Serve Long

Table Tennis Advice

What we are Taught

Early on in our Table Tennis lives, we are taught to serve short so that we can stop the opponent playing an aggressive return. We are then instructed to “get in” and play a big attacking topspin ourselves. Now this is really solid advice and worth following so make sure you learn how to perform an effective short service.

Take note of your opponent

If you find that your opponent is very good at simply returning your serve short and therefore stopping you attacking, you should take a look at the position of your opponent. Often the players that are very good at returning tightly are not ready for the long fast serve and are hovering over the table in anticipation of a short serve.

Put doubt in their mind

By serving some long fast serves, you will keep your opponent on the back foot when receiving and make it much harder for them to return your short serves well. Try serving 10 to 20 percent of your serves long and see what effect it has on your opponents returns.

You Can't Win Every Point

Even if you lose the point when you serve long, you may find that the doubt you have created helps you win many extra points throughout the course of the match. It is essential that if you serve long, you serve fast so make sure you put in plenty of practice on your long serves before you use this tactic in a match. And one last tip, expect a strong return and you'll be in much better shape when your opponent does return your long serve well. You may even find you can win the point even if you haven't caught them off guard.

Posted 9 years ago

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Kaustubh Kulkarni

Kaustubh Kulkarni Posted 9 years ago

Very nice article.

Jerry Leslie

Jerry Leslie Posted 7 years ago

I think that part layers at the lower levels probably should serve long most of the time, since the opponent is seldom capable of really attacking a long serve.

Abdul Ali

Abdul Ali Posted 7 years ago


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

Hi Jerry,

I think even though you may get away with it at a certain level, you should still work on your shorter serves to be able to move up the levels.

F Wilson

F Wilson Posted 7 years ago

My short serves don't have a lot of back spin but they go over the net low and will bounce at least 2-3 times before the end of the table.  I seem to have better success with low and short when I put some sidespin on them, too.  When I try for lots of back spin I seem to make more errors.  Your thoughts, please?

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

The sidespin does add a little safety to the serve.  If you can get pure backspin though you will make it more difficult for your opponent to attack the serve.  It is more difficult but worth persevering with.  Try to hit the ball more into the table so that it has more bounce and margin for error initially, even if it goes a bit higher.

Margie Hadden

Margie Hadden Posted 7 years ago

Hi Jeff and Alois, I got a bit tired of tabletennis ( I know who'd believe it!) I think it started when I had two well meaning players try to help me but they gave me so many things to work on that it all seemed to fall apart! My serves started to get really bad , I kept missing. I got busy with other things and took a break from playing, but now I'm back! And the funny thing that seems to happen with me is that after a break I sometimes get better.  I think I need a few serves to go to the left hand side of the table though, as you say to put my opponent off guard. I am right handed. I use a bat with ordinary forehand rubber but medium pimples on the back hand.  I make all my serves from the far left or centre left of my side. Most of my serves land to the middle or the right hand side of my opponents table. I only have one fast long serve down the left side and it works very well as I only use it rarely, but practise it often in secret! Anyhow could you give me some serves that I could do from the right hand side of the table. Or should I just stay on my left side and direct the same serves to my left which I can do but not sure how effective they'd be. So in summary should  I practise the same serves but direct them to the left or will you name some serves I could do from the right hand side thanks! My serves are tomahawk which I miss as often as I get but is pretty effective when I do get it right. I do a top spin long serve with medium pimples which, for some reason even good players don't do well with. I do side swiping serves but always from left to right should i practise right to left from the left side? If you give me a selection of serves,  I will choose which ones to practise. Are there any good serves I could do with my back hand medium pimples. Thanks a million! 

Margie Hadden

Margie Hadden Posted 7 years ago

I know some players who swops to different sides of the table but it's a bit obvious when they swop that they're going for the opposite side. 

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

Hi Margie,

Good to hear you are back in to playing.  You are right sometimes after a break you come back with less inhibitions and play with more freedom.

Regarding serves you can do the same serve to the left or you can try a new serve.  Try the Pendulum serve and the Backhand serve.  You can do the Backhand serve with the pimples occasionally which will be a good change up.  You could also try switching sides of your racket and do the backhand serve with the inverted rubber.  Don't forget to switch back straight after you serve.

Margie Hadden

Margie Hadden Posted 7 years ago

Grand, I'll try serving the same serves to the left or switching bat sides also and the great thing about that is, all I'm doing is changing the direction or twiddling and not having to learn brand new serves. It usually takes me forever to become proficient with a new serve. This is great a whole new arsenal at my service! Thanks a million!

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

Good one Margie, let me know how you get on.

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