Can You Pass The Serving Test?

2 years ago

Table Tennis Advice

I was observing a reasonable player practising a few points the other night and made an interesting observation. 90% of their serves were to the bad areas. It occurred to me that a lot of people can really improve their serving by following the simple advice of serving to the good areas. Make sure that you serve the ball either short, so that it bounces twice on the table if left untouched, or very long and fast preferably to the corners. We call these the good areas.

The Test

Pick your favourite serve and grab 10 balls. Now try serve all 10 balls and count how many you are able to make bounce twice on your opponents side of the table. The trick here is to still be able to generate lots of spin whilst keeping the ball short. I don't want you to compromise on spin to make the ball short. The key is to have a brushing contact. The brushing contact will mean you can still swing the bat fast but the momentum will go into generating spin and not towards making the ball travel fast.

Check Your Results

Here's a table to show you how well you did.

Score Comment
0 Don't bother practising anything else until you can improve upon this score.
1 - 3 You need some serious practice. Repeat this test every time you play.
4 - 5 More practice is required but you're on the way.
6 - 8 Pretty good result, you're control is developing nicely but keep practising.
9 Impressive! Try and work on varying the spin and speed of your serve while keeping this control.
10 You've got this completely under control. The next thing is to develop subtle variations of spin to confuse your opponent.

Does it really matter?

Yes this really does matter! I realised that part of the problem is your opponent. If you are playing an average opponent, they might not be able to take full advantage of your serves to the bad zone. If you are able to generate some good variation of spin, the serves might still seem effective. But as soon as you step up a level and face an opponent who can attack all of these serves to the bad zone, you are going to seriously struggle. This is why it is important to start serving to the good areas right from the start. And even if your opponent doesn't take advantage of a serve to the bad zones, they will struggle even more with a serve to the good areas.

It will improve your service immediately

The great thing about serving to the good areas is it will improve your results against all opponents immediately. Your opponent simply cannot play a full length stroke against a short ball. Also, by serving short your opponent will need to step in to receive the ball and if their footwork is not great you already have them slightly out of position for your next stroke. It also makes your long serves much more effective because your opponent must also get ready for the short ball.

Make it a focus

Next time you play, make it a focus to serve the ball short around 80% of the time. Make sure you make your opponent move in to receive these short serves. Try it out and let me know how it goes. It sounds like a small change but it will make a big difference.


Thoughts on this blog

Notify me of updates
Michael Coppola

Michael Coppola Posted 2 years ago

Thanks for the good advice. I was just wondering why the "elbow" area was not included in the good areas. It is often recommend. The long serve to this zone, with some speed often "handcuffs" the opponent. The long fast to the corners seems to work against the opponents that can not move, but not the ones that have the good leg work. The deep serve to the elbows and midsection seem to be more effective on all players. I find it eventually forces the opponent to move back, which then sets him up for a shore serve. Your thoughts.

Thanks

Mike


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Good points Michael.  I think the elbow area is a good area to serve to as long as it is fast to not allow your opponent time to move and play a strong ball.


Richard Fan

Richard Fan Posted 2 years ago

Hi Alois,

Great advise as always! Thanks!

Although could you further elaborate the potential trade-offs/disadvantages of short serves? When facing equally skilled or advanced opponents who are able to push aggressively with wide angles or even flick on command? That said, is serving short to the opponents backhand a no-no?

And lastly, is a half-long serve superior than a "short" short serve, tactically?  

Thanks! 


Harlan Abraham

Harlan Abraham Posted 2 years ago

My regular training partner didn't show up again today.  So I spent a good deal of time practicing serves. Then someone came that I know from other times there.  So we played a little.  Short serves seem to be what I do best now.  Having some trouble with long serves, but, a few weeks ago playing with my regular training partner I served so many short serves that when a long one came to him he really didn't know what to do with it.


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Hi Richard,

Short serves when not low with variation of spin can open up the table for your opponent and allow them to attack.  However, if you work on the short serves they will allow you to adopt the attacking position first in the rally.  The Half long serve is also very effective.  As long as the second bounce is on the table this can be more effective than the short short serve because it has your opponent further away from the net when they make their return.


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Hi Harlan,

Good to hear you are working on your serves.  A late training partner is usually a perfect opportunity for this.

A long serve as a variation can be deadly for sure but it is the surprise factor that has the effect.


eugene lu

eugene lu Posted 2 years ago

These are some very very impressive tips. I will take this test and hopefully my service will improve immediately and can be able to win more points with my serves


Dieter Verhofstadt

Dieter Verhofstadt Posted 2 years ago

I'm doing a fair amount of serve training but I find it difficult for especially the short backspin serve to bring it effectively to my games. Somehow it always ends up a little too high with not too much spin and a bit too long as well.

I'll try your metric though.

 


Dieter Verhofstadt

Dieter Verhofstadt Posted 2 years ago

Test results:

50 forehand backspin serves from backhand side (half pendulum, half high toss).

Success if: double bounce, noticeable backspin, not too high

Session 1: 41/50

Session 2 (after a long training session): 32/50

Most failed attempts were net. Sometimes the ball bounced only once.

BUT, when my coach later observed the serves he found there was not much spin on them. He wants me to concentrate on spin first, by applying a fast wrist action at the contact moment. Also, I should overcompensate for dropping the bat pendulum style. As it is, there is too much side spin and not enough backspin on the ball.


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Good one Dieter.

Initially there will be a trade off between short and spin.  That is OK, keep focusing on both at different times and eventually they will come together.

To generate less sidespin, tilt the end of your bat up so that the bat is more parallel to the ground.


Patrik Schmuki

Patrik Schmuki Posted 2 years ago

But somehow I think if the opponent is really good, with a short serve, he gets a much larger variety of angles to place his response. In contrast to a fast serve to the corners?


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

At the higher levels if you serve long even if it is wide you will get the ball come back at you really fast.


Patrik Schmuki

Patrik Schmuki Posted 2 years ago

Thanks. I will keep on working on the short serves and flicking.


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Great, let me know how it goes.


John Legg

John Legg Posted 2 years ago

Hi Alois, I'm useless at table tennis but I'm good at English. Please fix your constant use of 'practicing'. Sure we all need practice. But when we are practising something it has an 's'. Check it out. 

 

Sorry to be boring. 

John


Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Hey John,

Sorry about that, clearly I need to improve my English. I've updated the spelling. embarassed


Richard Fan

Richard Fan Posted 2 years ago

Hi Alois, thanks for the great tips as always!  

Just curious though, what are your thoughts also on serving strategies agaisnt specific opponents? Such as:  

1) Players who play with the opposite hand to us e.g. Right-handed vs. Left-handed

2) Players with consistent over-the-table backhand banana flick

3) Players with long pips (on either side of the blade) 

4) Penhold players with consistent RPB (Reverse Penhold Backhand) over and away from the table  

Thanks! 


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Hi Richard,

I think each individual player comes with different weaknesses, but it is a matter of finding them and then finding something that you can do to exploit that weakness.

Against the Banana Flicker, you can serve more to their forehand corner and even just slightly longer.  The Banana flick is easier when the ball is short.

We also have a Match Strategy section that goes through ideas against different styles of opponent in detail.


Dieter Verhofstadt

Dieter Verhofstadt Posted 2 years ago

Although I play at a low level, I do have various serving tactics against certain types of opponents:

  • the lefty: the usual variations with the pendulum serve will nearly all go into their comfort zone. Therefore I will use more backhand serves and tomahawk serves that curl into their body. I may inject a few pendulums that curl outward so that they're not too comfortable standing in their backhand corner.
  • the long pipper: no side spin, since you get reverse spin back and that is even harder to wrap your brain around than reversing back- or topspin. So the usual tactic here is to serve with moderate backspin into their pips and get moderate topspin back, then attack. The serve can be of plain length, for they will usually not attack it. Short serves tend to come back short with even less speed and it's not so easy to attack then.
  • the short pipper: here it's a little different; short pippers can attack, so heavy backspin serves are better; they will come back with a low amount of backspin and can be attacked by opening up aggressively; I find short pippers the hardest to serve against
  • at my level, I do not encounter banana flickers or RPB's
  • I do encounter the blocker; they're usually close to the table, using my speed and converting it with placement; short serves are not very effective here and I will use long serves into the body or towards the extremes; as with long pippers, blockers rarely attack long balls so there is little risk in sending them wide; against blockers, slow topspins are key but it's not easy to engineer them from the serve, so I usually go with placement

Dean Fitzgerald

Dean Fitzgerald Posted 2 years ago

John Legg, i never knew about that differance in spelling, Practice vrs Practising. This Ping Skills never ceases to amaze me with what you can take away from it. The question and answer section could be renamed Life Skills.. You never know what members are going to throw on the table, i love it. Dean

 


kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 2 years ago

Amazing !  thank's Jeff and Alois for sharing these skills, although it is overwhelming for me trying to remember everything. However, you have given me more confidence and challenge to try to be better!! Since I was becoming discouraged trying to advance with the stronger players so that I can compete against them. I set my limit until the end of the year since my club is so competitive.


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Just keep working hard at improving your own ability Kathy.


Ben Ho

Ben Ho Posted 2 years ago

The service I mostly use is a short, low over the net service with massive backspin. Especially in doubles this keeps the opponent(s) from getting the initiative immediately.


Richard Fan

Richard Fan Posted 2 years ago

Hi Jeff, I have worked on my serves ever since my last post under this thread.

So far I've been able to serve short consistently especially the half-long serves (second bounce right on/close to the end line) with spin/no spin variations. 

Questions:

(1) What are the potential weaknesses/disadvantages of half-long serves that we need to be aware of? 

 

(2) After the half-long serve, what would be the ideal ready distance to have between ourselves and the table to receive the 3rd ball?  

Thanks! 


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Hi Richard,

The issue with the half long serve is sometimes you may stray long and invite the open by the receiver.

Like with every shot your movement depends on where your ball goes and then also be aware of the likely response by the receiver. Be ready for the attack but the most important thing is to be ready and track the ball.


kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 2 years ago

Thank you so much. I was just complimented by an advanced player of how much I had improved. However ,  he did advise me to keep my ball lower so that I would not invite smash. Although sometimes when I try low balls my ball goes into the net.   why do advanced players play the ball high!! Confusing.


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Great to hear.

Advanced players are playing with a lot of topspin and hitting the ball fast even though it is going high.  The topspin brings the ball down quickly.


kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 2 years ago

Our club has an outer city tournament this Sat. Decided to try to compete  in doubles matches. Somewhat anxious hoping I remember all the  correct maneuvers. Hope I don't fail and lose to the other club. Thank's for all your advise pingskills!!


Dieter Verhofstadt

Dieter Verhofstadt Posted 2 years ago

Somehow I seem unable to "unfollow" these questions.

I'm now trying by adding another comment and uncheck the follow box.


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Hopefully that will work for you Dieter.


F Wilson

F Wilson Posted 2 years ago

Your advice is something I look forward too every time it arrives in my in box. My biggest problem with my serve is failure to put it in play.  Seems that in the heat of the battle I lose focus and serve into the net WAY too often.  Free points to my opponent is a killer.  Thank you again for your videos.


kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 2 years ago

Was able to score a few points serving short. Won 2 games but no matches at tournament playing doubles against a strong outside team.  However,  I am improving and feeling more confident. Enough to start being serious playing singles. Thank you both for your kind encouragement!! 


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Greta to hear of the improvement.  You are definitely keen.


Rob S

Rob S Posted 2 years ago

Hi,

I have been learning to serve a forehand backspin serve short as you suggested.  My serves at the moment are pretty erratic, with a good percentage having good backspin (they backup the table towards me), but failing to go over the net.  When the ball does go over the net it usually bounces at least twice, and quite often does not reach the end of the table or backs up towards the net.  On a couple of occasions I have had the ball bounce back over the net!

I have a couple of questions:

  1. Is it a good thing for the ball to bounce more than twice, or should I try to limit the bounces on the opponents side too two?
  2. Secondly if the ball bounces over the net, and then bounces straight back over the net (i.e. one bounce on the opponents side of the table) is this a legal serve, and would I need to return it, or would I win the point because my opponent failed to play a stroke?

Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Hi Rob,

  1. Often the best short serve is one where the second bounce is close to the end of the table. This is because it makes it harder for your opponent to return it short, and because it makes them have to decide if the ball is actually going to come long or not. 
  2. You need to hit the ball otherwise your opponent wins the point.

Rob S

Rob S Posted 2 years ago

Hi Jeff, Thanks for the advice. I'll work on my technique and try to achieving your recommendations. Keep up the good work!

Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

No worries Rob. Let us know how you get on.


kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 2 years ago

Hi Jeff,  some of the players question the 80percent short balls since the opponents would be always ready for short balls.  is the key to surprise and mix it with various serves.  Thanks.


kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 2 years ago

Now I saw what you said about different spin serves!  although I am not proficient enough yet!!  thanks


Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Hi Kathy,

If long serves are effective against an opponent then keep using them. :) Generally though as you play better players they will attack your long serves and hence short serves are more effective. You do need to keep varying the spin, speed, and placement of your serves though for them to remain effective.


kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 2 years ago

Thank you Jeff!


James Finch

James Finch Posted 1 year ago

Table tennus master at table tennis university recently had a post about three reasons not to serve short.. do you want to look at that


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 1 year ago

We will have a look  Thanks.


Gurjot Dhaliwal

Gurjot Dhaliwal Posted 1 year ago

does timo boll have bad footwork


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 1 year ago

I think his footwork is very good.


Gurjot Dhaliwal

Gurjot Dhaliwal Posted 1 year ago

but everytime i see him play he does a stroke and his opponent hits it and he is just out of position and can do nothing about his opponent's shot also hes never really won any major title.


Gurjot Dhaliwal

Gurjot Dhaliwal Posted 1 year ago

who do you think is the best tt player?

 

 

 

 


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 1 year ago

He is quite old now.  
In his career, he won:
6 Europeans Mens single championships,
5 European Top 12 events,
18 Pro Tour events,
1 Pro Tour Grand Final,
2 World Cups,
Semi final and a quarter final of the World championships
Quarter final of the Olympics.  

That is a great career.


Gurjot Dhaliwal

Gurjot Dhaliwal Posted 1 year ago

do you think jan ove waldner would be able to beat ma long if he were around ma long's age?

 


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 1 year ago

Unfortunately I don't think so.  I think Ma Long is an incredible level.  However, I do think that Waldner is the best player of all time because of what he could do with a ball.  If he was born now I think he would have developed his game to a higher level.


Mike Viam

Mike Viam Posted 1 year ago

John Legg commented...

 

on the 25-May-2016 06:41:39 PM

Hi Alois, I'm useless at table tennis but I'm good at English. Please fix your constant use of 'practicing'. Sure we all need practice. But when we are practising something it has an 's'. Check it out.

coolinnocentinnocentinnocent....surprised

... as a matter of fact, the main difference is on where are you from...!!?

I struggle at TT with a little or no progress as well, but it is much easier for me bettering myself in English... so;

"Care should be taken with the use of the words practice and practise as there are differences in British and US usage. Practice is the correct spelling for the noun in both British and US English and it is also the spelling of the verb in US English. However, in British English the verb should be spelled practise. "(Oxford Dictionary)...

...but that is a whole different matter. Let us focus on table tennis...wink


F Wilson

F Wilson Posted 1 year ago

Geez, this is a ticky tacky attack on a guy that is giving us FREE and excellent advice.  Cut him some slack and give him an Atta Boy instead of a semi kick in the "package".  I am pretty sure you were just making an observation, not a big deal.  Serve on!!


Mike Viam

Mike Viam Posted 1 year ago

F Wilson commented...

on the 14-Jan-2017 03:15:49 AM

Geez, this is a ticky tacky attack on a guy that is giving us FREE and excellent advice.  Cut him some slack and give him an Atta Boy instead of a semi kick in the "package".  I am pretty sure you were just making an observation, not a big deal.  Serve on!!

cry Ouch... you missed the point of my comment... I did not ticky tacky attack anybody...

I just said, that Jeff did not do anything wrong, from my point of view: for Britts and Aussies it might be correct "practising", for some Yankees it is "practicing", for rest of the world (meaning non-native english speakers) it is either of them.

But, the point of my comment is my last sentence.

If anybody else understood my comment the way F Wilson did, I sincerely appologise, as I am from small European country and English is my fourth non-native language...

Besides; both Jeff and Alois are my TT "gods of belief"...


Otfried Krumpholz

Otfried Krumpholz Posted 1 year ago

Hi,

I recently saw the Pingskill video with the statistic about how often average and how often top players serve to the "good" zones (top players: 80 % short, 20 % long, 0 % in the "bad" third quarter of the opponent's side) and started to try to improve my serve according to the tip. Since then I got here and there remarks from my better club colleagues that I have a serve that is not so easy to return (although I don't add any side spin or anything) and my trainer, a former senior world champion, told me my serve is very good and does not even want to work at it at that stage. So I must say, an excellent tip and most interesting statistical info that a lot of club players are unaware of.

Thanks for that tip indeed!


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 1 year ago

Glad it helped, Otfried.


Sabah Waris

Sabah Waris Posted 1 year ago

Dear Alois

Keep on educating the people in such a sweet way. I agree with the criticism also as they will make good suggestions out of your skills. It will definitely helping the learners also in a better and easy way. 

I really  appreciate your efforts for this loving game and hopes to hear new tips in this regard.

Thanking you

Sabah Waris


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 1 year ago

Thank you so much Sabah.


Sabah Waris

Sabah Waris Posted 1 year ago

Always welcome my dear. Keep it up

Sabah


sohrab  sadeghi bahmani

sohrab sadeghi bahmani Posted 11 months ago

Hi,  dear Alois,

It was full of informative data! Dear coach after each your class I realize and comprehend new and applicable things. Thank you so much.

But I have still some problems with long and fast spiny serves when I want to control and receive them. Please guide me.

With best regards


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 11 months ago

Thanks Sohrab.  For the fast spin serve think first about making a topping return.  Take your time, let the ball come to you and make a slower topspin to give yourself plenty of margin for error over the net initially. Take a look at the following videos. Returning a Long Sidespin Serve and Returning a Long Backspin Serve.


Mark Gresser

Mark Gresser Posted 10 months ago

Good tip about serving short.  I play with a couple of really aggressive players, and if I hit the serve a bit high or deep, BAM, smashed return.  This forces me to develop some good serving habits...;-)

You mention the footwork;  have you and Jeff done a video on footwork?  I'm quite curious about how good players think about fore and aft movement.

Thanks,

 

Mark


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 10 months ago

Hi Mark,

We have a section on Footwork in the Strokes and Techniques section.  In particular the one on Footwork for a Short Ball is probably what you are after.

 



Become a free member to post a comment about this blog.