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

A Practical Experiment in Ping-Pong Serving

By

Photo of Pendulum Serve

This is Harder than it Looks!

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

Monthly Report

I've decided to make my serving updates monthly from here on in, since my improvement will probably be fairly incremental from now on. Since my last report on Wednesday 9th May 2007, I've conducted only 6 more serve training sessions. A pretty poor effort but in my defense there have been a number of other issues that have distracted my focus this month gone past. I'll try to do better this month coming!

I've also added serve training for the backspin/sidespin version of this serve, and looking back I probably should have started with this version. Although making consistent contact was more difficult at first (as you'll see from the stats below), it is much easier to double bounce this serve than the topspin/sidespin version, since the ball tends to slow up when bouncing.

Thursday May 10

I performed 240 serves for the topspin/sidespin serve, and 150 serves for the backspin/sidespin variation. Here are the results:

Topspin/Sidespin Version

  • Faults - 48 - 20%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 27 - 11.3%
  • Long Serves - 139 - 57..9%
  • Let Serves - 21 - 2.1%
  • Missed Balls - 5 - 2.1%
Backspin/Sidespin Version
  • Faults - 61 - 40.7%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 38 - 25.3%
  • Long Serves - 30 - 20%
  • Let Serves - 10 - 6.7%
  • Missed Balls - 11 - 7.3%
So as you can see, there was some slight improvement in my topspin variation serve, with a few less faults. The backspin version was more difficult to execute, but much easier to keep the ball short, in fact many of the faults were balls that were just not quite high enough to get over the net!

Saturday May 12

I only found time to perform 250 of the topspin/sidespin variation serves, but I was encouraged by my improvement since the last session. Here are the results:

Topspin Variation

  • Faults - 38 - 15.2%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 35 - 14%
  • Long Serves - 163 - 65.2%
  • Let Serves - 14 - 5.6%
  • Missed Balls - 0 - 0%
As you can see, my faults had decreased quite a bit, with a corresponding increase in long and double bounce serves.

Tuesday May 15

After a couple of days off, I picked up serving again, serving 250 topspin/sidespin serves and 156 backspin/sidespin serves. My results were as follows:

Topspin/Sidespin Variation

  • Faults - 52 - 20.8%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 37 - 14.8%
  • Long Serves - 133 - 53.2%
  • Let Serves - 27 - 10.8%
  • Missed Balls - 1 - 0.4%
Although it appears that my results had gotten worse, I was actually quite satisfied, since the increase in faults was caused by serves with good contact that just didn't quite make it over the net. You can notice the increase in let balls as well, which confirms I was contacting the ball better overall, hence the drop in long serves.

Backspin/Sidespin Variation

  • Faults - 48 - 30.8%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 52 - 33.3%
  • Long Serves - 16 - 10.3%
  • Let Serves - 6 - 3.8%
  • Missed Balls - 34 - 21.8%
After not practising this serve for 5 days, my results were patchy. My faults decreased, but this was mainly due to an increase in missing the ball at the start of the session (which of course are faults as well). But there was a pleasing increase in double bounce serves.

Wednesday May 16

For the first time in a while, I conducted a two serving sessions on consecutive days. Would this improve my results?

As it turned out, the answer was yes, it would. As shown by the stats below, my double bounce serving improved on the topspin variation (260 serves), while my faults decreased significantly and my double bounce serving improved markedly on the backspin variation (288 serves total). I was also missing fewer balls when attempting the backspin serve, which was good too.

Topspin/Sidespin Variation

  • Faults - 55 - 21.2%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 47 - 18.1%
  • Long Serves - 142 - 54.6%
  • Let Serves - 14 - 5.4%
  • Missed Balls - 2 - 0.8%
Backspin/Sidespin Variation
  • Faults - 61 - 21.2%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 138 - 47.9%
  • Long Serves - 36 - 12.5%
  • Let Serves - 15 - 5.2%
  • Missed Balls - 38 - 13.2%

Sunday May 27

Pleased by the success of practicing my serve for two days in a row, I then celebrated by not practicing for 11 days! Actually, there was just a lot of stuff happening at the time, and serving practice took a back seat for a while.

So it was with some trepidation that I went to the table to serve again. If two days in a row was good, surely an 11 day break was going to be bad? Here's the tale of the stats:

Topspin/Sidespin Variation

  • Faults - 76 - 30.4%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 48 - 19.2%
  • Long Serves - 97 - 38.8%
  • Let Serves - 27 - 10.8%
  • Missed Balls - 2 - 0.8%
Hmmm, out of the 250 serves, my faults increased, but mainly at the expense of my long serves, not my double bounce serves. Interesting.

Backspin/Sidespin Variation

  • Faults - 78 - 31.2%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 104 - 41.6%
  • Long Serves - 54 - 21.6%
  • Let Serves - 13 - 5.2%
  • Missed Balls - 1 - 0.4%
This sequence of 250 serves is quite interesting too - suddenly I'm not missing the ball anymore. I wonder what caused that? Seeing my faults have increased again, I'd guess that my swing consistency has improved enough to convert a number of those misses to faults instead, although my peak performance has gone down a little as shown by the reduction in my number of double bounce serves and increase in long serves.

Thursday May 31

Again, a few days passed before I got the chance to serve again. Here's the results of the 250 serves for each variation.

Topspin/Sidespin Variation

  • Faults - 49 - 19.6%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 37 - 14.8%
  • Long Serves - 141 - 56.4%
  • Let Serves - 18 - 7.2%
  • Missed Balls - 5 - 2.0%
OK, my faults have dropped back to around normal levels, and my long serves have increased again. Seems like my consistency has improved, but I'm not improving my ability to double bounce the serve, but just to serve the ball long. I'll have to watch that next time.

Backspin/Sidespin Variation

  • Faults - 73 - 29.2%
  • Double Bounce Serves - 85 - 34%
  • Long Serves - 59 - 23.6%
  • Let Serves - 32 - 12.8%
  • Missed Balls - 1 - 0.4%
Great! I've still not missing many balls, so it seems I've managed to improve my general consistency at contacting the ball. Faults were steady, but double bounces were down a bit, mainly due to an increase in let serves. So I'm probably contacting the ball OK.

Number of Serves Since Day 1 - Topspin = 5170; Backspin = 1094

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