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    #1

    Tomahawk serve

    I'm wondering why not many players use the 'tomahawk' serve as it seems effective in serving at different angles from the middle of the table and can be disguised quite well in order to get a weak return. Are there any main reasons or disadvantages of using at?

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    #2
    A few challenges which I foresee while performing the Tomahawk Serve are as follows:

    1. Difficult to keep it short, needs more touch and better feel of the ball.
    2. The server needs to bend more on his knees, more like a sitting position which makes recovery little difficult.
    3. If you compare to pendulum serve, then this serve cannot be disguised up to that extent. For example, it is possible to add a fake movement to a pendulum serve, however, I have not seen too much fake movement put on Tomahawk serve.
    4. At a higher level, players are good with flip or flick, tomahawk serve, which generally rises more above the net can be easily flicked to a corner. This immediately puts the server at a disadvantage at the start of the rally.

    Having said all of this, there are players like Dima and William Henzell who use this serve to their advantage, but these are just a few. Most of players bank on pendulum, reverse pendulum or the backhand serve to do their service.

    Just my two cents.

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    #3
    I also think that, with pendulum you finish the serve and the follow through brings you right into position for your third ball with a position to control most of the table with FH. With tomahawk serve, you finish and you have to get into position because you end up not being in a great position to control the table.

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    #4
    I also think it has much to do with the position. But also I think one reason is that the reverse pendulum serve is not that popular among the pros, and naturally when young people start playing they look how the pros serves and trying to take after.

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    #5
    The greatest ad ever for the tomahawk serve:

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    #6
    Quote Originally Posted by UpSideDownCarl
    I also think that, with pendulum you finish the serve and the follow through brings you right into position for your third ball with a position to control most of the table with FH. With tomahawk serve, you finish and you have to get into position because you end up not being in a great position to control the table.
    I think your general idea is right, but the specifics are not that simple. The question is what kind of tomahawk/serve, how quickly does the player recover after the serve as well as what kind of weapons does the player have to use after he recovers from the serve. In general, I think the pendulum serve supports the forehand dominant orientation of most pros. It's no accident that the pros with a stronger backhand orientation rely on it much less.

    Sometimes, I am never sure whether Henzell's serve is really a tomahawk or a punch serve. Ovtcharov almost always serves backspin on his serve and given his height, he has to crouch - his serve is a specialist one-trick pony in most matches.

    For a player like Henzell (and I have talked with Brett about this), the recovery from his tomahawk is way faster than with his pendulum serve. And since Henzell is a backhand oriented player, he can attack almost equally well on both wings and would almost be happier to open with his backhand, so he serves it mostly from the middle of the table so he doesn't have to recover for a backhand.. For some other players, the pendulum serve which lets you cover more of the table with the FH would be more suitable. Their recovery after the serve (say Samsonov) is quicker as well. Samsonov serves smoothly into his ready stance - one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. Many of the CNT are similar.

    In my case, I find the tomahawk crouch debilitating because of my height and the pendulum/reverse annoying because of my knees/footwork and the side-on orientation. For most of my tournament career, my backhand has been my much stronger wing. So most of my serves are backhand serves from the backhand side or middle of the table so that I am ready to rally immediately after the serve. I don't just serve backhand pendulum - I serve backhand reverse and backhand backspin-no spin as well.

    BTW, Henzell has a good lesson series going on his tomahawk serve at TT Edge. I think the match with Wang Liqin sells the serve all by itself.
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    #7
    The tomahawk serve has pros and cons. It produces a great amount of spin & introduces a certain variety to your game. It isn't very deceptive, though - you expose the blade. It is what it is, sidespin, topspin (imho, you can't produce a 100% clean backspin, just because of how the human body works). My experience: use it against inexperienced players (great fun, play it and run to the side to catch the ball), or, against pro's, throw it in as a change-up, a refreshment, to try out their concentration, maybe to disrupt their 3-point streak or so, change the game pace.

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    #8
    Quote Originally Posted by karibaci
    The tomahawk serve has pros and cons. It produces a great amount of spin & introduces a certain variety to your game. It isn't very deceptive, though - you expose the blade. It is what it is, sidespin, topspin (imho, you can't produce a 100% clean backspin, just because of how the human body works). My experience: use it against inexperienced players (great fun, play it and run to the side to catch the ball), or, against pro's, throw it in as a change-up, a refreshment, to try out their concentration, maybe to disrupt their 3-point streak or so, change the game pace.
    I watched the video, and... it might prove my point wrong, just might: Henzell is great with the serve, allright, and Wang Liqin really struggles - but, he recovers and performs better and better throughout the game. He quickly learned to read the serve and found the answer. Well, he won at the and...

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    #9
    Yes, WLQ won at the end, but he definitely didn't quickly learn to read the serve and even after he "read" it, he mostly produces responses that if the roles were reversed would have been destroyed or should have given Henzell a consistent upperhand. That's where the differences in forehand and rally level showed up. What really changed was that WLQ was likely instructed to play Henzell's forehand which is something that is unusual for CNT players to have to do.

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    #10
    I make my tomahawk serve with more kinds of spin. If you can use your body more, you can make your own spin.

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    #11
    It also looks to me like WLQ also starts pushing shorter balls off the serve in the third game which kept WHenzell from opening on as many 3rd balls and when he did open it wasn't as strong.

    But I have a feeling those serves would not work well against the young players who are more skilled at flipping. For most of the match, WLQ's flips allowed WHenzell to unload with power.

    But in watching WHenzell's readiness after the serve and what he has to do to get into position for the 3rd ball, he has to do more to get into ready position for that third ball. But in this match he is getting ready pretty well. It is just that getting ready is separate from the follow through and moves him in a different direction from the follow through so it looks a bit awkward.

    And with regular pendulum, the sidespin pulls the ball towards the backhand side and your follow-through can pull you into position ready for the FH or BH.

    All that being said, WHenzell does pretty well with that serve and all players do well on third balls from different kinds of serves.

    This is a pretty good video for showing how the pendulum serve (or variations on it) can be used at the highest levels. Thanks NextLevel.


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    #12
    Quote Originally Posted by KM1976
    A few challenges which I foresee while performing the Tomahawk Serve are as follows:

    1. Difficult to keep it short, needs more touch and better feel of the ball.
    2. The server needs to bend more on his knees, more like a sitting position which makes recovery little difficult.
    3. If you compare to pendulum serve, then this serve cannot be disguised up to that extent. For example, it is possible to add a fake movement to a pendulum serve, however, I have not seen too much fake movement put on Tomahawk serve.
    4. At a higher level, players are good with flip or flick, tomahawk serve, which generally rises more above the net can be easily flicked to a corner. This immediately puts the server at a disadvantage at the start of the rally.
    All good points. I can't think of any good recent CNT player who uses that serve. That is significant as the coaches give them less leeway than the Europeans. So, for some reason, the coaching brass @ CNT decides to stay away from that serve.

    It is difficult to serve low but not impossible - Henzell is very good at this. Also, one needs to develop a strong backspin tomahawk if one wants to implement this serve type in games.

    For great way to recover after serving tomahawk serve, look at Kenta - he just pushes his knees out to the front of him after serve and now he's in a squat position...

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    #13
    Again, I personally have never considered Henzell's serve a true tomahawk. I think Wang Hao's reverse serve is essentially similar.

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    #14
    Quote Originally Posted by UpSideDownCarl
    It also looks to me like WLQ also starts pushing shorter balls off the serve in the third game which kept WHenzell from opening on as many 3rd balls and when he did open it wasn't as strong.

    But I have a feeling those serves would not work well against the young players who are more skilled at flipping. For most of the match, WLQ's flips allowed WHenzell to unload with power.

    But in watching WHenzell's readiness after the serve and what he has to do to get into position for the 3rd ball, he has to do more to get into ready position for that third ball. But in this match he is getting ready pretty well. It is just that getting ready is separate from the follow through and moves him in a different direction from the follow through so it looks a bit awkward.
    Not sure what you mean by this. The ready position is him standing with the racket over his right leg, ready to play forehand or backhand. He gets there pretty quickly. Since he wants to cover more of the table with his backhand, his ideal ready position is closer to the middle of the table than most players. The same largely applies to Ovtcharov as well which is why he can serve backhand from the forehand side or middle of the table so much.


    Quote Originally Posted by UpSideDownCarl
    And with regular pendulum, the sidespin pulls the ball towards the backhand side and your follow-through can pull you into position ready for the FH or BH.
    Yes, but if you start from the forehand side of the table, you are going to have to cover more of the table with your forehand. William back when he served pendulum served most of his pendulum from the middle of the table. The question in addition to the serve is how it fits into your recovery and your game. Even the serve might not generate the kinds of spins on return that you feel most comfortable attacking.

    I mean, look at Yoshimura's new serve - are we going to say the reason why no one in CNT does it is because of some form of rationalization? It's just hard to learn a serve when you don't have an expert to teach it to you. THe CNT with few exceptions tends to just try to do things better than other people. They have better investments into table tennis so that tends to work well.
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    #15

    Tomahawk serve

    Quote Originally Posted by NextLevel
    Not sure what you mean by this.
    Your motion on a pendulum is parallel to the end of the table and the follow through brings you around to face the table. It is part of the serve. If you do it right, you end up in a position ready for either FH or BH.

    Most of the motion of the Tomahawk--or this serve that WHenzell is using, which I agree, is related to a Tomahawk, but not quite a Tomahawk--is more forward towards the table. He has to stop the momentum and move back slightly. When he tries to set up for the FH, which he does a bunch of times, it is a bit more awkward than when he sets up and gets to use his backhand. But he still has to stop the forward momentum and move back just a bit. When I watch it, I see the tension it creates for him. It is why he looks a bit stiff sometimes after the serve.

    But it doesn't seem to interfere with his ability to take the third ball. And he is really playing great in this video.



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    #16
    UpsideDownCarl,

    Would your criticism still apply to this video?



    or this one:

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    #17

    Tomahawk serve

    Quote Originally Posted by NextLevel
    UpsideDownCarl,

    Would your criticism still apply to this video?



    or this one:

    Quote Originally Posted by UpSideDownCarl
    But it doesn't seem to interfere with his ability to take the third ball. And he is really playing great in this video.
    I don't know if it is a criticism. And you are right. I only got to look at a bit of the first video but the internet connection where I am right now is not so good. But, what I did see: when WHenzell is farther towards the FH side as he hooks around the outside of the ball, his body rotates and most of the time, that brings him into position with little or none of what I am talking about.

    I also saw one serve where he was all the way to the BH side setting up his FH and it was very smooth.

    But, what I am talking about is movement analysis which may not be relevant because, as I said, the slight bit of extra tension when he has to stop momentum and change directions slightly, may be causing him to tense a bit as he sets up. But it is NOT interfering with him setting up for the third ball and it is definitely not interfering with his ability to take a high quality third ball.

    The motion just has a bit of a hitch to it when he changes directions. Whereas, someone like WLQ often looks like a graceful dancer as he follows through on his serve and ends up in a set position as a result of the follow-through. The results may not be any better or worse in terms of effectiveness. But the follow-through on the pendulum, done well is effortless to the point of being graceful. Whereas, even when more effective, the motion of transitioning from follow-through to set position is not quite as effortless or graceful with they type of serve WHenzell is using.

    Here, let me see if I can use a story to explain where I am actually coming from. I used to be a professional ramp skater. My wife is a dancer. When we first met I was showing my wife some videos of all the best skateboarders at the time. This is still some of my favorite vert footage ever.

    My wife was watching and she said to me: "I don't like any of them. They are all stiff. They all move like boys who want to be athletes." I thought: "yeah, well?.....What's wrong with that?" What she meant was they were creating a bit too much unnecessary tension.

    Then this one guy came on the ramp and she said: "Oh no, this guy is good. He is better than everyone else. I like how he skates." That was Tony Hawk. He might not have been as powerful as the other guys but there was a gracefulness in his skating that wasn't there for the other guys. More efficient movements and more gracefulness.

    If you look, you can see where there is a bit more tension than he needs for the transition from serve to set. Not always. But the serve does not always move him right into a set position without the extra effort. Sometimes it does. And he does seem better at setting after that type of serve than most people.

    And the end result, when it is there, the hitch I am talking about does not make his third ball less effective.

    I would like to see what his setup would look like against guys like FZD, ZJK or Dima who would make him have to set up considerably faster because of what there return of serve would be. So I will search for that later. But he really does well in these matches. And when the return of serve picks up the pace and varies the pace more, he may very well be fine.


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    Last edited by UpSideDownCarl; 05-28-2015 at 07:06 PM.
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    #18
    I think your analogy points out something that I was trying to find out by posting the more recent footage which is whether you were another strong proponent of CNT technique/practice as being an easy test of whether something is good or not.

    Tony Hawk is not a run of the mill guy. William Henzell is not Wang Liqin. CNT often get worshipped for technique that is often not clearly separated from the athletic ability that they use to produce it. When an all time great like WLQ struggles against someone outside of the top 100 like Henzell, something is clearly afoot. But when we talk about gracious application of footwork, we have to make a distinction between the serve and the player. For example, look at Brett's use of the pendulum serve and how he flows into a ready position. You will see none of the gracious dancing that WLQ does.



    So do we now blame that on the serve or on the player's style?

    As of the time of the match vs. Wang Liqin , Henzell had only been serving the tomahawk serve for 1 year. As you can see, he changed and varied his use of it over time as he got better and more experienced with it. If you were focusing on the fact that he couldn't turn into the table to use more body/motion to get more spin, he worked on that. If you mean that the tomahawk needs more work to co-ordinate the arm and the body, that is very subtle, but I don't see why that couldn't be worked on a player with the right talent level, and as you can see, William got better at that. But if you mean that there is something intrinsic to the pendulum that makes it easier to get into position than the tomahawk, then I can't agree on the basis of what you have provided. It seems like another example of mixing up talent with technique or more likely seeing a technique in one instance and ascribing it to the particular situation and not seeing that the technique could be used in the other situation but isn't.
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    #19
    I think you are making a decent point. If you look at Shane L from the same video, his setup from the pendulum serve as Brett has.

    One thing I see with that is, they seem to be trying to set up further on the BH side than their follow through would naturally bring them. If they served from about 6 inches farther on the BH side, they would be able to simply pivot on the lead foot (for Brett his right foot and for Shane his left foot) and rotate into the ready position. But they are both taking an extra step against the momentum of the follow-through.


    And WHenzell does start using a circular motion to bring him around to the set position. And on the BH side when he used the serve to set up his FH, he used a follow-through that is just like what I was talking about with the pendulum serve.

    So you have a good point. Better technique can be developed to get the follow-through of a tomahawk serve to bring you into a set position with a minimum amount of effort. And you can do a pendulum serve, fight the follow-through and have a hitch in the movement from serve to set position.

    And if the player is set in time to move to the third ball and take it well, then the movement for the setup doesn't really matter.


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    #20
    I don't think it's fighting the follow through, to be honest. They serve differently from WLQ or Samsonov, who build in aspects of the follow through into their serve motion. If you look carefully, you will see that WLQ's pendulum has much more shoulder rotation.

    I think recovery after the serve is worked on differently and viewed differently priority wise by different people based on how they ideally want to set up for the third ball attack - it is their speed to get to that position that matters, like you have pointed out. My main point is that you might find the flow from pendulum to third ball natural based on how you serve it, but I don't. In fact, Brett calls my recovery from the pendulum and reverse pendulum serves SLOW and that it needs work. Well, he doesn't say that about my backhand serve but that's what I have been using primarily for 4 years and what I built my instincts around. I also don't have crossover footwork so I don't like serving from the forehand corner. Players at my club know that so they like to push to the wide forehand if I use the pendulum serve.

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