How to Serve Short with Side Spin in Table Tennis

Welcome to the channel of coach EmRatThich. Today is Sunday 26 March, our Ping Sunday number 9. I will explain how to serve short in table tennis and why you should add side spin in your serves.

Coach Xiao Zhan, the personal coach of Zhang Jike, is considered one of the best coach about technical aspects in China. He has helped Zhang Jike to incorporate the reverse pendulum serve in his backhand quick attack playing style. Today, I will talk about "how to do a good short serve in table tennis according to the Chinese coaching philosophy".



Procedure to Serve Short with No Spin

At the amateur level, we are taught to serve short, but the coach didn't focus enough on how to serve short with a high amount of spin. Normally, to serve short, we should:
  • contact the ball as low as possible (lower or at the net height).
  • make the first bounce very close to the net, so the second bounce on the opponent's side is also short and near the net too.
But, this service is short but with less spin, therefore less dangerous. It's easier to return the short serve without spin than the serve with a lot of spins. You can drop short this service and control the placement of your return.

So, the amateur players are taught to serve short first, but then don't know how to add spin efficiently. In China, the approach is a little different. They teach the player to make a spinny serve first and then ask them to shorten the serve.

Chinese philosophy about the Short Serve


Chinese philosophy defines a good short serve as:
  • a good short serve must have a high variation of spin. Because spin will make the service more deceptive.
  • a good short serve will stop the opponent to attack your service. However, they should not return it easily. (they can't drop shot and can't return your service to anywhere on the table as they want).
  • and finally, after your short serve, you must attack first. To do that, the server should find a way to add "energy" to the short service so the returned ball is long and you can attack it.

How to add sidespin in your short serve?

Chinese players rarely use a short serve without spin. They are taught to serve short but spinny. The best way to serve short and spinny is "adding sidespin" to the ball. There are 2 reasons, you should do that.

Short serve with backspin (underspin)

First reason, because add sidespin is the safest way to add "Energy" to your service. Short serve with backspin, the second bounce on the opponent side, the ball will bounce up and can be attacked. So it's rather risky.

Short serve with topspin

Short serve with topspin, the second bounce on the opponent table, the ball will jump forward outside the table. So it's difficult to keep the service with topspin short. If your service is long, the opponent will attack first.

Short serve with sidespin

Short serve with sidespin. Side spin affects little the trajectory of the ball. Therefore, you can add much spin to your serve and keep it short. All the energy is transferred to the spin with less effect on the bouncing.

It's difficult to drop short the ball with sidespin. If the opponent pushes this ball, the returned ball will be long and you can attack it first. If the opponent flips the ball, he must counter the direction of the spin so you can predict the placement of the returned ball.

Sidespin helps you control the placement

Second reason. Sidespin is the way you control the placement of the returned ball. The placement of the ball is very important, which will affect your 3rd ball attack and also your playing style.

Two types of side spin

There are 2 types of sidespin: clockwise rotation which is called as pendulum serve, and anti-clockwise rotation (called as reversed pendulum serve). 

Because you must counter the direction of the spin in table tennis if you make the pendulum serve (the ball spin to your right), the returned ball will go to your left. This type of sidespin is preferred by the Forehand dominant player like Ma Long. The best-attacking shot of the Forehand dominant players is the pivot, where they attack at his left side. Ma Long uses this type of sidespin because he wants that the ball returned to his left side.

If you are the Backhand dominant player like Zhang Jike. You prefer using your Backhand at a larger area on the table: your left side, also in front of your body, and a little bit at your right side. So you want that the ball is returned more to your right side. That's why Zhang Jike prefers using the Reverse Pendulum serve: the ball spins to his left so the returned ball will go to the position he is waiting for.

So please remember, side-spin will make difficult for the opponent to return your service. The ball with sidespin is deceptive and prevents the opponent from returning it shortly. Sidespin is also the way you control the placement of the returned ball. The placement of the returned ball is the opposite of the spin direction and can be predicted.

That's it for today. See you next weekend, EmRatThich.
Watch the next tutorial here: How to loop kill the ball in table tennis?

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