Plato said, “A good start is half of success.” In the field of table tennis, it can be said, “A good serve is half the battle to win the match.” Looking back at the 5 “Grand Slams” in men’s table tennis history, Waldner, Liu Guoliang, Kong Linghui, Zhang Jike, and Ma Long, each one is a master of the serve.
“These are the skills that amateurs should work on
For table tennis, the score of a direct serve is the same as that of a dozen or so points, but the amount of physical energy consumed is vastly different. In addition, the serve is the only technique in table tennis that is not constrained by the opponent and can be practiced without the assistance of an opponent (human/serve machine), and a good serve helps a lot in deepening the understanding of spin and improving the receiving technique.
Therefore, I think whether it is a competition or practice, serve is the most cost-effective technology for amateurs and even professionals, and it is worthwhile to invest considerable time to ponder and practice. Here are some steps and tips for practicing the serve that I hope will be helpful to players.
- The first step is to practice a standardized and stable ball throw. This point used to be easily ignored by players, but with the FIVB’s increasingly strict rules on the serve, and even the national ping many times by the referee and even the eagle-eye system sentenced to serve violations, basically because the angle of the throw is not vertical enough or there is a suspicion of blocking the serve. We as amateur fans, usually play the game on those violations of the serve is also very abhorrent. As the saying goes, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, we need to practice our own serves to be standardized and stable. The standard is to avoid violations, stable throwing is the basis for the practice of accurate serve. The key points of a standard and stable tossing action are as follows: palms flat, slightly above the table, place the ball quietly in the palm, legs coordinated hard stirrups, body driven arms will throw the ball upwards, leaving the palm of the hand not less than 16 cm high, as straight as possible, the ball can not touch anything before it is thrown to be hit and do not block the opponent’s line of sight. It is important to emphasize that the reason why many players are not stable enough to throw the ball, the arc of the ball is high and low, the landing point is high and low, it is because the ball is thrown with the fingers or the forearm and wrist are too hard. If the throw is not stable, then the hitting point of the serve will be difficult to be accurate and the quality of the serve will not be guaranteed. A good toss must be based on the waist and legs, and the arms will “send” the ball upward with the power of the waist and legs, which requires special attention.
- The second step is to practice the long ball with a flat stroke. The key points to master the flat hitting long ball are: the hitting point should be as close as possible to your own end line, the board shape should be bright when hitting the ball, and the direction of force should be mainly from back to front. During practice, you should practice all three routes: left, middle, and right. The longer the landing point (as close to the opponent’s end line as possible) and the faster the ball speed, the better. There are several advantages to using the long flat shot as an introduction to serve technique: firstly, the flat shot is impact-based, which makes it easy to develop a feel for the serve; secondly, the long shot requires a little force, which makes it easier for players to experience the exchange of weight; thirdly, it builds awareness of landing points and routes in the practice process.
- The third step is to practice serving short balls with flat strokes. Practice requirements: control the second jump without coming out, and land as close to the endline/sideline as possible. Practice all three areas: forehand short ball, backhand small triangle, and middle short ball. Focus on the feeling that the hitting point is basically level with the net height, the first landing point of the ball is controlled in the middle of your side of the court, and the center of gravity is used to lower the arc so that the ball just crosses the net without touching the net. The advantage of practicing short serves is that it strengthens the feel of impact and enhances the control of your own power. The second jumping point is close to the endline/sideline, which makes it more difficult for the opponent to judge the half-volley and makes it easier for the opponent to launch the ball, which is beneficial to his own attack.
- The fourth step is to practice serving pure downward spinning balls. This step is a key technical threshold: from experiencing impact to experiencing friction, once you cross it, it is like a fish jumping over the dragon gate and entering a new world. If you are able to spin the ball, you are better than half of the amateur players. One of the greatest attractions of table tennis is that it is an art of spin. In order to get over this hurdle, I suggest that you start in three ways: the first is to understand the principle of frictional spin in your head. Simply put, friction creates spin by converting the kinetic energy of the paddle into the spin potential energy of the table tennis ball by moving the force of the paddle as far away from the center of the ball as possible. The second aspect is to experience the sensation of “yo-yoing” your body. Finding the feeling of “yo-yoing” your body like a swing is more conducive to the coordination of force when serving the ball. The third aspect is to experience the feeling of instant power of fingers and wrists. To put it more graphically, we can find the feeling of “floating” in our childhood, and “slice” the ball out, so the ball will naturally turn.The test of the effect of this step is also very intuitive, which is to serve short downward spinning balls from the forehand position. If the ball can bounce back to the net along the U-shaped trajectory, it means that the ball’s spin is strong enough. There are many videos and motion pictures of Ma Lin practicing the “Devil’s Serve” on the internet, so you can search for them.
- The fifth step is to practice the turn or no turn serve routine + the side up and side down serve routine. After mastering the mystery of friction to create spin, we can basically use the same technique and transition from underspin to other spins very naturally. At this point, the strength of the spin is not our main goal, this step we have to practice for the purpose of actual combat, our goal is: can cheat one is one! The reason why we recommend the combination of the serve set of turns without spin + side up and side down is that the preparatory movements of these two serves are almost the same, and it is easier to make a ball with similar movements that have a big difference in a spin. Under the rule of unobstructed serve, the more spin variation in one’s serve, the longer the opponent will have to adapt to the process. The key point of this practice is the precise control of details such as hitting point and direction of force, for example, when serving with or without spin, pay attention to the difference in a spin with different positions such as head, sweet spot, and shoulder; when serving from the side up and down, pay attention to whether the racket “pockets” a bit forward and downward at the moment of touching the ball or “hooks” a bit to the side. “Hook” a little ……
- Add one or two sets of serve variations. At this point, you are already a master of the serve, you just need to choose one or two sets of serve variations according to your preference, such as reverse spin serve, hook serve, backhand serve, straight back serve, high toss serve, chop serve ……, etc., as a key moment to get out of the game, quickly pull away from the score, etc. The “killer move”. In view of the time and energy of amateur golfers, I personally suggest that these types of supplementary auxiliary serves should be refined rather than numerous.
- practice serve and grab sets. At this point, you will enter the ultimate form of practicing serve technique. Under the rule of uncovered serve, the probability of scoring directly on the serve is greatly reduced, but a high-quality steal can bring great pressure to the opponent when receiving the serve, thus making it easier for us to score on the serve. At this point, our idea of serving should be shifted from direct scoring to creating opportunities for high-quality attacks on the third board, which is our ancestral “first three boards” technique.The focus of this step of practice is: first, combined with the actual game to summarize the law, strengthen the prediction of the return point, according to the prediction of the position in advance to move to the location suitable for the attack, the process of moving at the same time to lead the racket ready to hit the ball; second: to master the difference between the rush downward and the rush upward; third: to master the difference between the rush short ball and the rush long ball.
The above are some rough insights of my practice serve, please criticize and correct me if there is anything wrong.