What Does a “Dead Ball” Mean in Table Tennis?

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Knowing terminology in table tennis is necessary if you plan on being a part of the sport especially if you want to be a part of the professional sector. One of the most commonly used terms is a “dead ball”. Here’s what exactly that term means and what to do with it.

A “dead ball” is a ball that either has no spin on it or it is a ball that is not playable. There is some disagreement exactly on what it refers to but to most professional players it is most referred to as a ball that has no spin.

In the case of referring to a ball with no spin, this is one of the easiest types of hits to hit back because there is no spin to affect the way the ball hits your paddle and it’s easy to add your own spin. You want to try to avoid hitting your own dead balls.

If you’re referring to a ball that is not playable there is nothing you can do about a dead ball. Balls that are not playable are balls that have bounced twice on the table surface or have completely fallen off the table and have bounced on the floor.

Dead balls can be handy depending on who you are playing with. Recreational players don’t use a whole lot of spin during their games so adding spin to your hits can guarantee a good game. They aren’t used to working with different types of spin on a ball.

If you’re playing against experienced players a dead ball once in a while might do you some good. Professionals are so used to balls with spin that a lot of the times they get thrown off by balls without it. This has become a common occurrence in professional players.


One other common term used in the world of table tennis is called the loop. A loop is pretty much the opposite of a dead ball. It refers to a hit that has generated a lot of topspin.  Some players use it to refer to any hit that has noticeable topspin on it.

Performing a loop is one of the most popular moves in table tennis because it can be very effective during a fast-paced game. Often times it leads to the receiving player hitting a very high ball which allows you to slam the ball onto their side of the table.

Top spin is performed by holding your paddle at an upward angle. Starting with your paddle at a lower height than the ball push it out and upwards so that the rubber brushes the top of the table tennis ball.

Once the ball has made its original bounce it will lunge forward quickly rather than providing your receiving opponent a large bounce. If the player still manages to hit the ball, the ball will push upwards on the paddle creating a large bounce for you to slam the ball with.

Slamming the ball on your opponent’s side is referred to as a smash and almost guarantees a winning point if the smasher doesn’t get too excited and miss the table. It’s almost impossible to return the ball after the a smash because the ball usually goes high over your head and far back.


A chop is very similar to a loop but instead of referring to hits that involve topspin a chop is referring to a hit that involves backspin. Backspin hits can also be very hard to return and can be very useful during a table tennis game.

When a player puts backspin on their hits the ball is given a larger bounce but it doesn’t travel as far which can through off the player. Often times the ball will bounce backwards back across the net to your side. If your opponent fails to hit the ball before it hits your side then the point is yours.

When a receiver hits a ball that has backspin on it the ball will push off the paddle in a downward motion. This often times causes the ball to run into the net rather than bouncing over it.

If you want to put backspin on your table tennis ball start with your paddle going at a downward angle and have it positioned above the ball. Push downwards and forwards at the same time so that the paddle hits the bottom of the ball.

Related Questions:

What Are the Basic Hits in Table Tennis?

In the game of table tennis there are 4 main hits commonly performed in professional table tennis tournaments.

  1. The Backhand Push: This hit is typically performed when your opponent gives you a short ball and you need to bump the ball back over the net. You’ll be using backspin in this hit so keep your paddle at the downward angle. Wait until the ball is at its peak height and then hit it with lots of spin and power back over the net. This is done with the back of your hand upwards.

  2. The Forehand Drive: This hit is often used when your opponent gives you a particularly high hit. The forehand drive works best if you manage to get it close to one of the edges. Add topspin to your hit in a way that it will dive right off of the edge. This is done with your palm up.

  3. The Backhand Drive: This hit is similar to the forehand drive but is played closer to the table. You want to use topspin on this hit as well and to get it as close to one of the edges of the table as possible. This is done with the back of your hand upwards.

  4. The Forehand Push: This hit is very similar to the backhand push hit. You will also be using backspin and it is also used when the ball is likely to bounce twice on your side of the table. Perform this hit close to the table and try to also use short hits to prevent your opponent from hitting it back. This is done with your palm upwards.

Do You Have to Let the Ball Bounce Before Hitting It?

You do need to let the table tennis ball bounce once before you are allowed to hit it. If you hit it before it bounces then you lose the point.

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