While watching table tennis, have you seen players blow air on to their palms or equipment? Ever wondered why they do this? Here is a lowdown on the same as our racket sport expert looks at the different possible reasons why table tennis players would be looking to make that gesture of blowing air.
Table tennis players blow air on to different things during a game. At times this is done on to one’s palms, or at other times this is done on to one’s table tennis rackets or even the ball in use. The question remains why?
At the highest level, table tennis is a game of millimeters; top professional players are rather careful about the smallest of things and every minute aspect of any factor supposedly makes it that much more difficult for them.
Which is why it becomes imperative for table tennis players to squeeze out every small or big advantage out of everything they can, or erase any such disadvantage.
This includes their rackets, the table tennis balls or even their own selves; i.e. palms and thumb.
Here’s what usually happens.
Blowing on to the Table Tennis Rackets
We all know how table tennis players used the speed glue to garner extra speed and spin off their rackets. Later speed glue was banned but it was an obvious indicator of how a table tennis racket is the single-most important piece of equipment for the players.
The biggest reason for blowing on the racket is to disperse any of the dust which might settle on it during a match. This could happen because the ball itself has had dust accumulate on it and left it on the racket.
There is a belief that not getting rid of the dust could lead to a change in performance, because, after all, everything, even minute, matters.
Blowing on to the Table Tennis Balls
There are multiple reasons why table tennis players blow on to the ball they are using during a match.
One is to wipe out any dust or dirt the ball might have garnered while having rolled out of play. As a table tennis player, you do not want any foreign substance on the ball which will change the resistance and in turn make the ball speed and bounce unpredictable.
The second reason for the same is if the ball is a new one being used and there’s some powder on it as is the case with some new balls. New balls tend to have the remnant of some powder from their packaging and again, you don’t want that to disturb your play.
It could also be possible some of the sweat from either players’ hands has made its way through to the ball. A sweaty table tennis ball will behave very erratically as far as its pace, bounce and spin is concerned and every concerted effort is made to keep it out of moisture’s way.
One other reason for the ball to get moist could be down to the weather conditions. If the match or tournament is being played in a region with lower temperatures, it could lead to the rackets getting covered with a layer of moisture. This, in turn, might make the ball moist and cause the same issue explained earlier.
There have been certain experiments conducted which point to the temperature of the ball having an effect on its speed and bounce too. Blowing air, therefore could well be a player tactic to influence that, although there hasn’t been any conclusive evident in favour or against this.
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Blowing on to the Palms (and Fingers)
Sweating is a part of any sport, and it’s no different in table tennis. Especially in more humid conditions, players end up sweating a lot more and as mentioned earlier, this could get on to the racket handle or even the ball.
And described earlier, this becomes a problem, taking away the spin and pace from the ball.
The other obvious issue is you don’t want to play with wet palms or fingers given it could lead to the partial loss of grip during points.
Calming of Nerves
There is one other, rather interesting, side-benefit of blowing on to one’s thumb. According to studies, blowing on the thumb with a closed mouth relaxes the body.
The rationale behind this is the vagus nerve is part of the thumb and this nerve is a part of the body’s automatic nervous system nerve, and controls some portion of the heart, lung and stomach.
Blowing on to the thumb sends stimulation to the vagus nerve which in turn sends a message to the brain it’s all good and help calm things down everywhere as a result.
Don’t believe us? Here, watch this video:
Force of Habit
If the aforementioned reasons aren’t enough, some players are creatures of habit.
I will take the example of tennis here, and speak about how Rafael Nadal or Maria Sharapova walk while on court, or arrange their bottles or even go their routines before serving.
Why do they do this? Because it’s imbibed into their muscle memory to such an extent it’s become second nature.
It’s no different with some of the table tennis players who are habituated to doing this as youngsters and this continues into their pro playing days. The psychological impact of making any changes to their routines is not a risk any table tennis – other other sports – player would want to take.
So, there you have it, the reasons behind why table tennis players blow air on to the hand region.