Learn to Pong Like a Champ with 2011 US Nationals Champion, Peter Li! (Part 1 of 3)

JOOLA: Learn To Pong Like A Champ
Watch our Pong Like A Champ video mini series and get the latest tips from National Champ, Peter Li, on how to improve your game!

1.  Developing the Forehand Smash
JOOLA's Peter Li Using The Forehand Smash
The forehand smash is probably the most frequently attempted shot in table tennis.  However, a smash actually requires more technique than most expect since it is a combination of power and speed. According to 2011 U.S. National Champion, Peter Li, one major problem for many recreational players is that they tend to over-extend their arm when going for a forehand smash, which significantly decreases both the power and the consistency of the shot. In addition, many recreational players use little to no hip rotation when forehand smashing, which leads to more of an all-encompassing issue, since hip rotation is key not only for the forehand smash but also in most aspects of the game. For example, hip rotation allows a player to create more power behind the shot and enables a smoother transition to get ready for the next shot.
If you find that the reasons above are frequent culprits for lost points, take a look at some tips from Peter Li:

  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart when you are anticipating the next shot. This should help with balance and keep you low enough to quickly adjust to where the ball goes.  Remember to position yourself so that your non-dominant leg is slightly in front of the other one when you are getting ready for a forehand smash.
  • Keep your arm at a 90-degree angle when you take the smash. This will help with control when it comes to power and ball placement.
  • Find your sweet spot. Ideally, you want to be somewhere that isn’t too close or too far from the table. For most people, this is probably about a foot behind the baseline of the table.
  • Remember to rotate your hip when smashing. As soon as you see the ball bounce on your side of the table, rotate your hip so that your body is about a 45-degree angle with the table. As the ball approaches its highest point, rotate your hip back and follow through by closing your forearm when you contact the ball. You may have to practice this a bit to find the right timing, but it will be worth it in the end!

2. Learning the Sidespin Serve
JOOLA's Peter Li Serving

A well-developed sidespin serve can give players a significant advantage during a game. There are two basic types of sidespin serves – the forehand sidespin serve and the backhand sidespin serve.

  • Forehand Sidespin Serve – First, find a comfortable stance to serve. It is extremely important that you are comfortable when you serve and that you are able to quickly get back into position for the next shot. Once you’re in position, bend your knees, extend your non-dominant leg in front of your dominant leg, and bend your body forward. After you throw the ball up, let the ball drop to around your waist level, and then graze the ball sideways. A forehand sidespin serve will set you up for a forehand smash on the backhand side of the table, so make sure you’re ready for the return shot.
  • Backhand Sidespin Serve – Similar to the forehand serve, the backhand sidespin serve also requires a comfortable starting position, but contact with the ball is made on the backhand side of the racket. After you throw the ball up, let the ball drop to just above your waistline, and then graze the ball sideways. Be sure to keep your knees bent, so that you are ready for the next shot. A backhand sidespin serve will set you up for a forehand smash on the forehand side of the table.

Don’t forget about the importance of hip rotation! With good hip rotation and some practice, you should be able to master the sidespin serve quickly.
3. Learning the Long Fast Serve
JOOLA's Peter Li Performing A Long Fast Serve
The long fast serve, if you’re smart about it, can be very effective. This serve is often used to force a sudden change of pace during a critical point, so with the right timing and placement, you can catch your opponent by surprise and take advantage of a weak return. Like preparing for the forehand sidespin serve, make sure to bend your knees, extend your non-dominant leg in front of your dominant leg, and bend your body forward. For a consistent long fast serve, focus on getting the first bounce within a foot of the baseline with one quick stroke. For the best results, it is recommended that you aim the serve into the opponent’s weaker side. However, regardless of where you serve, it is very important that you are ready for the follow up shot. Another thing to consider is to keep your opponent guessing on where you’re going next. Thus, make sure you mix up the placement of your serves.
Click here to see tips 4-6!

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