During major events, such as the Olympics, table tennis also gets a lot of attention. Many spectators, who don’t usually follow table tennis, notice “weird behaviors” of the table tennis pros.
Why do the players touch the table? What do the athletes shout during the match? And why do the pros keep apologizing? Questions like these come up very often. Do you finally want an answer for all of them? Then you’ve come to the right place!
In this post, you will learn all the backgrounds of the strange habits and behaviors of Ma Long and his colleagues.
Here is a small overview for you:
- 1. Why do table tennis players stomp when serving?
- 2. Why do pros touch the table with their hands?
- 3. Why do table tennis players blow on the racket, the ball or their hand?
- 4. Why do professionals apologize during the match?
- 5. What do professional players shout during the game?
- 6. Why do table tennis players stare at the ball?
- 7. Why do professionals bounce the ball on the plate before serving?
- Sports and unique habits
1. Why do table tennis players stomp when serving?
This can be observed especially during the serve: Some players stomp loudly on the ground exactly when they make contact with the ball. One example is the Chinese player Fan Zhendong. But why does he do it?
Of course, the stomping has a purpose. There are two possible reasons here:
- To cover up the sound of the serve
- Balance and body tension
Reason 1 – Covering up the sound at impact
What is meant by this? The sound that is made when the racket hits the ball is important in assessing the type and intensity of the spin. If this is masked, it becomes more difficult to return the serve.
The serve is one of the strongest weapons players have in table tennis. Especially the many different variations that are possible always make it an immense challenge for the returner to return the serve at all.
Depending on the spin that the server chooses, you have to adjust the racket position accordingly for the return. To conceal the spin, players used to cover the ball on serve.
However, this is no longer allowed. (More about the rules of the serve can be found here) The ball must always be visible to the receiver during the serve.
In order to make it less easy for the returner, some players stomp the ball during the serve. This makes it difficult to hear the racket contact of the ball.
Reason 2 – Balance and body tension
Stomping has not only tactical reasons. It is also a good way for many players to shift weight quickly and efficiently from the back stance leg when serving.
This has several advantages:
- Faster balance for the next shot
- More spin on serve due to own bodyweight momentum
- Body tension and concentration for the upcoming rally
2. Why do pros touch the table with their hands?
You can often observe this several times in every match. The players repeatedly go towards the net between points and wipe the board with their hands. Have you ever asked yourself: Why do they do that?
This is a very common question. That’s why we have a separate article for it, explaining the 5 reasons why table tennis players touch the table with their hand.
Here is a short summary in case you don’t want to read the article. The 5 reasons are:
- Wipe sweat – Players are only allowed to use their towel after all 6 points. If they still want to wipe off sweat, they go to the front of the net to do so and wipe the sweat off the plate.
- Take a breather – Many players use their way to the net for a short time to catch their breath.
- Tactics – Small forced break for the opponent as mind games
- Concentration – Short time to think and focus before the next rally
- Routine & Ritual – Wiping the hand on the table is a routine for many players.
3. Why do table tennis players blow on the racket, the ball or their hand?
This is another thing that can be observed over and over again: between points, many players blow on their racket, the ball or their hand. Why do they do this?
Blowing on the racket
Although professional players naturally play with a perfectly cleaned or even new racket, dust can quickly collect on the rubbers during play.
Often this dust comes from brand new balls (learn how to clean new balls here) or of course from the ground.
Even a small layer of dust can affect the spin characteristics of a racket. In professional games, where every nuance counts, you naturally want to avoid this.
That’s why you often see players blowing or huffing on their racket (and wiping it off afterwards, if necessary) to remove dust and dirt.
Blow on the ball
Blowing on the ball is also primarily about dust. Dusty balls can slip a bit when you hit them, counteracting the grip of the racket.
To make it as grippy as possible, players blow on the ball and then rub it down.
This not only removes the dust but also further increases the grip and therefore the spin of the ball due to the moisture.
Blow on the hand
Blowing on your hand is less about dust and dirt and more about drying sweat.
During play, the racket hand often becomes sweaty from contact with the paddle and from exertion. However, players are only allowed to reach for the hand towel after every 6th point.
Therefore, on the one hand, they wipe the sweat off the table as explained above. If that is not enough, they blow on their hand to dry the sweat additionally. This way they make sure they have the best possible control.
4. Why do professionals apologize during the match?
Table tennis is a very fair sport. You often see players apologizing to their opponents. But for many, the reason is often not clear. Have you ever asked yourself: What is he or she apologizing for?
Basically, there are two situations in table tennis where players apologize:
If the ball first touches the net and then goes onto the opponent’s site this is called a net shot. This often leads to a point, because the ball bounces only very short and makes the return more difficult.
An edge ball is when the ball bounces to the outer edge of the table. It often changes the trajectory decisively. This makes it impossible to return the ball and often leads to a point.
It is common to apologize to the opponent for the lucky point won because these situations cannot be planned and do not happen on purpose.
5. What do professional players shout during the game?
For many players, it is common to shout something after a point is won. Often, you can’t really understand what exactly is being said. The most common is the following shout:
“Cho” is probably the most common shout heard in table tennis, regardless of the players’ origins. But what does “Cho” actually mean?
We don’t really know for sure. The most likely answer is that the exclamation is derived from the Chinese of “Hao Cho” (Good Ball). Over time, this expression has become kind of the default shout when celebrating a point.
You hear it from the athletes, from the team, from the coaches and also from the fans on the sidelines. The original meaning has become secondary. “Cho” has become established as a cheer after a point is won.
Why do table tennis players shout?
Shouting or yelling loudly during the game helps one to focus and gather one’s energy. This has even been scientifically proven (Here is a sample study).
As in tennis, fencing, martial arts and many other sports, shouting loudly during the game is an integral part. What is shouted (in table tennis often “Cho”) is rather unimportant.
6. Why do table tennis players stare at the ball?
Especially when serving, professional players can be seen staring at the ball shortly before the throw, almost as if hypnotized. But what is the point of this?
The answer is obvious. The short time the players focus on the ball serves to concentrate on the next rally.
You visualize the next serve, think about your opponent’s return and how to turn it into a point as best as possible.
7. Why do professionals bounce the ball on the plate before serving?
Similar to the previous point, bouncing the ball before serving is mainly for concentration.
For many players, bouncing the ball 2-3 times is part of their service routine. In doing so, they focus on the ball and mentally prepare for the next rally.
Sports and unique habits
The longer a sport exists, the more special peculiarities and habits develop among the players. For people outside the sport, these peculiarities often raise questions. I hope I could answer many of these questions with this post 🙂
If you still have unanswered questions, you might find the right answer in our Q&A section. Otherwise, feel free to ask them using the form below.