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Table Tennis, Reading Spin and the Amount of Spin?

Most players can read table tennis spin, for example when someone cuts under the ball, they know its backspin, when they hit the side of the ball they know it’s side-spin. But a large proportion of players struggle to read the amount of spin imparted.

We may misread what spin has been implemented when receiving high-quality serve’s. Players may struggle to read what spin is on the ball, due to deceptive movements or a slight variation of contact points.

Spin in table tennis is like no other sport
Table Tennis Spin


Why do so many people make unforced errors?

I coach many players of all levels and I’ve found that players miss due to a misunderstanding of revolutions. Meaning they miss read the amount of spin. A ball can spin up to 120 times per second and if we are unable to detect the approximate quantity, it will lead to an unseemly error.

So how can we detect and develop our awareness of spin quantity?
  1. Look at the ball carefully in mid-flight, can you see the logo? If not most likely it has a lot of spin. If you have good eyes you’ll see the ball fizzing with spin, use that indication to play the correct stroke.
  2. The flight of the ball: is the ball curling in the air? Is it kicking forward? All of them indicate a lot of spin which creates, those flight pathways.
  3. Sound: try to listen to the contact imparted by the opponent; is it a clunky/woody sound? Or a thin grip screech? The later generally indicates spin and vice versa.
  4. Watching the hand and arm prior and at contact point; is there plenty of backswing? Good follow through? Is the hand moving fast but the wrist is locked? Does the wrist snap just before the point of contact? Does the player decelerate before point of contact? They are all giveaway tails towards reading whether there’s a lot of spin medium amount or very little!
A simple exercise to help you read the amount of spin

Do a backspin serve and ask the opponent to receive using: heavy/medium/little amount of backspin. You must look carefully using at all the indications mentioned above to identify how much spin is imparted. Then follow up with a topspin and adapt to the spin accordingly. E.g. if there is lots of backspin you will need to hit the back of the ball around 9pm contact point. You will also need to have a more open bat angle with and increase your arm speed enabling you to lift the ball up and over the net.  You will create (an override from the spin given) and will be transferred into your own topspin.

The better you understand spin the easier the game becomes.

And as my old coach always said, “Spin to Win”

A small video to help you develop thin contact on the ball imparting spin, click here.

Written by Eli Baraty
eBaTT (Eli Baraty Academy of Table Tennis)
Coach Me Table Tennis 
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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Marcus

    I have been waiting for this one,thank you so much.
    Is there a dedicated exercise to help
    Shifting your focus from bat movement towards eyeballing the trajectory of the coming ball?
    I understand you get the audible trigger by hearing the sound of the ball leaving the racket, so after this all you need ro take into account is bat follow through ,but your focus then is observing ball trajectory as you have to position your body mass correctly for the incoming ball.
    Observing the ball during its flight , the trajectory and visibility of logo is there to confirm or correct your estimates from cues you gathered before …but hell you need to commit to a proper reaction at some point ,I feel many do not really understand when it is about time to decide which is your next stroke …so they are late and do their instinct stroke -which is a counterhit ,obviously the worst choice in a scenario of unability to read the spin you are going to experience in a few milliseconds…

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