The Short Serve & Short Receive, and Looping
By Larry Hodges
If you have a nice loop, then you want to serve and return serves to set it up, right? Many players learn by the intermediate level that to serve and loop, you usually want to serve short. If you serve long, the opponent can loop, but if you serve short, usually with backspin, you normally get a long push return you can loop. So the centerpiece of many intermediate and advanced games is serve short and loop. (You can also serve short sidespin, topspin, or no-spin. Rather than a push return, you'll often get a flip return, which is also long and loopable. If the serve is very low, the flip will usually be weak enough for you to attack.)
The corollary to this is that if you return a short backspin serve with a short push, you'll probably get a long push return you can loop. It takes practice to do this - you have to read and recognize the serve as short backspin, step in, and have the control to push with enough touch to keep it short and low. If you don't learn to do this, then you'll probably be pushing long (letting the other guy loop) or flipping (not a bad idea, but predictable and off a low ball, it can be attacked). At first you'll mess up a lot, but with practice, it'll be a big part of your game, regularly setting up your loop. Watch the best players, and you'll see that short receive is central to many of their games.