February 18, 2011

Adham Sharara interview

Here's an interview with ITTF President Adham Sharara, done in Shanghai this month (6:39). It covers the various rule changes in the sport and whether they were aimed at China or for the betterment of the sport, Olympic representation, various top players, and other issues.

Why do so few players mix in fast, deep serves?

It always amazes me how so many players spend years playing and practicing their games, often developing advanced serves, and yet so many of them never learn to vary in fast, deep serves. When your opponent isn't a threat to serve fast & deep, then you know the serve is either going to be short, or slow and deep, so you have plenty of time to loop it. When you add in the threat of a fast & deep serve, then you can't assume you have all that time to loop the deep serve.

You should learn all the variations:

  • Placement: Wide backhand, wide forehand, middle (elbow).
  • Spin: Topspin, sidespin breaking right, sidespin breaking left, no-spin. (You'll note there's no backspin here - a truly fast serve with backspin will fly off the table. But see note below about no-spin serve, which sometimes has a light backspin.)

Let me elaborate a little on the topspin and no-spin serves. If you basically meet the ball straight on, is that a topspin or no-spin serve? After bouncing twice on the table, it has a light topspin, so I call this . . . light topspin. You can, of course, contact with a more brushing motion and create more topspin.

To serve a true no-spin, you need to put a light backspin on the ball to compensate for the two bounces on the table. Some even put enough backspin on the ball so there's still a little backspin when it reaches the opponent. This makes the ball float more, but is deader than a no-spin ball, and can force more errors.

While all of these serves have their place, the two that I find most valuable are fast no-spin at the middle (which players put in the net over and over, or return weakly), and fast anything down the line to a righty's forehand (which catches forehand-favoring players over and over). Fast serves to a lefty's forehand are also effective, but because of the angle you have, a lefty generally covers that angle.

Now comes the really tough question: Why do they call it "fast & deep"? If it's fast, it's going to go deep!!! (Yes, there are short serves that come at you quick, but they are not really "fast" serves or they wouldn't go short.)


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