10 things to know about table tennis

21 Sep 2021

"Looking to get started with table tennis? Here is a beginner’s guide to help you understand everything about the sport of ping pong."

Expertise shared by MySport Session’s table tennis coach Gabriel Saunders

What is table tennis?

Table tennis, also known as ping pong, is a sport in which two or four players hit a lightweight plastic ball back and forth using a small bat. The game usually takes place on a rectangular table that is divided into two by a net. It can be played indoors or outdoors, as a competitive game, or a recreational activity for all ages and abilities. While playing table tennis improves your coordination and reflexes, the match can be so intense that a ball can travel as fast as 100mph, no wonder table tennis is recognised as “the world’s best brain sports”!

Read more: 10 things to know about Pilates

Who invented table tennis?

The exact origins of table tennis are unknown, but the game was likely first invented in Victorian England in the 19th century. It was an indoor version of the popular game lawn tennis during the winter, and was played by the English upper classes on their dining tables for leisure. The development of table tennis into the modern game we know started in 1926, when the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was founded, and the first official world championship for table tennis was held. Table tennis was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1988.

Fun facts: The ITFF has listed all the former names of table tennis, including whiff whaff, indoor tennis, the royal game and ping pong!

What are the basic rules of table tennis?

Basically the rules of playing table tennis are straightforward and easy to understand. A table tennis match is often played to 5 games, but you can have any number of games you like. The first player to get to 11 points is the winner. If the score is 10:10, the game continues until one of the players gets a 2-point lead.

There are service rules that you need to know. Firstly, the ball should be held flat in your palm. When serving, you must throw the ball upward at least higher than the net. When the ball is falling, you may then strike the ball, either forehand or backhand. The ball must first hit your side of the table, pass cleanly over the net, and then hit your opponent’s. You can serve from and to any part of the table, unless you are playing doubles, where you must serve diagonally. There are mistakes that can make you lose points, such as failing to strike the ball so that it bounces once on the opponent’s side on a serve, smashing the ball in the net, and touching the table with your hands.

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What are the benefits of table tennis?

Table tennis has a lot of benefits, and it brings amazing all-round improvement on your health and fitness.

  • Table tennis burns calories

Yes, and it burns a lot of calories! Table tennis is a great way to lose weight while having lots of fun. According to studies, a 150-pound person can burn 272 calories by playing table tennis for an hour.

  • Table tennis is good for your brain

As a fast-paced, short-distance sport, table tennis significantly improves your hand-eye coordination and reflexes, simulates your mental alertness and concentration. If you need to brighten up in the morning after a sluggish start to the day, simply get a game on. Alzheimer’s Weekly also reports a clear increase in motor skills and cognitive awareness from playing table tennis and that it could possibly prevent dementia.

  • Table tennis is gentle on joints

Table tennis does not put a lot of pressure on your joints and reduces the risk of any long-term injuries. It is good for people who had knee surgery, back problems, or those just do not want to twist their ankles.  

  • Table tennis improves your balance

Staying balanced and moving the body swiftly are keys to success. Even if you are a beginner table tennis player and you do not have great balance, the more you play, the better your balance will be.

  • Table tennis helps build character

Table tennis develops your positive personal traits. It teaches you to manage your emotions and sporting attitude towards win and lose, as well as being confident and patient!

  • Table tennis is a social sport

Table tennis encourages making new friends and social interaction. In a world so dominated by technology, table tennis offers a form of competitive, friendly and personal communication.

Book your table tennis sessions with Gabriel

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What are the different styles of table tennis?

There are various playing styles, and it determines what kind of player you are looking to become:

  • The aggressive type

The aggressive type, or the attacker, is a type of table tennis player that attacks the ball early after it lands and looks to seize control of every point. It is often adopted by high-level, professional players. They stand close to the table and take the chance to attack with more speed and spins.


In every point you take the game to the opponent, obliging them to react to your shot selection. The often forceful pace of your shots gives the opponent very little time to react. Using this playing style, with the bat as a “shield”, you can control the ball at high rates of speed, as well as avoiding any drop shots, if your opponent was to change their momentum mid point.


It often lacks a single killer shot in the rally. Shots out wide and with depth to the back of the court can overpower this style. And it might easily be exploited with a good opponent who has variety to their game.

  • The control type

The control type, or the defender, is a type of table tennis player who utilises a defensive method in the game. The main goal is to simply keep the ball in play and look for an opportunity to outlast their opponents by returning the shot until a mistake is made.


You will watch the opponent make mistakes due to your safer, more consistent shot selection. Your consistency can frustrate them, leading them to make rash decisions in the game. More importantly, you can keep your energy levels high.


If your opponent has a shot selection with varying speeds, spins, and placements you can be exposed. You need precision in your game to avoid being dominated by a top opponent. Weak opening shots with a lack of placement can be exploited.

Book your table tennis sessions with Gabriel

What to expect at my first table tennis session?

Most table tennis coaches provide all the equipment you need, like table tennis balls and bats. You may prepare your own equipment as well.

Regarding the basic skills to learn, there are fundamentals that every player should master before moving on to more advanced strokes:

  • Grip

Crucially, it is the grip, which enables you to generate topspin, return consistently, and deal with the demands of the rally. This should be your index finger on the backhand (black) rubber and your thumb tucked in straight on the forehand (red) side. Your other three fingers should lie loosely around the handle.

  • Stance

Following the grip is the stance. Your body should be leaning forward, with your head leading this position, and the less dominant facing forward, but with your bat in your hand, ready to start the rally.

  • Movement

The final essential is movement, foot movement more specifically. Every shot should be dealt with in the same manner, where you attack the ball to generate the maximum velocity and precision. To do this, you must bend your knees when striking the ball.

Book your table tennis sessions with Gabriel

Read more: Freediving vs Scuba diving: Which one should you choose?

What are the rules of table tennis etiquette?

Just like doing any other sports, you should be respectful and show good sportsmanship. Before and after a match, offer your opponent a handshake. Never cheer over your opponent’s misfortunes and errors. Apologise for winning net shots and shots at the edge of the table. Do not rush to start points; play when your opponent is ready. Do not abuse your bat or any of the equipment.

What are the common mistakes tennis players make?

Typically, inexperienced players will hold the bat too tight. It is the contrary-gripping the bat too tightly makes your joints stiffen and highly reduces mobility. You will then find it harder to change your bat angle.

Tips from Gabriel: Relax! It will do you the world of good in game.

Standing too close to the table will mean you struggle to return deep or loopy balls. Stand at least 3 ft from the table to assert your maximum dominance in the game. If your opponent plays a short ball then after you return, immediately step back out again to assert control over the rally. Your opponent will have to adapt to your dominant play style.

Book your table tennis sessions with Gabriel

Any tips for beginners to win a match?

Here is a table tennis cheat sheet for you to understand what your opponent’s movements are and how to tackle them accordingly.

  • Low to high ― The spin is topspin ― Angle your leading racket face down and contact the ball above its centre.
  • High to low ― The spin is backspin ― Angle your leading racket face up and contact the ball below its centre.
  • Their left to right ― The spin is right sidespin ― Angle your leading racket face to the right and contact the ball to the left of its mid-line.
  • Their right to left ― The spin is left sidespin ― Angle your leading racket face to the left and contact the ball to the right of its mid-line.

How to choose a table tennis class best for me?

There are many professional and experienced table tennis coaches out there, but should you choose? It is more about choosing the right table tennis coach best suited for you than the best one. It is very important to get a coach that understands your goals and helps you achieve them. At Sport Session you can find a table tennis coach to your taste in no time. So sign up to our platform and keep your paddle ready!

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