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Table Tennis Lessons: Service

August 17, 2016 by Lina

As we promised, here’s the first in a line of blog posts that will help you learn more about the game of table tennis. We’re not talking about the theory of table tennis, but the basic principles and physics you can apply if you wish to dominate the ping-pong table.

How to Play Ping Pong: The Service

Before you learn how to improve your table tennis serve, you must understand some simple rules. Let’s have a quick look at the basics:

  1. Start by holding the ball flat on your palm. Then, toss it straight up into the air. The reason behind the flat, open hand rule is so that a player can not impart spin on the ball when they toss it.
  2. When you toss the ball up, you must be behind the end of the table, and you also need to make the contact with the ball behind the end of the table (this rule only applies to the ball, not your body or your paddle).
  3. You can not toss the ball up from below the table. Your opponent needs to be able to have a clear look at the ball at any time before and during the serve.
  4. You must toss the ball at least 6” high, into the air. That’s about the height of the net. A lot of people, when they start playing, fail to obey this rule, and they just serve the ball straight out of their hand. That is an illegal shot.
  5. When you toss the ball up in the air, it needs to travel near vertical. Angled throws are illegal.
  6. The principle behind this rule is that your opponent needs to see the ball the whole time throughout the serve. So, once you toss the ball and you position yourself to make the shot, make sure your free arm and shoulder do not get in the way as you’re hitting the ball. When you throw your ball up, get your free arm out of the way and serve so that your opponent can see the ball.
  7. In singles, you can serve from anywhere (as long as the ball stays behind the end line of the table) to anywhere on the table. In doubles, you have to serve from the right side of your half of the table, to the right side of the opponent’s half of the table.

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, time to move on to a few great tips that will help you develop your service.


When it comes to service, there are a couple things every player needs to pay attention to.

The position of your body

The first thing that should be discussed when it comes to hitting the best serve is your stance. It doesn’t matter where you stand (as long as the ball is behind the end line), but how you stand. For example, during the serve, there are positions that are incorrect and correct for that particular type of serve. The stance depends on the stroke you want to hit.

Feet: Most beginners make this mistake; they stand with their legs too close together. Some coaches claim the ideal width between your feet should be your shoulder width. There are a lot of players who disagree, and say that the ideal length is somewhere from 1.5 to 2 shoulder lengths. Test your stance, and see what position gives you the most stable base from which to move quickly. Also, if you’re a rightly, make sure your left foot is slightly further forward than your right foot. Vice versa if your left hand is your playing hand.

Knees: Make sure they are always slightly bent. Position yourself so that you put your bodyweight on your toes, not on your your heels.

Arms: They should be placed in front of your body, with your forearms parallel to the ground. Be sure the elbow of your playing hand is not tucked behind your body, instead, keep it in front of your body so that you are always ready to reach for your opponent’s return.

Paddle/hand: Think of your paddle as an extension of your arm and make sure your wrist is not bent. A bent wrist can contribute to lack of control, and nobody wants to see a limp shot.

Know your serves

There are several types of serves everyone must master: forehand topspin, forehand backspin, forehand sidespin, backhand topspin, backhand backspin and backhand sidespin.

Start by practicing each type of serve to get a feel for the motion required for success. Most people are more comfortable with either forehand or backhand, and that's okay to start.

The best way to learn these different strokes is to practice one shot until you can do it with your eyes closed. For starters, try hitting the balls in a few different spots: top, bottom, side. See what feels the most natural to you and go from there. Some recreational players spend their whole lifetime mastering one type of serve, and that is fine as long as the other shots remain decent.

The next step is the right placement of the ball which we will explain to you in our next blog post, so stay tuned for more table tennis lessons from Killerspin.

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