How to Serve Faster in Table Tennis

In a previous post I wrote about the importance of developing a super heavy backspin serve. If you are a beginner (up against another beginner) and you can serve heavy backspin you are giving yourself a big advantage.

But it’s no good serving heavy backspin every time because your opponent will get used to it. You need another serve to alternate in. You need a fast serve. A really fast serve. But how do you serve fast and still keep the ball on the table? Here’s the trick…

Chances are your topspin service action is probably fine. I mean, I doubt it’s perfect but it is good enough. Once again, don’t spend hours copying the service action of the professional players. That isn’t going to help you. All you’ll end up with is an ineffective serve that kind of resembles that of a good player but with none of the dangerous effect.

There are just two things you need to concern yourself with when trying to serve faster, and faster, and faster.

1. The ball’s height at contact

This is extremely important; you need to let the ball drop much further than feels comfortable.

When we serve, we throw the ball up and then as it falls we need to make contact. Most of us contact the ball too high. We rush it a little bit. I do this too. Fortunately we get away with it for most of our serves. It is only when we try and serve super fast that we realise contacting the ball too high just doesn’t work.

In order to serve fast you need to hit the ball pretty hard.

But if you hit the ball hard and make contact too high above the table you are going to shoot the ball down into the table and it is going to bounce back up, high, and probably end up going long (off the end of the table).

Teach yourself to wait a split second longer, until the ball is lower and closer to table height, and you will be able to hit the ball more forwards instead of down. It’s subtle, and you may not notice much difference at first, but keep at it and you will get used to it.

You are going to feel uncomfortable. Like you are waiting so long that you might even miss the ball. You wont. But you’ll need to practice this over and over until you are able to get comfortable letting the ball drop really low before you hit it.

At this point you may discover that you are shooting a lot of serve, super fast, but straight into the net. You can’t seem to get the ball up in time to clear the net. That is where point number two comes into the mix…

2. The bounce on your side of the table

In order to get a serve that is fast, low and manages to get up and over the net in time; you need to aim for your own endline and hit the ball into that. 

If you are serving from the corner of the table (and I recommend you do because the table is much longer corner-to-corner) then you need to get your serve to bounce as close to your own corner as possible. Let it stray too far towards the net and you are in for a disaster.

I was taught this trick at the age of 14 at county training. My fast serve had always been slow because if I tried to get any pace on the ball it would end up going into the net. The coach licked his finger and drew an ‘x’ right in the corner of the table where I was serving and told me to aim at it. It was only then that I realised how far forward my fast serves were going. It took me a few attempts to get the bounce back towards me but after a few more goes I was able to shoot my serve straight into the corner of the table and surprise, surprise… it immediately started going fast and hard diagonally into my opponents backhand corner.

They were the fastest serves I had ever done and I could do them with all different types of service technique and action. The action wasn’t important, and neither was the spin, it was all about letting the ball drop and aiming at my own endline.

Give it a go!

It doesn’t matter whether you have been playing for years or are a completely beginner. Practice implementing these two points into your fast serve and I guarantee you will see an immediate improvement. Combine this super fast serve with your super heavy backspin serve and you will have a decent set of serves that should win you plenty of points against unsuspecting opponents.

Once you mastered doing it diagonally it’s time to try it into the center of the table or down the line. This is a little trickier (because the table is shorter along these lines) but the same principles apply and with a bit of practice you’ll pick it up.

Then it’s all about getting ready should they return it. After a super fast serve you need to be ready for a quick topspin return or block. Try and attack the ball if you can. After a heavy backspin serve you need to be ready for a push. If you haven’t got a steady loop your best bet is to push it back.

I hope those tips help you continue working on your service game.