Do left-handed players have a strategic advantage in table tennis?

  • Ivan Malagoli Lanzoni University of Bologna
  • Rocco Di Michele University of Bologna
  • Sandro Bartolomei University of Bologna
  • Gabriele Semprini University of Bologna
Keywords: Racket sports, Table tennis, Notational analysis, Handedness, Serve-return strategy


The reasons for the overrepresentation of left-handed players (LHps) in some sports are widely discussed in the literature. In light of this debate, this study aimed to assess the associations between players’ handedness and selected performance indicators in table tennis, where LHps represent 25% of top-level players. A notational analysis was conducted on 20 men’s matches including any combination of players’ handedness. Participants were in the first 150 positions of the ITTF world ranking at the moment the matches were played. The table area of ball bouncing after serving, and the shot type used by the receiving and subsequently the serving player, were recorded for 1515 rallies. Each half of the table was divided into six equal rectangular areas. There was a significant effect of players’ handedness on percentage of ball bouncing in different areas. Specifically, LHps showed a greater capacity (or choice) to adjust the serve (in terms of areas of ball bouncing) than right-handed players (RHps) according to the opponent’s handedness. Furthermore, LHps used offensive shots more frequently. In conclusion, both play strategy and characteristics such as higher offensiveness, together may contribute to the success of LHps in table tennis. These findings emphasise the need for a multifactorial approach in future research aiming to understand why LHps may be advantaged in different sports.

Author Biographies

Ivan Malagoli Lanzoni, University of Bologna

University of Bologna, Italy

Rocco Di Michele, University of Bologna

University of Bologna, Italy

Sandro Bartolomei, University of Bologna

University of Bologna, Italy

Gabriele Semprini, University of Bologna

University of Bologna, Italy


Abdullahi, Y., & Coetzee, B. (2017). Notational singles match analysis of male badminton players who participated in the African badminton championships. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 17, 1–16

Aviles, C., Navia, J. A., Ruiz, L. M., & Martinez de Quel, O. (2019). Do expert tennis players actually demonstrate anticipatory behavior when returning a first serve under representative conditions? A systematic review including quality assessment and methodological recommendations. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 43, 16-26.

Bisiacchi, P. S., Ripoll, H., Stein, J. F., Simonet, P., & Azemar, G. (1985). Lefthandedness in fencers: an attentional advantage? Perceptual and Motor Skills, 100, 507-513.

Brooks, R., Bussiére, L. F., Jennions, M. D., & Hunt, J. (2003). Sinister strategies succeed at the cricket World Cup. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 271, S64-S66.

Cui, Y., Gómez,M. Á., Gonçalves, B., & Sampaio, J. (2018). Performance profiles of professional female tennis players in grand slams. PLoS ONE, 13(7), e0200591.

Dane, S., & Erzurumluoglu, A. (2003). Sex and handedness differences in eye-hand visual reaction times in handball players. International Journal of Neurosciences, 113, 923-929.

Dane, S., & Sekertekin, M. A. (2005). Differences in handedness and scores of aggressiveness and interpersonal relations of soccer players. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 100, 743-746.

Fuchs, M., Liu, R., Malagoli Lanzoni, I., Munivrana, G., Straub, G., Tamaki, S., Yoshida, K., Zhang, H., & Lames, M. (2018). Table Tennis Match Analysis: A Review. Journal of Sport Science, 36(23), 2653-2662.

Hagemann, N. (2009). The advantage of being left-handed in interactive sports. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 71, 1641-1648.

Hughes, M. (1998). The application of notational analysis to racket sports. In: A. Lees, I. Maynard, M. Hughes, & T. Reilly (Eds.), Science and Racket Sports II (pp. 211-220) London, UK: E & FN Spon.

Judge, J., & Stirling, J. (2003). Fine motor skill performance in left-and right- handers: evidence of an advantage for left-handers. Laterality, 8, 297-306.

Katsikadelis, M., Pilianidis, T., & Mantzouranis, N. (2013). The interaction between serves and match winning in table tennis players in the London 2012 Olympic Games. International Journal of Table Tennis Sciences, 8, 77-79.

Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content’s analysis: An introduction to its methodology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Lees, A. (2003). Science and the major racket sports: a review. Journal of Sports Science, 21, 707-732.

Llaurens, V., Raymond, M., & Faurie, C. (2009). Why are some people left-handed? An evolutionary perspective. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 364, 881–894.

Loffing, F., Hagemann, N., & Strauss, B. (2009). The serve in professional men’s tennis: effects of players’ handedness, International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 9, 255-274.

Loffing, F., Hagemann, N., & Strauss, B. (2010). Automated processes in tennis: do left-handed players benefit from the tactical preferences of their opponents? Journal of Sports Science, 28, 435-443.

Loffing, F., Hagemann, N., & Strauss, B. (2012). Left-handedness in professional and amateur tennis. Plos One,7(11), e49325.

Loffing, F., Hagemann, N., Schorer, J., & Baker, J. (2015). Skilled players’ and novice’s difficulty anticipating left- vs. right-handed opponents’ action intentions varies across different points in time. Human Movement Science, 40, 410-421.

Ma, S. M., Liu, C. C., Tan, Y., & Ma, S. C. (2013). Winning matches in grand slam men's singles: An analysis of player performance-related variables from 1991 to 2008. Journal of Sports Science, 31, 1147-55.

Malagoli Lanzoni, I., Bartolomei, S., Di Michele, R., & Fantozzi, S. (2018). A kinematic comparison between long-line and cross-court top spin forehand in competitive table tennis players. Journal of Sports Science, 36, 2637-2643.

Malagoli Lanzoni, I., Di Michele, R., & Merni, F. (2014). A notational analysis of shot characteristics in top-level table tennis players. European Journal of Sport Science, 14, 309-317.

Peters, M., & Murphy, K. (1992). Cluster analysis reveals at least three, and possibly five distinct handedness groups. Neuropsychologia, 30(4), 373-380.

Raymond, M., Pontier, D., Dufour, A. B., & Moller, A. P. (1996). Frequency dependent maintenance of left handedness in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 263, 1627-1633.

R Core Team (2011). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria. R Foundation for Statistical Computing.

Schorer, J., Loffing, F., Hagemann, N., & Baker, J. (2012). Human handedness in interactive situations: negative perceptual frequency effects can be reversed! Journal of Sports Science, 30, 507–513.

Solomito, M. J., Ferreir, J. V., & Nissen, C. V. (2017). Biomechanical differences between left and right-handed baseball pitchers. Sports Biomechanics, 16, 143-151.

Zhang, H., Liu, W., Hu, J. J., & Liu, R. Z. (2014). Evaluation of elite table tennis players’ technique effectiveness. Journal of Sports Science, 32, 70-77.

How to Cite
Malagoli Lanzoni, I., Di Michele, R., Bartolomei, S., & Semprini, G. (2019). Do left-handed players have a strategic advantage in table tennis?. International Journal of Racket Sports Science, 1(1), 61-69. Retrieved from