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The Palpable Art of Ping Pong: How to Serve – The Basics

In Table Tennis, service is arguably the most important aspect of your game. It puts you in a completely controlled situation at the beginning of a ‘point.’ Welcome back to The Palpable Art of Ping Pong, where we’re preparing you for our upcoming Ping Pong League. Today we’re going to be discussing most essential part of your arsenal – the basic serve – before moving on to more advanced techniques.

An important note: before you begin your mastery of the serve, be sure you have your paddle grips down first. Only after you’ve mastered your grips should you begin working on your serves.

There are three components to a serve that you should master before working on advanced service techniques; the rules, the pendulum, and the reset. Work on these techniques and soon you’ll be serving up L’s in ping pong!

Ping Pong Serves: The Rules

It’s important to know that there are a lot of rules about how you can and cannot legally serve in table tennis. These rules lead to what’s called “legal service.” This is done to prevent sneak serves, or spin balls on a serve with no hope of your opponent being able to return the ball. If you don’t follow the rules of service, you’ll find yourself in a “fault” which leads to your opponent getting a free point.

Rule 1: Keep an open palm

The palm of your hand must be open, the ball must be placed on the palm and visible for your opponent to see. You must toss the ball straight up at least 6 inches, then hit it, causing it to strike your side of the table first. You may not hold the ball in your fingers! This is done to prevent spins placed on the ball with your fingers – an illegal move in ping pong.

Rule 2: Stand on the long side of the table

Next, the official rules say that you must be behind the long side of the table, and your paddle can’t come over to the short side of the table before you actually make contact with the ball.

Finally, the only time the ball may not hit the net is on a serve. This is called a let and awards no points to either player.

The Pendulum Swing

Once you’ve locked down the legal rules of service, next you’ll need to consider where the ball hits your side of the table. Consider this; the closer to you that your ball hits on your side of the table, the faster and lower your serve will then shoot towards your opponent. Alternatively, the farther away from you your ball hits your side of the table, the slower and higher your ball will bounce towards your opponent.

Naturally, the lower and faster your opponent is forced to return a ball, the more likely it is for you to earn a point. Keep this philosophy in mind as you work towards your perfect serves.

The Positional Reset

Remember that your serve must be beside either long side of the table. When deciding how to serve, you should also consider how long it will take you to reset your position and prepare yourself for your next drive or push. There are no rules on where you opponent must stand when returning your serve. An amazing serve will have no value if you don’t have time to reset yourself and prepare to return a ball!

Once you’ve mastered the basics of serving the ball, it’s time to move on to advanced serving techniques. These will help you make your serve fast and surprising. Creating uncertain situations for the opponent unlucky enough to be returning your serves is the key to victory!

Come on out to Atlas 42 and practice your serves, your strokes, grips, and serves as you prepare for our upcoming tournament. We’ll see you there!



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