You Don’t Play Well in Table Tennis Tournaments Because…

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You don’t adapt quickly enough!

Playing well in table tennis tournaments involves two major factors – being able to perform under pressure and being adaptable to the situation. This blog will focus on the second factor – being adaptable to the situation. There are five things that you can do to learn to become a tough tournament player!

1. You must learn to adapt to various playing condition quickly.  I would recommend practicing in various places on a regular basis – large courts and small courts, high ceiling and low ceiling, 1” ping pong tables and 3/4 “ ping pong tables, wood floor, cement floor and rubber floor, practice table tennis balls and 3-star Premium table tennis balls, bright lighting and dim lighting.  But you might say, “Won’t better conditions make me play better and poor conditions make me play worse?”  Not necessarily.  It all becomes a matter of what you are used to playing with.  Try to play at various table tennis clubs, try to use all the different types of tables at your club, try to play at various tournament venues, try to play at different friends’ houses, and try to play at various rec centers and learn to quickly adapt to each facility.

2. You must learn to adapt to various table tennis tournament times.  If you play in the U.S. Table Tennis Open this July, you might have a match on Wednesday morning at 9 .am., then you might have a match on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m.  For the table tennis players living in California, playing a 9 a.m. match at the U.S. Open in Michigan will actually feel like 6 a.m.!   The point is you must be able to perform at your peak at various times of the day.  So vary your practice times.  Wake up at 7 a.m. and have an 8 a.m. practice session with the Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot.  Go to a friend’s house at 9 p.m. and play some late-night games.  Prepare your mind and body to adapt!

3. You must learn to adapt to various warm-up levels.  Here is the biggest excuse for losses in table tennis tournaments, “I didn’t get enough warm-up!”  Often, you might go to the training hall with a practice partner, jog and stretch for 20 minutes, practice basic forehands and backhands for 20 minutes, do two footwork drills, do two serve-and-attack drills, and then wrap up with some games.  At the end of the session, you are feeling good and everything is warmed-up for the games.  In tournaments, you might not have a table available for warm-up.  You can warm-up you mind and warm-up your body with jogging and stretching. BUT you might not have a practice table available for your normal routine.  For this reason, I would recommend regularly playing some practice games in the beginning of your training session, so that you can learn to adapt quickly and perform well, even when you don’t feel great.

4. You must learn to adapt to various fatigue levels.  Here is the second major excuse that I often hear, “I was just too tired.”  Really?  You are going to lose that final table tennis match because you were just too tired.  Well, you certainly need to work on your table tennis conditioning so that doesn’t happen again!  You should do some intense workouts prior to your table tennis matches so that you learn to play with fatigue.  Go for a 4-5 mile jog then go to the club and play four hours of matches.  Do 30 all-out wind sprints, then serve a few short, low serves.  Do 50 push-ups, then play a 9-9 game against your rival at the club.  Train tired and learn to adapt even when you feel that you are completely out of energy.

5. You must learn to adapt to various table tennis opponents.  This is the biggest challenge in tournaments.  You might first play against a looper, then a long pips blocker, then a lobber, then a lefty, then a short pips smasher, then a chopper.  You can’t apply the same strategy to each opponent.  This is the main point in winning tournaments!  You must go into every match like a detective, trying to find every clue possible about your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and you must be able to QUICKLY adapt to heavy pushes and light pushes, strong loops and weak loops, fast blocks and dead blocks.  I would recommend playing with as many different players as possible on a regular basis.  Instead of merely practicing with the same two people at the club, be willing to move outside of the norm and play with lower or higher rated table tennis players.  By playing a wide range of various styles, you will learn to adapt and become a well-rounded tournament player.

Samson Dubina

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Strive for Dexterity in Table Tennis

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Every table tennis player should strive for dexterity.  This is a skill that some players are naturally more gifted with and some players are not.  The good news is that it can be trained as well.  So what is dexterity?

Dictionary Definition of “Dexterity”
noun \dek-ˈster-ə-tē, -ˈste-rə-\
: the ability to use your hands skillfully
: the ability to easily move in a way that is graceful
: clever skill : the ability to think and act quickly and cleverly
In regards to table tennis, dexterity can mean several different things.  It can mean…
  1. Having the ability to learn a new stroke
  2. Having the ability to relax even while swinging hard
  3. Having the ability to be extremely precise and accurate
  4. Having the ability to put impart speed and spin on the ball with very little effort
  5. Having the ability to adjust the stroke for various types of balls

I will focus on the fifth type of dexterity in table tennis.

Dexterity is the ability to adjust to various aspects of the ping pong ball – adjust to the speed of the ball, adjust to the placement of the ball, adjust to the depth of the ball, adjust to the height of the ball and adjust to the spin on the ball.  I will use the forehand loop as my example.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the different speeds of the incoming balls.  Ask your table tennis training partner to block to your forehand and vary the speed of the block – sometimes slightly harder and sometimes slightly slower.  Keep your racket in front and backswing once you see the approaching ball.  If the ball is blocked quickly, then shorten your loop while still generating a lot of spin.  Always keep your weight leaning forward and contact the ball in front of your body.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the placement of the incoming balls.  Ask your training partner to move the ball around in the forehand 50% of the ping pong table.  Watch your opponent’s racket and adjust your feet into position before swinging.  Once your feet are set, then take a swing.  If you are in good position, loop slightly harder with a longer swing.  If you are off-balance and forced to reach or lean for the ball, shorten your swing, focus on control, brush the ball with spin, then get in better position for the next loop.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the depth of the incoming balls.  For this exercise, I would recommend starting very slowly.  Set up your Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot to throw the ball once every 3 seconds or have your training partner feed multiball.  If the ball is slow and lands near the net, move both feet forward and loop near the table.  If the ball is deep near the end line, then move back slightly and loop the deep ball.  When moving forward (for right-handed table tennis players), step with your right foot then the left foot.  When moving backward, step with the left foot then the right foot.  Both feet actually move simultaneously, however, the outside foot always initiates the movement.  When moving in-and-out, make sure to stay with your weight leaning forward.  Focus on moving your feet very fast while looping with control.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the height of the incoming balls.  Ask your training partner to adjust his block sometimes higher and sometimes lower.  Keep your racket in front of your body and take your backswing once you see the height of the incoming ball.  For the forehand loop against topspin, try to start your swing directly behind the ball and loop forward with spin.  If the ball is higher, then start your racket higher.  If your racket is lower, then start your racket lower.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the various spins of the incoming balls.  Ask your training partner to vary the spin on his block, sometimes he should block normal with slight topspin, sometimes he should spin over the ball with more topspin and sometimes he should chop-block.  If he adds topspin, the ball will jump up as it contacts your side of the table.  If he performs a chop-block, the ball with slow down as it contacts your side of the table.  Adjust your racket height and body position to the incoming ball.  This is the most challenging of all the exercises.  Don’t be discouraged if it takes several months to perfect this aspect of dexterity.

Every table tennis player should strive for dexterity.  I am convinced that dexterity should be trained.  In your training sessions, you should make it just as challenging as or more challenging than an actual game.  Be ready to adjust for various speeds, placements, depths, heights, and spins and you will be on your way to success!

Samson Dubina


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Stay in the Right Zone in Table Tennis

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Professional table tennis players clearly understand their potential and limitations.  They know how hard they should loop, where to loop, when to loop, and when not to loop.  Ma Long loops most of his balls with 60-95% power.  His selection on how hard to loop depends on his positioning, his distance from the ping-pong table, his opponent’s return, and his opponent’s positioning.   Timo Ball loops most of his balls with 40-80% power; this is the zone that he feels most comfortable playing.

Now, let’s move the scenario to YOU…

You have a played a great table tennis match looping consistently from both forehand and backhand.  You are playing an opponent that you have never beaten before.  You are at 2-2 in games and now you have match-point at 10-9 in the fifth.  You know that you should attack first.  How hard should you attack?  Within your zone!  Know your limits and do what you do best!

If you loop too hard, you might lose control and make an unforced error.  If you loop too soft, you might lose control because your opponent’s backspin push will bite into your rubber making it more difficult for you.  Swing through the ball, complete your stroke, have confidence in your loop, and treat it like any other normal loop.  Remember, you need to have some racket-speed in order to generate spin.  Spin gives you control, which makes you more consistent.  Consistency is one of the main keys to winning every table tennis match!

Samson Dubina

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Mental Strategies in Table Tennis – Part I

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Most top players would agree that table tennis is about 50% physical and 50% mental.  Yes, a top table tennis player must have good technique and good physical fitness, but equally important is the ability to play courageously, think strategically, overcome obstacles, and adapt to different game styles. This is an outline of the most important things that I concentrate on and the thoughts that I avoid while playing table tennis.

During a table tennis match, I want to focus on three primary things:

1. My usual reminders – Samson, keep your feet moving fast, remember ball placement especially to the transition point

2. My opponent’s weak point – Samson, continue doing these 2-3 strategies, these will vary based on my opponent

3. What just happened – in the previous point, did I make a mistake?  If so, how should I correct it on the next point?  If I won the point, how can I use the strength again against my opponent’s weakness?

During a table tennis match, I want to avoid thinking about these three things:

1. The outcome – regardless if I am playing well or playing poorly, I don’t want to dwell on the consequences of winning or losing. 

2. Basic technique – I really don’t want to think about my strokes.  I want my strokes to be automatic.  As soon as I begin thinking about the mechanics of the stroke, my game slows down.

3. Outside distractions – I really want to keep my eyes in the court to avoid looking at other matches, spectators, cameras, or anything else that can take my mind off the match.

Samson Dubina

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Movement Training for Table Tennis

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Here is a brief video of ten year old table tennis player, Stina Kallberg, from Sweden. Obviously her table tennis coaches work a lot on footwork drills as she moves with excellent balance and keeps her racket in very good position while moving in all directions. .

At the 5 minute mark you can see her doing a drill made famous in Sweden – the “Falkenburg Drill”. This drill works on both backhand to forehand transition and movement from left to right then back to the left. This is usually a three ball pattern – two placed to the backhand corner and then wider to the forehand. The trick is that the second ball to the backhand is played with the forehand!

The Robo-Pong 2050 and 1050 table tennis robots are able to do this drill at four different levels. Drill #5 is the beginners’ version, so the third ball is on the centerline. Drill #15 adds a level of difficulty by first having a short serve to the forehand, then the regular pattern follows. The typical or normal version that is for regularly training competition table tennis players is Drill #52.

For the highest level player or just to test your skills Drill #61 will push you to your maximum in reaction speed, stroke recovery and range of footwork! German National Table Tennis Team member Patrick Baums’ father programmed this drill for Patrick using the Robo-Soft programming tool and was kind enough to share it with all of us!

Roger Dickson

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Warming Up with Michael Landers

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I find that one of the questions that I am asked most frequently is how to properly warm-up for a table tennis match. Although everyone has their own methods of preparation, here is what my match warm-up schedule would look like for the highly despised 9:00 a.m. matches, along with a few extra tips:

7:00 a.m. - 20 minute jog to wake up, loosen up my muscles, and prepare for the day ahead

7:20 a.m. – Breakfast! I usually eat about 1 ½ - 2 hours before the match, to make sure that everything is properly digested before starting to play table tennis

7:45 a.m. - Arrive at playing center, take a light jog around, and stretch

8:00 a.m. - Start basic warm-up: forehands, backhands, etc.

8:15 a.m. - Footwork drill: For the first match of the day, the problem that I often see with table tennis players is their inability to get their feet moving. Some will try playing practice matches to get warmed up, but I find that the only thing I need before a match is to make sure that my feet are quick and nimble.

8:30 a.m. - Serving drill (Serve, and then random blocks anywhere): Here is what incorporates the feeling of playing the match into your warm-up routine.

8:45 a.m. - Serve and attack: The final stage of warm-up before match play to get feeling and prepare for the upcoming match.

9:00 a.m. - Match

So, really the most important thing for me is to be able to get the blood flowing and my legs moving before my first match. From there on, like many others, things become much easier as the day progresses.

Try some of these tips and see how they work out for you at your next table tennis match!

Good luck!

Michael Landers

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The Best Physical Training

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Many table tennis players ask me about my physical conditioning program. I get asked questions such as:

How do you get fit for table tennis?

What exercises do you do?

Do you run?

Do you lift weights?

The best training for table tennis is…  playing table tennis at high intensity.  I train very hard on a daily basis and push myself to do extremely hard footwork drills.  This is the most important physical training that I can do and it works all the muscles I use in table tennis.

Here is a short video of my daily training routine:

Notice in the video that I’m doing random drills on my table tennis robot.  These drills keep me on my toes so that I need to adjust to various speeds and locations.  After 1 hour of high intensity training, I can burn between 800-1000 calories.  That’s more calories than jogging for 1 hour!

Samson Dubina

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Robot Training

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Although some table tennis players may equate robot training with rigid, systematic footwork, the Newgy Robo-Pong 2050 has much variation in the random drills by changing the ball speed, ball location, and ball timing.

In this video, I demonstrate several random drills that have all three of those ball variations.  These drills are very human-like and have boosted my footwork to a new level.

Both the Robo-Pong 1050 and 2050 come pre-programmed with 64 of the world’s best table tennis drills.  Plus 32 of the drills are rewritable so that I can design my own daily workout routine.

Samson Dubina

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