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Serving To Win

There is no more important skill in table tennis than the serve.

Serving is your first chance to win a point and your opponent can do absolutely nothing to stop you from serving.

If you want really strong serves (and you’ll need them if you want to excel at an elite level) then you need to do a lot of service practice.

On the Chinese national squads they do around 2 hours of service practice a day which highlights the critical importance of this stroke.

If you want really effective serves you need to think through how you will use your serve in a point and how you will use variation to create errors from your opponent…either winning a point outright or getting a weaker shot you can attack easily.

To start probably the most important foundation serve you can learn is a short heavy backspin serve.

The more spin you get on your serve the more effective it will be when you use variation (if you get a lot of backspin then there will be a huge difference between your heavy backspin serve and your no spin or topspin serve meaning your opponent is far more likely to make errors.)

Also extremely heavy spin serves can win points outright by themselves…they’re difficult to control.

Here are some great examples of great servers.

First Ma Lin with his short heavy chop serve. Ma Lin is one of the world’s great servers and a player who largely dominated world competition for almost a decade…

Notice the extreme level of backspin.

If you want to win in table tennis you need to get your strokes to a level that your opponent is uncomfortable with. Ma Lin’s serves certainly achieve that!


Adding sidespin to your backspin serve can also make it harder to read and harder to play.

Watch world singles champion Jean Phillipe Gatien and his backspin sidespin serve (notice how far the ball moves on the table…that’s what you should be aiming for…extreme movement on the table when you practice your serves)…



Tips For Good Serving:

# Toss.

You need to toss the ball vertically. The ball must also be visible through the whole service motion.

An easy guideline when you’re starting is to toss the ball the height of your eyes.


# Contact Point

Generally speaking with most serves you contact the ball with your bat at around the height of the top of the net.

When you’re practicing serves being highly aware of what height you’re contacting the ball will help you master a serve more rapidly.


# Bat Angle

If you want extreme spin you may have to twist your bat to an unusual or awkward angle to achieve that. Being aware of the bat angle you’re contacting the ball at will also help you to master a serve more quickly.


# Racket Speed

The faster your bat is moving on contact the more spin you’re likely to generate. You can work up to a faster racket speed and more spinny serve by first making sure your bat continues moving as you’re contacting the ball (instead of stopping).

Then you can work on getting your bat to move faster and faster as you master the serve.


# Consistency

Faulting loses you points so if you want a serve that’s effective that you can rely on you need to also make sure you can perform it without error.

As a guideline if you can do 25 serves in a row with maximum spin and no errors that’s a good level of consistency and serve that’s highly unlikely to let you down in competition.

You should also practice your serve on different ends of the table and on different tables so you get used to adjusting to the different bounce that tables can have.