Different Serve Motions

April 4, 2013

Different Serving Motions

I had a long, animated discussion last night with a pair of our top juniors and their parents about serves. It's always bothered me when a junior spends so much time developing high-level strokes and footwork, but not a strong serving or receiving game. The discussion ended with a mutual agreement on specific service goals for one of the players - certain serves that he'd have ready by specific major tournaments. The other player had to leave to play a match during the discussion, but I'll speak with her later on her own service goals. (When I say "ready," this means done at a high level with lots of variation and control, which takes many hours of practice. Control means keeping it low while controlling both the direction and, even more important, the depth of the serve.)

It's so easy to fall into the habit of "simple" serves, where a player masters a few basic serves that sets him up for his game, at least against lower-level players, and perhaps against peers - but of course part of the reason they are his "peers" is because they haven't developed their service game, and so aren't really controlling play when they serve.

The part that is most often missed isn't that these simple serves aren't effective, to a certain extent; it's all the points being thrown away by not having a bigger service threat. Often their "peers" are only playing them close because they are winning 2-3 points a game on tricky serves. The irony is that players often complain about losing to an opponent's serves - but make no serious effort to learn these serves themselves.

The classic example is players who develop forehand pendulum serves, with simple backspin and side-backspin, and perhaps a pure sidespin or a no-spin serve - and not much else. Maybe they have a deep serve to throw at opponents, often with a different motion that telegraphs it because they haven't spent the time developing it out of the same motion. (This happens all the time; often the server thinks he's using the same motion for the deep serve, but usually is not.)

At a recent Worlds (I can't remember which one) there was a study that showed that there were more reverse pendulum serves then regular pendulum serves at the world-class level. And yet how many players develop these serves below the top levels? It's not that hard. It allows a player to serve sidespin both ways with the same motion until the racket moves forward. With the most advanced serving technique, you can use the same motion until almost the split second before contact before committing to which sidespin. (Note - a forehand pendulum serves is a forehand serve, racket tip down, where the racket moves from right to left for a righty. A reverse pendulum serve is when the racket moves from left to right, and is often more awkward for players when they first try it. If you have trouble, get a coach or top player to help out, or watch videos at youtube.)

When a player can do a reverse pendulum serve (mostly short to the forehand or long to the backhand), with sidespin, side-top, or side-backspin (this last is the trickiest to learn, but is hugely important), and combine it with the same spin variations of a regular pendulum serves, as well as no-spin serves that look spinny, then an opponent has so many things to watch out for that he'll often fall apart. And yet so many players spend years developing a nice loop but never develop these most basic serves.

It doesn't have to be just pendulum serves. There are all sorts of backhand serves, tomahawk serves, windshield wiper serves - the list is endless. Watch what the best servers do, practice, and experiment. Turn your opponent into the one saying, "If not for his serves..."!

USATT Seeks Junior Committee Chairperson

Here's the article. Interested?

Table Tennista

Here are three more interesting articles.

Photos and Other Info from the Korean Open

Here are photos from the Korean Open, care of the ITTF, which started yesterday in Incheon City, South Korea. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, and photos. In the preliminaries, USA's Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang both advanced with 2-0 records. They also won their first match in the Women's Doubles Preliminaries against a Korean team. Both are also entered in Under 21 Women's Singles. (The only other USA player, Wally Green, was eliminated in the Men's Singles Preliminaries.)

Target Practice

Here's a video showing a player doing multiball and aiming at targets. How long does it take to hit 20 targets? Apparently 38 seconds.

Pippa Middleton Challenges Boris Johnson

Pippa Middleton, a British socialite and the younger sister of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, has issued a ping-pong challenge to London Mayor Boris Johnson. The latter is known for his table tennis; Pippa is known for her cross-country skiing. Here's the article in the London Telegraph, where she at one point calls table tennis "whiff whaff," and dismisses the sport as a "less demanding hobby" than cross-court skiing. "My only stipulation is that I can use my favourite Dunlop Blackstorm Nemesis bat, which I used when I played in the Milton Keynes U13 National Championships, don’t you know. Bring it on, Boris." The article includes a picture of Mayor Johnson playing table tennis. 

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