Effective serving is one of the most important skills to master when playing table tennis. Quite simply, it can often be what makes or breaks a match.
While to the average onlooker the serve might not seem like that much of a big deal considering it’s only the opening shot of the rally, it’s pretty much the only time you’re able to have full control of the ball.
Therefore, it’s essential to make each serve count, whether you’re ahead and looking to stamp home your advantage or you’re trailing and trying to claw your way back into the contest.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at three of the most effective serves you can use in table tennis to start off your rallies in the best way possible.
We’ll also look to answer a few of the frequently asked questions.
1. The Pendulum Serve
The first serve we’ll look to explain in greater detail is the pendulum.
This is arguably the most popular serve that’s used today, with the introduction of sidespin making it difficult for opponents to return successfully.
If you want to become a high-level table tennis player, it’s essential that you’re able to perform the pendulum serve effectively due to the fact that it’s the easiest serve for introducing spin variation.
All you need to do is slightly change your wrist movement and backspin can quickly be turned into topspin.
Using a long topspin pendulum serve against an opponent is a relatively safe strategy, especially when used crosscourt from your backhand side into theirs.
This is because the likelihood of them returning back with a winner is highly unlikely – only players with an elite backhand or the ability to move into a forehand loop pose any kind of risk.
What’s more, the topspin pendulum serve is a good option for players who like to play topspin rallies.
If you’re confident in your ability to outperform your opponent in this regard, and they’re unable to hit a straight winner from your topspin pendulum, it’s a pretty sure-fire strategy.
2. The Chop Serve
The next serve that every table tennis player needs to master is the incredibly easy-to-perform chop serve. This type of serve only uses backspin and is the easiest one to keep short.
Perhaps the best thing about the chop serve is the fact that it prevents opponents returning with a loop.
Moreover, if you’re able to apply a good amount of backspin on the ball, opponents will also be reluctant to play a flick return.
Another great option to consider is a half-long chop serve. This is when your serve looks like it’s going to bounce twice on your opponent’s side of the table, but only bounces once.
Not only are these serves incredibly difficult to read, they also, more often than not, force opponents into a pretty tame push return.
This gives you plenty of time to react to the return and gear up for an attacking shot such as a loop to immediately put them under pressure in the rally.
Something to keep in mind with the chop serve is that you’re only able to apply backspin – no sidespin or topspin.
So, when it comes to spin variation, you’re restricted solely to the degree of spin that you’re creating.
3. The Reverse Pendulum Serve
The final serve we’ll take a closer look at is the hardest to perform out of the three.
Despite it’s difficulty, the reverse pendulum is extremely important to learn due to the fact that it accounts for what’s missing in the pendulum and chop serves – the ability to utilize sidespin to encourage the ball to your forehand.
Every opponent you’ll come up against will have some form of weakness when it comes to spin, so it’s vital to have as many serves up your sleeve as possible.
If you decide against learning some of the more complex serves like the reverse pendulum, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to miss out on points further down the line.
Even if you’re unable to win points outright from your reverse pendulum serve, the sidespin of the shot will ensure that a considerable amount of returns land on your forehand side.
This ultimately means a higher number of forehand loop opportunities which are a great way to win points quickly and easily.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s An Illegal Serve In Table Tennis?
If you want to make sure that your table tennis serve is fully legal, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind.
For example, it’s illegal if you hide the ball from the receiver at any point during the service motion.
This means that covering the ball with your torso as you go to serve the ball is illegal, as is shielding the ball with your free arm.
Another thing to avoid when serving is placing your racket in front of the ball before you make contact.
Can You Serve From The Side Of The Table Tennis Table?
Yes, the server is allowed to stand wherever they want. So, if they deem it beneficial for their performance to serve from way outside the sidelines of the table, then this is absolutely fine.
All that you need to make sure is that they remain behind the end line of the table at the start of the serve.
It’s worth noting that most serious table tennis players tend to avoid serving from the side of the table as this puts them out of position for the rest of the rally.
Is Table Tennis A Good Workout?
Table tennis can offer a range of useful health benefits, even when played recreationally or for fun.
It not only gives you a good form of aerobic exercise, it’s also great for mind-body stimulation and social interaction.
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