No doubt, in compiling any top ten list or even a list of commandments, there are bound to be a few that don’t make the cut. Perhaps it was only the eleventh most important item or perhaps belonged on a different list altogether. So in the interest of fairness, and to prove I can come up with more than ten important things to say about serves, we’ll skip ahead to some of the less important commandments that are further down the list. Only after that will I address the all important top ten.
#27 – Always make sure you look cool while serving.
#33 – Try to serve exactly like somebody other than yourself.
#97 – Never stray from your best serve.
#325 – Always serve the ball as fast as humanly possible. Some of your serves will be great. Don’t worry about the eight that weren’t.
#1013 – Don’t concern yourself at all with serves. Just get the ball in play. Que sera, sera.
Now for the top ten:
- Serve legally. Sure, it’s out of style, but this has to be number one. Learning to do quality serves that meet the requirements of the Laws of Table Tennis is good for your hand-eye coordination, not to mention for table tennis as a whole.
- Energize your serves. That also means energizing yourself so that your serves aren’t lazy, but have the kind of spin and speed you want to produce.
- Use sidespin. Most intermediate level players can easily handle obvious topspin or underspin. Variations of sidespin are far more difficult and should be relied on heavily.
- Adjust your service game to your opponent. Obviously this contradicts commandment number 97. Figuring out which of your serves is most effective should be a top priority – especially early in your matches.
- Be creative with your serves. Don’t assume some serves won’t be effective until you try them out on your opponents.
- Practice obsessively. Practice your toss. Add touching the ball with your racket and then serve by initially focusing on where the ball is touching the table on your side of the net, not your opponent’s.
- To improve the quality and speed of your serves, focus on the speed of your racket – not the speed of the ball.
- Serve in a way that compliments your playing style. This may take some self-evaluation and some real strategic thinking. Players who develop serves suited to their style play more confidently.
- Don’t rush. Have a routine for serves that includes pausing to decide on how best to approach every serve.
- Don’t be predictable. If a serve quits working, change it. Good opponents will adjust to even your best serves. What worked in game one might not work at all in game three. Good servers keep their opponents off balance.