Multipart service question

Table Tennis Serving

Last updated 3 years ago

Jonathan Toback

Jonathan Toback Asked 3 years ago

Hi Alois,


I have a multipart question about my service game:


I have chosen the backhand serve to focus on as it seems to be the best fit for me and my backhand dominant game.  I practice service multiple times a week with a bucket of balls in my basement. My service practice sessions focus on the following variations.  I place 3 pieces of paper with one at each of the corners and one in the middle at the end line. I then hit short serves (2nd bounce to hit the paper) and long serves (1st bounce hit paper) with either backspin, topspin, or no spin.  One of the pros at my club suggested that at my level I not do sidespin serves until I get more comfortable with returning sidespin and knowing how to better handle it.


For this reason I have worked to completely remove sidespin from all 3 of these serves.  So my first question is this:

  1. You mentioned in your backhand service lesson that a backhand serve typically has some sidespin on it.  My pure topspin serve feels a little odd to hit the target without any side movement, but I feel that this could be advantageous in the long term to help me control the amount of sidespin I put on when I start adding it in.  Do you agree with this approach? I also remember in the Bounce book when Matthew Syed described how his teacher worked on his one of his strokes to remove all sidespin from it and the value of getting a pure stroke as a crucial part of his stroke technique foundation.  


Since I have been focusing my serves to have zero sidespin, I have been experimenting with putting both directions of sidespin to find the cross over point where the spins change, and this I have found valuable to dial it in.  


My 2nd question is this:

2) I have been interested in pursuing a backhand serve that has the reverse sidespin on it.  I found a video on YouTube where a person demonstrated what essentially looks like a reverse tomahawk serve but with a backhand starting position and swing.  I like the idea of incorporating both directions of sidespin to my future service game so that my backhand-focused serves have the most options for variation.  What is your view on the value of investing time in this backhand reverse sidespin serve?


Lastly, I feel like your lessons, podcasts and other resources that I’ve studied about serving has given me a good foundation and trajectory to develop my service game for singles.  However, when I play doubles, I feel like I lack the same confidence in my service approach for doubles. I would like to formally practice my serves in the doubles format, but wanting to make sure I set up my practice in the same structured way as I do for singles.  


So my last question is this:


3) How do I adapt my backhand service practice from singles (serving from the middle to the 3 paper targets on the full table) to doubles (forehand half to forehand half)?  Should I simply move the 3 paper targets to the equivalent 3 spots on the doubles half and practice it the same way, or do you have some other guidance you can offer?


Thank you so much Alois,

Jonathan Toback

Premium Member, Chicago USA

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario Answered 3 years ago

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for your questions.

Firstly I think you can start to develop some sidespin serves, probably sooner rather than later.  The backhand straight backspin serve is very basic and doesn't allow for much development.

I also think that developing a variety of serve is something that you can do at an early stage of development.  It is such an interesting part of the game and an area that you can develop quickly alongside developing your strokes.

Developing things like a reverse backhand serve is a good idea.  In fact, let your imagination run wild and see what else you can create.

For the doubles short serve an important part is to get the ball to stay on the table with the second bounce.  The receiver has a smaller area to cover so short serves tend to be much more important that with singles.  With the angle of your backhand serve you are going to find that the ball will tend to drift off the sideline.  Work on getting the serve closer to the middle line on the first bounce to allow more room for the second bounce.  The longer serve can be to a spot close to the middle line, one in the far corner and one even wider, about ⅓ of the way back along the sideline.

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Thoughts on this question

Nigel C

Nigel C Posted 3 years ago

Wouldn't a regular backhand side spin serve served from the middle be more likely to be returned to the servers forehand?

Has anyone done a study of where serves are more likely to be returned to, if so a list would be very interesting.

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