Players new to competitive table tennis quickly learn to push. It’s a safe shot that’s difficult for a beginner’s opponent’s to attack well, especially if it has some good underspin. You can also win some rallies just by a low-risk strategy of patient pushing.
Unhappily, simple pushing becomes a weaker and weaker strategy as you advance — becoming a big liability as you pass the 1800 to 2000 rating level. Opponents get too good at attacking these shots. Aside from learning to attack them yourself, what’s a good strategy?
Try learning to push shorter. Ideally, these shots would go just over the net, but they can be a bit longer and still help your game. The key is to have your push bounce at least twice on the table (if left alone), so your opponent can’t wind up for a big swing that requires reaching below the table surface. You can slow down many an opponent with just this simple touch move.
To execute the shot, keep your racket tilted open to add underspin. As you strike the ball, try to absorb a little pace and simply angle it back low over the net. Make a definite stroke, just less forceful than the long ones. With practice, you can develop the touch to make this shot even against a long push from your opponent — although those really should be looped!
Pushing is a mainstay of modern table tennis that all beginners learn. But do yourself a favor (whether just starting out or more experienced) and learn to hit these short as well as long. Your rating will thank you!
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