How to Curve a Ping Pong Ball
The first ping pong shots you’ll typically learn are straight forehands and backhands. Once you’re comfortable with those standard shots, however, it’s time to learn how to curve the ball. Curving your shots to the right or left may fool your opponent, and forces him to account for the ball’s spin when he sets up for a return. The fundamentals of curving the ball are easy to learn, and with some practice you can begin running your ping pong opponents right and left at will.
Hold the paddle at the same height at which you plan to hit the ball, as you’re setting up for your return. The paddle’s hitting surface should be about parallel with the net.
Move the paddle to either the right or left of the ball’s anticipated path. A right-handed player, for example, should hold the paddle to the left of the ball to hit a simple curving backhand or to the right of the ball’s path for a curving forehand.
Swing your arm sideways and slightly forward to strike the back of the ball. For a right-hander's backhand shot, for example, start your swing from the left of the ball and finish your follow-through well to the right. The ball will curve to your left. A sidespin forehand will cause the ball to curve to the right. You’ll hit the ball harder, but with less curve, the farther forward your paddle travels prior to impact.
Forehand Topspin Curve
Hold the paddle below the height at which you plan to hit the ball as you’re setting up for your return.
Raise or drop your wrist as the ball approaches, depending on the type of curve you want to hit. On a right-handed forehand, for example, drop your wrist so the paddle points down to curve the ball to your left. Lift your wrist and point the paddle up to curve the ball to your right.
Swing your arm up in an arc and strike the lower right side of the ball if you’ve dropped your wrist and wish to spin the ball to your left. Aim for the lower left side of the ball if you’ve raised your wrist and wish to curve the ball to your right.
Follow through in the direction of your swing. If you’ve hit the outside of the ball to curve it left -- for a right-handed player -- your paddle should end up in front of your left shoulder at the end of your follow-through. If you’ve struck the inside of the ball and curved it to the right, your paddle should be in front of your right shoulder, or the right side of your chest, when you follow through.
Backhand Sidespin Flick
Hold your paddle with the top edge pointed at the table and the wide part of the paddle facing your opponent. If you’re right-handed, hold the paddle in front of your right hip. The paddle should be below and a bit to the right of the ball’s path as it approaches you.
Step forward with your right leg as you flick your wrist in an arc to strike the left side of the ball, toward the back. Reverse the directions if you're left-handed. The paddle should travel up and to your non-dominant side prior to impact. Aim to hit the ball near the top edge of your paddle.
Roll the paddle over the ball and follow through. Your forearm should be extended toward your opponent with your paddle roughly parallel with the table and pointed to your dominant side at the end of your follow-through.
The principles of curving the ball can all be applied to serving. Just toss the ball in the air and execute your desired stroke.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.