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Learn How to Play Table Tennis – The Basic Skills

Updated on June 20, 2013

If you want to learn how to play table tennis, you must start with the basic skills. Most people think that ping pong is all about playing the ball back and forth without much skills or techniques involved in the game.

For those who are serious about learning the sport and play in a tournament, they need to learn the basic skills before they can proceed to the next level. The basic skills in table tennis are those skills that a beginner needs to know to be able to start playing the game and which will also enhance their development into the intermediary or advanced level of the sport.

The basic table tennis skills are the basic stance and footwork, the basic racket grip, the basic strokes and the basic table tennis serves.

Basic stance and footwork in table tennis

Table tennis footwork is a very important skill for those who are serious about learning how to play ping pong. If you are a beginner you need to practice your footwork along with your basic strokes and serves, because without a good footwork you may not be able to get your strokes right.

It will also be very difficult for you to return your opponents offensive drives and smashes during a game if you don’t have a proper footwork. You need to be able to position yourself properly during any game for you to have good control of the movement and speed of your opponent. The first step in learning the table tennis footwork is to know the ready stance in table tennis.

The basic stance or ready position is how you position yourself before receiving or returning any opponent serves or shots. It is where every player’s movement starts in a game. The main purpose of the ready stance is to put you in a ready position for easy movement to return the ball or serve. If you are able to learn the ready stance in table tennis, you will be able to effectively control your footwork.

Shakehands Grip
Shakehands Grip

Table Tennis Grips

One of the most important basic skills in table tennis is the racket grip. I will like to note that the rules of table tennis do not specify how to grip the racket. However, the way you grip your racket is very important if you want to learn table tennis.

The shakehand grip, penhold grip, seemiller and v-grip are all types of table tennis grip. In this article i will focus on the shakehand grip because it is most commonly in use and also easier to learn.

The shakehand table tennis grip

The shakehands grip style is very common among professional players especially the western players. It is the most popularly used grip in table tennis. It is very simple and easy to learn, unlike the penhold grip which is not so easy.

Simple steps to learn the shakehand grip

• Hold the racket like shaking hands with a friend.
• Place your index fingers and your thumb along the bottom of the racket.
• Place your remaining fingers around the racket handle.

Basic table tennis serve

For beginners, it is better to learn the basic table tennis serves before learning any advanced serves. The two basic serves in table tennis are the topspin and backspin serves. Before you learn the basic serves, it is advisable to know the difference between topspin and backspin.

You also need to know how to make a legal serve in table tennis before you can practice the topspin and backspin serve.

According to the ITTF official rules of table tennis;
"Service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's Stationary free hand.
The server shall then project the ball near vertically upwards, without imparting spin, so that it rises at least 16cm after leaving the palm of the free hand and then falls without touching anything before being struck.
As the ball is falling the server shall strike it so that it touches first his court and then, after passing over or around the net assembly, touches directly the receiver's court."

Before you make a serve, you have to stand behind the baseline of the table, with one of your foot placed forward then grip you racket in one hand while the ball will be in the open palm of your free hand.

Click here to learn more about how to serve in table tennis

Basic Table Tennis Strokes

The basic table tennis strokes that you need to know as a beginner are the drive, the push and block strokes but in this article I will focus on the forehand and backhand drive.
If you prefer to read about the push and block strokes, click here. (coming soon)

How to play forehand drive in table tennis

1. Stand slightly sideways close to the table and keep your elbow a little bit away from your body to the left of the middle line.
2. Your elbow should stay near the waist and your body weight should be on your right leg.
3. Then swing to the right and open your racket slightly, moving your weight to your left foot with your elbow in 90 degrees angle.
4. Rotate forward and close you racket as you hit the ball at the bounce, your racket should graze the ball from the top with a forward motion to create topspin.
5. Upon hitting the ball let your racket follow through toward the level of your forehand.

How to play backhand drive in table tennis

1. To play the backhand drive in table tennis, stand sideways to the left of the middle line and keep your elbow 45 degrees away from your body.
2. Lower your arm and racket towards your stomach close to the table level, pointing your racket downward.
3. Move forward as you close your racket and hit the ball at the bounce by moving your waist up a little.
4. Graze the ball from the top with a forward motion to create topspin.
5. Upon hitting the ball, your racket should point straight to the right of the direction of the stroke.

It takes practice to be able to master the basic table tennis skills. My best advice for you to learn how to play table tennis is to keep practicing until you are able to get it right.

How to grip your table tennis racket


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    • master-space profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Thanks very much for your comments James and dustin

    • Dustin Le profile image

      Dustin Le 

      2 years ago

      The shakehand grip just feels so natural, I find it very interesting that players use other grips like the penhold. Although I did play against a friend who used a penhold grip and his spins were pretty unpredictable. it's just so limited as far as movement goes.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      nice i learn a lot


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