Advanced Serve & Serve Receive : Some random notes

 

  1. Even advanced and higher players who usually have dozens of great serves don’t fully understand how to use them effectively in a match. They forget the simple fact that not all serves are equally effective across the board against all opponents. A serve that works great against opponent Y may be totally useless against opponent X but a serve that was not effective against opponent X may be very effective against opponent Y. It is not easy to remember for each opponent ad so you may need t keep scouting notes. If you are playing someone for the first time you may mentally note which serves worked best & worst in the first & second games and probably save your best working serves towards the end of the match as they have a higher probability of success.
  2. Ball travels in z-direction. With topspin the ball travels in +z-axis and also spins towards the receiver in +z axis as well. Conversely with back-spin (sometimes referred to as under-spin) while the ball is now spinning towards the server in –z direction while the ball still traveling in +z direction also.ntact with the ball is made more behind the ball left to right or right to left for corkscrew sidespin (y-axis side-spin) . Contact is made towards left or right of the ball also possibly combined with bottom for side-back spin (x-axis with –z axis side-spin ) and on top of the  ball for side-top spin (x-axis with +z axis).  But generally there is no pure x-axis or y-axis side-spins as they are usually a little of both is a side-spin serve. Most of the complexities of the sport arise due to these mostly side-spins but delivered at higher and higher top-spins and back-spins at higher and higher speeds. As stated in many of my other technical papers in pure theory, if you can deliver your strokes with maximum possible speed 100% of the time (as somewhat done in the older block and smash pips-out  style of play) then spin is unnecessary. However spin is essential even for even most other best human (table) tennis players to control the ball and keep it on the table (court). Modern (table)tennis at the higher levels thus focuses on creating  obscene spins as well as maximum insane speeds but in table-tennis side-spin and backspins play a more significant role than in lawn-tennis hugely complicating matters as the playing court is smaller but speeds are about the same but with much higher spins in table-tennis (with the ball coming back to you much faster but with also obscenely more as well as sometimes puzzling spins (for the smaller time-frame  to process and resolve quickly even for best athletic minds))  .  
  3. Your serves sometimes maybe too good for your own good. You may have a great serve that your opponent has trouble with and gives a weak return but if it comes to the wrong spot and length for you to attack then that great serve is quite useless
  4. You want to serve to your opponent in such a way that it puts him in a bad position. At the amateur level a player who is big and slow may have trouble returning wide or short balls
  5. On the flip side you may want to force your opponent to serve where you prefer to receive the serve and try to force them not to serve where and how you don’t like to receive it. For example if an opponent’s short serves are giving you repeated problems, try to take a receive stand with your hand well into the table to quickly get to the shorter serve. This  will annoy and unsettle your opponent both because of your crazy serve return stance as well as the fact that you are now rendering their short serves useless. Conversely you have trouble with long serves stand farther away to force shorter serves and of course you need to be very quick on your feet to pull this off. Same principles apply to serves to your wider forehand or wider backhand or combinations of short and long with forehand and backhand as well as left or right side spins combined with either top or back or no spin.
  6. Many beginner and intermediate players have great trouble adjusting to heavy side-spins and / or combined with either heavy top or back spin. You can tell this because your first two returns go wide to left . You adjust but now your opponent has switched side spin the opposite way and your next 3 returns go wide right. You adjust and your opponent  adjusts again and drives you crazy. This can also happen with top or back spin. Your opponent gives two heavy backspin serves and you put the ball into the bottom of net. You try to adjust & next 2 balls go 10 feet deep out of your end line. Now combine the above left or right side spins with above top or side spins and your opponent will basically win every point on their serve.   If you are beginner or intermediate player this is is what separates an advanced player from a intermediate or beginner player. Anyway if you are a beginner or intermediate player (& have great difficulty keeping your returns inside the table) use the following strategy >>  return every serve to the dead center point on the opponent’s half of the table. This would at least eliminate the ball going out left or right and deep or short.  This way you have at least 25% landing the ball somewhere on the table. Usually when an experienced server sends a serve they may usually send the serve to your right with side spin to pull towards their right or they will serve with sidespin to your left side with sidespin to their left side. This is because natural human tendency is to return cross-court not down the line.  But if you recognize this and try to adjust going down the line then will switch up with opposite side spin. This is why it is always safe to return to dead center of the opponent’s half of table if you have no clue as to incoming spins (left or right and top or back)
  7. For advanced serve return professional players will angle their racket to nullify incoming side-spin (left or right). But given that most advanced serves are 70% drama & 30% substance, it is very hard to read advanced serves.
  8. Serves & serve returns in leftie vs rightie is not the same as it is when it is a rightie vs rightie or leftie vs rightie. At lower levels lefties actually have a built-in advantage because of tactical deficiencies of players at lower levels and given that lefties are used to playing more righties and may have a bag of tricks against righties but the opposite is not true for righties since righties may not face that many lefties. Nevertheless if you are a rightie just do not serve to  same service  points against a leftie that you would to a rightie. Because for example if you serve to your wide right serving from your deep left it goes to deep backhand of another rightie and may be harder to attack but a leftie may loop the hell out of that serve.
  9. You want to use the complete width and length of the table in mixing up your serves with maybe one backspin with sidespin to left serve to very short and far right with next serve being  a topspin with sidespin to right to very long deep and far left and a third serve a no spin serve disguised as heavy spin to the middle very short or very deep etc etc.
  10. Most players make the mistake of serving always from their deep backhand side only. You need to able to serve from deep forehand side & from middle as well (especially if you are a rightie playing a leftie and vice-versa).
  11. For maximum spin during serves, ball contact  must be made towards the top edge (farthest away from your hand) of the racket with maximum “brushing” of the ball and minimal “hitting” (probably more but not always necessarily of your wrist than your arm). Conversely, for minimal spin as in a no spin serve, contact the ball on racket closest to your hand with minimal “brushing” and maximum “hitting” at the ball (probably more but not always necessarily of your arm and less wrist).  
  12. One can write a book about what to serve & what not to serve against long pips players (especially at beginner & intermediate levels and this is why many frustrated non-long-pips players develop mental problems and become robotNazis and need to be institutionalized….and this happens to many exceptionally high IQ individuals otherwise highly accomplished in other day to day endeavors) . This is because long-pips behave & act differently at lower levels of play compared to higher levels of play where the traumatizing of superior athletes is not happening and all the principles I stated in previous 9 sections are out the window and it is a totally different ball game at lower and intermediate levels of play.
  13. Generally if you have good serves and good return of serves and also understand how to play against long pips players, you should be at least an advanced player if not more because you can usually “excuse”  most beginners & intermediate players just with your serves and serve returns. Because many beginners & intermediate players overlook the simple fact that in table-tennis, the serve is not for just putting the ball in play but for either acing the point or for forcing the opponent into weak returns, more than in any other racket sport especially at lower levels of the sport.  This is why there had been discussions about reducing the potency of serves in table-tennis to lengthen the rallies to make the sport more presentable to non-table-tennis spectators.  But for now serves are huge part of this sport at all levels and more so at lower levels. So you must focus lot more on your serves & serve returns if you want to get to advanced level.
  14. Many players make the mistake of contacting the ball during the serve at a level way above the table (Contacting the ball below table level during serve is illegal). This causes the serve to bounce higher and also harder to control. For best serves contact the ball (for all your serves) as close to the level of the table as possible without going below . This would prevent the ball from bouncing high and can be easily attacked.  There are some crazy situations where you may want to serve the ball very high and deep to a long pips player (below professional level) but this is unique.
  15. Keep in mind that the ball must also be behind the server’s endline or extension thereof (but not required also within extension of sidelines as many think).
  16. Due to higher rate of change of momentum, high toss serves are always better than lower toss serves for obtaining more spin. But you need to practice a lot more to be less error prone. Regardless even if you use mostly low toss serves if you can suddenly pull out a high toss serve even if not powerful, may still be very effective as it may throw off the opponent due to very difference.
  17.  The six inches (15 cms) of toss required for minimum legality is a confusing issue because most folks do not have a visual reference as to what this really is. This is somewhat similar to prople suddenly slowing down when they see a traffic sign that say the lanes merge one mile down the road. One mile is quite a long distance as is 6 inches a very very low length. Six inches is only the height of the net or approximate width of a racket. Yet most players may complain just to confuse you and even umpires may not understand this short length and while it is your responsibility to serve legally , you also are not at all obligated to toss the ball 12 or more inches when 7 or 8 inches is more than sufficient than the legal 6 inches. If your opponent and umpire give any problems you may want to explain to them that the legal length is just the height of the net.
  18. If you are not ready 100% to receive the serve, then don’t .  Many players will try to quick serve you and some may serve even without coming to a full stop as required by rules. Just raise your hand and hold it till you are fully ready. Because you cannot play the ball if you are not ready and miss it and then claim you are not ready.   I have actually seen many players with poor sportsmanship use this excuse of not ready after playing it, especially worse say at match point .
  19. Unlike tennis there is no clear time limit for starting a new serve. I have been told you are ok as long as you are not disturbing the flow of the match and this is somewhat ambiguous. Anyway there is no need to rush your serves.
  20. Can you stomp your feet while you serve ? It used to be legal then was made illegal and then explicit requirement in the rules not to stomp the feet had been removed but I have been told by referees that you cannot still stomp because it is disruptive  which again makes it ambiguous.
  21. Tossing angle for legal serves is considered to be approximately within 10 degress to vertical. This seems to be one of the biggest problems at professional level where players will toss the ball right towards their body with the ball going as much as 50 to 60 degrees from a prefect vertical toss. And any players will look confused when faulted because in their minds they have tossed at least 6 inches which is a completely different issue or requirement. So learn to toss the ball up near vertical within 10 degrees as well as at least 6 inches
  22. Another big serving violation is not having the ball in the flat palm of your hand with the ball fully visible at all times. Many players will either with fully cupped with ball totally hidden; others will have the ball in the fingers; others will start ok with ball in flat palm but while tossing quickly move the ball from palm to fingers with many imparting spin thereof. All these are illegal. The ball must start from being a stationary position in the flat palm of you hand. Slight cupping reasonable to keep the ball on a flat palm but not excessive cupping of the ball to hide it.
  23. Summing up, learn to serve legally and this will actually make you look like a professional as well as giving an intimidating effect and an advantage. But is you start serving as you walk to the table (without being stationary) with a cupped hand well over into the baseline, you will look like a basement ping-pong hacker rather than a serious table-tennis player