Most table tennis players have an offensive style. This is what makes table tennis such a fast-paced sport.
If two offensive players face one another, both will play with the same objective: to hit shots past their opponent. The player with superior technique and tactics will come out on top.
From my years of experience facing offensive players in tournaments, and being an offensive player myself, I’ll explain 8 key tips that will help you improve your attacking game.
Table of Contents
- 1) Be proactive
- 2) Stay active with your feet and stay low to the ground
- 3) Always turn towards the table when hitting forehands
- 4) Perfect your grip
- 5) Always come back to the ready position
- 6) Start your weight transfer before hitting the ball
- 7) Loop half-long serves
- 8) Hit in front of your body
1) Be proactive
The most important tip I have for offensive table tennis players is to be proactive.
In table tennis, waiting for a chance just doesn’t cut it past a certain level. Offensive players should create chances that they can capitalize on.
Attacking their opponents before being attacked is the main objective of offensive players.
This is achieved in many ways. In table tennis, most rallies are between 3 to 5 shots long, so playing out the serve and receive correctly is very important.
How to dominate the serve and receive
If you’re an offensive player, your serves should be the strongest shots in your arsenal.
Having good serves is what will enable you to attack your opponent’s receive. To that end, you should practice serves that work well with your style.
Most offensive forehand-dominant players, such as Ma Long, predominantly use pendulum serves.
These serves make it very difficult for their opponents to target their wide forehands because of the sidespin.
As a result, forehand dominant players can confidently pivot after doing pendulum serves and they’ll be sure that the ball will go either to the middle or to their backhand side.
On the other hand, backhand dominant players, such as Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Liam Pitchford or Darko Jorgic like doing backhand serves, reverse pendulum serves and tomahawk serves.
These serves make it hard to touch the ball short and the backhand dominant player can get their first attack in.
They’ll target their opponents’ backhands most of the time so that they can either get on to a backhand exchange or get an easy ball to attack with their forehand.
How to progress a table tennis point in your favor
After playing out the serve and receive game, you should aim to play the most advantageous shot every time to progress the point in your favor.
In table tennis, due to the speed of the sport, it’s impossible to think while playing out points.
However, you can think after a point is over about what you could have done differently and try that other variant when you’re put in a similar situation.
To progress points in table tennis, you should be constantly assessing what situation you’re in, and you should always strive to come out in a better position after every shot you play.
If you’re in an advantageous position, try to utilize the chance you have to either keep pressuring the opponent or end the point in the next shot.
For example, if you get a chance for a forehand loop, attack the elbow or the corners, and try to get good depth on the table so that your opponent can’t counter your shot.
If you’re in a neutral position, try to play shots that put you in an advantageous position.
For example, if you’re in a backhand to backhand rally, try to aim for your opponent’s elbow, their wide backhand, or play down the line.
You can be sure that if you play the shot correctly you’ll have an easy return that you can put away for a point.
A good idea is to automatically pivot after playing a well-placed backhand to make use of the chance you know you’ll get after playing your shot.
If you’re in a disadvantageous position, try to play a shot that will neutralize your opponent’s attack and get you in a neutral or advantageous position.
For example, if your opponent played a forehand loop to your backhand, try to block the shot down the line or toward their backhand to get in a backhand to backhand rally instead of blocking to the middle and losing the point on the following shot.
Most beginner and intermediate table tennis players will play diagonally all the time, that is, if they’re going to hit a backhand, they’ll play to your backhand, and if they’re going to hit a forehand, they’ll hit towards your forehand.
This is because most table tennis players will train and warm up playing cross-court.
You can make use of this tendency to pivot when your opponent hits any shot with their backhand side and instantaneously gain the upper hand in the point by doing so.
You can also prepare your forehand block or counter loop when you see your opponent prepare a forehand loop to regain the upper hand in the rally.
2) Stay active with your feet and stay low to the ground
The second tip I have for you is to always stay active and keep your weight on the balls of your feet instead of the heel.
Footwork is one of the main pillars of table tennis. Moving towards the ball correctly is the basis of consistency.
If you don’t move correctly, it’ll be nearly impossible for you to get much consistency or quality on your shots.
You should try to always hit the ball in the same position relative to your body. For example, you should hit every backhand in front of you, not to the sides.
A common mistake when playing backhands is reaching with your arms instead of moving. This leads to many unforced mistakes that could be avoided by moving properly.
It’s also very important to stay low to the ground so that you have good balance when coming in and out of the table, and when moving laterally.
Staying low to the ground also makes it easier to perform the weight transfer.
It’s crucial to stay on your toes and to never stop moving in the rally.
3) Always turn towards the table when hitting forehands
A tip that changed my whole game is to end up facing the table after hitting every forehand, especially those played from the forehand corner.
Lots of times, players will lose their position at the table after hitting a forehand.
By executing this technique, you’ll never be caught off guard after hitting a wide forehand.
What you need to do is to plant your right foot if you’re right-handed, and your left foot if you’re left-handed (being left-handed is an advantage in table tennis!), and rotate your whole body using that foot as the pivot.
It’s important to move toward the ball, stop in place once you’ve reached the correct position, and then rotate toward the table.
Here’s the difference between doing it correctly and doing it incorrectly:
4) Perfect your grip
It’s very important to hold the racket correctly. If you don’t have a good grip, then you won’t be able to master certain techniques down the line.
The main thing to remember is that you shouldn’t hold the racket as if it was a blunt object, you should hold it loosely as if it was an extension of your arm.
Keep in mind the ball weighs less than 3 grams, you want to be caressing it, not striking it.
You need to loosen up your wrists to feel the ball when playing topspins, when pushing, when serving, when blocking a heavy topspin ball, etc.
If you lock your wrists or hold the racket with too much force, you won’t have any feel for the ball and you won’t be able to play touch shots correctly.
5) Always come back to the ready position
This technical tip is the key to having a consistent and efficient style of play, yet lots of players get it wrong.
The ready position is the place from which all strokes begin. Lots of players will hit a forehand loop for example, and not come back to the ready position.
It’s important to always come back to the ready position because this will enable you to play every stroke starting from the same place, which helps tremendously with timing and consistency.
6) Start your weight transfer before hitting the ball
A mistake I see lots of beginners do is to begin their weight transfer way too late.
Lots of beginners will rotate too late, that is, they’ll swing their arms and then rotate their hips.
The key to having an efficient stroke, one which generates “easy power”, is to start rotating your body before contacting the ball.
You’ll be able to hit very high-quality loops if you play your shots at the highest speed of rotation.
If you begin your weight transfer when you’re hitting the ball, then you won’t add any strength to the shot.
The weight transfer technique should be like the release of energy on a spring. The weight transfer is the main driving force of the stroke, not the arm.
You should charge power on your right leg (if you’re right-handed), and start releasing that energy a moment before hitting the ball so that you’re rotating at full speed when you contact the ball.
The correct way to execute the weight transfer on the forehand loop is like this:
7) Loop half-long serves
One tip that will earn you tons of points at every level of play is to be able to recognize and loop half-long serves.
In tournament play and matches, lots of players will serve half long or long, giving you the chance to attack first and earn easy points on the receive.
Many players will try to serve short but end up serving half-long in the process.
At the beginner and intermediate levels of play, it’s hard to find players whose serves will bounce twice or more on the table in tournament matches.
Being able to recognize when a serve drifts long is ideal since you’ll be able to play a safe, spinny open-up and gain control of the point from the get-go.
If you want to successfully loop a half-long serve, you must recognize 2 things, the first one being its depth, the second being its spin.
After you’ve assessed that your opponent’s serve is drifting long, try to focus on the spin of the ball.
If it’s heavy backspin, play a safe, spinny open-up from down to up. The spin on your shot will prevent your opponent from attacking the ball and they’ll have to resort to blocking, gaining you the initiative in the point.
If it’s sidespin, you’ll have to contact the ball at an angle or aim towards the opposite side of the table.
For example, if you want to loop a half-long pendulum serve, you’ll have to either contact the ball on its right side or aim for your opponent’s wide forehand to counteract the spin, since the spin on the ball will naturally direct your shot towards their backhand side.
8) Hit in front of your body
A very important tip is to try to hit in front of your body instead of on the side when playing forehand loops.
Looping in front of your body will allow you to give your opponent less time to react and you can hit the ball with more power.
This will allow you to play with more quality and safety on your shots.
Added to all this, if you hit the ball in front of your body, you’re going to contact the ball on top of the bounce, which will give you more clearance over the net.
It’s very important that you always direct your energy forwards. This will allow you to control every point. In table tennis, it’s important to be on the front foot.
The moment you stop directing your force forwards, you’ll lose your advantageous position at the table and you’ll lose out on extra power on the ball.
Hitting the ball in front of your body ensures you always have a good position at the table and that you’re the one dictating the tempo of the point.
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!