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Learning To Serve in Table Tennis - Mastering a Ping-Pong Serve

A Practical Experiment in Ping-Pong Serving


Photo of Pendulum Serve

This is Harder than it Looks!

© 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc

Week 2 Report

As promised, here is my report for Week 2 of learning this new serve.

Day 8 - Tuesday

As I mentioned last week, I did my 250 serves after writing my update. My middle finger is hurting from the blister I've developed, and the band-aid isn't helping all that much. (Sigh.) I've made some small improvements in spin and control, I think. It just feels a bit better really.

Day 9 - Wednesday

Ouch! My finger was very painful due to the blister. I only completed 100 serves by gritting my teeth, and in the end resorted to just holding the bat between my thumb and index finger. I think I was concentrating more on finding a way to serve that didn't hurt than I was on actually trying to do a good serve. The change in grip didn't seem to affect my performance of the serve though.

Day 10 - Thursday

I managed to find a new temporary grip that is more comfortable, and avoids aggravating my blistered finger. I've moved my middle finger (the one with the blister) further around the handle, so that it's contact with the handle is lessened, and in a different spot that doesn't get rubbed raw.

Using this less painful grip, I did my 250 serves today. I noticed that I'm not missing many balls completely any more - maybe 5%? (Which is still 12-13 missed serves out of my 250, I suppose). I'm also getting more serves over the net, which is good too. I even tried serving some backspin/sidespin serves, and missed the ball totally almost every time (I literally missed 10 serves in a row - I can't remember the last time I've done that!) Obviously I've still got a lot of work to do there in the future.

Day 11 - Friday

I was not very well on Friday, and decided to take the day off. So sue me. ;)

Day 12 - Saturday

Another 250 serves today. I find I'm not missing the ball at all now, but I'm still serving quite a few faults, both into the net (mainly), and off the edge of my bat at times. Probably around 20-30% of my serve attempts are faults at the moment.

My control of the serve feels a little better. I'd estimate of the serves that aren't faults, I'm getting good spin on maybe 50% of them. The others either have little or no spin.

My placement is still a bit variable as far as depth is concerned, although I'm mainly worrying about spin, not length at the moment. I'm also noticing an interesting phenomenon every now and again when I mistime the serve and put it down the line, where the serve seems to bounce straight on the first bounce, then kick on the second bounce to the right instead of the left. I don't think I'm hitting it before I snap the wrist, but I guess it might be possible. Or maybe I'm just expecting the ball to bounce in the other direction, so it appears to bounce sideways when in fact it's going straight? Curious.

Day 13 - Sunday

Did my 250 serves. Once again, very few complete misses, which is good. I'm probably still serving around 20-30% faults though. I noticed I can now make contact on the backspin/sidespin serve around one third to one half of the time - which is a big improvement!

I've still got a long, long way to go with placement and consistent spin. I'm trying the spin the other way (i.e. a normal forehand pendulum spin) from time to time, but I'm obviously going to need to do a lot of work on that serve as well. I'm also trying the odd fast serve straight down the line, but I'm nearly breaking my wrist attempting to pull that off, so I'll shelve that for the moment and come back to it later. I saw Alan Cooke of England do it incredibly well at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, so I'll go back to the video and check it out before trying it again.

Day 14 - Monday

Yep, you guessed it - another 250 serves today. I'm not missing the ball now, and I'm no longer worried about missing the ball really, I'm confident I'll make contact now.

I'm still trying to improve the consistency of my spin, and slowly getting a little better. When my spin is consistent, my placement is consistent as well, so the key is to get the spin right first. When I try the occasional backspin/sidespin serve I'm now making contact most of the time, but I'm finding it hard to get it over the net. But I'm only trying those for fun at the moment so I'm not overly worried about that yet. I'm not doing many of the forehand pendulum variation right now, since I want to really groove in the reverse variation first. I think the reverse variation is the hardest one to perform anyway.


I'm up to approximately 2200 serves in two weeks, and what's the result? Once again, I'll let you decide for yourself whether there has been any noticeable improvement. Here's the video which I shot on Tuesday morning, before I performed my 250 serves for the day.

Deceptive Serve Video - Day 15 - 720x576 pixels version - 5.85MB; 640x480 pixels version - 3MB; 320x240 pixels version - 1.7MB

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