Table Tennis Dictionary

Here is a list of table tennis terms that are explained in the Dictionary:


Anti-spin Rubbers

Anti-spin rubbers have practically no grip (in some cases absolutely none) and this has very confusing effects on the ball. The ball's spin will come back reversed. So if the opponent gives you topspin, and you block with an anti-spin rubber, it will return to him/her as underspin. Many players are confused by this effect and will misplay the ball, either popping it up high for an easy smash, or putting it into the net.

The 729 804 is an anti-spin rubber.

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The blade is the wooden racket without the rubber sheets attached. It is simply wood (or a combination of various woods of different characteristics) or may have composite materials like carbon, arylate, kevlar, etc.

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Blade Flex

Blades with more flex are very springy and can generate more power on power loops, especially further away from the table. Flexy blades can generate more spin than stiff blades and can make it easier to loop heavy underspin. Flexy blades can be harder to control for some. Stiff and flexy are opposites.

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Blade Stiffness

Stiff blades don't generate as much spin as flexy blades, but are more controllable for flatter contact (like smashes). Usually you'll want something between stiff and flexy.

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Carbon plies are used in some blades to increase the speed of the racket, without increasing the weight. Carbon generally makes a blade stiffer, and enlarges the sweet spot. Despite these benefits, many players (including some top professionals) prefer wood blades. Also, some carbon blades are not fast (such as the Dawei GTS.

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Chinese Penhold Handle

Chinese Penhold The Chinese Penhold handle is the typical Penhold handle which is shorter than a Shakehand handle. The other penhold handle is the Japanese Penhold.

See the Handles term for all the handle types.

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"Cho!" is a common Chinese phrase that some players yell out after winning an intense point.

Etiquette Tip: Cho's should be used sparingly. Constantly cho'ing, cho'ing at the top of your lungs, and cho'ing after winning a point by an edge ball, net ball, or opponent's unforced error can be considered rude or inappropriate.

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Drop Shot

A drop shot is when the opponent is far from the table, lobbing the ball back to you, and you try to block the ball gently to keep it as short as possible, making the opponent run in frantically to play the ball. The ideal drop shot will bounce twice on the opponent's side so the ball won't even go off the edge for the opponent to dig it up.

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Flared Handle

The Flared handle looks like bell-bottom pants: it gets wider towards the bottom of the handle. Most blades here come in the Flared handle.

Flared handle

See the Handles term for all the handle types.

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There are several different handles for a racket or blade:

  1. Flared
  2. Straight
  3. Chinese Penhold
  4. Japanese Penhold

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Japanese Penhold Handle

The Japanese Penhold handle is a type of Penhold handle with an added cork block for a slightly different grip. This block gives some added stability at the expense of reduced flexibility.

Japanese Penhold handle

See the Handles term for all the handle types.

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Lobbing is when you stand far from the table and return the ball very high. The common situation is that the opponent is close to the table smashing the ball at you, and you are standing further away lobbing it back very high in the air.

A good lob has the following characteristics:

  1. it has a lot of topspin
  2. it is very high
  3. it lands on the far edge of the opponent's side of the table (the end furthest away from you)
These characteristics will make it more more difficult for the opponent to consistently smash back at you.

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The "loop" is a stroke that generates a lot of topspin (with either the forehand or backhand). There are slower, spinnier loops as well as faster but not as spinny loops. The loop style is the most popular playing style in table tennis.

Watch some Loop Training Videos.

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A no-spin ball is one that has no spin (or very little spin). No-spin serves are effective as part of a strategy that includes many spinny serves of all kinds including no-spin to mix it up and confuse the opponent.

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This is an incorrect term for a "rubber sheet". Rubber sheets can be referred to as "a rubber" or "a rubber sheet".

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Penhold Grip

Penhold Grip Penhold is the Asian-style grip of holding the racket, where the head of the racket is facing down and is held the way a person holds a pen. Often penhold players don't use a rubber sheet on the backhand side and only play with the forehand side of the paddle. Penhold blades have a shorter handle than Shakehand blades.

If you don't have a coach, I strongly recommend playing the Shakehand grip style since the Penhold grip is much harder to master on your own.

See Shakehand Grip.

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Pips / Pimpled Rubber

Pimpled rubbers or Pips (some people mistakenly call them "nipples", "nips", or "pimps") have raised tubes in a uniform pattern, and produce different effects. See the How to Choose a Racket page to learn more about the differences between Short Pips, Medium Pips, and Long Pips.

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The push is a stroke where you chop the ball, but do it over the table. If you stand further away from the table and chop, then that's simply a "chop", not a push. Contrary to popular opinion, the push is not a block.

Watch some Push Training Videos.

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Topsheet and Sponge The rubber is the "pad" that sits on the racket face and makes contact with the ball. Most rubbers have lots of grip for creating devastating spins, though the exception is the Anti-spin rubber which is very slippery. Rubbers may or may not be attached to a sponge.

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Shakehand Grip

Shakehand Grip The "shakehand" grip is the typical European type grip where the head of the racket faces up, and your hand looks like it's ready to shake someone's hand. Shakehand blades have longer handles than Penhold blades.

If you don't have a coach, I strongly recommend playing the Shakehand grip style since the Penhold grip is much harder to master on your own.

See Penhold Grip.

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Sidespin rotates to the side (either clockwise or counter-clockwise when looking at the ball from above).
When your opponent tries to block your sidespin, the ball will fly to the side after hitting the racket.

You can see that a ball has heavy sidespin when you see it curve to the side as it is flying.

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Spin is the rotation of the ball. Rubber sheets with more grip will generate more spin. Tacky rubbers are a bit sticky and will generate even more spin.

There are several types of spin:

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Topsheet and Sponge The sponge is made of a spongy material (obviously) and sits under the rubber topsheet. The sponge lets the ball sink in and catapult out, which is what increases the spin and power of the rubber. The harder and thicker the sponge, the faster it is. The thinner and softer, the slower it is.

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Sponge Hardness

Rubbers come with sponges with varying hardnesses. Harder sponges will give you more speed, but less spin. Softer sponges will let the ball sink in deeper, and generate more spin with less speed. Sponge hardness is measured in degrees:

Soft up to 35°
Medium Soft 40°
Medium 42°
Hard 45°
Very Hard 47°+

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Sponge Thickness

Rubbers come with sponges with varying thicknesses. Thicker sponges can generate more speed and spin while thinner ones are easier to control, making less spin and speed. Most rubbers come in 2.2mm thickness only.

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Straight Handle

The Straight handle is a Shakehand handle that is the same width along the entire handle, unlike the Flared handle which gets wider at the bottom of the handle.

See the Handles term for all the handle types.

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Tackiness / Tacky

Tackiness is how "sticky" a rubber is. Most Chinese rubbers have some level of tackiness where you can lift up a ball by simply pressing the rubber on top of the ball, and raising it up. Non-tacky rubbers don't have this stickiness and will never pick up a ball, but they still have grip, so they can still generate a lot of spin on your shots, but not as much as tacky rubbers. Most Japanese and European rubbers are grippy but not tacky.

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Throw Angle

The throw angle is the angle that the ball flies off the racket off of your stroke. For example, when you perform a topspin loop stroke, a high throw angle rubber will propel the ball higher, and a low throw angle rubber will propel it lower. So with high throw angle rubbers you often have to adjust your stroke to be lower to compensate for the high throw angle. And for low throw angle rubbers, you have to swing higher to get the ball over the net.

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Topspin rotates towards the opponent. For example (non-table-tennis-related), if you roll a ball on the ground towards another person, the spin of that ball is topspin, except in table tennis the ball will be spinning in the air instead of rolling on the ground.

If your opponent tries to block your topspin, the ball will pop upward when it hits their racket.

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Topspin rotates away from the opponent, back at you. If you give underspin to your opponent, the ball will start to come back at you after a few bounces (if it can manage to stay on the table for a few bounces).

If your opponent tries to block your underspin, the ball will go downward when it hits their racket.

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