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The serve, as well as the receive, is one of the most important aspects of table tennis and is often the deciding factor in a match. Putting it in simple terms, if your opponent cannot control your serve, and you can control his, the match is completely in your favor (given that your levels are somewhat similar). Each point is created and sculpted by the serve and the receive. Thus, a poor receive on your part or strong serve on your opponents part at a high level, almost always leads to the ball shooting past you at lightning speed, giving you little to no chance of returning the ball.
Here are a few service tips that are helpful for beginners, intermediate players, and advanced players.
- When playing better players, try to keep your serve as short as possible in order to prevent your opponent from attacking.
- Don’t focus on the spin of the serve too much, but instead focus on the placement.
- Experiment with your serves. The only way to get better at something is by practicing, so it definitely would help to practice your serves whenever possible, whether it be alone or in practice.
- Vary the spins of your serves. To create an under-spin ball, contact the ball on the bottom of the racket when slicing downwards (see my poorly drawn diagram below). To create a no-spin ball, the ball contact should be near the top of the racket when also slicing downwards (Also see diagram).
- Vary the locations of your serves against your opponents to see what works. When playing against someone for the first time, the first game should be used to “feel out the opponent’s game” to see what his strengths and weaknesses are. To see what works and what doesn’t, change the depth and placement of each serve.
- Use the dimensions of the table to your advantage. In the highest levels of table tennis, the correct placement of the ball on the serve can often cause your opponent to be indecisive and confused. For example, placing the ball so that the second bounce on your opponent’s side comes off of the edge of the table right where there is a 90 degree angle is incredibly difficult to return. I know it sounds confusing, but take a look at the diagram below. (Ball’s first bounce on your side, second bounce on opponent’s side, third bounce where arrows meet)
- As you can see, if you attempt to loop the ball that comes off of the edge on the side of the table, you would probably end up either breaking your hand or playing a weak ball back on the table. By serving balls like these, the opponent is forced to play a defensive or weak shot.