How to improve serve return

Table Tennis Match Strategy

Last updated 8 years ago

Linh Vu

Linh Vu Asked 8 years ago

Dear Coach,

I have played for years with players ratings under 1600. I never had trouble with these players. As long as I could return the balls to the table after their serves, I was fine. Most of my serve returns are sloppy: balls are too high, balls have no under spin, ball positions are too easy for my opponents to attack. But my opponents made mistakes when attacking my sloppy returns or better yet did not attack my sloppy returns. As a result, I did not focus on serve returns at all. As long as the serve return balls were on the table, I was fine. Instead, I focused on attacking consistently. My backhand and forehand loops were not strong but super consistently and spinny. I rarely made mistakes when I attacked with my forehand or backhand spinny loops. That strategy has worked for years until now.

I am now playing with players rating 1700-1900. They are totally different from the under 1600 players. First, their serves are weird. I cannot read their serves. I don't know if the balls are under spin, top spin, no spin, side spin. Eventually, I learn how to read and deal with under spin and top spin. This is particular fatal if their serve are no spin, side spin, fast ball with a little under spin/side spin on my backhand. In each set, I lose on average 4-5 points because I cannot return serves or my serve returns are too sloppy so easy for opponents to attack.

please advise on how to return serves from the backhand if the ball is

short no spin, fast no spin, fast side spin, fast under spin & side spin. any thing with side spin I have trouble returning the balls.

Again I have no trouble returning under spin balls and or straight top spin balls from the backhand. In fact my opponents avoid serving under spin balls or straight top spin balls as they know that I will attack their serves.

another problem is that I never dealt with the blocks from my opponents. Those under 1600 players blocked my attacks passively. As a result, it was so easy for me to attack continuously until win the point. However, these 1700-1900 players block my attacks actively. their blocks are so difficult for me to attack continuously. They tell me that my attacks are consistent but not strong.

They all tell me that their strategy against me is to

1. serve short no spin, long fast no spin, long fast side spin, short side spin, long fast under spin & side spin on my backhand.

2. block my attacks actively and consistently so that it will wear me down or I will run out of patience and make mistakes.

Despite all of this, I usually win over them on 3-set games, break even on 5-set games, always lose on 7-set games.

The longer the game is, I will lose my energy, my patience, and most of all my mental focus.

I wonder if you can give me any advise to overcome my main weakness: serve returns, and active blocks from my opponents after my attacks.  


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario Answered 8 years ago

Hi Linh,

Firstly with the step up in class you will always find that things like serving will become tricky for a period while you get used to reading the different serves and more advanced variations.

There is no substitute for time spent returning these serves.  If you are able to deal with the backspin and topspin balls you will soon learn to cope with the sidespin coming to your backhand.  Watch for the curve of the ball and make sure you are positioning yourself well to make the stroke.  The ball will be curving away from you so step closer to the ball, over to your left.  Getting closer to the hitting point will allow more control over your return.

When dealing with the opponents active block you need to think about giving them more variation on your attack.  If you always play at the same pace, even if it is really fast, they will get used to it and be able to block the ball actively.  If you are changing pace they have to react and adapt to the change which will lead to some uncertainty in their minds.

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Linh Vu

Linh Vu Posted 8 years ago

Thank you for your advice on variations on spin attacks. Up to this point, I thought that a spinner attack would likely win a point. However, my opponents were so used to my spiny loops. They even punched or smashed back my spiny loops. After hearing your advice on spin variation, I applied that strategy yesterday. It worked pretty well yesterday. one loop I put so little spin. my opponent blocked it and the ball went to the net. Another loop I put in a lot of spin. My opponent blocked it and the ball went to the roof !!! If I had looped both cases the same medium spin, he would have blocked or punched both times successfully.


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 8 years ago

Well done Linh.  Nice application of the skills.

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