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How to serve in table tennis like a pro

how to serve in table tennis like a pro

When it comes to table tennis serve, many people regard it as a simple task, like just tossing the ball and hitting it with the paddle. The only thing that you need to guarantee is that let the ball hit your side first and fall on the other side of the table.

But the famous Chinese table tennis coach Liu Guoliang once said, if you have advantages in serves, you would have 33% more possibility to beat your opponent. So in this blog, we are going to cover some basic points of serves in ping pong games and you will know how to serve in table tennis like a pro.

how to serve in table tennis like a pro
table tennis serves

Why is it important to serve well?

First of all, in a table tennis match, every point starts with serve and almost all the strategies begin with serve.

For example, if I serve without effect, then I will prepare to smash when my opponent returns the ball; Or if I serve on the net zone, and then I may give a long return ball to move my opponent.

What’s more, a great serve can make your opponent confused and it is the easiest way to get the point. Nowadays, there is a lot of uncertainty in the 11-point game. But with great serve, you can put great pressure on your opponent, and even get 3 to 5 points directly in a match.

So that’s why Chinese players attach great importance to serves. I can still recall that when I was 15 years old, every day after training, the last task was to practice serving for at least 30 minutes.

Let’s have a look at Chinese player Wang Chuqin’s serves during the games. Even Ma Long will make mistakes when receiving his serves and it helps him beat Ma Long and other top players.

How to serve in table tennis like a pro?

As we mentioned, a simple serve is just tossing the ball above and hitting it with the racket. But, in professional matches, there are loads of rules that you have to know. So if you wanna serve like a pro, the first thing is to figure out what kinds of serves are legal.

Table tennis serve rules:

  • The table tennis ball needs to be placed in the center of the palm before starting to serve so that the opponent and the referee can see it. Players cannot hold the ball with their fingers or hide it in their hands. The purpose of this is that there is no spin when the ball is tossed
  • In table tennis matches, players must stand behind the white line when serving. That is, the body or the ball cannot enter the table.
how to serve in table tennis like a pro
  • There are also many rules for throwing the ball in table tennis. First, the toss must have a certain height. According to ITTF regulations, the ball must be thrown at a height of 6 feet (or 16 centimeters) when serving. Many beginners or amateur players directly hit the ball in their hands with the racket when they serve, and the throwing height is not enough or even not throwing the ball, which is illegal in regular competitions. If you don’t know how long 6 feet is at first, a simple trick is to serve above your head so your toss is in compliance.
how to serve in table tennis like a pro
  • The serve must be “clean”. The so-called clean serve means that it cannot be blocked by the body, and the opponent must see the moment when the racket touches the ball so that the opponent can judge the spin. This regulation was adopted by the ITTF on September 1, 2002. It is said that this regulation was formulated for Chinese player Liu Guoliang. After this regulation was passed, Liu Guoliang’s serve advantage disappeared, and he announced his retirement soon after.
  • When serving, the ball must touch one’s own side first and then fall on the opponent’s table. If the serve hits the net, it will not be counted, and it needs to be served again.

Several basic types of table tennis serve:

In this part, we are going to cover several basic types of table tennis serves that every beginner should know and practice. In the next blog, we shall introduce you more killer serves that help you get the victory in the match.

Forehand serve:

 1)Forehand backspin serve

This kind of serve will generate strong backspin. When serving backspin, you should pay attention to the length of the ball path. The most commonly used routes are the opponent’s forehand triangle, backhand triangle, near-net center, and backhand bottom line.

In order to increase the spin of the ball as much as possible, after throwing the ball, the forearm accelerates and hits the bottom of the ball. And the racket surface should be flat, with a strong force, players exert suddenly and can generate strong backspin.

The first landing point of the backspin ball should be selected at the near-net zone. If you want to send the ball to the opponent’s backhand position, then the first landing point should be selected at the bottom line area to make it longer. This is the trick to forehand backspin serves.

2)forehand high serve

The main feature of high serve is that the ball is thrown relatively high when serving. There are three advantages to this serve.

First, when the ball falls from a high altitude to form a certain speed, and then the racket touches the ball, it can give the ball as large a combined force as possible and can generate strong spin and fast speed.

The second is that it can cause certain psychological obstacles to the opponent. The highest level of high-throwing service is to throw the ball and look at the opponent, and choose the placement and spin of the ball according to the opponent’s position.

The third is to disrupt the opponent’s rhythm of returning service.

how to serve in table tennis like a pro
high serve

3)Forehand sidespin

This kind of serve is the most commonly used one, because it is the most comfortable kind of serve regardless of the way of holding the racket or the way of stance.

When hitting the left side topspin and left-side backspin, the actions are roughly the same before touching the ball. Generally, the left palm holds the ball in front of the body, and the left hand throws the ball upward. At the same time, the right arm is externally rotated, the wrist is abducted, and the racket surface is erected to the upper right to lead the racket.

When the ball drops from the high point to the front of the chest, the forearm accelerates and hits the ball. If you wanna a side topspin, then you should hit the middle and upper parts of the ball. And if you wanna side backspin, you should hit the middle and lower parts of the ball.

4)forehand quick topspin serve

The biggest feature of quick topspin is that it is unexpected and can play a sneak attack. Especially when the opponent is fatigued or unfocused, we can send the topspin to his forehand or backhand area rapidly. In most cases, we can score directly.

Backhand serve

1)backhand backspin

The principle of backhand backspin is basically the same as forehand. After throwing the ball, players should rub the bottom of the ball. The difference is that when serving with a backhand, it is easier to observe the opponent’s position. At the same time, the movement is smaller and can be more deceptive to your opponents. The backhand can make the spin stronger, and many German players like to serve with the backhand, such as Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

how to serve in table tennis like a pro

2)Backhand sidespin

The backhand sidespin is mostly the right sidespin, which is mainly determined by the grip. Backhand side spin can be combined with side topspin and side backspin. Since the serving action is very subtle and the movement changes cannot be observed easily, if the opponent cannot tell the spin well, he may make mistake while returning the ball.  When serving sidespin, the racket should be slightly upright, rubbing against the side of the ball, and at the same time generate some topspin or backspin to confuse the opponent.

Change your serve frequently

Don’t keep one serve all the time during the game, because your opponent can easily judge what you’re going to do next. So in normal training, good players always prepare a lot of sets of serving techniques and change them as much as possible during the game, which will cause a lot of trouble for their opponents and increase the chances of winning the game.


Through this blog, have you gained a comprehensive understanding of serving techniques? Has your new knowledge been added? If so, the next thing to do is to practice a lot. Spend at least 15 minutes after training every day to practice serves. In the next blog, we will introduce how to return the serve. See you at the next one!

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