The different types of serves and the different serving grips in table tennis are one of the first things you should learn.
We will examine the same in this comprehensive guide below to make you able to learn the best grip that can suit your playing style.
We recommend that you read this guide on the different table tennis serving rules in singles and doubles before learning the best methods for serving.
Types Of Serves
This is a service that gives the players the upper hand over their opponents.
While serving, if you handle your paddle correctly, the ball’s height, speed, direction, and spin can all be manipulated to your advantage.
Prior to diving into the various types of serves available, it is important to understand the following terminology:
- Forehand Grip
The forehand stroke or grip is where you attack the ball with your palm facing the ball while holding the paddle like a handshake.
- Backhand Grip
Backhand strokes/grips involve hitting the ball with the backside of your hand facing the ball. While you bend around the handle of your paddle, keep your thumb on the rubber part.
Much like the Deep Handshake grip, the thumb will provide the power to strike the ball. Now that we’ve cleared that up, here are some basic and advanced serves you can use.
Techniques for Serving
Both forehand and backhand gripping techniques can be used to perform this service.
The racket must be grazed upward while hitting it forward from the top to hit the ball with a Topspin Serve in table tennis.
Your opponent, if he or she is also a beginner, will also have to deal with both spin and speed, putting you in a strong position.
Another advantage of topspin is that the ball stays low after it lands so the opponent won’t catch it.
How to play:
- For right-handed people, you should bend your knees and place your right foot forward.
- In your right hand, hold the paddle while your left-hand holds the ball.
- Toss the ball vertically at least 6 inches in the air, keeping the ball at chest level.
- With the paddle at a slight angle towards the net, strike the ball from over the top when it comes back to chest level or below, grazing the ball and slightly pushing it forward as you do so to accelerate its speed.
Creating proper spin on the ball requires brushing it over the top of the racket with your racket first and then using your wrist to accelerate the spin.
To create the best quality of topspin, use your legs, waist, arms, and wrists together as you strike the ball.
In some circles, this is also referred to as “Under Spin” or “Bottom Spin,” but most commonly as “Backspin,” because it allows the ball to come back towards you, gives your opponent a difficult time returning it.
Both forehands and backhands can be used to deliver a backspin serve.
In Table Tennis, an overly strong backspin would make the ball only touch your side of the court while it should touch both sides.
Use this technique to determine how much brushing and flicking you need to do.
How to play:
- During this serve, your racket should be horizontal to the ground (similar to how you would hold your palm flat during a service).
- Keep your left foot forward slightly in front of you while standing outside the left sideline of the table.
- Strike the ball with the paddle by tossing the ball vertically 6 inches, rotating your body, so your weight is now on your right foot.
- Grasping the ball from underneath with the paddle edge further from you creates a backspin.
- When contacting the ball, be sure to use your wrist and snap it.
You might want to attempt creating a strong backspin so you can hit the opponent’s side of the court twice, making it harder for them to come back with a powerful strike.
Side Spin Serve
It is also known as the “Pendulum Serve.” The pendulum serve requires the opponent to move to opposite ends of their court to return the ball.
There are many variations of sides pin.
It can be used in combination with other serves such as “Side Topspin” and “Side Under spin,” which can be executed with either a forehand or backhand grip.
Furthermore, if your strategy is to win your game against the opponent, you can do Long or Short side spin. A commonly used deception method by Ma Long, a world-class table tennis player, is side spin serves.
How to play:
- Keep your wrists loose, and your arm relaxed while standing with a low stance. To strike the ball easily to one side of your opponent, stand sideways from the table.
- The paddle should be held vertically, with the head facing downwards
- With the palm of your hand, throw the ball 6 inches upwards as vertically as you can.
- As the ball reaches chest level, strike the ball with your paddle from left to right across your chest. To create sidespin, the ball needs to be touched from the side.
A better quality serve is achieved by keeping body movement to a minimum.
A finer spin can be created by brushing the ball with the wrist loose to let it “whip.” There are slight differences within this service, including the following:
If the paddle is vertically positioned, tilt it downwards slightly to contact the ball on its side and touch under the ball.
The paddle should be tilted the same way it is for the side-backspin, and the ball should be brushed upwards from the side when it is in contact with the ball.
Even beginners can use the long serve to attack their opponents since the ball goes fast over the net, jumps low over the net, and ends up very near the opponent’s baseline, thus making it more difficult for the opponent to resist the attack.
In addition, long-serving can be a bit misleading because it looks just like regular side spin serve until the paddle makes contact with the ball.
In addition to top spins, back spins, and many other spins, the long serve can be played without any spin by itself.
How to play:
- Standing with your legs apart and your back slightly hunched forward, maintain a low stance.
- Take a forehand grip and tilt the paddle almost horizontally.
- Throw the ball 6 inches above your chest.
- Strike the ball with the paddle head as soon as the ball comes down to your chest or lower. Ensure that the ball hits the first 6-7 inches of the court from your court side before it leaps over the net.
- You should move your entire body slightly forward when striking the ball to put force on it.
Advanced Serving Techniques
After you master the basic serves and become comfortable with them, you can move on to the expert style serves and become a pro player.
Punch serves are also known as jab serves.
Consequently, this serve is quite powerful as it imparts heavy spin to the ball.
The jab serve can be combined with other types of serves, such as the topspin or the side spin.
In addition to jab serves, Ma Long, who is currently ranked 3rd in the world, uses various serves with the jabs as this is also a good deception method.
How to play:
- If you are right-handed, stand at the left corner of the table with your left leg forward. Maintain a low stance and hunch forward.
- Handle the paddle horizontally, just like you would a plate.
- When the ball returns to chest level, toss the ball upwards of six inches and strike it with the paddle head underneath it.
- When hitting the ball, a small wrist motion is used with the arm to bring some spin to the ball as the waist is rotated slightly.
In a forward motion, you should hit the ball heavily from underneath with your arm in a punching motion. While you are striking the ball, try to use as much energy as possible from your arms and body.
A similar serve is another one designed to fool the opponent, who thinks he is going to see a topspin or backspin at the point of contact. This leaves the ball traveling high, forcing the opponent to defend themselves away from the table.
How to play:
- Put your left foot back and turn your torso away from the table if you are right-handed.
- It would be best to hold the paddle with the head facing upwards in a forehand grip.
- It would be best to shift your weight to your right foot when the ball is tossed up to 6 inches and back down to chest level.
- If you move the paddle quickly, the ball should graze the paddle head as you flick it hard.
- Assuming you are right-handed, your paddle head should be facing your right side and not upward (if you are left-handed, it should be facing your left side).
It is a challenging serve for players to master since the ball is under skinned. However, it is very effective.
Unlike using a full arm to hit the ball, a short-arm motion and wrist are required for this serve.
Olympic table tennis champion Ma Lin uses a pen hold grip to execute one of the best Ghost Serves ever.
How to play:
- You can increase the flexibility in your wrists by using the Pen hold gripping technique for this serve.
- Your elbow should be close to your body while serving.
- The paddle’s top head should face the right-hand side if you are right-handed.
- Swipe your wrist a few times after tossing the ball up six inches. To create backspin, the paddle’s front part should contact the ball.
My Final Thoughts On Serves In Table Tennis
The amount of information about Table Tennis serves is understandable, but we don’t expect you to change your approach overnight.
Therefore, you could find your most comfortable style and practice hard over weeks and months to make it your muscle memory.
Hey, My Name is Timothy Wang. I’m the U.S. National Table Tennis champion of 2010, 2012, and 2013 and playing the game since the age of 12. The purpose of this blog is to share my experience, tips, and tricks with others so they can master and enjoy this game like I’m doing for years.