Hitting the ball around the net is one of the most entertaining, and technically challenging, shots a table tennis player can make. Given that sidespin greatly alters the flight path of the ball, around the net shots are a lot more common in table tennis than in other racket sports.
Not only does this shot look super cool, but it’s also very useful in certain match situations.
We have analyzed how the pros pull them off and we’ve also hit lots of around-the-net shots ourselves. The 4 tips in this article will take you from novice to pro when playing this flashy shot.
But, before we do that, we’re going to explain in what situations you might want to try going around the net.
Table of Contents
When to Hit Around the Net
There are two instances when you can hit the ball around the net and it’s the right tactical choice.
Returning out wide
The first one is the one we all associate with around-the-net shots. It happens when your opponent serves short to your forehand with heavy sidespin, or when your opponent blocks wide to your forehand.
Some players such as Timo Boll can also hit around the net with their backhands, but it’s a lot harder to do it with the backhand than with the forehand.
Let’s watch a video of exciting around-the-net shots!
Returning drop shots
The second time you can hit the ball around the net is when your opponent’s shot clips the net, the ball bounces on your side and drops to the side of the table.
If you’re quick on your feet, you can get there before the ball hits the ground, and aim directly to your opponent’s side of the table, without going over the net.
This type of shot looks like this:
In this article, we’re going to cover the traditional around the net shot, the first scenario we mentioned.
The second one should always be tried because it’s the only way to get the ball to the other side of the table.
We recommend always being on the lookout when the ball clips the net and moving quickly to where the ball is going to fall. Stay on the tip of your toes to give yourself the best chance of reaching this shot.
Without further ado, we’ll start with our 4 tips to hit around the net shots consistently.
4 Tips for Playing ‘Around The Net’ Shots
1. Work the right angle
Before attempting an around-the-net shot, it is essential that you quickly assess the situation and recognize whether it’s better to go over or around the net.
If in doubt, go over the net. There are angles where is becomes obvious that going around the net is the better (or even the only) option. We recommend trying around the net shots only when it’s clear that it’s the better choice.
Only try to hit around the net when you have to hit a very wide shot from the forehand corner and the ball has already dropped to table height or below.
You should contact the ball at table height or just a bit below because this way you can hit parallel to the table. Since you don’t need to clear the net, it’s better to hit the ball at a lower height.
This way, you can just hit the ball forward without needing to adjust your shot for height. If you contact the ball at table height then you can just hit the ball forward and the shot will go in.
2. Use both side and top spin
Spin is crucial when determining whether this shot will go in or not.
For this technique, you have to bend the wrist and contact around the side of the ball rather than from behind. This way, you’ll get the necessary bend on the ball for it to land on the table.
Using sidespin also helps the ball stay on the table because it makes the ball turn towards the playing surface.
It allows for a greater margin of error and also makes it easier to clear the net posts which overhang from the table. It’s very hard not to hit the net posts if you hit the ball without sidespin.
3. Don’t hit too hard
It’s essential that you don’t hit the ball hard when going for an around-the-net shot.
The nature of this shot makes it so that it’s always going to be well placed, it will carry both top and sidespin, and your opponent will be surprised by the shot.
It’s very hard to block a ball that’s coming from around the table with sidespin. You don’t need to hit hard for this to be an effective shot.
If you hit the ball hard, chances are you’re going to miss the table.
For this shot, relax your grip and don’t contact the ball too thick. You want to brush the ball on the side and just give it enough power to clear the distance.
The other risk when hitting the ball too hard is that the opponent may be well placed to block the ball back. If that’s true and you’re pushed far out wide, they have an easy block anywhere on the table. Hitting a slower shot gives you some extra critical recovery time.
4. Have a tacky / grippy rubber.
To execute the around-the-net shot, you must have a rubber that can spin the ball.
You can’t go around the net if your rubber isn’t either tacky or grippy because you won’t get the necessary bend on the ball to keep it on the table. Check out our article on choosing a table tennis rubber for more details.
This is why neither long pips nor antispin players can easily hit around the net. Their rubbers don’t have much grip so this shot is nearly impossible to play in a match situation.
It is easier to perform this shot with tacky rubbers because they are better at grabbing the ball at different angles. Their stickiness grabs the ball and gives it the trajectory you want, ignoring any incoming spin.
To sum up, the around-the-net shot is one of the most advanced techniques in table tennis. Performing one of these shots successfully is sure to grant you a round of applause.
However, given its complexity, you must not try it very often, or else you’ll lose lots of easy points from unforced mistakes.
It is better to try to hit around the net only when completely necessary while putting into practice the tips we explained above.
Want to learn more? We love this video guide from Adam Bobrow with some extra tips.