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The Art of Serving Deep

One of the most unique skills you can develop in table tennis is the ability to serve the ball deep. The Serve is something that has been overlooked as far as how much value it can bring to setting up your sequence of play. Developing your deep serve can have a huge impact on the game. The deep serve provides several benefits that can improve tournament play. The first thing that you want to establish is the actual serve mechanics, and for that happen, you have to break the table down into quadrants. Quadrant 1 is how you serve short, Quadrant 2 is how you serve medium, and Quadrant 3 is how you serve deep. Quadrant 4 is how you serve off the sideline of the table. Click to enlarge and analyze further.

This is the systematic way to view the table for any type of serve that you are going to do. The goal is for the first contact, and the landing contact to make contact in the same color. This will ensure the effectiveness of that serve without make an unforced error. Serving deep is unique to the ball contact landing in quadrant 3 on the server’s side, as well as the ball landing in quadrant 3 on the receivers side, like the image below. Click to enlarge and analyze further.

The ball has to be hit hard enough that when it travels across the table that it will land in quadrant 3 in your opponents court. The first benefit for this type of serve is your opponent will have less leverage to attack because the ball is landing so deep in their court. This is especially effective if you find a player that is crowding the table on their return. The video below is how you can implement this type of serve in training, so you can get the most benefit out of it in tournament play.

If you are going to execute this type of serve is it because you want it to translate into something tangible, and the best tactical advantage you can hope for is to catch your opponent off guard. This will make is possible to take over the sequence of play right from the beginning. In the video below here are a series of deep serve followed up an attack that will help you understand how to create a tactical approach.

If you are not going to be making the serve cross-court to the backhand, then the next best location is down-the-line to the forehand. You need to still make contact in quadrant 3 on your side of the table, with the goal of the ball landing in quadrant 3 like the image below. Click to enlarge and analyze further.

When practicing the serve down-the-line the main theme has to be where the first bounce on your court lands. This will dictate where your serve lands on the far end. Take a look at the video below to get an idea the contact points in quadrant 3 need to land on each side of the court.

The best situation that you can create with the down-the-line serve is the ability to ace your opponent. This can be highly effective when you observe your opponent crowding the backhand corner, or preparing to pivot for a forehand attack. When you look at the video below you can see it is easily the best way to win the point outright.

If you don’t win the point with the down-the-line serve, then the tactical goal will shift to catching your opponent off guard to take over the sequence of play. In the video below you can see how the theme of the point focuses on the topspin attacks after the fast serve down-the-line.

Now that you have made the serve deep to your opponent’s backhand and forehand, you will start to notice that they will categorically prepare for one position or the other. This is what will allow you to implement the next serve placement, and that is making the serve to your opponent’s middle. The serve going to the middle will disrupt any player because they are not prepared because they are more concerned with covering the wide angles. Your job is to make a real attempt at serving the ball deep to the corners to make your opponent conditioned to be preoccupied with thinking about two positions.  The video below represents how you can catch your opponent with a deep serve to the middle.  You will see that the opponent is unable to make a fully committed movement to the ball, because they are caught out of position.

Here is another textbook example of catching a player moving in for a short ball, only to be caught with a deep serve to the middle. Observe in slow motion as the player has already made their decision to move in as the serve is being made.

Moving this sequence forward, now you can see a serve where the opponent is preparing for serve to the middle, only to be a caught when the serve is moved back out to the wide forehand.

Now that the player is back to thinking about the wide forehand, the serve is moved back to the middle that he decided to make a return with his backhand, and leaves the wide backhand open for a clean winner.

Moving the serve placement musical chairs forward the opponent has now positioned himself to in neutral position, and is prepared to attack a deep serve. So the focus shifted to serving the ball medium distance, right off the end of the table with the focus to create a soft attack. What this resulted in was an easy forehand counter-attack to win the point.

As you can see, serving deep is an intricate system of play. It is important to understand how to execute the serve, observe how your serve is affecting the sequence of play, analyze when you have to move you serve location around to maintain the tactical upperhand, as well as knowing which deep serve and set-up creates a tactical mismatch during the match. The serve is one of the skills that has the highest amount of impact because it is 1 of 2 shots that only happens once per rally.

So take some time to perfect how to execute your deep serve to all these locations, so you have what it takes to gain the victory in tournament play.

My name is Brian, and I’ll see you on the table.