By Larry Hodges
One of the first things table tennis players are taught is how to put spin on their serve. So it comes as quite a surprise to many to find that most top players often serve with no-spin. What is the purpose of this?
Most players are accustomed to doing certain shots against certain types of spin serves. Against a backspin serve, you either push or open your racket to drive. Against a topspin serve, you probably drive. But a no-spin serve is in between. Players are not accustomed to making returns against it, and so may have trouble finding the right racket angle.
But once read, a no-spin serve isn’t that hard of a ball to return, is it? That’s basically correct, except for two things. First, top players serve no-spins that don’t look like no-spins. Second, you can use the spin on a serve to make your own receive better. You can’t do that against a no-spin serve.
How do you make a no-spin serve look like it has spin? It’s all in where you contact the ball. For example, when doing a forehand backspin serve, you would snap the wrist forward and contact the ball near the tip, where the racket is traveling the fastest. For a no-spin serve, you would contact the ball near the handle, where the racket is traveling the slowest. Same motion, same wrist snap, but now little spin. For maximum deception, really dig into the ball, as if you were loading it with backspin. As long as you contact the ball at the slow-moving part of the racket, there will little spin.
Since a shakehands player holds the racket with the wrist to the side of the handle, the racket rotates in such a way that the fastest point is directly opposite the wrist--the front-tip of the blade. The slowest will be the point closest to the wrist--by the handle, toward the back. Contrary to what some coaches say, contacting the ball toward the back of the racket does not give less spin by reducing the contact time on the blade. It does so by putting the contact point nearer the wrist and so on a slower-moving part of the blade.
Another way to serve no-spin deceptively is to snap the wrist after contact. Exaggerate the followthrough, and your opponent might not know what’s coming.
What are the advantages of serving no-spin? When your opponent pushes against it, the ball will tend to pop up, setting you up for a winner. If he does keep the ball down, his push will tend to have less spin than usual. If he attacks, he will be erratic, since he probably isn’t use to attacking this type of ball.
It is important to keep the no-spin serve very low to the net. Even a slightly high no-spin serve is easy to attack. Practice serving it very low and short.
Make sure to vary your serves. Too many no-spin serves and your opponent gets used to it. Too few, and you lose the advantage of this world class type serve that even a beginner can master.