PingPod #34 - Can You Escape the Ping Pong Zone?

Table Tennis Thoughts

Table Tennis is a strange game. It’s not like Diving or Gymnastics where you are judged on how your technique looks. What matters in table tennis is keeping the ball on the table one more time than your opponent. There is an area that one PingSkiller refers to as the ping pong zone. Watch this video to see what we are talking about and how to escape it.

Have you entered the Ping Pong Zone? Leave a comment to let us know about your experiences.

Posted 11 years ago

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Lee Morris

Lee Morris Posted 8 years ago

I play in two venues: the first, a county-wide TT club where decent levels of classic form rule and where one only wins by playing in that fashion. The other is at the clubhouse in the senior community where i live, where i win regularly but occasionally lose to players, all of whose serves are "illegal" and who one or tow of whom could be describe as, "whackers" - they try to kill every shot. And, the worst one lives by Jimmy Connors claim that he hates to lose (even one point) more than he loves to win so he constantly berates himself when he misses one that even a much better player would also miss. After a year of this, i've 1) learned to deal pretty effectively with all the junk thrown at me and 2), learned to relax and just accept that some shots will  just get by me. And ... my game has improved and i'm having fun in both places.

I really enjoy your site and have learned a lot. Thanks,

Lee in Eugene, Oregon

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 8 years ago

Hi Lee,

Thanks for your sharing.  Sounds like you are in a good place with you game.  Glad you are enjoying and benefiting from the site.

Manfred Rolfsmeier

Manfred Rolfsmeier Posted 8 years ago

For me there there is a similar frustrating dimension and that is the form on the day. Sometimes my play just doesn´t work and even after some contemplation I haven´t got a clue why.  The only thing that´s for sure is that there´s nothing I can do about it. Maybe some day it will dawn on me that it is as it is. How do I get there ;-)

Eddie Cronin

Eddie Cronin Posted 8 years ago

Great video. I've said this so many times and it's refreshing to know that it's a common thought. 

I completely agree with what you say Alois. First, keep playing your correct style. Even if it isn't working yet, it

will eventually become more refined than the style that the unorthodox person has been using for years (assuming that

you are working on refining your game). 

Also playing the lower levels is a great way to prepare yourself for strange styles. I've recently been smoked by

a simple undisguised topspin serve and a totally undisguised no spin serve. It's because I don't play enough people who do those serves. 

When you come upon them though and they surprise you, they take you from unconscious, relaxed play to conscious over thinking play - which can mess

you up.

Great video and advice - thanks!  

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 8 years ago

Thanks Eddie.  Some really good thoughts there too.  When you are taken out of your unconscious state because you are seeing something different, you do tighten up.

Yes it is nice to know you are not alone when facing these “demons" yell

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 8 years ago

Hi Manfred,

I think accepting that some days are better than others is the key but also very difficult when you are having those bad days.  It probably comes with time… haven’t totally got there yet!

Francisco Fiuza

Francisco Fiuza Posted 8 years ago

I struggle with that a lot too, specially against long-medium pimple and anti-spin rubbers. By the time I get used to the different spin I'm already 2 sets down. 

I need to include long pimple into my training routine, and play more of those players which are a not so common. 

I also notice that as people get old and start losing games they put a long pimple on the backhand and start winning again!

this is a very funny video and I sort of share the feeling of those junk rubbers:

But the bottom line is I need to keep improving my strokes and don't bother about different styles and rubbers. They actually add more variables to the game and make it more interesting!

Vijay Madge

Vijay Madge Posted 8 years ago

Hi Alois, Great video discussion. Yes, I go through such 'irritating' encounters practically everyday in our colony club house. Players who don't have even basic game and all awkward style of play soon come to challenge and eventually to overpower you! It happened with me a couple of years ago. and in such frustrating moments even Lady Luck seems to smile on them and frown on us! They get all the net cords and sneaks with all their ugly strokes and our minor mistakes such as the angle of the bat go unforgiven! After a lot of thought I came to the conclusion that the the fault is not in our stars but in us that we play so casually and considerately with them. No, we have to play as mercilessly with them as we can. I tried all my spin services on them, increased my speed and meticulously alternated the flanks. And that fixed the problem. But yes as Bud said the "ping pong zone" is indeed a highly painful and frustrating experience. 

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 8 years ago

Thanks Francisco.  Yes Greg Letts in his series on Youtube does bring up some interesting points.  This one is done well too.

Thanks for your input and sharing your experiences too Vijay.

Binder Athwal

Binder Athwal Posted 8 years ago

Love this one - sounds like great advice Alois. I've been playing for 6 months on the social scene and I have seen players like you mentioned. Their total emphasis seems to be on winning the game. I was getting sucked into it too and started to play similarly however this is a apt reminder :) In the long term - good technique is key.

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 8 years ago

Nice one Binder.


MD SHAKEB Posted 8 years ago

Thanks alot

kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 8 years ago

Thank's. Trying to remember to focus on the conventional strokes to remain consistant as a better player! 

Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 8 years ago

Good idea Kathy. Keep working on those conventional strokes, it will pay off in the long run!

Mike Viam

Mike Viam Posted 7 years ago

As a former fighter and a coach in a sport, where you could actually got beaten up (full contact karate), I have seen many bloody faces of those that thought of superiority over some weird looking (and acting) fighters. At the end, anyway, there is always a question: What is your goal in whatever you  are doing?!!!  And throughout my active years I learnt that most important thing in any indivdual sport:  One can loose a point, a set or round, even a match, but you will never got beaten up. There is always next time, next opportunity to better yourself and win!  But, only if you are true to yourself and your technic!

So, in short, I think that applies to table tennis too.

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

Interesting ideas there Mike.  So true that technique is important and in Table Tennis you won't suffer physically if you lose... perhaps just hurts the ego.

Ilia Minkin

Ilia Minkin Posted 7 years ago

I don't know if it relates to Ping Pong Zone... How do you mentally deal with your opponent doing seemingly crazy shots and getting away with them at some point? Here is an example. I once played a kid with medium pips on backhand. I used the following tactics: serve some sidespin to his backhand, then pivot and topspin heavily there again. It worked in first two games very well. At some point he started to step around smash my topspins. First, he missed a lot and that is what I expected. I thought that he tried to scare me. But at some point the kid started to hit those smashes for winners! At first I didn't believe my eyes, I thought it was just a chain of lucky events, but I eventually lost 2-3.

So how to find if my opponent really adjusted to my shots or he just pulled out a few lucky crapshoots?

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

Hi Ilia,

This can be frustrating but also if you think about it as an overall picture, you will win.  He may have won on the day but if you maintain that system you will win more matches than you lose.

Perhaps during the match try to change the speed and spin as much as you can to upset his rhythm.

Ilia Minkin

Ilia Minkin Posted 7 years ago

Yes, I should have adjusted... I just couldn't believe that he put those shots on the table. That is also a kind of underestimation of the opponent and his ability to adjust and get used to the rhythm.

kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 7 years ago

Thank you alois and jeff you encourage me!!  had doubles tournament. Did not win a match,   we should have but lost points into the net.  won 2 games low rank,  however, feel more confident with your pingskills advise. Although it is difficult to remember all of the strategies!    

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

Well done Kathy.  You don't have to remember everything.  Just try to keep moving your game up a level.

kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 7 years ago

Thank you for your encouragement!!

tony storer

tony storer Posted 7 years ago

I hope not too many of my opponents see your blog. my reactions are not fast and so I play a lot of slice to try to slow the game to my level. I have been watching the pingskills video's to play more in the classic style. with not too much success at the moment.but i'll keep trying' anyway we can't have best players winning all the time.

Jesse Rosenberg

Jesse Rosenberg Posted 7 years ago

 I have this happen to me when I play Co workers.  Good encouragement to watch this video. I'll just keep working on improving my game using correct technique.  

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

Glad it helped you out Jesse.

Mary Lei

Mary Lei Posted 7 years ago

I went to my round robin almost every Saturday. Most of the time I played younger players and I recognize their strokes and shots so I know what to do. I even took a game or two from good players. But this past Saturday, I encountered two older men that played very well. One of them out lasted me so I need to do better. The other is 82 years old, and has very fast and long serves that knocked me out each time. Also the way he stroked the balls back is unconventional. He said it is a hook (he is left-handed). So I was just totally out from playing with him and unable to do the strokes I was trained to do. Later when we practize, the serves turned out to be fast top spins so if I was in position and attacked very fast, he would not be able to return. Yes, I agree with Alois, we need to learn to read spin and improve our techniques even more. But at my age of 65, time is running out.

Joey Butt

Joey Butt Posted 6 years ago

This is spot on I love it! 

I’ve been playing for a year and a half now and halfway through my second season in devision 3 (bottom devision).

After having a pretty good first season as a beginniner, I managed to develop enough to challenge devision 2 and 1 players. I was offered a place at the end of last year in the devision above because my teammates said I was too good for the 3rd team which was kind of them but I thought about it and  said if i was too good why am I losing to some players that play such strange shots that really go against all the table tennis techniques and don’t look that good when observing them play. So I decided to stay in the 3rd team one more year to learn how to beat them. I thought there is no point in moving on if I’ll always be weak against these players and I was determined to work out how to overcome them.

Sure enough this year I’ve already won 75% more games at this stage compared to the last season and I’m sure that’s with the help of ping skills. 

These players that play in a different dimension or whatever it was from the video ? really don’t have much more to offer in a game apart from what you see. Rarely they will change their style or try different spin and 100% of serves are illegal (at least they are in my league) - which Gives them an advantage instantly when serving, I don’t like to complain to umpires much as I find it unsportsmanlike. I’ve realised though they all like to play very close to the table, lots of blocking and moving the ball side to side quickly but as soon as they get forced back they are hopeless. They rely on keeping the ball low so you can’t hit through it or easily loop it and it’s always close to the net, almost like chop drop shots every every every every time which is reeeeaaallly boring and frustrating and used to get the better of me for exactly those reasons. I would rush and try and force a shot which wasn’t possible and lose the point each time.

This year I’m more calm and realise if I can wait for just 1 chance to push these short balls deep, they can’t block it as there isn’t enough pace so they do a different shot which 90% of the time goes deeper because they don’t have the technique or ability to keep it short when pushed back. From this shot you’re then freeeeeee! You’ve broken that short drop shot game they play and opened up your options. I usually follow this shot up with a deep loop (which most would attack back to me but they stay to their one game plan) and they do what they always do, misread the spin, try pushing it back and it’s going to sit up nice and high for a nice big smash into the corner. It’s been working so far and looking forward to ending the season on a high and moving up a division. Ping skills is right though they are limited, how often do you see these type of players in the higher divisions? They’ve built up a little gang in my devision 3 the bottom division and they can’t escape it because of their limits. I need to escape before they turn me into the dark side and teach me their wicked evil ways. 

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 6 years ago

Haha brilliant Joey.

Gicu Arama

Gicu Arama Posted 6 years ago

This issue is the main reason I've joined PingSkills. I am really frustated when I lose games against this kind of players. Since I've returned to the TT after more than 20 years of pause, I lost ALL 11 points sets I played in those three tournaments I took part! 0-3, 0-3, 0-3...... In the inferior groups, never qualified to the next level groups! Maybe 25% of my opponents were better than me, but the rest...? And I'm not a bad player.  Once, after a lost game against a young and good player who came along with his coach, the coach after he congratulated his player, touched my shoulder and told me: "you play well, but inefficient!" After that I decided to join PingSkills. This video is exactly what I need. Thank you, PingSkills and many thanks to all of you who posted here your thoughts. I've learned a lot from your experience!

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 6 years ago

Glad it is all helping you.

BT Tan

BT Tan Posted 1 year ago

Sound very familiar to me...

Brian Sheasby

Brian Sheasby Posted 1 year ago

Great video. Thank you. It's so true. I had this same problem at first with the group I joined. Being able to recognise the weaknesses in those opponents with a limited technique and concentrating and persisting with my correct technique (thanks to PingSkills!) was what did it for me. Also, sometimes at first I would try too hard and end up making too many mistakes. Then discovered that by maintaining my better technique, no matter what, plus keeping the ball in play, it was then my opponents who started (and still do) to make the most mistakes. I've also realised that at an amateur level, games are often won on mistakes rather than on winners.

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 1 year ago

That is great Brian. Glad you got something out of it. 

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