Maximize Your Service Play

By Larry Hodges

If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your service game, take some time to really think about it. Analyze your current serves, and what you want to do with your serves – what shots you want to set up. Then analyze how to best connect these two.

Here are a few pointers. Good luck!

1.      Use serves that set up your game. For example:

  • Loopers might want to serve short backspin or no-spin to get a backspin return. If you want to ensure a deep return, short sidespin will usually do the trick.
  • Counter-drivers and hitters might want to get right into a topspin rally – so serve mostly topspin or fast & deep serves.
  • Hitters should really mix their serves up to try to fool opponents into hittable returns.

2.      Make sure to mix up the spin, speed, direction, and depth of your serves. However, learn to serve with the same motion so you don't telegraph your serve.

3.      Develop a few “trick” serves that’ll get you some “free” points. These include serves that look like one spin but are another, or sudden fast serves. Probably the single most effective of these types of serves are fast no-spin serves to the middle, which are put in the net over and over. Another is a sudden down-the-line serve, often for an ace.

Dear Mr Hodges

Thank you for every tip you write. I have learnd a lot of table tennis reading you.

I have a question: I have realised that when I serve with a few of right spin it helps me to attack with my forehand loop. At the same time if I use left sidespin it becomes mor difficult to me. In other words: backhand service helps to my forehand loop but pendulum serve do not it. 

I think that it is becouse my forehand loop has some sidespin to the right. Can yo tell me more about this question?

Thank you very much.

Excuse me for my poor english. 

I'd have to see your forehand pendulum serve to know for sure, but it normally has the opposite sidespin as a backhand sidespin. (Unless you are doing a reverse forehand pendulum serve, where the racket moves from left to right for a righty.) Forehand pendulum serves tend to be returned to the backhand (assuming two righties), while backhand serves tend to be returned to the forehand. Higher-level players with good footwork prefer attacking with their forehand from the backhand corner (allowing them to follow with another forehand), and so tend to favor the forehand pendulum serve. A backhand serve may set them up for one forehand from the forehand side, but then a simple block to the backhand takes the forehand out of the rally. Hope this helps!