9 Basic Skills in Table Tennis

Table Tennis is a complex sport, and it takes a certain amount of practice to master the skills. The game comes with many rules, and unless you are playing casually, you need to learn everything about the game. Some of the things you will need to know are the technicalities of the game, which include the type of shots or strokes to play.

As a beginner you need to know the basic skills of table tennis, mastering these skills will help you to build the right action frame that will help you to improve your game through repetition. Here are the 9 basic table tennis skills of forehand and backhand, that I think you need to master:

  1. Serve
  2. Drive
  3. Push
  4. Block
  5. Loop
  6. Flick
  7. Chop
  8. Lob
  9. Smash

The first step to learning table tennis is knowing how to play shots perfectly. After you have moved from the basic steps, you can progress to the advanced skills in the game. We will try to explain each of the strokes in table tennis and their purpose in the game. In this article, you will learn about all the different types of shots in table tennis.

Basic Skill in Table Tennis

9 Forehand and Backhand Basic Skills of Ping Pong?

There are different strokes and spins involved in table tennis which allows players to earn points in the game. After learning the basic shots in the game, you also need to practice winning strokes in table tennis to beat your opponent. There are many strokes in the game, but they can be classified into offensive strokes and defensive Strokes.

The serving technique is an essential technique for table tennis. A good serving can give you a huge advantage.

Forehand and Backhand Serve

The service gives you complete and total control over your shot. The primary benefit of this stroke is to force your opponent into making errors in the game. A good service will make you gain winning points and could make your opponent miss the shot. It is a foul shot and allows you to win by putting the other player off balance. There are many types of service in table tennis, but the major ones are the forehand and backhand serve.

The forehand serves table tennis stroke is one of the first types of serve learned by beginners. This shot is used most of the time during the game.

In addition to forehand and backhand serve, we also need to know the spin of the serve:

The backspin is similar to a push or chop, and this type of service can efficiently be executed with an open racket. The backspin serve involves the racket slicing the bottom of the table tennis ball. It is also one of the best ping pong services among athletes.

The topspin service table tennis stroke like a drive is executed with a flat racket. The player will need to use the racket for grazing the top of the ball and keeping the racket at a closed angle to get enough spins.

This type of service is easy to execute as it only requires hitting the ball’s back in a left-to-right motion or the other way around. You can also make a sidespin strike by holding the racket in a front-facing position and brushing the bottom of the ball in a pendulum movement.

Table tennis serve
Table tennis serve

Forehand and Backhand Drive

A drive in table tennis is not similar to the strokes in tennis or other racket sports. It is the major attacking stroke used by players to keep the ball in play. The drive puts players under pressure to make them vulnerable, and then you can deliver an even more powerful shot. Drives require a light topspin which makes the ball move at a low trajectory. They are mainly used as offensive strokes in the game and will cause your opponent to make errors which is a win.

Players must master this type of stroke, especially its two types, the forehand, and backhand drive. When players master both forehand and backhand drives, it leaves little to no room for your opponent to attack. When executing drives, you will need to use your entire body to produce enough power and give consistent strokes. It would help if you kept the right stance when you are ready to perform a forehand and backhand drive.

The forehand drive in table tennis puts your opponent under pressure and gives you control of the game. The shot keeps your opponent back in the baseline of the table. The forehand drive returns aggressive strokes and keeps the ball landing close to your opponent’s baseline.

The backhand shot is quite similar to the forehand drive. It limits your opponent’s aggressive shots and sends the ball to the opponent’s baseline.

Table tennis forehand drive

Forehand and Backhand Push

The push is another offensive stroke in the game that is similar to a slice in tennis games because the racket slices underneath the ball when you send a backspin that makes the ball float slowly to the opponent’s side of the table. It is difficult for your opponent to attack when you make a Push stroke.

When making a push, ensure that the stroke is gentle and that you don’t rush it. If you make the push haste, it will produce a long shot that is too high. The push requires a more delicate and professional touch. It is the leading strokes that become more aggressive and, in turn, produce more spins.

You can compare pushes to a backspin because this shot usually changes the pace of the game. When executing a push, you need to be in the correct position by keeping your right foot stepping in. A push is usually executed when returning low and close shots as the backspin serves. Also, your racket position matters, especially when considering the force of the backspin that is being sent your way. If your opponent serves a heavy backspin, your racket will be at open angle. Also, there are two types of pushes in table tennis, the forehand and the backhand push.

The forehand push in table tennis is one of the primary and most important shots in the game. It is one of the toughest to execute the four and requires some practice to perfect this skill. The forehand shot is used to return short balls and prevent attacking shots from your opponent.

The backhand push is a favorite among players and an easy shot. It acts as a defensive shot to prevent your opponent from further attacking you.  This type of shot prevents your opponent from making a return shot.

Table Tennis Push

Forehand and Backhand Block

One of the most effortless shots to execute in table tennis is a block. It can be done by placing the racket in front of the ball, so it rebounds back to your opponent with the same force it came with. One of the benefits of making offensive strokes like this is that it gives little room for your opponent to recover to make a return. A block works to your advantage because it uses your opponent’s force against them. It is usually done after the ball bounces on your side of the table to keep the control and speed of the ball.

The position of your racket will depend on if it should be at a closed or open-angle. When your opponent sends a heavy topspin, your rack will be closed. Most players use a block when there isn’t enough time to make a good loop or drive. If you have reasonable control of the block, you can use it as a good offensive shot.  Ensure you use your wrist when making a block, and it should be facing the direction of the incoming ball. Your footwork also matters and should move towards the area where you intend to hit the ball.

The block is a stroke that you need to practice more often. Mastering this stroke will make it a helpful arsenal against your opponent. Like the drive and push, there are two basic types of blocks in table tennis:

  • Forehand Block
  • Backhand Block

The forehand block is among the best defensive shots in the game and gives players more control. This type of shot allows you to control quick shots from your opponent, and it is beneficial when receiving a heavy topspin serve. The forehand block is a fast response when you don’t have enough time to send a return stroke. It is used in training drills and is one shot you should practice.

The backhand block is also a similar technique in ping pong, and it allows you to control your opponent’s shot. This type of shot is used to counter-spin shots. It is different from a backhand chop but will help defend you from a heavy topspin when you have little time to recover.

Table Tennis Block

Forehand and Backhand Loop

The loop is similar to a drive in table tennis. When making this stroke, the racket is parallel to the direction of the strike, which will cause it to touch the ball slightly, giving a good amount of topspin. Usually, when a player makes a good loop, it produces a high arc making the ball jump forward when it bounces on the opponent’s side of the table. Playing a loop will require a lot of topspins.

There are many variations of loops in table tennis. The major ones are the spin loop, speed loop, hook loop, and counter loop. These variations are based on the trajectories and improve the effectiveness of the shot. Loops are one of the most potent strokes in table tennis. It produces a heavy topspin in most cases, requiring a player to use their wrist while brushing the ball in an upward and downward motion.

There are two types of loops in this game, the forehand loop and the backhand loop. These two strokes force the ball to go low and skid off the table at a very high speed. When executing a loop, your movement will involve brushing the ball with a high racket speed, unlike when driving.

Table Tennis Loop

Forehand and Backhand Flick

When a player hits a ball that has not bounced beyond the edge of the table, there is little room to make a backswing. There is still a chance to attack the ball, and the shot made is referred to as a flick. A flick is not a single stroke and is sometimes compared to a drive or loop because of its similar characteristics. The only thing that separates it from these other strokes is if the backswing is compressed to a short wrist flick.

There are two types of flicks:

The forehand flick is used as an attacking stroke when your opponent sends a shorts ball. Players are expected to take the same stance as they would when making a short push stroke, but you can change the ball’s direction, speed, and spin. This way, you can either flick the ball short it long by changing your wrist. Athletes use the forehand flick for an upward brush to counter a backspin.

The backhand flick also counters a short ball but with players using both wrist and forearm to make this stroke. The stance is the same as with the forehand flick, and the direction of the flick is usually an upward brush against a backspin. However, you will need to keep your right foot under the table in the middle of the backhand area for this type of flick.

Table Tennis Flick

Forehand and Backhand Chop

A chop is a much heavier and bigger push stroke. The position of the racket is usually in a horizontal and slightly upward facing direction. At the same time, the strike goes in a straight down position. If you make a chop with many backspins, your opponent will find it difficult to return the stroke. The chop is a defensive shot, and it matches the topspin of your opponent with your racket’s speed. Chops are not an easy stroke to execute, and the aim of this shot is to confuse your opponent.

Table Tennis Chop

Forehand and Backhand Lob

The lob is another defensive stroke used by players in table tennis games. This type of stroke pushes the tennis ball up as high as five meters above the tennis table to your opponent’s side of the table. The player’s stance when making this stroke will be to stay at least 4 to 6 meters away from the table. The lob stroke is one of the best shots for any spin in table tennis. An excellent defensive lob is harder to return because it is unpredictable. This stroke produces high amounts of spins and will earn players some good points in the game.

Table Tennis Lob

Forehand and Backhand Smash

A smash is the stroke players use when the incoming ball bounces too high or close to the net. Here, the player will need a large backswing and a powerful speed shot. A smash aims to get the ball moving at high speed, so the opponent does not have enough time to prepare for a return. If a player executes this stroke properly, they can throw a series of smashes to make the opponent lose balance. The defense smash is brutal to win when the layer doesn’t get it right. There are two types of smashes, the forehand smash, and the backhand smash.

The forehand smash is similar to a drive but has a longer backswing. This type of shot is faster and more powerful, especially when in contact with the ball. It will require bodyweight transfer and also the height of the ball. Players must direct the ball to a particular location instead of just smashing at random because it is an unpredictable shot. The opponent may likely hit the least expected location during play.

Table Tennis Smash

How to Play Table Tennis Step by Step

STEP 1: Choose a Bat

The first step to understanding the game of table tennis is knowing the equipment you will need and also choosing the right one that will give you an advantage. Table tennis players work with four types of equipment:

As a beginner, you should get the best table tennis bat/racket that you can Easily Control. Your focus should not be about the speed or spin of the racket but instead control.

Before you invest in a bat, you should learn about the type of material used in their production and how you can identify a quality tennis bat. It would be best if you learned about the grip and which bat will be more comfortable to handle.

How to Select Table Tennis Bat

The table tennis racket set is one piece of equipment you will need to play the game. It is usually made of a blade and rubber. It is from these parts. You can tell the quality of the table tennis bat. Some rackets come pre-made, while some are customized. If you are learning to play, you should get an already made bat. This type is suitable for beginners, ideal for loop and a quick attack, and has excellent speed and control.

You can always upgrade your table tennis racket to a customized one after you improve in the game.

Points & Tips

For the already made racket, there are three things you should look out for:

  • The type of handle or grip.
  • The layers of wood in the blade.
  • The attributes of the table tennis bat (speed, spin, and control).

The wood of the racket comes with either 3, 5, or 7 layers. The seven-layer wood has more speed compared to the lower type. However, the lower layer wood type will give you more control. Beginners should focus on the table tennis bats with three layers or five layers.

 On the subject of the handle, it comes in three types:

  • Anatomic (AN)
  • Flared (FL)
  • Straight handles (ST)

We recommend that beginners use the finished table tennis racket set with an FL handle because it gives a better grip.

The thickness of the rubber also contributes to your performance. The table tennis racket usually comes with a rubber thickness ranging from 1.0mm to 2.3mm.  The very thick rubber bat gains more speed, while the ones with less thickness will give you better control. As a beginner, you should use a table tennis racket with a medium thickness between 1.5 mm to 1.9mm.

On the racket, the manufacturer usually specifies the attributes on it. This way, you can tell if the table tennis racket will be good for speed, spin, and control.

STEP 2: Hold The Racket

Another part of learning to play table tennis is knowing” How to grip”. Like we mentioned earlier, you should have better control of your racket. A proper grip will help you direct the racket to control the placement of the table tennis ball.

In table tennis, there are two common types of grip:

We recommend the Shakehand grip for beginners because it gives you more control and power, especially when doing backhand strokes.

If you want to learn more about weird grips, I recommend reading the article “Table Tennis Grips“.

How to hold Shakehand Grip?

The Shakehand Grip is when you try holding the bat so that it looks like you are shaking hands. There are two variations of shakehand grips:

Here is how to do the Shakehand grip:

  • Place your grip on the upper part of the racket handle using your index finger, ring finger, and small finger.
  • Keep your index finger on the edge of the rubber.
  • Place your thumb on the blade, below the rubber or the rubber surface.
  • With your thumb on the blade, it allows you to lift the racket freely at any angle and you can adjust it depending on the stroke.

Shallow Shakehand vs Deep Shakehand

  • For the shallow shakehand grip, you place your thumb on the blade. It is best for the forehand stroke because it is more flexible and powerful.
  • The deep shakehand grip is when you place your thumb on the rubber. You can use it for backhand strokes. This type of grip gives you more control of the racket.

Coach tips

 If you want to have the best grip when playing your game, these additional tips will help you

  • Make sure you keep a soft grip on the racket handle.
  • Your index finger should be on the backhand rubber and not sticking around the edge.
  • You should not change your grip during rallies.

When playing table tennis, you will notice that different players have different grips. How the next player grips their bat should not be your concern. Instead, focus on which grip will work for you. If your grip is wrong, it will not help you win the game. You should feel comfortable with the type of grip you use.

STEP 3: Understand The Gameplay

There are rules for playing table tennis. Whether you are playing singles or doubles games, you must understand these rules. The game rules are set by the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) and are compulsory for professional athletes. However, as a beginner, if you are playing for leisure, you don’t need to know all the rules but still know the basic rules to understand the game.

  • Number of Points

Before the year 2002, table tennis scoring was up to 21 points. However, the rules were changed to make the game more interesting, and now you can only play up to 11 points. The first player to score up to 11 points will win the game. If the two players score 10 points, this is most often called a deuce.

  • Starting a Game

Before the game begins, players need to decide who serves first. If you are playing with your friends, you can easily decide. However, the official rules state that a lot makes the decision. This can be done by tossing a coin or flipping discs. The most common method used to decide at lower levels of play is where the umpire is in one hand, and then you ask a player to guess which hand has the ball. The player that wins will be the one to serve first. The player can also choose to elect the opponent to serve first or choose which end of the table they will play first.

If the player chooses the end of the table to play, the opponent can serve first or leave it for the other player if the winner can also choose to serve first while the opponent chooses the side of the table they prefer to play first.

  • Rules For Table Tennis Serve

The rules for serving in table tennis have changed over the years. However, for a casual game, it is straightforward. The ball should be above the table surface level and behind the server’s end line. In this case, your stance must be behind the end of the table when playing a serve.

The basic serves in table tennis require you to hold the ball in the palm of the other hand you are not playing with and then throw it upwards. When the ball is dropping down, you hit it with your racket on the other hand to bounce on your side of the table. It should bounce at least once before it moves to the opponent’s side.

If your opponent watches the ball bounce more than once on their side of the table, they lose a point. If the ball touches the net and it is still on the side of the opponent’s table, he can replay the service and we call this “a let”. However, the server will lose a point if the ball touches the net and does not bounce on the opponent’s side. When the server throws the ball up deliberately, it can be said that the ball is “in play”.

  • Number of Serves

Before 2001, the rules allowed each player to make five consecutive serves. When there is a deuce, you will alternate the serve until a player scores a two-point lead. After 2001, the rules changed and each player is now allowed only two serves. In a deuce, the service alternates until a player scores 11 points to win the game.

  • Returning The Serve

When a serve is played, the opponent has to hit the ball back. The ball will need to bounce only on the server’s side of the table once. If you allow it to bounce more than once on your side of the table, you lose a point.

In case you are returning a serve in a rally, the ball hits the net but doesn’t touch your opponent’s side of the table. A point will be awarded to your opponent. If the ball hits the net and still moves to bounce on the opponent’s table, the rally will continue. The player receiving the ball can stand in any position to play the return but cannot touch the table with their free hand.

The player is also not allowed to move the table. If the server does a backspin serve that causes the ball to go back over the net to the server bouncing on the opponent’s table, the receiver will need to hit the ball before it bounces on the server’s part of the tennis table. This will require the receiver to go beyond the net to play a stroke.

Mentor Tips

  • The rules of table tennis do not differ for both professional and casual players.
  • Remember that when doing a service, the ball should be on the non-playing arm.
  • Keep your stance behind the end line on your side of the table, holding the ball on your open flat palm.
  • Players only get to do two serves except when there is a deuce with each player scoring 10 points each. The serve will be alternated until a player scores 11 points.
  • Your non-playing arms should not be on the tennis table when serving the ball to your opponent.
  • The ball should bounce once on your side of the table before moving to your opponent’s side.

STEP 4: Master Two Basic Serve

In table tennis, you should know that every point in a set begins with a serve. When the service begins, you can control the point and even force your opponent to make a weak return. You can even force your opponent to place the ball on your strong side. However, it all depends on your technique of serving the ball. As a beginner, you can learn how to make the best serves.

how to play table tennis
Ma Long

You can serve a ball in many ways, but it isn’t possible to learn all of these techniques as a beginner.

Divided according to the racket surface of the serve:

Divided according to the rotation of the serve:

Even though there are many types of serves, it can be difficult for beginners to learn every one of them. It is best to master only two important serves. We recommend the forehand topspin serve and forehand backspin serve because they give you an advantage over the other player.

Most players will expect you do a simple forehand or backhand serve, so you can surprise them with a spin serve. This way don’t have enough time to prepare or control the ball and it will give you an advantage in the game.

Forehand Topspin Serve & Backspin Serve

STEP 5: Learn The Four Basic Strokes

Like in other sports, table tennis requires some technical strategies when playing the game. The basic strokes in this game are the foundation of the sport and are one essential part for beginners to learn. The more you practice these strokes, the better you become in the sport.

There are several ways plays can shoot the ball. They can make defensive strokes of attacking strokes. As a beginner, it is better to learn the basic strokes first.

Before we look at the basic strokes, you also need to know about shots involved in table tennis. Shots like the lobbing are defensive shots used by players and will cause your opponent to play far from the table surface. The player is unable to get enough time to recover their position. You can use the loop in an attacking shot. It can send the ball firmly so you have better control of the ball. The chop shot is also an attacking shot and is the opposite of the loop. It makes your opponent struggle with the tennis ball. There are also other techniques like flick and smash.

As a beginner, you must learn the basic strokes in table tennis before any other technique. These basic shots are the foundation for the other strategies because they follow similar rules. It is the only way you can fully understand or master the game. We will be looking at these strokes in detail and show you how you can play them.

These four basic strokes include:

Key Points/Tips:

  • When making a stroke, you must keep your eyes focused on the ball.
  • Always make sure you return to your stance quickly, so you are prepared for a return stroke from your opponent.
  • Master the basic strokes and also focus only on your play and not how your opponent is playing.
  • Keep your arms facing forward towards the direction of the ball so that you can accurately make contact with the incoming ball. Your arms should be facing forward.
  • Keep your legs shoulder-width apart. If you are left-handed, you can keep your right foot behind your left foot slightly. They should be a step away from each other.

STEP 6: Apply Basic Strategy

It will help if you put everything you have learned into the game. If you intend to take table tennis as a profession, you should have a strategy, whether a loop or spin shot, that works for you. Most experts believe that successful athletes have a working strategy that helps them win their games.

Here is a strategy we propose:

  • ServiceYou should make sure that you put 50% power in your service and 50% in a heavy backspin.
  • ReturnYou should play a forehand or backhand drive stroke except the ball is a backspin.
  • RallyIf you get a ball in a topspin position, your strategy should be to a return drive stroke but if it is a backspin, it should be a push stroke.
  • Winning pointsYou will get most of your winning points mostly when you out-rally your opponent.
  • PracticeYou will need to get more involved in training if you want to move from a beginner to a professional in table tennis. The best players today undergo training to get better at this skill. Every player has their strengths and weaknesses but with training, they improve on them.  If you have a challenge doing a backhand flick with practice more you can learn more techniques to help you get better at it.  You will need the help of a coach that to drill you in this sport and teach you all the techniques in table tennis.

What to Do Next

As we mentioned earlier, many people have reasons for wanting to learn how to play table tennis. Even though it is a recreational game, it is one of the most competitive sports in the industry, and you can become a professional at this game. You can learn to play and pursue table tennis as a career. There are many benefits of learning this sport. It is a great way to keep fit and you also get to enjoy the game.

The choice is yours to determine what you want to do with this skill. However, the first step you need to take is to master the game’s strategies and all the rules. You will need to learn how to serve, block, spin, smash and master other advanced techniques in table tennis. Athletes make a lot of money from this sport, and it is undoubtedly worth it.

Even if you feel you have reached a higher level as a player, you can feel tension when playing in a competition. As you learn how to play tennis, you also take part actively in match plays. This will help build your confidence and allow you to develop your skill. You should seek expert training so you can get better at table tennis. There are many online tutorial videos and materials that help you learn more about this game. However, you will still need to get practical training and coaching on table tennis. The best way to get better is by regularly taking part in this sport and making it part of your everyday routine.


Professional athletes use both offensive and defensive strokes in their games. These strokes give players a winning chance and better gameplay. As a beginner, you need to learn all these skills in this game, and you can only do that with constant practice. The Forehand drive and backhand are the most common shots used in the game. They are also the basic table tennis strokes beginners learn before any other type of shot. Another skill in table tennis you need to learn is service. The two major types, the forehand serve, and backhand serve, will help you get started in this game.

Most beginners usually ask, “what are the basic skill in table tennis?” To improve at this game, you need first to learn the basic strokes in table tennis: forehand drive, backhand drive, and backhand push. Knowledge of these basic strokes will make it easy to advance to other table tennis shots. The skills you need to develop in playing table tennis are learning to hit the tennis ball consistently and to control the ball. You can start learning table tennis fundamental skills by learning the shots in the game and mastering them. Practicing table tennis techniques play a significant role in improving your game.

Also, using the correct table tennis equipment will give the best results.  You need to invest only in the best table tennis racket. There are rackets designed for beginners, while some are meant for advanced players. Choosing the right racket that matches your skill level will also help your game.

Other Articles on Table Tennis Equipment You May Need:

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