Ping pong is an incredible sport for many reasons. Not only is it fun and a nice way to pass the time, but it’s also open to people of all skill levels. Some people pick up a paddle once a month and play a game with some office friends, while some make it their livelihood and go all the way to the Olympics! However, you can always make your game a little better even if you don’t intend on going pro. You can be the envy of your office friends and show off a little at parties with just a little practice.
Your serve is an extremely important part of your ping pong game. There are dozens of ways to serve, and all of them have their pros and cons; pro table tennis players will usually switch it up to confuse their opponent and keep them on their toes. If you want to improve your game, you’ll need to make sure your serve is the best it can be. Here are some quick ways to enhance your serve.
1. Position Your Body Correctly
When people try to learn ping pong, they tend to go straight to using the paddle. However, your positioning in relation to the paddle is actually far more important! Positioning your body and being light on your feet will help you to not only create a great serve, but also volley effectively.
To serve effectively, you need to keep your feet wide, generally at least 1.5 times your shoulder width, and your stance low. No matter what sort of serve you’re going to do, you need to be able to immediately get into a ready stance for your opponent’s return, which means being able to move directly back to the middle of the table. Keep your wrist loose and relaxed, as that will help provide maximum spin while also maintaining accuracy.
2. Learn How To Hold Your Ping Pong Bat
Most people who are new to ping pong have never really thought about the best way to hold the paddle. They incorrectly assume that there’s only really one way to hold it, and do whatever feels most natural. There are actually many different ways to hold a ping pong paddle, though everyday players will probably want to choose between the two main grips.
The shakehand grip is likely the most popular, and is the one you probably think of when you think about holding a ping pong paddle; this one is similar to a handshake, in that the thumb rests on top of the handle while the other fingers wrap around the bottom. In a traditional Chinese penhold grip, the handle is held similarly to a pen, with the first finger and thumb in front and the other three fingers behind for support.
If you’re not planning on playing in any kind of competitions, you’ll probably benefit mostly from the shakehand grip, unless you want to show off the slightly unique-looking penhold grip to your family and friends. Practice gripping your paddle and making short, quick movements until you’ve got the motions memorized almost automatically.
3. Learn A Few Different Types of Serves
Ping pong serving is basically a very detailed science, and professional players spend hours and hours learning exactly how to put together the perfect serve. However, if you just want to have a little fun, you only really have to learn a couple things about serves, and you can mix and match to throw your opponent off guard a little.
Serves have two main pieces: the spin of the ball and the position of the paddle. Spins can be topspin, backspin, or sidespin, and position can be forehand or backhand. The spin of the ball makes your serves more unpredictable, and a great spin can destroy your opponent’s return shot, giving you a quick point. The position of your paddle is largely based on what you’re more comfortable with. However, becoming more comfortable with the position you don’t prefer is also a good thing to work on, as it means your opponent can’t target that weakness.
4. Control Your Serve Lengths
When you start learning ping pong lingo, you’ll hear about short and long serves. In the simplest terms, a short serve is when the ball, if it’s allowed, will bounce twice on the receiver’s end of the table, while a long serve will only bounce once. The decision whether to serve short or long is hard to make, but generally, a long serve is better if the receiver is closer to the table, while a short serve works best if they’re further away.
An important thing to keep in mind with your serve lengths is that you should always be aiming for the end-line, sending your ball as far to the edge of the table as you can without dropping off. Whether you’re serving long or short, an end-line serve will make the receiver make a quick decision — should they try and hit the ball before the bounce, or try to back up and hit it after? This tactic, however, does rely on accuracy; the last thing you want is to overshoot and give your opponent an easy point. Focus on maintaining effective long and short serves, and the end-line will come along with them.
Even if you’re just playing in a basement, ping pong games can get heated. If you really want to show off to your friends and family, it’s worth it to put a couple hours into learning exactly what makes a good game, and your serve is the first step toward that. Your serves will get better with practice, so be sure to practice as much as possible! A tactic that many professional players use is to have many ping pong balls with them so they can practice multiple serves at an empty table without having to go pick up each ball after serving. Even just serving a couple dozen balls every day will dramatically enhance your ping pong game! Use these tips to enhance that serve and become the office ping pong champion.