I'm a sport fan, playing ( at amateur level ) numerous sports. 10 years ago, I was quite good at playing table-tennis, participated in several amateur competitions. Even now I often play with my friends. On the other hand I rarely play tennis, although I enjoy watching.

Will knowing table-tennis help you when you play tennis? Can the movements, the balance, the rhythm, the pace and so on from table tennis help you when you're playing tennis? Is there such an obvious relation between the 2 sports?

5 Answers 5


you and I have a lot in common - playing both table tennis and regular tennis. My answer to this question (from years of observing the effects of playing both sports) is both yes and no. Some things are the same (and help across both sports) and some are different and don't help that much.

The similarities:

Balance - both require good balance and using your non-hitting hand to help you maintain your balance when having to reach for a shot.

Hand-eye coordination - both require you to concentrate on, and keep your eye on, the ball.

Recognizing spin - your ability to recognize what kind of spin your opponent puts on the ball helps in both sports.

The differences:

Stamina - high level tennis requires greater physical strength and stamina. You'll have to be in better shape and more fit to reach higher levels of the game.

Stroke/Technique - This is most notable to me. In tennis, I need a much different kind of stroke (more loopy, different contact point, different follow through, etc.) in tennis than in table tennis. In table tennis I can get away with using more wrist to hit the ball and I need to apply much less effort into contacting the ball in table tennis. What I find if I am playing more tennis than table tennis is I hit a lot of shots past the end of the table in table tennis. Oppositely, I end up using too much wrist in my tennis strokes if I've been playing more table tennis.

Game Pace - the back and forth action in table tennis is (on average) a lot faster than in tennis, so you have to be ready to hit your next shot much sooner in table tennis than in tennis and you sometimes adjust your strategy in table tennis to allow more time to recover for your next shot than you would in tennis (though sometimes the same strategy applies in tennis as well if you've been pulled far off the court).

  • Re "different contact point": I am pretty sure that I was told that I should use the center of the racket/paddle in both sports. Or did I misunderstand your point?
    – posdef
    Jul 17, 2014 at 8:40
  • That's different. I'm referring to how in tennis, you rotate your trunk and make contact out in front with your arm(s) extended whereas in table tennis I find myself directly behind the ball much more often (defensively mostly)
    – jamauss
    Jul 17, 2014 at 8:47
  • ok, thnx for the clarification
    – posdef
    Jul 17, 2014 at 9:58

Table tennis is to "real" tennis as "miniature" golf (putt-putt) is to "real golf. So there are some commonalities (and some important differences).

One thing that is common to both versions of "tennis" is shot anticipation/selection. To the extent that both forms of tennis are a "mental" game, the thought processes in one can help in the other.

A second thing is balance/footwork. In this case, it is the foundation of either form of tennis.

On the other hand, tennis, like golf, is a much larger scale of its "miniature" version. While the latter is mostly skill, in the former, strength and stamina come into play. Basically, tennis is a "whole body" (rather than arms mainly) version of table tennis.

  • Your first sentence is the most unfortunate comparison has anyone tried to make and it denotes little knowledge of table tennis and even some disdain to it. FYI, table tennis has been an Olympic sport for years and as such the athletes playing it at the top level are extremely fit, it is not remotely close to be an arms only sport, having big biceps/arms is of little to no help if you don't have strong abs, legs, back, glutes, etc
    – jgutix
    Apr 18, 2018 at 5:29
  • Also, calling lawn tennis "real tennis" is unfortunate, as real tennis is actually a completely different (and older) game.
    – TRiG
    Jun 14, 2023 at 14:29

In my experience, the skills of "real" tennis transfer well to table tennis while the reverse is not always the case.

While the strategy is similar, the player movement and differing mechanics of spin is an initial detriment wen crossing from one sport to the other. Tennis players playing table tennis often seem to overcome this initial skill gap when switching sports faster than table tennis players because the motions of tennis seem more exaggerated than the motions of table tennis because everything is "scaled up".

Short Answer: If you've played table tennis, you will be better at tennis initially than someone who hasn't played either sport but don't expect to be a tennis god.

  • Please don't call lawn tennis "real tennis", as real tennis is actually a completely different (and far older) game.
    – TRiG
    Jun 14, 2023 at 14:37

Off the top of my head, two actions in particular bring up my table tennis game AND my tennis game:

1) More foot work. If my feet aren't making plenty of noise on the floor/court, I'm not doing anything else as well.

2) Watching for racket/paddle -> ball contact. This a concentration exercise that gets you better contact and hits, but also helps take your mind off whatever else it is you shouldn't be thinking about while taking a swing.

To more directly answer your question, you will be more mentally fit for tennis than someone who has no table tennis experience. That will go a long way towards the pace of your physical progression.


Interesting question... From my experience as a table tennis player, I play table tennis more like regular tennis: what I mean by that is:

Although my game starts with topspin technique - the basis of most strokes in table tennis, I tend to play my strokes using more of my upper arm rather than using more of my wrist. In addition, unlike traditional table tennis techniques, I tend to produce longer strokes - which is more like the type of strokes you would find tennis players using. I also tend to take big cuts at the ball. In addition, I try to use my legs in 2 ways: 1) I use footwork in order to get around the ball in order to be in the optimal position to hit the ball and 2) I use my legs in order to put more power into my shot.

However, I did inherit some of the table tennis mechanics. For example, 1) I start low and do a low-to-high motion in order to produce topspin (but I use my shoulder in order to produce a longer - more tennis-like stroke); 2) I rotate my arm and shoulder back into the ready position after the stroke, and I do it as fast as possible in order to recover for the next shot - Key: I highly doubt a regular tennis player would make a habit of trying to recover this quickly. After all, the shots come back a lot faster in table tennis, because the distance between players is a lot less than on a tennis court - because d = rt -> therefore, t = d/r.

Therefore, using my own skills as an example, I believe that some skills which you learn in table tennis do help you in regular tennis. In fact, not only do I believe that I would be able to use some of the principles I have learned from practicing table tennis technique and apply them to other (racquet) sports, such as tennis or pickleball and end up playing better than had you not known the principles of how to build those skills, but I KNOW that I can, because I took those principles of my table tennis skills and I applied them to playing pickleball (keep in mind what I had told you before about how I play table tennis more like regular tennis, so that helped make it a little bit of an easier transition, as well) and I played pickleball A LOT better than I had before I had started playing sport with technique. Therefore, what I proved in this example is: playing pickleball with semi-table tennis/tennis technique > playing pickleball with NO technique.

Keep in mind though, that because no two sports are exactly the same (if they were all the same, then there would be no reason to switch, right?!!!), there are so nuances you need to learn for your particular sport - and it may be the exact opposite in another sport. Therefore, you will have to train your brain regarding the differences and to not do what you are used to doing. For example, serving is completely different in all three of these sports. In particular, in tennis you serve by tossing the ball up and meeting it with your racquet high in the air. However, in pickleball, you serve underhand, by meeting the ball with your racquet below the waist. Another example, there is no volleying in table tennis, but in tennis and pickleball, you will gave to learn it. An additional example is learning to dink the ball in pickleball: there is no such thing in table tennis or even regular tennis.

But to answer your answer, yes, to a certain extent, I believe that you can use principles of skills which you learn about for a sport and apply them to (a) different sport(s) if the two sports are close enough (after all, sport science deals with principles, principles which apply universally - for example, how - that is, the proper way - to transfer weight - which can be applied to any sport), with the caveat that you will not be able to use everything you know from the other sport and may even have to change some things you are doing.

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