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Most intermediate and beginner players tend to be reluctant to practice their serves.
They feel it is a dull, repetitive exercise that will take a lot of their time.
They feel that being a single shot can’t be that important, but that is a wrong perspective.
The truth is that the service is the most vital shot in table tennis and needs to be done correctly.
Also, players will never have enough practice to say that they have attained perfection. This is because you will meet different contestants, and some of them are highly competent.
Your first shot lets you take control of the other player, and a single mistake will make you lose the whole opportunity.
To show you how important the service is, let us look at some service rules in table tennis.
From there, we will touch on how to serve in table tennis.
Table Tennis Service Rules
It is imperative to understand the different kinds of table tennis serves, but let us get familiar with the rules before we get there.
1. Flat Hand with Ball in The Palm — This is the very first step of having the ball served. Be sure to hold your ball in an open flat hand. It should be in the palm of your hand. It is a rule that you can’t hide the ball, so you must keep it where it can be seen. Also, it would help if you did not use the tips of your fingers to hold it. This rule is put in place to ensure that players don’t spin the ball when they release it.
2. Strike The Ball Behind the Table’s End Line — There is a white line at the end of the table. You must strike the ball behind that line. Unless you make contact behind that line, you shall have broken the rule. Also, you are not allowed to lean forward and strike the ball closer to the net. Players are forbidden from starting the ball beneath the tabletop. The ball must be kept visible to your opponent at all times.
3. Tossing The Ball — When serving, players must toss the ball at least 16 cm (6 inches). Hitting the ball straight from your hand is not allowed. But this is a common mistake among beginners and intermediate players. To give you a rough estimate, six inches is around the width of your paddle. The ball must also be thrown straight into the air. You will not throw it backward or forward.
As you toss the ball, other players must see it. This rule prevents you from hiding the ball with your arms or body. In the 80s and 60s, players started to hide the ball from their opponents, so the rule was created. If the opponent can’t see the ball when being struck, it is impossible to know its force and spin it comes with to play a good return.
4. Ball Placement — When making table tennis serve, you are free to hit the ball from any side of the table to the table’s opposite side. However, if you are playing doubles, you can only serve from one side to the other. There is a middle white line to help you do this when playing doubles.
Types of Table Tennis Serves
There is an array of table tennis serves. In this section, we will explore the main types of serves in table tennis to help augment your skills.
1. Forehand Serve — This is the primary type of serve you will learn as you kick off your table tennis career. All you have to do is position your arm so that its underside faces the other player. Then use the backside of the ping pong paddle to hit the ball toward your opponent. As a beginner, this is the serve that you will be taught first and is the type that you will mostly use.
2. Backhand Serve — The backhand uses similar emotions used in the forehand serve, with only one main difference. In this case, the back of your hand will face the other player. You will strike the ball the same way you did in the forehand serve.
3. Ghost Serve — A ghost serve is a type of backspin serve that makes the ball bounce before going backward. This serve is quite deceptive, and most of the time, your opponent will not be ready for it. If you use this serve perfectly, there is a good chance you will earn a point unless you are playing for a master who is ready for all kinds of serves. To do the spin, be sure to paddle horizontally under the ball from left or right.
4. Pendulum Serve — In pendulum serve, you will move your paddle from side to side or left to right and right to left. This way, you will be able to make two different spins; counter-clockwise and clockwise. You can also get underspin and topspin. You can also get no spin at all. The good thing about this serve is that you can get a variety of options based on where your paddle and the ball came into contact and the force with which you hit the ball.
Why you need a great table tennis serve
In the entire game, the serve is the only time you have 100% control over your shot, especially when it comes to spin, speed, and placement.
The other benefit that you get from a great serve is that you can quickly force errors.
When you give a perfect serve, your opponent will be forced to try much harder, and they are highly likely to make mistakes and easily win the game.
With a perfect serve, you will get points easily and fast.
At times, your opponent will miss your shot or not receive it well to earn them a point. This mainly happens when your rival is struggling to understand the types of serves and spins you make.
Also, even if the serve doesn’t win you a point, a weak return will make it easier for you to hit and even score a point.
Know when to change your serve
There are many ways to win a game of table tennis.
One trick is always to keep your opponents confused so that they cannot return your serves quickly.
You will be forcing them to make mistakes, and your role is to take advantage of that and earn as many points as possible.
You are supposed to master as many serves as possible. That way, you can switch your tactics when the opponent least expects it, thereby earning you easy points.
In every game, you want to change your serves as frequently as possible so that your opponent is ever sure what you will be doing next.
How to improve your serve
You already know the importance of serving in table tennis; let us discuss some theories on how you can do better.
Before you do anything, make sure to be familiar with the game rules and that you comply with them at all times. There is no point delivering killer serves when the umpire will always fault them.
Note that you will lose points each time your serve is faulted. This implies that table tennis does not have a second serve. You will always get one chance, so you have to make fair use of it.
Do your homework and make sure you can serve perfectly without making any mistakes.
Deception is an integral part of serve in the game.
If you are a beginner, you can practice deception by teaching yourself how to vary the amount of spin you give the ball.
That way, your rival will have to watch the ball keenly to determine the amount of spin to give the ball when returning it.
You must never place the ball where your opponent can quickly return it.
Whenever you serve the ball, make sure that your opponent will have to move to return it.
By doing this, they will feel challenged with every serve, improving your chances of winning the match.
The next trick is to always put the ball at their playing elbow, which is the arm’s elbow holding the bat.
If you know how to serve in table tennis, they will need to decide whether to use backhand or forehand to return it.
The bottom line
Even if your opponent struggles to return a given serve, it doesn’t mean you should use the same trick each time.
It is essential that you change your serve as many times as possible.
If you keep your opponent confused throughout the game, there is a good chance you are going to win.
If you serve well and keep your rival struggling, you stand a chance to carry the day.
Therefore, whether you are an intermediate or novice player, you want to save some time each day and practice your serve alone.
After some time, you will notice a tremendous improvement.
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