Doing it for Yourself
Practicing your serve is one of the easiest and best things that you can do to improve your table tennis. But it must be quality practice – half an hour of standing at the table serving random serves without any thought just won’t cut it. Here’s what you should do to get the most out of your serving practice.
- Serve one ball at a time. Don’t get in the habit of holding two or more balls in your hand when serving. It affects your ball toss and you are better off practicing what you would do in a match anyway. Have a box of balls on the table instead. Having to reach for another ball will stop you from rushing into the second serve.
- Have targets to aim at. You need to be able to get feedback about the success of your serve. So have small targets on the table to allow you to focus on the areas you are trying to hit, and also to allow you to judge the success of your efforts.
- Pay attention to the results. Is the serve bouncing too high over the net? Are you not getting enough sidespin kick off the table? Are you consistently serving too long or too short? Do you struggle to perform one particular type of serve? The answers to these sort of questions will give you valuable feedback and allow you to make the necessary corrections to your service action.
- Take your time. In order to understand the results of your serve, you will need to be practicing at a steady, unhurried pace. The idea is to get the most out of every serve, not serve 500 serves as fast as you can.
- Use both repetition and randomness. When perfecting a serve, you need to repeat it many times in order to groove in the motion into your muscle memory, so you can perform it automatically. Once you are successful at doing so, it is time to mix the serve in with the other serves you have mastered, and make sure that you can still perform it successfully. The ability to perform a variety of serves without making a mistake when changing from one serve to another is a vital skill.
- Remember the rule of quality over quantity. A few very good serves that you can rely on under pressure will help you more than a ton of serves that you can’t keep short or low when you need to.
- Don’t serve and stop. To get the most out of your practice, continue the service motion and get into the ready position for your third ball. Remember that the ready position will change depending on where you have served the ball, and move to that location. For example, if you serve short to the forehand of your opponent, your ready position should be more central to the table than if you serve to the backhand side, where you should be recovering more towards your own backhand.If you really want to take it that extra step, visualize the type or return your opponent would make and shadow play the third stroke – this will help you groove in the common service routines you are planning to use.
- Steal from the pros. Pay close attention to how the professionals and top players serve, and copy them shamelessly. Remember, these players have spent hours at the table perfecting a service technique that works at the highest level. The more you can replicate what they do, the better your serves will be.
- Innovate a little. Although copying the top players is a great way to get your serving up to speed, spend a little time coming up with your own particular variations. Have some fun when serving and try a few weird and whacky motions. You just might find a unique serve or variation of your own that you can use as a surprise serve on opponents.
- Don’t stop practicing. Treat your serving practice as a necessity, not just something you do when you can’t find a partner to train with. An hour of focused serving practice a week will do wonders for anybody’s ping-pong game.