Returning serves from players who don't serve correctly

Table Tennis Service Return

Last updated 7 years ago

Sergio Martinez

Sergio Martinez Asked 7 years ago

I play at work during breaks and this has been my only source of practice (I am still trying to find a club in my area).  Unfortunately the people I play against are playing for fun and don't really care too much about the rules.  Because of this everyone does these really strange "quickserves".  Sometimes it can be unfair because I end up being unable to return the ball on their serve due to the fact that they spin the ball with their fingers as they hit it or because they extend their arms out over the table as they serve it (I yelled at one of my friends, "John, bro, your hands are almost over the net!").  Some guys have gotten good at these serves and will hit the corner of the table every time with side spin which makes it hard to return.

It can be frustrating because it makes me feel like this is just a cheap way to win a point for them.  I try to serve correctly if I can (because of this I am able to do adapt my serve to the person I am playing against, for instance today I noticed a player that likes to try to smash the ball had a hard time doing so when I served it short to him with backspin).   But anyways, any advice on how to beat these serves?  I don't want to be a killjoy and tell them to serve correctly, but then again they probably wouldn't even be able to get the points or the spin on the ball if they did serve per ITTF regulations.

I've been getting better, but I know ultimately I need to find a club.  A friend of mine who has been coaching me along even complimented me today and noticed I had been getting better.


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario Answered 7 years ago

Hi Sergio,

Firstly well done on your improvement.  I think you have the right attitude.  It is difficult when you are playing with players that have different objectives.

Use it as good practice to return serves.  Firstly make sure you are in a good balanced position before they serve.  Then watch the ball really carefully from their fingers or hand, trying really hard to track the ball all the way.  you will find this will almost slow the ball down for you.

It is great you are searching for a club as well.  This will help greatly.


Notify me of updates
Add to Favourites
Back to Questions

Thoughts on this question

Sergio Martinez

Sergio Martinez Posted 7 years ago

Thanks Alois.  As I was pondering this and as I was playing today I realize that I am starting to see both the strengths and weaknesses of different players.  Hopefully as I improve I can use this information to my advantage.  Whenever I get a chance, I try to get one of my friends to use their strengths and just rally against me so I can try to improve.  For instance, today I played against someone who pretty much exclusively uses backspin.  No one else wanted to play a round so I asked him just to rally "for fun".  This helped me practice my backhand counter-hit with topspin against him.  I am also learning that most people at work play defensively.  This gives me an opportunity to learn to attack against them.  Anyways, sorry for the rambling, I am just glad that I am starting to see a difference!


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

That all sounds really positive.


Dieter Verhofstadt

Dieter Verhofstadt Posted 7 years ago

Last two weeks I went to the club and each time only one recreational player was present. Instead of lamenting I tried to get the best out of their presence.

The first one (a girl) has control over her forehand counter hit cross court and can increase the speed of it. So I used the session (1,5 hours!) to train forehand counter hit with changing speed. I had time to concentrate on my bat angle, finger pressure, body position and footwork.

The second one (a man) has some good forehand topspins and overall backhand but he has a tendency to move away from the table. So I used this session to practice topspin against topspin away from the table. When he offered me to distribute a drill, about halfway he forgot about the drill and decided to try and flip my short serve instead of pushing it back as I requested. So I explained him how the flip works and turned the exercise into one where I'd try to maximize the backspin so that his flips would fail (I had given him practice in the drill before). When we finally did middle muddle, it ended up with him doing muddle only and me running around the baseline.

Although it is more fun to train with a sparring partner who understands the rhythm of a drill and can execute it, there is something to get out of every partner. It seems like you have come to the same conclusion. Enjoy!


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

Very important lesson.  Thanks Dieter.



Become a free member to post a comment about this question.