back spin to have more variations but mixing it all up if you have control is a good thing. The transition of a player from the beginner level happens when the player starts playing with spin. The thing with side spin is that it reverses after hitting the opponent's racket. Thus if you are imparting one type of side spin i.e.the ball is going or spinning from the right on your side to the diagonally opposite corner, expect it to come back to you i.e. your side- right if the opponent simply returns it and similarly for the other side spin.

Another thing that I have observed in some players specially in doubles is that after they hit the ball, they just relax for the time being, but that should not be the case. You need to be alert all the time and keep an eye on what's happening. One obvious attraction for players once they advance a bit is the "smash" the powerful shot with top spin. There is a tendency to overdo it once you taste it but you need to carefully select the right one to play it. With beginners who don't yet know spin or who serve at a comfortable height, you can easily use it to return their service which can be really demoralizing.

Happy Playing!

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