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Table Manners

The Download on Online Table Tennis

Table tennis straddles that fine line between a highly-rigourous, competitive sport and child’s play. But because of being part of both camps, it’s universal appeal is undeniable. From childhood showdowns, to fraternity party antics to Olympic super-stardom, table tennis is in a class by itself. (Put those applications together and it’s no wonder Olympic table tennis players reputedly throw the most sought-after parties during the summer games.)

Online table tennis is certainly nothing new (you can thank Pong for that), but there are some versions definitley looking into to get your modern-day fix. But before the advent of the laptop, table tennis was (and still is) the ultimate table game. It originated in England as an after dinner “walk-it-off” for upper class Victorians in the 1880s who couldn’t be bothered to loosen up their corsets to play regular tennis. It was all very improvised in those days as everyday objects were used: lined-up books served as the net, a rounded top of a Champagne cork or knot of string was the ball, and a cigar box lids were the paddles or bats. Paddles then evolved as pieces of parchment stretched over frames. The sound generated by these paddles gave the game the nicknames “whiff whaff” and “ping pong.”

Not sure what became of whiff whaff, but ping pong has come a long way since its fop-and-dandy origins. The International Table Tennis Federation (www.ittf.com) was founded in 1926 and table tennis was introduced as an Olympic sport at the summer games in Seoul in 1988. Levels of the game have certainly evolved as well with ball spin, speed, strategy and tactics consistently pushing mental and physical boundaries. Ball speed can reach 100 mph.

Now the trick to being a successful online ping pong pro is a responsive, familiar mouse. From there the sky’s the limit. There are a lot of versions to choose from. Mini Clip (miniclip.com) has some tough opponents and delivers a fast-paced game with authentic sounds. Taking the competition up a notch is King Ping Pong on Funny Games (www.funny-games.biz). Again the sounds copy the proper celluloid ball rhythm. And whoever controlls the paddle on the other side of this table has some serious chops. Definitely a steep learning curve here.

The game at Free World Group (freeworldgroup.com) is more basic graphically speaking but still delivers varying level of challenges. You can also see the ball through the hovering paddle, which provides better “mouse/eye” coordination and gives you that extra split-second to make a shot selection.
But as devoted you are to it, don’t take yourself too seriously. So maintain a healthy sense of humor if you aspire to be the world’s, or neighborhood’s, best player.

Know Your: Table Tennis Shots

Offense
Speed Drive
The racket is perpendicular to the direction of the stroke, and most of the energy applied to the ball results in power rather than spin, so the ball doesn’t arc much. A speed drive applies pressure on the opponent and may open up an opportunity for a more powerful attack.

Loop Drive
Reverse of the speed drive. The racket is much more parallel to the direction of the stroke and the racket grazes the ball, resulting in a large amount of topspin. Once striking the opponent’s side of the table, a good loop drive will jump dramatically, like a kick serve in tennis.

Counter Drive
Counter attack against drives. Close the racket, stay close to the ball and hit the ball on the rise. A well-timed, accurate counterdrive can be as effective as a smash.

Flip
When a player tries to attack a ball that hasn’t bounced beyond the edge of the table, he doesn’t have room for a backswing. The ball may still be attacked, however, and this shot is called a flip because the backswing is compressed into a quick wrist action.

Smash
The offensive trump card in table tennis. A player will typically execute a smash when the opponent has returned a ball that bounces too high and/or too close to the net. It requires only two things: a large backswing and rapid acceleration imparting as much speed down on the ball as possible.

Defense

Slice (aka the Push)
The slice, resembling a tennis slice, is analogous to the speed drive in some respects. It’s usually used to keep the point alive and create offensive opportunities. While not immediately obvious, a slice can be difficult to attack because the backspin on the ball causes it to drop after striking the opponent’s racket.

Chop
A chop or cut is the defensive, backspin counterpart to the offensive loop drive. A chop is essentially a bigger, heavier slice, taken well back from the table. The racket face points primarily horizontally, and the direction of the stroke is straight down. The object of a defensive chop is to match the topspin of the opponent's shot with your own racket speed.

Block
The block is barely a "stroke," but nonetheless can be devastating against an attacking opponent. A block is executed by simply putting the racket in front of the ball, using your opponents pace against him. This is not as easy as it sounds, because the ball's spin, speed, and location all influence the correct angle of a block. Due to the power involved in offensive strokes, often an opponent simply cannot recover quickly enough, and will be unable to return a block.

Lob
Visually impressive yet deceptive in its simplicity. To execute a lob, a defensive player first backs off the table around 10 feet or more, then the player lifts the ball to an enormous height before it falls back to the opponent's side of the table. A lob is inherently a creative shot, and can have nearly any kind of spin. Though the opponent may smash the ball hard and fast, a good defensive lob can be even harder to return due to the unpredictability of the ball’s spin.

Stop
Stop (or drop shot) is a high level stroke, used as another variation for close-to-table strokes. Position the body close to the ball and just let the ball touch the racket so the ball stays close to the net with almost no speed or spin. This stroke should be used when opponents are far from the table.
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