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Top 10 Fundamental Skills for Modern Table Tennis

What are the basic skills of table tennis? These are the 10 fundamental techniques based on Chinese coaching. 10 basic skills that every player should know in table tennis. Today, we talk about the top 10 most important skills in table tennis. That every serious player should know these techniques. What are they?

The old coaching program

The old coaching program for the basic table tennis techniques is outdated!

You are new to table tennis or you just want to come back and learn, from the beginning, the correct table tennis techniques. Table tennis techniques have changed a lot. However, people still use the old designed course, which is not adapted to the “new trends in table tennis“. Today, I will show you the new (re-designed) table tennis lessons for the beginner to learn the modern table tennis strokes. These are the 10 table tennis basics that every beginner should know.

Coach EmRatThich proposed a new coaching program that helps new players learn table tennis basics faster.

Here is the video in that I explained the most important aspects of table tennis. You should watch this tutorial: “Top 10 basic skills that every player should know”.

Top 10 basic table tennis that every players should know
Watch this video: Top 10 basic table tennis that every player should know

What are the basic skills of table tennis?

If you are a beginner, you should also know “how to choose the right equipment which fits your playing style“!

Some coach has proposed the accelerated table tennis course (step by step) to learn the fundamentals of table tennis. However, to master the correct techniques, a player should do the repetition several times. The proper mechanism needs the “muscle memory”. That’s why in a short amount of time (only 10 days), you can not master correctly the basic skills. Focus on basic skills during your first 2 years of training.

In your first 2 years of your career, you should master these basic techniques.

Based on Chinese coaching, there are 10 fundamental skills in table tennis. 

  1. Forehand drive technique
  2. Backhand topspin close to the table
  3. Forehand push and backhand push
  4. Forehand flick
  5. Backhand flick
  6. Backhand loop the underspin ball
  7. Forehand attack the semi-long ball
  8. Forehand fast serve
  9. Forehand pendulum serve
  10. Backhand side-spin serve

1. Forehand Drive Technique

The first fundamental table tennis skill that you should learn is the feeling of the ball. Driving skills helps you quickly get this feeling. Unlike many basic table tennis lessons, who propose you learn the “grip” or the “stance” first. You can start learning the forehand drive first. During these training drills, the coach and yourself can quickly modify the grip based on the “feeling” and the “timing”. I, myself, found this approach can help new players improve much faster.

You should know: Professional player change the grip during the rallies.

Learning the right grip is the best way to improve your skills. You will never improve with the wrong grip! Confirmed by the legend Liu Guoliang.

Furthermore, the player tends to change the grip for each type of stroke. Fixing a new player to learn a not-flexible grip, it’s not good for further improvement later.

Forehand Drive Table Tennis
Forehand Drive Table Tennis. Explained by coach EmRatThich

2. Backhand topspin close to the table

Backhand topspin is the basic skill that every player should master. The biggest mistake of the beginner is “I will learn the forehand first, and then I let learning the backhand technique in the intermediate stage”. This is totally wrong! You should learn the backhand stroke mechanism as soon as possible. Because by learning backhand technique, you will understand how to use your wrist in table tennis. You also learn how to relax, the right timing of acceleration, and the correct grip.

Remember: A bad habit is very difficult to correct. Learn the table tennis basics slowly but correctly.

Having a good foundation is very important in the eye of the Chinese coach
Having a good foundation is very important in the eye of the Chinese coach

Chinese coach has changed the vision of this stroke. In this modern table tennis era, the bigger ball is used.

A bigger ball means that you have more “fraction of a second” before doing the stroke. So your backhand topspin should be a deadly weapon!

  1. Remember, focus on the speed of these shots.
  2. To increase the speed, the player should hit sooner, and faster.
  3. Learn from many top players like Zhang Jike, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Tomokazu Harimoto, Hugo Calderano.

3. Forehand push and backhand push

After having a good foundation of feeling the ball and having a relaxed grip, you will start to learn the “timing”. Timing is when to hit the ball. The best exercise is to practice the forehand push and the backhand push.

This is the basic stroke! And this stroke is rarely used in modern table tennis nowadays.

You should learn to develop your push to be more “aggressive”!

Based on Chinese coaching, the more “aggressive push” means:

  • Heavy and long ball to the middle (elbow of the opponent)
  • Surprise push with high quality (speed and spin)
  • Fast push to the forehand side of the opponent, which catches them off. You can attack the next ball.
forehand push and backhand push technique
forehand push and backhand push technique

The pushing technique is the first technique that many amateur table tennis players focus firstly. Chinese coach has explained clearly what is the correct forehand push and backhand push technique.

4. Forehand flick

The flick (or flip) technique is previously considered as the “advanced skills in table tennis”. However, in this modern table tennis era, the Chinese coach has moved this skill to fundamental skills. If you can not aggressively return the ball, you will quickly be dominated in this modern age of table tennis. “Aggressiveness” is the key.

table tennis forehand flick technique
table tennis forehand flick technique

5. Backhand flick

The backhand flick is nowadays considered the standard technique. Use backhand flick to return all the topspin or sidespin short serve. Backhand push is rarely used in the real match today.

Back in the history of table tennis, the backhand flick is invented by European players. At that moment, many coaches said that “this technique is weird”!

But then the table tennis techniques have evolved. This technique today is considered as the “standard technique” in table tennis, that every player should learn!

Did you know that? There are 2 types of backhand flick: Banana Flick, and Strawberry Flick.

backhand flick technique table tennis
backhand flick table tennis

6. Backhand loop the underspin ball

This technique seems to be the hardest one for beginners. However, it’s not as hard as you think. The key to doing the backhand loop is using the elbow and the lower part of your body. If you only use the arm to lift the ball, you will fail to topspin the heavy underspin ball. Focus on the use of the lower part, the legs to “lift up” and hit forward.

Chinese table tennis focuses a lot on the use of the lower part of your body. When you master all of the basic skills, you should quickly incorporate your body (hip, waist, legs, abdomen) into your stroke. Backhand loop the underspin ball is designed to learn this concept quickly.

backhand loop against underspin ball
backhand loop against underspin ball

7. Forehand attack the semi-long ball

Table tennis tactics, in fact, turn around the service and the serve return. Best players use the semi-long ball a lot nowadays.

Short serve is safe but not rewarding in table tennis
Short serve is safe but not rewarding in table tennis
Long serve can be easily attack by your opponent
The long serve can be easily attacked by your opponent

Why semi-long ball? Why do you need to learn how to do a semi-long serve effectively?

Semi long serve is very effective in the modern table tennis
Semi long serve is very effective in the modern table tennis

There are some reasons for this:

  • Because short balls are weak,
  • and the long ball is easily attacked.
  • A semi-long ball will let you attack right after your serve. That’s the reason why the Chinese coach has introduced the forehand attack the semi-long ball into the basics training.

And to deal with the semi-long serve, you have two options:

  1. Step around and use your backhand flick as many professional players do. Do it if you have good footwork.
  2. Learn to return with the aggressive forehand flick (or flip) technique.
Ma Long forehand technique
Ma Long forehand technique

How to attack the semi-long serve in table tennis?

Here is the tutorial for the forehand attack on the semi-long ball.


Forehand topspin tutorial: Attack semi-long ball

Watch this video.

8. Forehand fast serve

Forehand fast serve is an indispensable tool to survive in this modern table tennis. Unlike several training courses that didn’t focus enough on the quality of a long and fast serve. Look at the new trends in table tennis: Tomokazu Harimoto and Miu Hirano’s playing style. They incorporate the fast serve efficiently in the new trending “Counter Attack Playing Style”.

Nowadays, many top players use “forehand fast serve”. Back in history, the master of this type of serve is Jan-Ove Waldner (the Mozart of Table Tennis).

Basic table tennis rules doesn't allow you to use any part of the body to hide the serve
Basic table tennis rules don’t allow you to use any part of the body to hide the serve

And today, table tennis comes back to the “Speed and Power Era”. Fast serve gives so many advantages:

  1. Big surprise to the opponent
  2. Put opponent under pressure: To return it correctly, or to be attacked in the next ball
  3. Reduce the quality of the service return of the opponent. Less time means more concentration is needed to answer it correctly.
  4. And the most important reason is: Open immediately the “rallies and counter-rallies” (which is the mainstream of modern table tennis).
  5. You have a higher chance to attack first, and get the advantage in the next rally.

9. Forehand pendulum serve

The forehand pendulum serve is one of the best serves in table tennis. Easy to learn but difficult to master. Learning this service will let you add many spin variations. You should learn this serve as soon as possible. Learn to add sidespin and improve the deceptive spin to this serve.

pendulum serve table tennis
forehand pendulum serve table tennis

10. Backhand sidespin serve

Backhand serve is less used than the forehand serve. However, backhand serve provides many advantages.

Use the waist in your backhand serve
Use the waist in your backhand serve

Watch this video:

Learn the basic backhand serve in table tennis

Watch this video.

The most importance in the backhand serve, is the ability to add the underspin and the topspin with the same gesture. The advantage of the backhand serve, is that this serve is used by many defenders and many backhand dominant players.

backhand serve by Darko Jorgic (backhand dominant player)
backhand serve by Darko Jorgic (backhand dominant player)
Dimitrij Ovtcharov stands near the middle of the table
Dimitrij Ovtcharov stands near the middle of the table

And finally, the last fundamental skill is the backhand sidespin serve. It’s the least important skill but sometimes it can change the outcome of the match. Watch how Ma Long comes back after losing 0-2 to Lee Sangsu. Ma Long used the backhand serve which has completely changed the result of the match. Backhand side-spin serve gives you control of the placement and reduces the pace of the game. Having several types of service always help you to deal with critical situation. To become a better player, you should have several effective serves.

Learn the backhand serve will help you change the tactics during the match.

Ma Long revenge match vs Lee Sangsu (China vs Korea Busan 2013)

Watch this video.


That’s is the most important basic skill that beginners should master. The best way to Learn How to Play Table Tennis is by practicing these 10 Basic Table Tennis Strokes, which are adapted to modern table tennis.

So now, it’s up to you to practice more and master the basic level of table tennis.

Did you know that, there are 4 main footwork patterns in table tennis?

Chinese coaches focus a lot on footwork. Yes! That’s footwork that decides the quality of your shots, and also your next shots. That’s why Chinese kids always start playing table tennis by learning basic footwork.

If you want to learn more about why Chinese players are so good at table tennis, read the “secret training method in China”. Please share this coaching tutorial for every new player in your club.

©PINGSUNDAY. Unauthorized use, translation or duplication of this material is strictly prohibited. Link and excerpt may be used, provided that clear credit is given to PingSunday with the specific link to the original content.

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Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

34 thoughts on “Top 10 Fundamental Skills for Modern Table Tennis”

  1. Coach could you explain the difference between a forehand drive and a forehand loop? When should one prioticize one or the other? I can rally long forehand-forehand drive without much issues in warm up and training. But I notice I almost never use the forehand drive in games (I always loop). But I feel like sometimes I should have driven the ball, is that correct?

    Also other question, if somebody (beginner) started mastering the drive, how does he start learning to loop from the drive. What’s different in the movement compared to the drive, what drills can we do to practice both the drive and the loop (they’re both different right?).

    Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Jeff. A drive is to feel the ball, and learn the basic body movement. That’s why a new player should master the drive first. For the loop, you should drop your racket lower, and rotate more upward to spin the ball. The mechanism is almost similar.

  2. There are 4 types of footwork in table tennis. You should search for “table tennis footwork pingsunday” for this. The top players always move on their “toes” not their “heel”, so they should “quick jump” to gain the balance. This way, they can move faster. Regards, ERT

  3. Wow its really amazing.
    One question concerning footwork though…
    I see a lot of players including Ma Long give a quick jump after each shot. How do you do that and still have enough time for the next shot? I have watched the footwork videos and still cant grasp this.

  4. dear coach. Thank you for your article. I have introduced these basic table tennis techniques to my players in Japan. And they love it so much.

    • U cant you get what you pay for: Pay cheap get cheap. Mid-range get Mid-range. Pay expensive get stupidly good

  5. merci pour votre tuto. cela m a aidé bcp. jai gagné plus de 200 points avec vos vidéos (de 1300 à 1500)


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