Check Ball Placement After Serve Practice

Newgy Robo-Pong

Your training doesn't have to stop when the robot does. Gather the loose balls on the ground, put them in a small box, and then practice your serving into the robot. The Newgy robot works great at collecting your serves. If you have enough sidespin or backspin you will hear the ball rattle around in the collection area. Also when you are done serving, check and see which side has the most balls. This will indicate how well you spread your serves around the table.

(Editor's note: Of course this only works if you first pull all the balls out of the ball trays before beginning your serve practice. Also to better segregate your returns, place the robot's ball dams in their retaining slots before starting.With the ball dams in place, the balls will not mix together in the center area, thereby giving you a much truer indicator of your ball placement. It will also make it easier to pull the balls out of the trays if you decide to continue your serve practice after you use up the first box of balls.The Robo-Caddy works great as a tray to hold the balls for your serve practice. You can position it beside the table where it is convenient to pick up the next ball but it won't interfere with serve execution like a box on top of the table would.)

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Unique Footwork Drill

Newgy Robo-Pong

Always doing the same stroke may be a wrong thing to do as it is rare to have the partner at the club serving you balls consistently the same way in a match, even in practice. Have your ping pong robot send balls (underspin or topspin) to the middle of the table at a low frequency so you have time to:

  1. Hit, loop, or push the ball with your forehand, depending on what stroke you want to practice.
  2. With your free hand, first touch your backhand corner and then your forehand corner of the table.
  3. Execute a backhand stroke (your choice).
  4. With your free hand, touch first your forehand corner and then the backhand corner of the table.
  5. Repeat.

It just adds a little bit of randomization and helps to better integrate the environment. Once you can successfully do this drill with the ball sent to the middle of the table, try this drill with the ball sent slighlty to either side of center. Another variation is to change the depth of the ball. E.g., set up one drill with the ball landing midways between the net and endline of the table and then another drill with the ball landing either shorter or longer than in the first drill.. I suggest 3 minutes each drill. Have fun, Yazel.

(Editor's Note: I did this drill and it is surprisingly fun to do. It has a pleasing variety of body movements and is very good for helping footwork It blends table tennis movements with non table tennis movements, so it feels strange to someone used to doing traditional ping pong drills. Also it is mentally challenging because I had to keep myself focused on the proper sequence of motions. Depending on how forceful your strokes are and how good of shape you're in, you may not be able to do this drill for an entire 3 minutes. Vary the duration of your drill accordingly. This is somewhat similar to the Chair Drill, where actual strokes are combined with other movements.These types of drills are a great way to add variety and spice to your workouts.)

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"Listen" To The Spin On Your Serves

Newgy Robo-Pong

There is only one thing that happens every time you play a point in table tennis. That is the serve. One of the things I enjoy most about my robot is the awesome collection net. In modern table tennis, the serve has become a vital part of the game. Many people have watched world class players being dumbfounded by their opponent's serve. Some say that the current rules favor the server because the server can legally serve and "hide" the ball from their opponent. It is true. The way the rules currently read, the server can toss the ball and execute a legal serve that does not allow the opponent to comprehend what kind of spin the ball has on it.

Well, that is the way it is!

If you want to increase your service skill, there is no better way to do it than to practice. Instead of painstakingly going to the other side of the table and picking up the balls off the ground, why not take them out of the convenient collection system of the Robo-Pong 2000?

One of my favorite drills I do as a result of buying my robot is practicing my serve and listening to the ball spin away in the cool collection system.

(Editor's Note: Good players are keenly aware of every little thing inside, and sometimes even immediately outside, the playing court. They pick up clues from the environment to help them modify their play to match the conditions, to obtain feedback so that subsequent shots are more "on target", and to sense when a change of strategy is needed. Many players become good at using their senses of touch, sight, and feeling to pick up such clues from their environment.

The sense of hearing is often overlooked in table tennis. Rick's suggestion to listen to the ball spinning in the trays after executing a serve is an example of a player using his sense of hearing to improve his play. Rick can pick up valuable clues as to the severity of spin on his serve by the sound the ball makes as it spins itself down in the trays. A "sizzling" sound tells him that the spin was strong, making it a more difficult serve for the opponent to handle. He could also practice no-spin serves, making sure to listen for a lack of "sizzle" when the ball lands in the tray.

When I was a young player at a summer training camp and playing 6 to 8 hours a day, I claimed that I could hear the difference between a topspin and backspin serve. A topspin serve sounded "harder" to me; conversely, a backspin serve sounded "softer". I tested myself by guessing the type of serve with my eyes closed. I was right about 75% of the time!)

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Short Returns Of No-Spin Serves

Newgy Robo-Pong

Place the head of the robot downwards, so that a double bounce serve is replicated. Initially, the spin should be a dead ball, and the placement in one particular spot on the table. For example, this would replicate a short dead ball serve to the middle of the table.

The repetition of the balls should be slow enough to hit the ball, and then completely return to the service ready position. From the ready position, step forward with the same foot as the playing hand, and then return back to the ready position. This should be done in one smooth step.

To drop the ball short and effectively, the timing of the return should be immediately off the bounce. This will create more spin on the return and give the opponent less time to react. The return should be at least a double bounce return with the height just over the net.

Since a dead ball serve is being used, you will have to create your own spin. Catching the ball right off the bounce will create this effect. Very little, if any, lift will be needed against the dead ball serve. You are not using the opponent’s spin, but rather creating your own.

This is the basic way to place a short dead ball serve short. Once the technique has become more comfortable, set the placement of the ball short to the forehand then change the placement to the backhand. Each placement should be done for about 5 minutes separately. To simulate a game situation, set the placement on random and practice dropping each ball short and then returning to the service ready position.

This service return practice should not take more than a half an hour each time and will surely be an effective improvement of your game. Service return training is highly underestimated and more emphasis should be placed on training this aspect of the game. After all, the serve return is one shot that happens every single point.

Good luck!

Editor’s notes: While it is impossible for a Newgy Robot to deliver a true “dead” ball (no-spin), the robot can deliver a spin so light that by the time contact is made, the ball is spinning so slowly that for all practical purposes it can be considered “dead”.

This is achieved by setting your Ball Speed control to “0” and your spin to "Backspin". The head angle will need to be adjusted to between the D and E positions (for Robo-Pong 2040 robots attached to the end of the table). You will need to experiment with the head angle to find the exact setting necessary for this drill, but you want the ball to first land on the robot’s side of the table about 15 inches from the net. The ball will bounce just over the net and land about 12 to 15 inches from the net on your end of the table.

This drill requires the Ball Frequency to be at very low settings. If your robot doesn’t shoot out balls at very low settings, you will need to purchase some Tuner Lubricant and Cleaner (Radio Shack part #64-4315) or equivalent. Then remove the robot body from the net system (or Ball Bucket depending on your robot model), detach the Clear Front Cover, and remove the balls from inside the machine. Spray the lubricant/cleaner inside of the Ball Frequency Motor while it is running at medium to fast speed. This will clear out any dirt or rust inside the motor and permit it to turn at low voltage. Refer to your Owner’s Manual if you have any questions about the above procedure.

Lastly, it is recommended that you do not move your feet until the serve lands on the robot’s side of the table. This will better replicate the mechanics of an actual serve where you do not know serve direction or spin until after ball contact is made. It is also highly advisable to keep the Ball Frequency set to very low settings. Again, this will better replicate the timing involved in a normal serve return against a human where you have time to get set and prepare yourself to return the serve.

Here are some related articles on serve return in our Newgy Coaching Forum Archives:

Using your Robot To Practice Serve Return 

How to Effectively Return Short Services

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Attacking Half-Long Serves

Newgy Robo-Pong

While most players try their best to serve short, it is inevitable, especially during extremely tense moments of a match, that the serve unintentionally goes half-long. Capitalizing on this mistake can be the difference between winning and losing. 

The difficulty with attacking this type of serve is recognizing that the serve is indeed actually going to bounce off the end of the table. Not attacking long serves is a common mistake that nearly every player is guilty of.

The first thing that needs to be done is to train the eye. If you cannot determine almost immediately that the serve is going to bounce long, you will be indecisive when returning the serve. The only way to improve this is practice against thousands of half-long balls. 

Using the Newgy Robot: 

Place the head of the robot downwards to make the bounce the same as a serve. Make sure that every ball is bouncing slightly off the edge of the table. If you are concerned about hitting the edge of the table with your racket, increase the speed of the ball to have it come off the end of the table a little farther. In the beginning use the lowest backspin setting and the placement should be in one spot on the table (i.e., a half-long serve to the backhand). The repetition of the balls should give you enough time to start in ready position, attack the serve, and then completely return to the ready position. 

(Editor's note: this translates into a Ball Frequency setting of only 1–2. See Short Returns Of No-Spin Serves for additional editor's notes on setting up your robot for serve practice. ) 

The Drill: 

When returning serves, the first movement should be to set up for an attack, as if you know the serve is coming out long. The reason for this is that it is much easier to step in if the serve turns out to be short rather than long. If you step in first and then the serve turns out to be long, you will most likely be making the common mistake of pushing a long serve because you haven't allotted enough time to see if the ball is going to come off the end of the table. 

Keep your body as low as possible because you will be striking the ball when the ball is on its descent. The follow through should be forward and well over the table. Don't be nervous about hitting the table, after lots of practice you will be attacking serves that barely come off the edge of the table with confidence and little concern of striking the table. 

Attacking these types of balls will give you an offensive advantage and put tremendous pressure on your opponent to keep his serve short. The added pressure often results in unintended half-long serves. So keep the pressure on!

Good Luck!
Eric Owens

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Better Shot Placement

Newgy Robo-Pong

We all hear about how important placement of the ball is. We watch world-class players compete and are in awe of their ability to put the ball in just the right place every time. Is this an attribute that is common only to high-level players? The answer is no! Many players have the ability to have much better placement and do not even know it. The biggest step is just making a conscious decision to improve this aspect of the game.

The first thing to improving placement is having an idea as to where the general placement should be. Playing at wide angles and into the opponent's elbow are the only places you should be aiming. The wider angles will make your opponent have to move much more, which in turn opens up the middle. Moreover, jamming the opponent into the middle opens up the wider angles. It is a circle that is very effective and can be used over and over again.

The Newgy robot is the perfect tool for improving your ability to hit at wide angles. Every drill done on the robot can be done with the main focus being ball placement. Make sure every ball hit is beyond the outside white line. If this is done repeatedly, you will be able to do it in a match.

Most players already have the basic skills to hit at wide angles, but just do not do it because they are not thinking about it and have not trained it. Applying this concept to all of the drills you already do on the robot will transfer into a match. You will be making your opponent move much more causing him or her to be very uncomfortable and lose rhythm.

A good strategy in a match is to generally look for the middle first, because the time to play the wider angles is much more obvious during a point. Make sure your placement does not fall somewhere in between the middle and off the side of the table. Your opponent will not have to move very much to reach this type of ball. Be conscious of every ball you hit, and make sure it either goes out at a wide angle or right at the opponent's elbow.

Good luck!
Eric Owens

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Hand Eye Coordination

Newgy Robo-Pong

Before anyone attempts to learn a sport that involves hitting a ball with a racket or bat, it is necessary to do  some preliminary hand-eye coordination drills. These drills must be mastered before any progress can be made for a beginner, these drills must be practiced until perfected before hitting a moving ball. For someone who already plays, take a few minutes to be sure you can do these drills. An experienced player can do these drills in one or two minutes. 

Developing Basic Hand-Eye Coordination
  1. Drill One: Using the shakehands grip, bounce the ball repeatedly on the forehand side of the racket (the side of your thumb is on) fifty times without missing or moving the feet. The bounce should be 8-10 inches above the racket. See photo 5.
  2. Drill Two: Same as Drill One, but bounce the ball on the backhand side of the racket (the side with your forefinger). See Photo 6.
  3. Drill Three: Bounce the ball repeatedly on the racket, first with the forehand side, then with the backhand side, then with the backhand side, alternating sides until 25 hits have been counted for each side without missing or moving your feet.

Once you find these drills easy to do, you should be ready to learn the basic strokes. However, if you have trouble contacting the ball as it moving, more hand-eye coordination drills are called for. Several examples follow:

  1. Do any of the above listed drills but move your feet by walking forward or backward, or sideways, either to your the left or right.
  2. Bounce the ball on the floor using your racket to dribble the ball.
  3. Hit the ball against the wall, let the ball rebound off the floor then strike it again. (Just like practicing against a wall in tennis).
  4. Have a partner stand about 10 feet apart away and hit the ball with your racket so it strikes the floor midway between you and your partner. Your partner will do the same. See if you can keep a rally going.
  5. Have a partner stand about 5 feet away and volley the ball back and forth without letting it touch the ground.


Photo 5: Basic Hand and Eye Coordination Drill (Forehand Side)

Notice that the racket is held with the shakehands grip in front of the stomach with the handle pointing toward the body. The ball is bounced only 12 inches or so above the racket, and the eyes follow the bouncing ball.

Photo 6: Basic Hand and Eye Coordination Drill (Backhand Side) 

Same as Photo 5 except handle of the racket points sideways away from you, and the back of the hand is turned up, instead of down.

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Understanding Spin

Newgy Robo-Pong

More so than any other sport, table tennis is a game of spin. In order to be successful at table tennis, you must learn about and understand the different types of spin and how to counteract the effects of these spins on your racket. 

There are two general ways to contact a ball with a racket. The first is by using force. In other words, the racket is forced through the path of the ball in a manner similar to hitting a baseball with a bat. The primary result of force is forward direction or speed. This is often the only way that beginners and novice players have learned to contact a ball. 

The second way to contact a ball is by using friction–to contact the ball with a brushing motion so the rubber grabs the ball and makes the ball rotate. The primary result of striking the ball using friction is spin. The type of spin produced depends on the racket angle and the direction the racket is traveling. 

Top players primarily use friction to contact the ball. They apply spin to almost every shot, sometimes severe amounts of spin. Robo-Pong 2000 simulates the play of a top player–it produces spin on every shot it delivers. Untrained players often comment that the robot's spin seems unusually strong. While this is true for an untrained player, a trained, competitive player thinks the robot's spin is quite normal. So if the spin seems strong at first, bear with it and you'll soon adjust by following the suggestions and lessons later in this manual. Table tennis is much more exciting and dynamic when you can produce your own spin and control your opponent's spin. 

The figures below are simple explanations of the four major types of spins–topspin, backspin, right sidespin, and left sidespin. Each type of spin has two figures. The first figure shows what happens when a particular spin contacts a vertical, still racket. The second figure shows how to correct your racket angle to compensate for the effect of the spin on your racket. 

Topspin is normally produced by making your racket travel from low to high while brushing the upper surface of the ball. Topspin has a dipping effect on the flight of the ball. For this reason, a ball carrying topspin can be hit with full force because the spin will cause the ball to dip down and hit the table instead of going off the end of the table. When the ball hits the table, the topspin grabs on the table surface, which both compounds the dipping effect and slightly increases ball speed. Topspin is considered to be offensive in most cases. 

When topspin strikes a vertical racket, the spin will grab on the rubber surface and rebound upward, usually quite high and off the far end of the table. To correct for topspin and make the ball go back low over the net, tilt the leading racket face down toward the table and contact the ball on its upper surface. The more topspin on the ball, the more the racket needs to be tilted down. (See Figures G & H )


Figure G:Flight of Topspin Ball 

Topspin is produced by racket traveling from low to high, striking the ball on its upper surface. Trajectory is arched. Ball dips after bouncing and rebounds upward after striking a vertical racket.

Figure H: Correction for Topspin 

Since topspin causes the ball to rebound up after contacting a vertical racket, it is necessary to tilt the leading racket face down toward the table and contact the ball on its upper surface. The correct racket angle will send the ball back low to the net. It is not necessary to move the racket forward to make the ball go back across the net.

Figure I:Flight of Backspin Ball 

Backspin is produced by racket traveling from high to low, striking the ball on its lower surface. Trajectory is flat. Ball rises slightly after bouncing and rebounds downward after striking a vertical racket.


Figure J:Correction for Backspin 

Since backspin causes the ball to rebound down when it strikes a vertical racket, it is necessary to tilt the leading racket face up toward the ceiling and contact the ball on its lower surface, sometimes actually on its bottom. It is also necessary to add some forward direction to your racket to make the ball go over the net. 

An important fact to remember about topspin is it takes almost no effort to counteract its effect on the racket. You only need to angle the racket correctly. The topspin will cause the ball to go back across the net on its own. No force needs to be applied to your racket other than the effort it takes to tilt the racket. 

Backspin is generated by making your racket travel from high to low and brushing the ball on its lower surface. Backspin has a floating or rising effect on the ball. When the ball hits the table, the backspin grabs on the table, slowing the ball and making it rise slightly. It's very difficult use full force when doing a backspin return because the harder you hit it, the more it rises and it tends to sail off the far end of the table. Backspin is almost always considered defensive. 

When backspin strikes a vertical racket, the spin grabs onto the rubber and the ball rebounds almost straight down. The ball seems to die and lose all of its speed and spin. To correct for backspin, and make the ball go back low over the net, tilt the racket face up toward the ceiling and contact the ball on its lower surface while pushing the racket gently forward. The more backspin, the more the racket must be tilted up and the more towards the bottom you must contact the ball. (See Figures I & J ) 

Backspin is unlike topspin in that you must provide some forward momentum to make your return clear the net. It is more difficult and takes more energy to attack a ball with backspin because the ball has a tendency to go down. The lifting action necessary to make the ball clear the net takes away from the amount of forward force you can apply when attacking a backspin ball.In general, a topspin ball will be easier to attack than a backspin one. If you're a defensive player, backspin should be your spin of choice because it makes it harder for your opponent to attack forcefully. 

Right sidespin is created when your opponent brushes his racket across the ball from your right to your left. This spin has a curving effect on the flight of the ball. After leaving your opponent's racket, the ball will momentarily hook to your left, then curve to your right. When it hits the table, the spin grabs, and the ball jumps out and curves to your right. 

When right sidespin strikes a vertical racket, the spin grabs onto the rubber and jumps quickly to your left. To correct for right sidespin, the leading racket face must be angled to the right and you must contact the ball on its left surface. (See Figures K & L ) 

Left sidespin is produced when your opponent brushes across the ball with his racket from your left to your right. Left sidespin is exactly like right sidespin, but in reverse. Left sidespin hooks to your right, then curves to your left. When left sidespin hits a vertical racket, it rebounds to the left. To correct for this spin, angle your racket to the left and contact the ball on its right surface. (See Figures M & N ) 

Sidespins are seldomly used in their pure form in table tennis. Normally they are combined with topspin or backspin to produce a combination spin such as right sidespin/topspin or left sidespin/backspin. Combining two spins produces the effects of both, but to a lesser degree than if they were in their pure forms.


Figure K:Flight of Right Sidespin Ball 

Right sidespin is produced by your opponent's racket traveling from your right to your left. Trajectory is curved. Ball curves to your right after bouncing. Ball rebounds to your left after striking a vertical racket.

Figure L:Correction for Right Sidespin 

Since right sidespin causes the ball to rebound to the left when it strikes a vertical racket, it is necessary to tilt the leading racket face to the right and contact the ball to the left of its middle.

Figure M: Flight of Left Sidespin Ball 

Left sidespin is produced by your opponent's racket traveling from your left to your right. Trajectory is curved. Ball curves to your right after bouncing. Ball rebounds to your right after striking a vertical racket.

Figure N: Correction for Left Sidespin 

Since left sidespin causes the ball to rebound to the left when it strikes a vertical racket, it is necessary to tilt the leading racket face to the right and contact the ball to the left of its middle.

For example, a ball with right sidespin/topspin will both dip and curve to the right as it is comes toward you, particularly after it bounces on your side. To correct for this combination spin, it is necessary to contact the ball on its left upper surface by tilting the racket down and angling it to the right. 

Understanding spin and its effects is crucial to a player's success in table tennis. The player with greater mastery of spin will almost always control the play. By using spin, you can limit the responses of your opponent and make him play your game. Two important table tennis skills to develop are: 

  1. Be able to instantly judge the type and amount of spin on the ball. Deduce the type of spin by carefully watching the direction that your opponent's racket is traveling when it contacts the ball. Deduce the amount of spin from the speed of your opponent's racket at contact and the type of rubber being used. The faster your opponent's racket is going at contact and the finer his graze of the ball, the more spin he can apply to the ball. Rubbers vary in their ability to spin the ball primarily because of the grippiness of their top surface. In general, inverted rubber is grippier and will produce more spin than pips-out rubbers. But even within these two broad categories of rubber, the spin producing capabilities of rubber will vary widely. If in doubt, test the grippiness of an unknown rubber by running a ball across its surface and comparing it to your own rubber. 
  2. Once you determine the type and amount of spin, be able to instantly adjust your racket angle to correct for the spin's effect on your rubber. The tension of your grip, the looseness of your wrist, the flexibility of your forearm, and the position of your body all play major roles in developing this important skill.

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10 Quick Tips To Better Table Tennis

Newgy Robo-Pong
  1. Know what spin is on the ball. The key to acquiring this important skill is to carefully watch the opponent’s racket when it makes contact with the ball. If the opponent’s racket is moving from low to high, the spin is topspin; from high to low, backspin; from his/her left to right, right sidespin; and from right to left, left sidespin.
  2. Compensate for the spin with your racket angle. If topspin, angle your leading racket face down and contact the ball above its center; if backspin, angle the leading racket face up and contact the ball below its center; if right sidespin, angle the leading racket face to the right and contact the ball to the left of its mid-line; if left sidespin, angle the leading racket face to the left and contact the ball to the right of its mid-line. While holding the racket at the suggested angle, stroke gently forward. Only after you have developed a “feel” for the spin should you stroke the ball with more force.
  3. Use your whole body when you stroke your forehand. Make sure that you rotate your hips and shoulders backwards during the backswing and then forward into the ball as you stroke your forehand. This motion is coordinated with a transfer of your body weight from the back foot to the front foot. The harder you hit your forehand, the more forceful your weight transfer must be. A common forehand mistake is to use only your arm to hit the ball, which severely limits your power and consistency.
  4. Maintain a good ready position. A good ready position is balanced and prepares your body to move instantly in any direction. Use it when preparing to return serves and between strokes. The basic sequence of a rally is as follows: (A) put yourself in a good ready position, (B) move to the ball with your feet, staying balanced, (C) stroke the ball, (D) return to ready position, and (E) repeat B, C, and D until the rally ends.
  5. Train your strokes until they are "automatic." When you first learn a new skill, you use a lot of mental energy to formulate a clear mental picture of how the stroke looks and feels. Once this mental picture is relatively accurate, you should then practice that skill repeatedly until you no longer have to think about how to do it. This is your “automatic stage”. Your best performance will come when you operate on “automatic” and you do not analyze your skill. You just “let it happen.”
  6. Use only your own racket. It’s important to get your own racket and then to use it exclusively. Every racket has its own “feel” and playing characteristics, and you will benefit greatly by using only one racket so you’re not always trying to adapt to a different one. Also, take good care of your racket; treat it with respect. Keep it in a case when you’re not using it. If you’re using inverted sponge rubber (smooth surface), you should wash it with soap and water or a special racket cleaner after every use.
  7. Develop sidespin serves. Few beginners use sidespin on their serves; whereas, top players use sidespin on almost every serve. Sidespin is almost always combined with either topspin or backspin; pure sidespin is extremely rare in table tennis. Particu larly useful is a sidespin/backspin serve that is low to the net and bounces twice on the other side of the table. This type of serve will severely limit your opponent’s serve return options.
  8. Keep your returns low over the net. In general, the lower over the net you place your shots, the less angle your opponent can use and the harder it is for him/her to hit it with power. The one exception to this rule is if you use lobs, you will want to place the ball very high over the net (and as close to the end of the table as possible).
  9. Practice more than you compete. By practicing, I mean all the time you spend developing your game by concentrating on some aspect you want to strengthen. The primary object during practice is to develop your game. On the other hand, when you compete, your main object should be to win, not to work on some part of your game. It is advisable to play practice games where the object is to blend in a new skill or tactic into a match-like situation before you compete. The emphasis for these practice games is still on development, not winning. And when you do compete, even though your main emphasis is on winning, you can still learn a lot about your game (development) if you analyze your matches after they are over.
  10. Join a table tennis club. To really make progress with your game, it’s important to find others with similar desires and interact with these people. A table tennis club is the best place to do this. Most clubs have players of all different playing levels. Find someone of similar playing ability as yourself and make a commitment to each other to practice regularly. Periodically test your progress by competing with players of higher ability. Furthermore, most clubs have a coach who can help speed up your development. To find a club in your area, contact USA Table Tennis.

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Buying Your First Racket

Newgy Robo-Pong
This following question was posed on the table tennis newsgroup,, by Henry Berlin:

"I was recently told that when buying one's first racket, it is a good idea to get a blade designed for good control, but to get more offensive rubbers because it's important to get used to the feel of rubbers you'll use when you're better. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated." 

To which I replied:

Henry, you ask a good question, one that does not have a simple answer. Many coaches at present believe in starting their students with the type of racket your describe - a medium speed, flexible blade with spinny/fast rubber on it. With diligent practice, I believe this is a good strategy, but only if you're committed to practice many hours a week with this type of racket. 

There are several dangers to this: (1) If you don't have a coach to help mold your strokes and improve your technique, the fast rubber often leads to shortened strokes and letting the rubber add speed/spin to your shots instead of using proper stroke technique. This often leads to a sense that you have greatly improved the speed/power of your shots, when in actuality, all you've done is use a faster/spinnier rubber. In crucial game situations, relying on the rubber instead of solid technique often leads to unnecessary losses. (2) The faster/spinnier rubbers will be harder to handle than rubbers that emphasize control. Without proper technique, your power shots will tend to go sailing off the end of the table and returning spinny serves, fast loops, and heavy chops will be very difficult. 

The other prevalent theory on what to use for a starting racket is to use a medium speed, flexible blade with high control rubber on it. Use this combination to learn the basic strokes— counter, push, block, smash, beginning loop, and basic serve and serve return techniques. When you have good control over these strokes, switch to a faster, spinnier rubber and continue your development by mastering the various loop variations, learning to increase your power, and adding more complicated serve and serve return techniques. I does seem to hold true that there is some difficulty during the switchover phase as you adapt your strokes to the faster/spinnier rubber. But at least you'll have a solid foundation for your strokes already. 

So which way do you go? In general, I would say that you should consider your objectives and personality. If you're committed to serious training with a coach, you tend to like power, and you don't mind spending $30-$40 per sheet of rubber, then perhaps the faster/spinnier rubber from the start is the way to go. If you're more of a recreational player and/or you play more games than you practice, I believe the second strategy would be advisable. Particularly if you're not looking to become a high level player and/or you don't want to spend a lot of money on your equipment. 

In observing players (up to say 2000 or so rating), who have developed under these two theories, I can make a few generalities: (1) Players using theory one tend to have well-developed power games, but their table game often lets them down. If they're "on", they're awesome. If they're not, they look terrible. Often high control players who have good placement frustrate them. (2) Players using theory two often have well-developed table games with good ball placement but do not have strong looping games. 

I developed using theory two. Even today, after playing for 29+years, I can rely on the basics to win many games, even though I seldom play any more. I still tend to view my looping game as much weaker than the rest of my game. Yes, I can loop, and loop very well, with all the many variations, but when it comes to crunch time in a tournament match, I stay with the tried and true basics of the game. 

If theory two sounds more like the path you want to take, I would recommend the Newgy Applause. This is by far, in my humble opinion, the best buy for recreational grade rackets available today.

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