Last updated on 28-Feb-2011 10:39:53 AM
First you need to understand exactly what spin is on the ball. The best way to do this is to watch the contact of the servers bat with the ball. From this you can guess what type of spin and how much spin is on the ball. Then you need to watch the ball closely from your opponents bat as it comes towards you. The flight of the ball will hopefully match your expectations of what spin is on the ball. For example if you thought there was heavy sidespin on the serve then you should see the ball curving. If the ball goes straight then there isn't as much sidespin on the ball as you thought.
Once you know what type of spin is on the ball you need to also decide if the ball is going to be short and would bounce twice on the table if you left it or if it is going to be long so the second bounce is off the table. This is important because you should be using different strokes depending on the length of the ball.
If the serve is short then you can push or flick the ball back. The safest option depends on the spin they have put back on the ball. For a heavy short backspin serve, your safest option is to push the ball back. For a short sidespin or topspin serve, your safest option is to flick the ball.
For a long serve, the safest option is to topspin the ball. Your shot will vary slightly depending on whether there is backspin or topspin on the ball. Watch this lesson to see how your stroke should look against backspin and this lesson to see how it should look against a topspin serve.
When topspining a heavily spun serve, it is best to commit to the stroke and really brush the ball with a quick action. This will help you to generate your own topspin and lessen the impact that the server's spin has on your racket.