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How to Get More Spin on Your Table Tennis Serves

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2014 World Team Table Tennis Championship-Day 8
Atsushi Tomura/Stringer/Getty Images Sport/
Question: How to Get More Spin on Your Table Tennis Serves
I'm having a problem with generating spin on the ball when serving, in order to generate spin I've heard from people that it is a "flick" of the wrist, is this true? Because I've been flicking using my wrist but no spin seems to be generating at all, or there is but very weak. I've seen players serve with easy spin and it seems that their serve is a solid swing at the ball or is there a combination of both..? Methods of training would be much appreciated.
Answer: You need two things to generate spin when serving in table tennis:
  1. Speed of your bat - the more the better
  2. Brushing of the ball - you have to skim the ball instead of hitting it solidly
These two factors work together as follows - the faster your bat is moving, the more potential there is to make the ball spin. The more you brush the ball instead of hitting it solidly, the more of your bat speed will be turned into spin on the ball. So you will generate the most spin when you have a fast moving bat that is skimming the ball, and you will get the least spin when you have a slow moving bat that is hitting through the ball.

Using Your Wrist - It's A Snap!

Flicking your wrist can add to the bat speed you can achieve, which then adds to the 'potential' to make spin. But you still need to brush the ball lightly to turn that bat speed into ball spin. Otherwise you'll just hit the ball harder and faster, not spinnier. It's common for beginning ping-pong players to flick the wrist in a different direction to the direction the bat is moving, causing them to hit the ball more and skim it less - you need to flick your wrist in the same direction as the edge of the bat is traveling in order to increase the spin you produce as much as possible.

Some players argue that no wrist snap is necessary to produce heavy spin, and while this is true I still recommend using your wrist, because once you master the wrist snap technique you can vary the amount of wrist anywhere between a lot and a little, making it harder for your opponent to read the ball. Just by snapping more or less, or snapping in a slightly different direction to the direction the bat is moving, you can achieve differing spins that are difficult to tell apart. Your opponent may see your wrist snap, but he will find it hard to judge the amount of snap, and the precise direction you are snapping in.

Recommended Training Methods for Increasing the Spin on Your Ping-Pong Serves

A favorite training method of mine to teach new players how to spin the ball is to put a chopstick or metal rod through the middle of the ball, and then let the student practice making the ball spin around on the rod as much as he can. If you do this exercise it will give you a feel for how different brushing angles produce different amounts of spin.

Once you have the right feel for the brushing contact, then get out on the table and start serving - while trying to keep the ball double bouncing. As you get better you will be able to increase the spin while still double bouncing the ball.

Over the years, you will see that individual table tennis players have many different methods and actions for serving with spin - some serve smoothly, some jerkily, some with long strokes and some with short. But in all cases to produce the most spin, you need a fast moving bat and a good skim of the ball. And a good grippy rubber doesn't hurt either!

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