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How do you make a table tennis ball spin?

Table Tennis Spin Technique
File Photo Credit: Stanley Cheah/SportSG

By Averlynn Lim

MASTER YOUR TABLE TENNIS TECHNIQUE (3): TOP SPIN, DOWN SPIN, & SIDE SPIN

One of the biggest differences between the casual and competitive table tennis player is the ability to execute the spin shot. While some of us mere mortals can pull it off from time to time, the pros are not only able to do it consistently, but also at incredible accuracy and speed – some can even apply spins of up to 150 revolutions per second!

The advantage of executing a spin is the extra difficulty it places on your opponent to return the shot. The speed at which the ball approaches you may not allow you sufficient time to know how much spin is on the ball.

Just remember that it is hard to be great at applying spin during your first few attempts. The ball is likely to go everywhere but on the table. But the best way to improve is to just keep trying and practice, practice, practice.

Before You Begin

As mentioned earlier, applying spin is an advanced technique, so it's important that you've mastered the basics of table tennis first, such as the table tennis grip, the four basic table tennis strokes and the basic table tennis serve.

Once you've mastered the basics, you'll be ready to move on to an advanced level of table tennis.

Theory Behind The Spin

There are three basic types of spins: the topspin, the backspin, and the sidespin. 

The physics behind each spin is nearly the same – as the ball rotates in midair, differences in air pressure between the top, back and side of the ball causes the ball to curve and dip. 

Once the ball makes contact with the table, the underlying rotation and air pressure also causes the ball to either speed up or slow down.

Executing The Topspin

The topspin is one of the most important strokes in an attack-minded player’s arsenal. You can impart considerable power to the ball, but instead of soaring off of the table, it will curve downwards and strike the other side.

To generate a topspin

1. Start your stroke below and behind the ball.
2. Wait for the ball to bounce off your table upwards
3. Move your arm forward and upwards, brushing the ball at a “’/” angle from a high position.
4. The ball’s trajectory will arch downwards, picking up speed after it bounces off the table

If countered incorrectly, the resulting return by your opponent will fly off the table, earning you a point!

Here’s a quick look at how spin techniques should be done in table tennis:

Spin Technique ping pong
Image Credit: sportinglife247.com

Executing The Backspin

The backspin, also known as slice, is typically used as a defensive shot, when you are scrambling to return a fast shot and trying to set up more time for your next return.

Due to the high amount of spin involved, don't be surprised when most of your sliced balls float right off the end of the table, when you first start practising. 

To generate a backspin

1. Position your stroke behind and above the ball.
2. As the ball is headed downwards, make your racket travel from a high to low position.
3. Brush the ball on its lower surface, with some forward momentum.
4. The degree of spin will affect what the ball will do once it hits the table. With less powerful spin, the ball will not bounce as far as a no-spin ball. With more powerful spin, the ball could either bounce straight up or backwards.

If countered incorrectly, your opponent’s return will be unable to clear the net thus earning you a point.

Here’s another look at executing the backspin:

Executing The Sidespin

The sidespin can be used to both attack and defend.

The ball spins from the right to the left, or vice versa, while making a very large but low curve in the air. This depends on the amount of spin you've imparted to the ball and from the speed your sidespin has, as well as on the angle you used to hit the ball with your racket.

There are two methods of imparting a side spin, both of which are fairly easy to learn.

To generate a Push sidespin

1. Move the paddle laterally away from your body when hitting the ball.
2. Depending on whether your paddle moves to the right or to the left, you'll impart different sidespin.

To generate a Pull sidespin

1. Move the paddle laterally toward your body when hitting the ball. 
2. The ball will curve once again depending on whether you move your paddle to the left or right, but at potentially a higher velocity.

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