USATT TAC

October 16, 2014

Lack of Creativity in Serving

I'm always amazed at how simple most players serve. Serving is the most creative part of the game (though receive is close), and yet most players seem to serve with little purpose or variation.

A major reason for this is because most players play the same players at their club over and over. There are all sorts of little nuances you can do with your serve that can give opponents trouble - last second changes of spin and direction (via last-second changes to the racket's motion), widely varying spins and placements, serving the extremes (deep breaking serves to backhand/short to forehand, or short heavy backspin/short side-topspin), or just different serving motions - but few use them. Many probably experiment, but since they play the same players over and over, opponents quickly get used to them, and the advantage of these little nuances mostly goes away.

Now even in practice there are ways to overcome this. If an opponent adjusts to your variations when serving from the backhand corner, for example, try it from the middle or forehand side - you'll be amazed at how much this changes things. Or just come up with variations. The more you have, the harder it is for an opponent to get used to them all. Or just hold back on certain serves for a while, and then, when you come back to them, they are effective again. Meanwhile, while you use those newly effective serves, hold back on some others for a while. (When I say hold back for a while, I mean both for a few games or for a few weeks of play - both ways work.)

When you watch world-class players play, often their serves look all the same. What does this mean? It means the world-class server has been successful at hiding his variations from you! There are nuances in every serve they do; they don't just serve to get the ball in play. If they did, world-class opponents would be all over those serves. Instead, they throw lots of little variations out there, varying the motion, spin, and placement just enough to keep the opponent slightly guessing and not completely comfortable. They may not get outright misses as we see at lower levels, but they force slightly weaker returns.

But a key thing to note from all this is that while all your serve variations might not continue to work in practice matches against the same players, they will work in tournaments. If you have a few serve variations that work at first at the club, but then players get used to them and they are no longer effective, guess what? They will still be effective in tournaments against new players, because for them, it is the first time they've seen them, just as it was for the players at your club before they got used to them.

I face this type of thing every day. All of my students are so used to my serves that most of them return them better than players rated far higher who don't face them regularly. In practice games at the end of sessions I often am split between using serves they'll see in matches, or coming up with new variations of my own serves just to throw them off, knowing that they are unlikely to face those specific serves in tournaments. (Last night, for example, one of my students was playing very well and led against me in two straight games. I fell to the dark side of the force and threw at him a series of Seemiller-grip windshield-wiper serves that he'd never seen before, and "stole" the games. Afterwards I let him practice against them, and they probably won't work next time. But I still feel guilty about "stealing" those games!)

One things I always stress is to find the right balance between "set-up serves" and "trick serves." At lower levels, trick serves are more effective, but as players get better they lose some of their effectiveness, and set-up serves become more important - but you should always have both. (Set-up serves are designed to set up a follow-up attack but don't usually win the point outright, while trick serves are designed to win the point outright or give an easy winner.) There's a lot of gray area between the two - a set-up serve can also be a trick serve in some circumstances. Here's a short tip I wrote on this a while back.

Why Karakasevic's Backhand Deserves Recognition

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. The Serbian star has always been known for his phenomenal backhand. From 2001 to 2013 his world ranking mostly bounced about in the 40 to 70 range, with his highest at #33 in January, 2007.

Ask the Coach

Here's another episode from PingSkills.

Episode 9 (11:51)

  • Question 1: Hi Alois, I've noticed that the quality of the training somehow depends on the mood and the concentration. The same strokes I perform differently and miss more with the higher concentration on the ball. What is an object and level of concentration? Olena
  • Question 2: I play at a local club and have received comments that I have a good serve. However, I have noticed that almost all of my backspin serves (Pendulum) have sidespin as well. Is this taking away from the effectiveness of the backspin? Adam
  • Question 3: While playing with my opponent when I tossed the ball for a serve my opponent asked me to stop as he wasn't ready then after a pause of 4 to 5 seconds I served again and again the same thing happened. Is this legal? Rutvik Thakkar
  • Question 4: Hi, sometimes I see professional players immediately smash the ball when returning a serve, I was wondering in what circumstances could and should you do this. Thanks! Alan C

USATT Tournament Advisory Committee Meeting

They met via teleconference on Sept. 18. Here are the minutes.

PingPongRuler.com

Here's a new website that features equipment reviews, videos, and custom-made paddles. Lots of good stuff there! (One thing that wasn't at first clear - in the Equipment Review section it looked at first like there were only very short reviews of each item. Click on the picture or heading and you get a far more extensive review.)

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Visits Piing of Power

Here's the article. (And yes, there are two i's.)

International Articles

As usual Tabletennista has lots of international articles.

Ping Pong Trend Bounces Across the Nation

Here's the article on the rising popularity of the sport.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's his latest entry, "Names, names, names - China Day 47" (4:47).

The Spinning Paddle Bouncing Ball Cookie Jar Trick

Here it is (13 sec) - but is it real?

***

Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content