Returning tomahawk serve left and right hand spin

Table Tennis Service Return

Last updated 1 year ago

Ken Johnston

Ken Johnston Asked 1 year ago

Hi Alois. Ken here in Victoria, Canada. I've been a subscriber for a couple of months and love your site. Thankyou!! I'm a 72 year old who played table tennis in high school as a teenager and won high school championships. I decided to return to the sport last March and have made good progress since (for my age) I belong to a club, have a coach and practice with a robot I purchased a few months ago. Last month, I played a man who plays at about the same level as I do. However, I came away so frustrated, I haven't had the initiative to pick up a racket since. He plays a tomahawk serve that can spin either clockwise or counterclockwise. My only hope of returning it without your help is to guess which spin it has and counter it accordingly. I have a 50% chance of guessing correctly, and if I don't, he wins the point. I can pick up a topspin or backspin and react well. Also, if a sidespin is well telegraphed, I can react well. However, this man disguises the left and right spin of the tomahawk so well, I don't process what I'm seeing quickly enough to react accordingly. Your input to my quandary would be greatly appreciated. 


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario Answered 1 year ago

Hi Ken,

The first thing to watch for is which side of the bat he hits it with.  If he hits it with the backhand side it will spin off to your right.  If he hits it with his forehand side it will spin off to your left.  The idea then is to watch really carefully the contact point of the server.

To return the ball just use the angle of your bat to guide the ball back.  If the ball wants to spin to your right, angle the bat to face the left and vice versa.

It sounds like a complex process but it will start to become automatic with time and exposure to the serve a few more times.


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Thoughts on this question

Rohan I am

Rohan I am Posted 1 year ago

"If the ball wants to spin to your right, angle the bat to face the left and vice versa."

Alois, don't you mean if the ball spins to your right, angle the bat (the hitting face) to your right, i.e. aim the same direction the ball is moving?


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 1 year ago

The hitting face needs to face to the left if the ball is spinning to the right so that you can counteract the spin.


Rohan I am

Rohan I am Posted 1 year ago

Rats.  Now I'm confused again.  In the diagram below, if both players are RH and I'm the player at the bottom, I would describe the spin on the ball as spinning to my right (anti-clockwise from the 12:00 position) and curving to my right (to my forehand side).  To counter this spin, I need to angle my bat to the right as it have the tendency to jump to the left. So I always think "right, right, right" and "left, left, left". Is it just a terminology/description difference or do I have the theory entirely wrong?


Rohan I am

Rohan I am Posted 1 year ago


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 1 year ago

Same idea just different way of thinking of it.


Rohan I am

Rohan I am Posted 1 year ago

OK, so when you said "If the ball wants to spin to your right, angle the bat to face the left and vice versa" do you mean so the tip of the bat points left (which would mean the hitting face is facing to the right)?


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 1 year ago

The hitting face is facing to your left.



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