The Science of Women's Table Tennis

Rowden April 2017

● The last European woman to win a World Singles Championship was Angelica Roseanu in 1955. This was over 60 years ago and should indicate to coaches in Europe that we are not working in the right way with women’s development in our sport.

● Over many decades speed has been the dominant factor in the Asian women’s game and if they have to choose between speed and spin the choice is almost always speed.
● Asian women conventionally take the ball at a much earlier timing point than their European counterparts and control the rally with speed or pace variation until they can win the point.
● Asian women open as early as possible and the serve and 3rd ball are fundamental to their tactics.
● European women have always played further from the table and have prioritised spin which has worked in the European men’s game. To compete on a level playing field the European women need to be better closer and use more alternatives over the table.
● Women have never been capable of achieving as much topspin as men off the table due to lesser power, slower dynamic movement and around one third to one half less upper body strength.
● With the new plastic ball the maximum spin revolutions per second have almost halved in comparison with the small celluloid ball, therefore scientifically there is less point in women working at spin off the table.
● Asian women also consider footwork training of high importance as this gives them a better opportunity to get to the ball with more time for alternatives: to select the best stroke and play with power when they can.
● Asian and especially Chinese coaches are well aware of the multiplicity of styles (and the use of materials) in the women’s game and that many of these can be highly successful at international level. They focus much more on individual development and the use of differing techniques to strengthen unusual specialties peculiar to specific players.
● Coaches in Asia firmly believe in development for the senior game and many of their young girls never compete in the cadet or junior game. In Europe far too often we chase medals in mini events and develop strategies which we then need to change so the player can compete against senior players.
● Asian coaches see the Europeans’ service game as inadequate. They are viewed as having too few serves, being predictable in the way they use them and therefore limited in alternatives for the next two or three balls.
● When analysing matches between top Asians and Europeans it appears that the Europeans train far too much control play, too many rallies with drive to drive or spin to block, but too little emphasis on winning the point and if there is, too late in the rally. Against top Asians the Europeans have neither the time nor the opportunity to utilise the stronger technical aspects of their own game.
● European women need to be much stronger over the table with more alternatives in short play. Particularly important is the receive of short serve and the ability to flick, drop short or push mid-table from a very early timing point (with or without spin).
● To be successful European women must understand the key strategy with the new plastic ball, which is CHANGE. And this is change in all its aspects; change of speed, placement, length and spin; use of angles, straight shots down the lines, balls to the body or crossover; touch play and slow roll balls; use of sidespin (most advantageous spin with the plastic). The new creed has to be total unpredictability in play and the use of one’s own strengths at every opportunity.
● European women must compete hard against Asians and not just assume they will lose if the opponent merely looks Chinese.
● Japanese girls are already showing the way with the plastic, currently 8 of the Top 10 under 21 women are Japanese and none from China. Japanese girls are also holding the number one position in the World Junior Girls’ Team ranking with 6 players in the top 10 (including 1 to 4) compared to China’s 2.

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