I just got back from a 90-minute coaching session with Harrie. Today, I was helping him get more spin on his backhand sidespin serve and I thought it would make an excellent mini blog post.
Lots of intermediate-level table tennis players struggle to get
The one thing Harrie was doing wrong
I paid closer attention to a few of his serves and then I recognised the problem…
He was trying to brush across the back of the ball, instead of brushing forwards round the side of the ball!
This is difficult to explain in a blog post, so here’s a quick sketch…
This is a birds-eye-view of the table tennis table and ball.
- 1A and 1B relate to a backhand pendulum serve.
- 2A and 2B are for the forehand version.
Harrie is actually left-handed but I’ve drawn this as if he’s a rightie as I think that will be more helpful for the majority of people – sorry lefties!
Ok, so 1A is what Harrie was doing. He was trying to generate sidespin by brushing across the back of ball. Going from one side to the other side.
This seems like the obvious way to put sidespin on the ball. The only problem is the direction of movement.
When serving, you want the ball to go forwards onto the table (not to the side) and therefore you have a conflict between the direction your bat is travelling (sideways) and the direction you want the ball to go (forwards).
This is almost certain to be inefficient!
What Harrie needed to do instead
The way to fix this issue is to perform your backhand sidespin serve according to the 1B arrow – you brush forwards along the side of the ball. Now the direction of movement of your bat/racket is aligned with the direction you want the ball to go.
Suddenly you can create much more spin and also keep your serves short – which is very difficult to do when brushing across the back of the ball!
Harrie’s sidespin serves immediately gained more spin. I could feel the ball being dragged over to his forehand side when I pushed it back and Harrie was ready with his trademark forehand loop.
It’s worth pointing out that you need to have a decent bat with spinny rubbers for this to work. If your playing with a dead bat and try brushing along the side of the ball the rubber isn’t going to grip the ball and the ball isn’t going to go forwards.
Harrie and I both play with the Eastfield Offensive Professional Table Tennis Bat. It’s made up of the Eastfield Ashwood 7-ply offensive blade and two sheets of Eastfield A-Pro rubber.
It gives us plenty of power and spin, but still has loads of control – which is super important for a player like Harrie who has only been playing for a couple of years.
If you’re a new player (have been playing for a year or less), I would recommend the Eastfield Allround Professional Table Tennis Bat instead. It’s still got loads of spin but is a bit less fast and powerful.
But anyway, back to serving…
The same principle applies to all spin serves
I see so many beginners and intermediate players trying to put backspin on their serve by brushing down the back of the ball. This creates bouncy dead serves that are easy to hit through.
The issue is the same. The serve needs to go forwards but their bat action is going downwards. This mismatch makes for a poor quality service.
So, how can it be corrected? Well, you need to get your bat moving forwards. How can you do that and at the same time put backspin onto the ball? By brushing forwards directly underneath the ball!
Make that one simple change and the quality of your backspin serves will skyrocket!
Have a go yourself!
Next time you’re training, have a think about your serves and check to see that your bat is moving primarily forwards at the point of contact with the ball.
That means you should be brushing the side of the ball for sidespin serves, and the bottom of the ball for backspin serves.
Novice players spend all their time hitting the back of the ball. If you want to take your service game to the next level, you need to start brushing around the ball instead.