April 17, 2017 - Serving to the Backhand Flipper

What do you do against a player who attacks all of your serves with his backhand, even the short ones? Even if you serve short to the forehand he reaches over and backhand flips. (Or perhaps he does forehand flip – much of this article deals with that as well.) He may be doing this with a regular backhand flip or a banana flip, but the effect is the same – you are on the defensive over and over on your own serve. What should you do? Here are six options.

  • Serve Low. Most players don't really serve low, and get away with it because most opponents don't attack backspin serves, especially if they are short. Become aware of how low your serve is when it crosses the net, and even more importantly, how low it bounces on the far side, and practice so you can serve with the ball barely above the net, with a nice low bounce on the far side. This makes it much harder to attack, and when an opponent does attack it, the attack is usually either softer or more erratic. (Here's my article Serving Low.)
  • Serve Long. If an opponent keeps attacking your shorter serves, throw deep serves at him. Few players are equally good at attacking short and long serves, especially if you mix them up. (Here are my articles Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves and Fifteen Important Deep Serves.)
  • Serve Heavy. If you load up the backspin, many opponents will struggle to attack it. This is true of any spin, but heavy backspin especially will stop many attackers. If they do open their rackets a lot to attack this backspin, throw in a side-top serve and they’ll likely flip it off.
  • Backspin/No-Spin Combos. Mix up the spin, from backspin to no-spin serves. Often players who attack short serves use your spin against you – but when faced with a low, no-spin ball (key word: low!), have great difficulty. So throw no-spin balls at them, and watch them struggle – and then mix in backspin and other serves, including side-top and deep serves. (Here's my article The Power of a Low, Short, No-Spin Serve.)
  • Serve from Middle of Table. The problem with serving short to the forehand with some players is they just step over and receive backhand. What you need is more angle – so serve from the middle of the table. This gives you an angle into the forehand. If you use the same motion and can serve short to the forehand or long to the backhand, your opponent will have to guard against the latter, and so have to receive with their forehand when you serve into the forehand.
  • Counter-Attack. If you know your opponent is going to attack your serve, expect it, and be ready to counter-attack. Since you know it's coming, even against a quicker opponent you should be able to get one good counter-attack in, so make sure it's a good one – and that means place it well, either to the wide corners or (usually most effective on the first attack or counter-attack) the opponent's elbow. If the opponent is over the table attacking your short serve, you can jam him on that first shot.