Advanced Serve & Serve Receive :
Some random notes
- 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.
- 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)) .
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 .
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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