January 30, 2015

Serving Combos

I was playing a match with one of my students recently and decided to test him on a bunch of serving combos. He knows my serves very well, so individually he has no problems with them. But when I throw certain combos at him, he (and most others) struggle with the second one. Below are ten of my favorite combos. All can be done as listed or by reversing the order. Some are mostly variations of others, so there's some overlap. I'm assuming both players are righties for this, but lefties can use similar variations.

Keep in mind that the more you do these serves, the better you get at them, at figuring out what combos work best against different players, and at following them up. For example, after a short serve to the forehand, I might serve long to the backhand (usually a serve that breaks to the right), anticipating a crosscourt return to my backhand. Since I've been doing this for decades, I've learned to read my opponent very quickly and see early on if I'm going to get the expected soft return to my backhand, and so I'll quickly move over and rip a forehand. But I'll also see quickly if he's going down the line to my forehand or if he's going to do an aggressive backhand attack (or forehand step around), and adjust accordingly. Similarly, if I serve short to the forehand (often after a long serve to the backhand), I can pick up early if he's going to return the expected crosscourt return to my forehand (and edge over to attack it), or if he's going to go down the line (and so I get ready to either attack with my backhand or step over to use the forehand). The more you do these combos, the better and quicker you'll get at them. (And remember, all of these combos can be done in reverse.)

  1. Short to the forehand, then long to the backhand.
  2. Deep sidespin to backhand (so it breaks right), then reverse pendulum short to forehand (so it breaks left). This is a more specific variation of the one above.
  3. Heavy backspin, then "heavy" no-spin (i.e. big backspin motion).
  4. Short sidespin-backspin, then short super-heavy backspin.
  5. Short backspin, then short side-top with big down motion.
  6. Deep, breaking spinny serve (not too fast), then fast serve.
  7. Deep to middle or backhand, then fast down the line to forehand.
  8. Deep pure sidespin to backhand, then deep corkscrew to backhand (so it breaks like crazy to the right).
  9. Deep topspin anywhere, then fast no-spin to middle.
  10. Serve from wide forehand diagonally to the short forehand, then fake the same serve but go deep down the line to the backhand.


When I ran for the USATT Board, I said there were five major items I'd focus on, plus twelve others. (See listing here.) Below is an update. The nice thing is that when I ran, I was assuming the same old USATT where nobody really did much. Our new CEO (Gordon Kaye) is taking charge of some of these issues, making things a lot easier for me and better for all of us.


  1. Create a Nationwide System of Regional Team League (I blogged about this on Monday, Nov. 24)
    =>The Goal: Dramatically increase USATT membership.
    This is part of the Regional Association Proposal I'm putting together to present to the board at the teleconference tentatively scheduled for Feb. 25. I'll be working closely with the USATT CEO on this.
  2. Create State and Regional Associations (I blogged about this on Tuesday, Nov. 25)
    =>The Goal: Dramatically increase membership by organizing on the local level.
    Also part of the Regional Association Proposal. I expect to have a prototype regional league that we can promote and develop in other regions by the end of the year.
  3. Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches (I blogged about this on Wednesday, Nov. 26)
    =>The Goal: Large numbers of coaches, training centers, and junior & adult programs.
    Yep, also part of the Regional Association Proposal. USATT committees are about to be updated, so I'm waiting for approval of the new USATT Coaching Committee so I can go to work with them on this. I expect to implement this part of the proposal by the end of the year.
    More Training Centers => More Junior Programs => More Players and Higher Level of Play
  4. Turn U.S. Open and Nationals into Premier Events (I blogged about this on Monday, Dec. 1)
    =>The Goal: Attract players, spectators, TV, and sponsors to our sport.
    The USATT CEO is working on this. I've discussed it with him quite a bit, and am pretty confident that he's taking care of this. Let's see where we are a year from now.
  5. Create a Professional Players Association and Professionalize the Sport (I blogged about this on Tuesday, Dec. 2)
    =>The Goal: For top USA players to make a living playing professionally.
    The USATT CEO has plans on this, which he'll blog about later. With so much going on, we'll start on this next year.  

Other USATT Issues 
(I blogged about these on Wednesday, Dec. 3.)​

  1. Mailings to past members. (I blogged about this on Feb. 19.)
    This is something I'll look to do after we've had a year or so to develop programs around the country (leagues, coaching programs, etc.) so we have something new to offer past members.
  2. Hidden serve rule. (I blogged about this on Nov. 11 and numerous other times.)
    I'm waiting for the new USATT Rules Committee to be approved and then I'll approach them about this.
  3. Rules changes and the plastic ball.
    For better or worse, plastic balls are here to stay. But I'm not interested in any more rules and equipment changes, other than fixing the hidden serve rule
  4. USATT Advisory Committees.|
    This has already been a subject of discussion on the board. I believe some of the committees are having the "Advisory" dropped. I'll have more on this later.  
  5. Committee Chairs and Members.
    I'm going to make sure we take our time and research members before approving. Too often committees are chaired by the first person who volunteers. We need to do searches and recruit the right candidate for each. I've seen times where a committee chair was decided like Jeopardy - whoever hit the buzzer first (i.e. raised their hand) got the position.
  6. NCAA recognition. Here's some info on this. I blogged about this on November 18.
    Nothing new on this, but at some point I'll look into it. 
  7. Fix rating system.
    Too much to go into here. To start with we need a USATT Ratings Committee. We don't have one. I'll propose one sometime this year.
  8. Publish USA citizens ranking lists.
    This was actually required by a past USATT board vote that's long since been forgotten. Too often U.S. players are buried in the rankings behind foreign players. We need both an open listing and a citizens listing. USATT is now keeping track of citizen info, and should have such a list ready as an option later on in the new ratings platform.
  9. U.S. Open and U.S. Nationals info.
    The dates and location of these events should be available at least one year in advance, so we can promote them at the previous year's event. The USATT CEO is working on this.
  10. Bring back print magazine if financially feasible. (I blogged about this on February 11, where I predicted in advance the large advertising decrease.)
    I only recently got the magazine financial info, and will be studying it soon. Suffice to say we lost a lot the last few years - but a lot of this was because of falling advertising. It dropped by about half this year when it went online, and was still falling when they pulled the plug.
  11. Let members get on the USATT ballot by petition.
    I've written the proposal, which will go to the Board as part of their packet for the February teleconference. It's a bylaw change, so they need 30 days' notice, which means they'll vote on it in the March teleconference (tentatively scheduled for March 25). It'll need a 2/3 majority to pass. As the date approaches, I'll post the proposal and blog about it.
  12. Change USATT's Mission Statement.
    Here is our current bureaucratic shopping list mission statement, followed by the mission statement of the U.S. Tennis Association (with the word "Table" added). I like theirs, and would like to quote the table tennis version of it regularly at USATT board meetings. It needs to be the driving force behind everything we do. I'll make the proposal later this year. (It's a bylaw change, so will need 30-days' notice and a 2/3 majority to change.)
  • "The Mission of the USATT shall be to enable United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic/Paralympic, Pan American or Para Pan American Games, and other international competitions, and to promote and grow the sport of Table Tennis in the United States, while creating a lasting value for our members."
  • "To Promote and Develop the Growth of Table Tennis."

Small Kid on a Big Table - on a Platform

Here's the video (4:14) of a kid from Palestine who probably couldn't play effectively on a regular table - except they've put him on a platform! He looks pretty good, far better than if the table were shoulder height to him. I'm a little worried about the safety side as kids that age tend to be oblivious to things, and he might forget he's on a platform and get hurt when he steps off. But it's still a great idea - I think! Ideally, of course, we'd just get a shorter table, as I blogged about on Tuesday.

On a non-table tennis note, here's something that kind of threw me. There are 22 comments under the video as I write this, and all of them are invoking God, mostly praising him or asking him to protect the kid, when in fact the video is about a little kid who plays very good table tennis while standing on a platform. (There's a "See Translation" link next to each, at least on my Google Chrome browser.) 

How to Smash a High Backspin Ball

Here's the video (2:13) from Expert Table Tennis.

Ask the Coach

Episode #67 (20:40) - Ovtcharov's Serve

  • Yesterdays #PQOTD  - 2:30: Who is the most inspirational player you have seen?
  • #PQOTD - 3:37: How many training sessions did you do last week?
  • Question 1 - 4:02: Hey Pingskills, Your tips for the tall players didn't work on this guy, He's unbeatable :( He just blocks, I smash, loop, chop but it doesn't work. Please have you another tips? Brock
  • Question 2 - 6:17: Sir, my defense is dominant in bh. So, when the attacker attacks, I automatically switch to backhand. i'm weaker in fh. Any tips please? Earl
  • Question 3 - 8:22: I am having trouble chopping the ball (forehand) in a match, where it goes too far or too high or I just miss the ball. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can fix this? Thanks! Nikolas
  • Question 4 - 12:02: My son is just 10 and quite interested in learning TT and his dream is of becoming a world champ. He is prepared to do anything to be a master and hold the trophy. My full support is with him. Should I buy a table for him or 10 years is too young? Young
  • Question 5 - 15:15: Please explain how Ovtcharov does his serve and why. Dii
  • Question 6 - 18:15: How can I improve my forehand topspin? When I do it, it always hit the net. Am I missing something?

Ma Long Practicing His Serve

Here's the video (5:45) from a couple years ago. See if you can pick up his contact.

Chinese World Team Trials

Here's info on them. They'll be held Feb. 2-6 in Zhenjiang.

Ping Pong: "The Ultimate Social Networking Tool"

Here's the article from Pong Universe.

Soccer Skills in Table Tennis

Here's the video (25 sec) as two players show they can handle the ball with their racket and their feet.

University Ping Pong Project Transforms Public Spaces

Here's the article where they try to spread ping pong and color in London.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage).

Waldner vs. Fetzner

Here's video (46 sec) of some humorous play between Jan-Ove Waldner and Steffen Fetzner from 2012.

Jumping Net Pong

Here's the cartoon.


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