Everybody knows that table tennis is a reflex sport, so reaction speed is of high importance in becoming a successful player. Jan-Ove Waldner and Werner Schlager are infamous for having some of the most impressive 'reaction shots' in the game.
So how can you improve your reaction speed? Well it all starts off with what you are watching when you play. Often young players are criticised for playing a great shot and then watching it in admiration, or for following the path of the ball.
The idea is that you should always be watching your opponent and their actions, forget the ball. Once you have hit the ball, it should go to where you have planned it to go, if it doesn't that is your error. You need to see how your opponent reacts to the ball. How their body position changes, bat angle, where their shoulders direct. Just paying attention to these small changes in motion will allow your reaction speed to subconsciously improve. You will find you react faster to the ball and move faster.
Recovery time also helps your reaction speed. If you are slow to recover from your last shot then you are not ready for the next one. Moving back to the recovery position as fast as you can is vital and should be something you automatically build into your game. It also minimises your weaknesses as you maintain your cover of the table and your balance.
Possibly one of the best exercises for reaction speed is used by the Chinese National Team, where a coach crouches with a bucket of balls and randomly throws the balls left and right. The player doing the exercise is poised in the ready position and has to move to kick the balls from about a meter away.
Another on table exercise of course is having a controller play free to the table from their backhand side, the ball can go anywhere and watching the controllers actions is vital!
Hope this helps you all improve your reaction speed out on the table, please do give feedback or add things which help your reaction speed!