Now that you know why the serve is so important in table tennis, let's look at some of the theory behind how to serve better.
Time Required: Indefinite
- Make sure that you understand and can comply with the rules of ping-pong that cover the serve. There's no point developing a killer serve if the umpire is simply going to fault you every time you use it!
- Remember that a fault loses the point automatically. There's no second service rule in table tennis - once chance is all you get. So you need to do enough practice so that you can serve without faulting when the pressure is on.
- Deception is an important part of serving in table tennis. For beginners, it is easiest to start practicing deception by learning to vary the amount of spin you put on the ball. This will force your opponent to watch your serve closely so that he can judge the amount of spin on the ball when making his return. By varying between light, medium, heavy and no spin serves, you will make the return of serve more difficult for your opponent.
- Sidespin can also be used to make it harder for your opponent to read the amount of topspin or backspin on the ball. You must be careful not to use more sidespin than you are comfortable with. It is not uncommon for an opponent to return your serve without changing the amount of sidespin you have put on the ball, in which case you will then have to deal with your own sidespin!
- Don't serve the ball where the opponent can hit it easily. Try to serve the ball so that he has to reach or move to return it, since he will find this more difficult (it's much harder to move and hit the ball at the same time). Another good option is to serve the ball at his playing elbow (the elbow of the arm holding the bat), so that he has to decide whether to take it using his forehand or backhand side quickly, and he will also have to move to give himself room to make the stroke.
- Keep a close eye on how each opponent you face handles your serves. Try to discover what he is good at returning, and what he is relatively weak at. Then use more of the types of serves that he is having difficulty with.
- As you improve your ability to attack with topspin against all types of returns, you will find it useful to serve what is called a double bounce serve more often. A double bounce serve is performed when the ball bounces twice on your opponent's side of the table, with the second bounce within 6 inches or so of the endline.
- When done correctly, a double bounce serve is the most difficult serve for your opponent to attack strongly, and gives you the best chance of attacking his return with a strong shot of your own. You will need to be able to attack both topspin and backspin balls, since your opponent is likely to return a double bounce serve with a flick or a push.
- How to Improve Your Serve - Practical Advice