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3 Types of Serves All Table Tennis Players Should Know

3 types of serves for table tennis players

In this article we’ll discuss the importance of serves. The length of the serve is a very important in controlling how a point is played and should be carefully considered.  Take some time to decide how you want to serve and what are you trying to achieve with this serve. Hereinafter we will divide serves into 3 different types.

  • Short serves
  • Long serves
  • Half-long serves

Let’s have a closer look at these three types of serves.


Short serves

The short serve is one of the most important serves in table tennis. The ball bounces at least twice on the opponent’s half of the table. The following figure illustrates the trajectory of the ball during short serves. If you have trouble to keep your serves short, try to set the first bounce of the ball close to the net on your half of the table.

If you serve short, your opponent is forced to receive the ball over the table. So he can’t attack the serve with a forehand or backhand topspin. Your opponent can only flick or push, when you serve short. If your opponent flicks the ball or pushes long, you can go on the offensive by playing a forehand or backhand topspin. If your opponent receives by pushing short, you can flick or also push short. Short serves are often used by offensive players, who are good in playing topspin. If your opponent has a very aggressive flick, maybe you should avoid serving short.


Long serves

The characteristic of long serves is that the ball bounces only once on your opponent’s half of the table. So, a long serve can be attacked by your opponent via playing topspin. A good long serve should be played as long and fast as possible. The ball should bounce at the edge of your opponents’s half of the table (see the following figure).

To improve your long serve try to let the ball bounce firstly at the edge of your half of the table. This advice makes it easier to serve long. Another quality criterion for long serves is to keep the ball low.

If a long serve is played fast, it can lead to a direct point, because your opponent doesn’t reach the ball or doesn’t react properly due to lack of time. If your opponent reacts properly, the chance is high that he attacks long serves via topspin. So you should be prepared for your opponent’s attack and hold your racket above table height. You can try to block, smash or hit a counter topspin against your opponent’s topspin. Defensive players can also chop the opponent’s attack. So, long serves are usually used as a surprise or by good blockers or choppers.


Half-long serves

A half-long serve is a serve whose second bounce on your opponent’s half of the table is at the end of the table. The following figure illustrates the ball trajectory of half-long serves.

Due to the bounce close to the end of the table the receiver has to make a quick decision, if he plays the ball over the table or behind the table. So a half-long serve can force your opponent to make some easy errors or bad serve returns. Another advantage of half-long serves is that they cannot be attacked too aggressively. Half long serves are usually too long for flicking and too short for a fast and heavy topspin. So after a half-long serve, your opponent will often try to attack your serve with a soft topspin. And that’s the chance for you to take the control over the following rally by hitting a counter topspin or smashing your opponent’s serve return. In high-level table tennis half-long serves become currently more and more popular, because most of the players have developed a very strong and dangerous banana flick against short serves.


It is advantageous to be able to play short, long and half-long serves. Thus, you can adapt your serve tactics for every match to the strengths and weaknesses of you and your opponent. One sure way to improve as a table tennis player is to integrate serve training in your training sessions. Below we have added a few links to some videos of players training their servers using different props. The goal of these drills are to control both the service length and height.

Keep on training!

Werner Sigmund from 3TTabletennistraining


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