Table tennis rewards creativity.
Most table tennis players are used to seeing the same strokes over and over again. As a result, we’re prepared for most scenarios we can face in a match.
This is why playing a different shot than usual can prove surprisingly effective. Unorthodox shots, when played correctly, can surprise even the best professional players. Being original in table tennis goes a long way.
We have compiled a list of the 10 best unconventional secret techniques nobody will expect you to play.
1) Backspin smash
This shot is one of my personal favorites, and I pull it off all the time. It not only looks super cool, but it’s also quite effective.
The beauty of this shot lies in its uniqueness. When we think about a smash, we picture a powerful flat shot.
The idea behind a smash is to put away an easy chance through sheer power. The smash is probably one of the least aesthetic shots since it involves “clubbing” the ball as hard as you can.
By playing the backspin smash, you can show your levels of talent and finesse.
The idea of the backspin smash is the same as the regular smash, to win the point outright. However, the backspin smash tries to achieve this goal in a different, more elegant way.
The backspin smash is an incredibly difficult shot to return because the opponent has to return a high-speed backspin ball that comes from above the player’s head.
In regular table tennis training, players never come up against a shot with these characteristics, and that’s why it’s near impossible to return when played correctly.
The parabola of the ball is much different since a backspin smash doesn’t fly like a regular smash. The ball will float in the air, making it much more awkward for the opponent to time their shot correctly.
The only ways to return a backspin smash are to either loop it or chop it back, and both options are very difficult to time correctly.
Most opponents will not expect you to pull off this technique, so they will usually just try to drive it on to the other side and dump it in the net or miss the ball altogether because of its weird parabola.
Another thing I like about the backspin smash is that you can also pull it off with your backhand.
Regular smashes just aren’t reliable enough to hit with your backhand, but backspin smashes are.
The backhand backspin smash is one of my favorite shots because of how elegant it looks and how it enables different attacking techniques.
Here’s a video of me playing two of my favorite shots, the forehand, and the backhand backspin smash.
2) Two-handed backhand
If you ever see someone playing a two-handed backhand in table tennis, they’re either garage players or the best players on the planet.
Professional table tennis players who utilize this stroke have a marvelous one-handed backhand but they prefer playing two-handed backhands in very specific situations.
The dilemma is this: Some shots require a very fine contact with the ball, but they also require lots of stability.
In the article in which we covered how to grip your racket correctly, we outlined that certain shots, such as smashes, need you to hold onto the bat with more force to provide the racket with greater stability.
Other shots, like short touches or serves, require you to hold the racket as loosely as possible to have the finest touch possible.
However, some shots, such as lobs, require both extra stability and touch. This is where the second hand comes into play.
The idea behind using two hands is that you can have good touch with your playing arm and added stability with your non-hitting arm.
Many world-class players such as Simon Gauzy, and, most notably, Hugo Calderano, like pulling off this shot when playing backhands away from the table.
Here’s a video of Hugo playing his trademark shot:
3) Strawberry flick
The strawberry flick is one of the most deceiving shots in table tennis.
I’d say that more than 95% of all flicks are traditional flicks, and less than 5% are strawberry flicks.
If you pull off a strawberry flick every so often, chances are that you’ll win the point if you execute it correctly, since you’ll surprise your opponent every single time.
The strawberry flick is an excentric, high-risk, high-reward shot that is quite underrated in my opinion.
The regular backhand flick, also known as the the banana flick, involves pointing your racket down and flicking your wrist up so that ends up pointing towards the ceiling. This creates lift and helps the ball clear the net.
To execute a banana flick, you should contact the ball around the left side of the ball if you’re a right hander.
The strawberry flick also involves pointing your racket down, but instead of flicking up, you have to contact the ball around its right side.
Because you’re contacting the ball on the opposite side, the ball will fly on the opposite direction and with the opposite sidespin.
Here’s a video of wonderkid Louis Price demonstrating his deadly strawberry flick:
Continuing with the theme of deception, the snake is one of the most puzzling shots in table tennis.
This shot is played from under the table, so your opponent won’t know what kind of spin you put on the ball.
If you do it right, the ball will jump towards or away from your opponent, breaking their balance and gaining you the upper hand in the point, or sometimes even winning you the point outright.
Lots of players will attempt snakes, and they’re even used in professional play.
The table tennis player best known for his snakes is ITTF commentator Adam Bobrow. Here’s a video showcasing 10 of his finest snake shots:
5) Jumping smash
The second (and last) smash technique on this list is the jumping smash.
This shot is one of the best ways to display your timing and your athletic prowess at the table.
The jumping smash is a hard shot to pull off but it’s worth a try. It’s not only better looking than the regular smash, but it’s more effective.
By jumping before a smash, you can contact the ball higher so you’ll be able to hit the ball more downwards.
Lots of shorter players such as Argentine Horacio Cifuentes love to jump smash to counteract their height disadvantage when smashing.
Here’s a picture of Horacio performing his trademark jump smash:
Jumping also creates extra momentum which helps add power to your smash.
Omar Assar explains it best in this video:
This shot requires the utmost coordination and timing. Table tennis is already one of the hardest sports to play with your dominant hand. Switching hands takes the difficulty to a whole new level.
This shot is very useful in certain scenarios. You’ll be pushed out of the table on your forehand side quite often, and you can bet that your opponent is going to play toward the open space next (your uncovered backhand side).
If you try to reach the ball with your backhand, chances are that you’re not going to make it.
If you switch hands, however, you have a lot more reach, since you can fully extend your arm to contact the ball.
Switching hands is no easy task, but it’s definitely worth a try in certain situations. If you’re sure that you won’t reach the ball with your dominant hand, then you won’t lose anything by trying to get it with your weak hand.
German legend Timo Boll is known for playing hand switch shots all the time. Here’s a video of the best 5 hand switch shots he’s ever played:
Timo has played hand switch shots in the most important competitions and against the best players in the world.
He has even filmed a video tutorial for us to learn this unique technique.
7) Behind the back
The behind-the-back shot is one of the most aesthetic table tennis shots there is.
Lots of players will attempt behind-the-back shots regularly with different degrees of success.
It’s very hard to connect a behind-the-back shot, but it’s worth a try.
The best time to play a behind the back is when you’re getting ready for a forehand block, but your opponent plays towards your wide backhand instead.
There’s no time for you to block the ball with your backhand regularly. Going behind the back gains you some extra time since you’ll contact the ball later in its flight path.
Here’s a video of the best table tennis behind-the-back shots:
The no-look is probably the coolest technique on this list.
It does have its benefits, but it’s mostly done to showcase your talent.
The playing benefit of the no-look is that it deceives the opponent regarding your placement.
If you look towards one side and you play towards the opposite side, you’re going to trick your opponent, making him lose time in the process.
Lots of times, playing a no-look will earn you a free point since your opponent will lose out on some tenths of a second by thinking you’re going to hit to one place until they realize you hit the ball towards the opposite side.
No-looks also have very advantageous psychological effects.
If you look towards one side and hit towards the other, your opponent will likely lose their confidence or start thinking about your shot rather than their tactics.
Just imagine the mental blow you’d suffer if your opponent played this shot against you:
Also, they’ll think twice whenever you aim towards one side of the table.
We don’t recommend going for no-look shots all the time but playing one every so often can bring positive effects, and above everything, it looks super cool.
It’s a crowd-pleaser above anything.
9) Backspin punch
This shot was popularized recently by Swedish star Truls Moregardh.
The backspin punch is a riskier, more effective variation of the backhand punch.
The backhand punch is traditionally a flat hit that carries very slight topspin. Its trajectory is quite linear and its main strength is its speed.
The backspin punch is a whole different beast. It’s also a high-speed shot, but instead of light topspin, it carries light backspin.
This makes for a very weird parabola and it makes the shot almost impossible to return.
If you block it, the ball will go into the net unless you open your racket angle, which returns a high ball. You’d have to loop it with the perfect angle to get it on the table.
Truls Moregardh loves playing this shot since it’s extremely effective, even in professional play.
If you manage to learn this technique, you’ll have a secret weapon that earns you points every time you land it on the table.
I’ve been experimenting with this technique and I try it every once in a while in matches. It’s hard to get it on the table consistently, but every time it goes in, it’s almost a guaranteed point.
Here’s a video of Truls demonstrating this sublime technique:
10) Windshield wiper forehand
Another Timo trademark shot is the windshield wiper forehand.
This shot requires amazing touch and superb timing.
The windshield wiper forehand is such an effective shot because it creates the opposite sidespin on the ball than you’d expect from a forehand shot.
To execute this technique, you should swing your arm from right to left if you’re a right-hander and from left to right if you’re a left-hander.
This shot produces the opposite sidespin on the ball than usual (on a forehand stroke). If you’re a right-hander, this stroke will carry the sidespin of a left-hander forehand and vice versa.
It is a very deceptive shot, given that the ball will bounce and shoot off in the opposite direction while carrying tons of spin.
Here’s a video of Timo winning a point with a windshield wiper forehand after a hand switch shot:
Alvaro’s been playing Table Tennis since he was 15 and is now ranked within the top 100 in his native Argentina. He loves to compete in provincial tournaments and is always looking for ways to improve. Alvaro made his favourite memories with a racket in hand, and he joined the RacketInsight team to share his passion with other players!