**How to Strike the Ball with Accuracy**

The rules of Table Tennis state that when a ball is legally played and bounces on a player’s side of the table, the receiving player must return the ball to the opponent’s side before it bounces a second time, without sending it off the table or into the net.

This rule underscores that in competition, a player who can legally return the ball with greater accuracy stands a better chance of winning points and ultimately the game. Conversely, a player with a lower return percentage than their opponent may struggle.

Research into how to strike the ball with accuracy begins by examining the formation of the flight trajectory. On a table measuring 274cm x 152.5cm, with a 15.25cm high net in the middle, players must return the ball to their opponent's side regardless of the oncoming ball's placement - whether near or far from the net, with a high or low bounce, or with a certain type of spin. This forms the basis of our investigation into achieving accuracy in striking the ball.

If we closely observe the flight path of a Table Tennis ball during a match, it is evident that balls landing on the table with no curvature (a straight line) in their flight path (see diagram 1) are less frequent than those with a curvature in their trajectory. This occurs because only when the oncoming ball is placed farther from the net and has a lower bounce, must a suitable curvature be created in the flight path to avoid hitting the net or sending the ball off the table (see diagram 2), thereby achieving a higher return percentage. The trajectory of a Table Tennis ball in flight is determined by the maximum height of the curve and the distance travelled.

**2: The maximum height of trajectory** (MHT) represents the highest point of the flight path of the ball, while the distance travelled (DT) is the distance between the point of contact by the player’s bat and the point at which the ball lands (see diagram **3).** **The force of gravity** influences the ball's trajectory, pulling it toward the ground, while air resistance also plays a role.

The trajectory of the ball also depends on factors such as the direction of the force applied when the ball is struck, the angle of the bat at the time of impact, the amount of force exerted onto the ball, the type of spin imparted on the ball, and the characteristics of the oncoming ball.

**3: Direction of Force and Its Impact on the Trajectory**

At the moment of impact, the direction of the force is aligned with the direction in which the bat travels. This force can be directed forward, forward and upward, or forward and downward. Different directions of force result in varying heights of trajectory (MHT) and distances (DT).

An example helps illustrate the relationship between the height of trajectory (MHT) and distance (DT):

**A:** If the oncoming ball bounces higher than the net, it should be struck with a forward and downward force to lower the MHT and reduce the DT, thereby preventing the ball from going out (see diagram 4).

**B:** If the oncoming ball bounces lower than the net or is allowed to drop below table height, it should be struck with forward and upward force in order to increase the MHT and reduce the DT, thus preventing the ball from going long (see diagram 5). This is the force to use when practicing the High Loop and High Lob.

**4: The Angle of the Bat**

When striking the ball, the point of contact varies depending on the bat's angle. The bat may make contact with the top, bottom, or middle of the ball, or anywhere in between (e.g., top-middle, bottom-middle).

These different contact points result in varying heights of trajectory and lengths of DT. For example:

- When the same amount of force is applied in the same direction, a closed bat angle would make contact with the upper part of the ball. This action lowers the MHT and reduces the length of DT of the ball. The closer the bat angle, the lower the MHT and the shorter the DT.
- Conversely, an open bat angle would make contact with the lower part of the ball (bottom-middle), increasing the MHT and the DT. The more open the bat angle, the higher the MHT but the shorter the DT.

As practical experience supports these principles, we may conclude that:

**When the oncoming ball bounces higher than the net**or when it is taken on the upward bounce, and when the oncoming ball has heavy topspin, the bat should be closed or very closed to lower the MHT and shorten the DT. This action compensates for the upward catapult effect, preventing the ball from going long or out. This method is effective when killing a ball that bounces high near the net.**When the oncoming ball bounces lower than the net**or when it is taken below the height of the table, the bat should not be too open if you intend to attack the ball, as it may result in the ball going into the net. The point of contact should be the middle top, with an upward force added to increase the maximum height of the trajectory and avoid sending the ball into the net.**Similarly,****when the oncoming ball bounces lower than the net**or when it is taken below the height of the table, the bat should not be too open if you intend to attack the ball, as it may result in the ball going into the net. The point of contact should be the middle top, with an upward force added to increase the maximum height of the trajectory and avoid sending the ball into the net.**When the oncoming ball bounces higher than the net**, the bat angle should not be opened too much when chopping, as this would result in the ball going long. The point of contact should be the middle bottom, with a downward force added to lower the MHT and prevent the ball from going out.

**5: Effect of Force Variation on Trajectory**

** **The amount of force applied to the ball varies the acceleration of the ball on its flight path. Greater force results in greater speed, while lesser force leads to lesser speed. The speed of the ball also affects its trajectory. For example:

**A: When a constant upward and forward force is applied**, the ball travels faster when struck with greater force. This increases the maximum height of the trajectory and lengthens the distance DT. Conversely, the ball travels slower when hit with lesser force, which lowers the MHT and shortens the DT.

Practical experience and these principles show that **when the oncoming ball is far from the net** and bounces low, it should be struck with increased force. This increased ball speed results in a higher MHT and lengthens the DT, ensuring adequate height and length of return. This method is effective when playing attacking shots away from the table and chopping balls away from the table.

**B: When the distance DT is constant**, greater force results in faster ball speed but lower MHT. Conversely, weaker force leads to slower ball speed but higher MHT.

Practical experience and these principles demonstrate that using greater force to lower the MHT and shorten the DT works reasonably well only when the oncoming ball is near the net and high. However, if the oncoming ball bounces at net-high or lower, the success rate significantly decreases, to the point where the ball may not even make it onto the opponent’s table.

**Using lesser force to increase the trajectory**and shorten the distance DT increases the success rate. However, due to the return's slower speed and higher bounce, it provides an easy opportunity for the opponent to attack. This is why using flat hits or lifts and drives (producing little or no spin on the ball when hitting it) is not advisable.

**6: The Effect of Different Spin on Trajectory**

When hitting a ball and applying spin (topspin, backspin, sidespin, etc.), it affects the trajectory.

**The Effect of Topspin and Backspin on Trajectory:**

**A:** When the direction of force is constant, introducing topspin onto the ball lowers the MHT and shortens the distance DT. The stronger the topspin, the lower the MHT.

Conversely, if backspin is produced, it lengthens the distance DT and increases the MHT. The stronger the backspin, the higher the MHT, to the extent that it may even cause an inverted trajectory or the ball coming back on itself.

**B: When the distance DT is constant**, hitting the ball with a certain amount of topspin requires the MHT to be suitably raised to clear the net. The stronger the topspin, the higher the MHT needs to be raised to compensate for the suppression of MHT by topspin. Conversely, if the ball is hit with a certain amount of backspin, the MHT must be suitably lowered to compensate for the amplification of trajectory by backspin.

The greater the backspin, the more we need to lower the height of the trajectory.

These principles, combined with the point of contact and bat angle, have different impacts on the trajectory.

To utilize spin effectively in altering the line of trajectory and improving accuracy, it is advantageous to employ a certain amount of topspin when executing attacking shots. Topspin not only enhances trajectory and speed but also significantly improves accuracy by increasing the rate of successful returns, particularly against balls near or below the net. Topspin assists in modifying and elevating the trajectory, enabling the ball to clear the net, while simultaneously shortening and manipulating the distance DT for enhanced control.

Many players execute strong loops or compact light topspin shots with a higher ball trajectory and a shorter distance DT, achieving a high rate of accuracy by effectively harnessing the impact of topspin.

Many fast-attacking players often opt to hit the ball flat and without topspin, necessitating a lower flight path to shorten the distance DT. While this method has a reasonable success rate against balls that bounce higher than the net, it is much less successful against balls that bounce lower than the net.

Introducing a small amount of topspin by applying friction against the ball when flat hitting can create more trajectories and thus improve accuracy.

Conversely, hitting a ball with backspin does not contribute to creating a better trajectory or greater speed. Choppers, therefore, must raise the maximum height of the trajectory enough to achieve the necessary clearance over the net when playing balls near the net or balls that bounce lower than the net. At the same time, they must reduce the ball speed to shorten the distance DT, thus preventing the ball from going into the net or long.

**Conclusion:**

Through analysis, it can be concluded that trajectory and flight path, along with their variations, are highly complex. Before deciding how to make a return, factors such as the distance from the net, height of bounce (high or low), type of spin on the ball, and timing (early or late) must be considered.

During the return, attention must be paid to the combined impact on trajectory created by the direction of force, bat angle, amount of force and spin, and nature of the oncoming ball to create an appropriate trajectory and achieve greater accuracy.

Considering the different demands on the direction of force and bat angle for attacking and defending shots, as well as the distinct impacts of topspin and backspin, there are fundamental differences in the method for creating trajectory when playing these types of shots.

**1: Attacking Shots and Production of Trajectory**

**A: When the oncoming ball is near the net** and high, trajectory is less critical. By applying forward and downward force with the correct point of contact (middle top), good accuracy can be easily achieved.

**B: When the oncoming ball is far from the net and high**, a certain MHT must be created for the trajectory, and the DT must be suitably shortened. This is accomplished by taking the correct point of contact (middle top), applying forward and a slight upward force, and introducing friction to create a certain amount of topspin. This method improves accuracy in this situation.

**C: When the oncoming ball is far from the net** and low, raising the height of trajectory and suitably lengthening the distance DT is necessary. The point of contact should be middle or middle top, with the direction of force being forward and upward. Increasing the amount of force helps avoid the ball going into the net.

**D:** When the oncoming ball is near the net and low, a higher MHT must be created to shorten the DT. The point of contact should be middle top, with the direction of force being upward and forward. Introducing friction to impart a certain amount of topspin helps avoid playing the ball long. Less force should be applied when the ball is closer to the net to shorten the DT.

**E: When the oncoming ball carries strong topspin**, lowering the MHT is necessary to shorten the DT. The point of contact should be middle top or even near top, with the direction of force being forward or forward and downward. Increasing the amount of force when making the return helps prevent the ball from going long.

**F: When the oncoming ball carries strong backspin**, raising the MHT is necessary to lengthen the DT. The point of contact should be middle or middle bottom, with the direction of force being upward and forward. Increasing the amount of force when making the return helps prevent the ball from going into the net.

I have deliberately included instructions on defensive strategies and techniques for playing against choppers or players who use strong backspin. This is in preparation for the possibility of facing such opponents in future matches, even though there are currently no players in the UK who can produce strong backspin due to their poor technique and improper use of equipment.

I urge readers to study this section with the same level of dedication as they would their regular academic subjects, in order to fully understand and implement these strategies into their game effectively.

Until next time, play Right.

Javad Ameri