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    1. Top | #1
      GusShnaps is offline
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      Missing timing on serves (help!)

      Hey everyone!
      There's something that has been annoying me a lot for some time. As you've seen on the title, it is about missing timing on serves.

      The serve I use the most (and the one I've been using for longest) is the pendulum serve, but it is also the one I'm having more problems with.
      I often miss timing on my serves, sometimes hitting the edge of the racket and sometimes missing the ball completely, which is incredibly frustrating, because I don't feel confident with my serves.
      It happens when I try to accelerate the wrist a lot to do a really spinny serve.
      Because of this problem, most of the times I end up "playing safe" and doing really weak serves, which is probably not a good habit.

      What could be causing that to happen?
      How should I fix it?
      Do you guys have any tips to help me get rid of this problem faster (ways to practice service maybe)?

      "Lack of practice" and "practice more" are probably the obvious answers, but what should I keep in mind when trying to improve?

    2. Top | #2
      GusShnaps is offline
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      Just saw Matt Hetherington made some videos on service practice. They might be helpful so I'll go watch them.
      Last edited by GusShnaps; 05-25-2020 at 12:20 AM.

    3. Top | #3
      UpSideDownCarl is online now
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      Any chance you can make a video of you serving so we can see the issue in action?

      Not needed though because you gave the answer to your own question. Serve practice. That is the biggest thing. You also might play around with different heights for your toss while practicing so you have to focus to time the contact. It is always good to have a high toss serve in your arsenal.
      Spin Everything.

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    5. Top | #4
      GusShnaps is offline
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      Hey Carl, I know that seeing what's happening would help a lot, but I don't think I'll post a video because I'm not really comfortable with that, sorry.

      But thanks a lot for the tip, I'll keep that in mind when practicing!

    6. Top | #5
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      Quote Originally Posted by GusShnaps View Post
      Hey Carl, I know that seeing what's happening would help a lot, but I don't think I'll post a video because I'm not really comfortable with that, sorry.

      But thanks a lot for the tip, I'll keep that in mind when practicing!
      No worries. I get not being comfortable posting footage. Hopefully you sort it out and definitely a good time (when you are having trouble with the timing in the first place) to try and work on making the toss high. Good luck.

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    8. Top | #6
      Takkyu_wa_inochi is offline
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      i am myself a very bad server, but here is a piece of advice a coach once told me:

      count 1 2 3 before and while serving

      for pendulum serve:
      1 (toss).
      2backswing apex==top of toss).
      3(contact with the ball) in your head while serving

      a bit like if you're a musician, before starting to play, you count one measure for getting the tempo while thinking about the first few notes

      with that method you can develop a count for each of your serves, so it makes it easier to reproduce them

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    10. Top | #7
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      Lower the height of your toss first then gradually increase it.

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    12. Top | #8
      Der_Echte is offline
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      I am gunna say some stuff that will be entirely different approach (and also agree with many great serve teachers like Brett Clarke)… so strap on your ratchet cargo straps and read.

      Gus, what you describe you are doing (poor impact timing on aggressive serves) is what EVERY PLAYER does when they are trying to execute an aggressive serve where they have not become good enough on the major components.

      There are SO MANY things going on in a serve, that if you try to do them all at the same time when you have not yet developed the skills to do them... it ALWAYS results in an EPIC FAIL every damn time.

      I sound like I am making fun, but I will CHALLENGE anyone on the internet to show me video proof of being WORSE than when Der_Echte first started trying to learn serves. To put it short, if you were within 20 meters of me without robust body armor and ballistic eyewear, I was a severe public health hazard to you I mis-hit so bad and it was so epically funny.

      What I advocate (so does Brett, I think MaTT does too) is a staged, progressive approach to get certain aspects of the serve down, so it is easier to put it all together.

      The serve toss and timing to the ball are very important. It is also connected to the biomechanics to make the whip and there are also things to do with the impact itself, then also how/when/where to strike the ball to make it do what.

      That is an awful LOT of stuff one usually never gets trained on... so when one watches a video, gets inspired, then goes to the table only to fail time and time again. it can get pretty discouraging pretty damn quick... more determined you are, often, the more of a hole you dig for yourself.

      There are reasons. Again, I advocate separating the components to isolate things where you are only doing 1-3 things at a time.

      First mistake on impact timing is people do not have a good ball toss and timing for the toss... which is compounded by trying to use a real long swing to whip the bat. Truth is, you do not need much of a backswing to make a good whip. Brett Clark "Serve like a Boss Backspin" vid - search for it on youtube. He advocates elbow tucked in a little behind and on side, just like you stuck a pole between both your arms behind your back and pretty much keeping elbow in this position. I advocate for a little more of a swing, but not much more backswing, elbow get to that position and must stop there and allow lower arm to go forward... it is that simple and not require a big backswing.

      You can shadow practice that a few times to get the hang of it. To isolate and practice the impact to the ball, TAKE A SEAT !!! Yeah, sit down, toss ball a little over head high, do your tiny backswing WITHOUT the bat, open your palm, swing upper and lower arm, when elbow gets to position on side of body and a little behind, stop uppr arm and pivot lower arm on stationary elbow to go forward... with your open hand, you are catching the ball and following through a little bit.

      This will isolate the other complicated stuff people are trying to do and will get you to quickly achieve decent impact timing with a short stroke. This is an important first step, because if you cannot do that 100%, serving at the table trying to accelerate the bat is gunna be a fail.

      Next thing most do wrong on an underspin serve is failing to keep bat angle flat like the surface of table full open impact bottom of ball. People, when you actually video them, somehow have a habit of closing the bat on the swing and there is no way to serve short underspin unless the bat is full open.

      So the next progressive step to address that is shadow practice your new short serve stroke and keep the bat angle exactly the same full open on backswing AND on the forward swing. Once you shadow stroke practice that to muscle memory... and that is real hard for some, but important, then you are ready for next stage.

      Most people make a mistake at the table practicing as they are trying for too much of a swing and did not yet develop the open bat at impact... so they fail... what you can do is STAND UP on side of table or any open space, toss ball, and do your short serve stroke full open bat and impact bottom of the ball... swing under the ball and make it go up and forward... make ball go a 2 meters or so, and have the ball spin back to you. Do this on your most slippery surface, like the wood floor next to the table.

      Since you have the basic timing to impact fixed, AND you fixed your basic whip, AND you fixed your open bat angle at impact... the drill I just described will practice putting all of those moving pieces together without the pressure of trying to get it all correct at the table... it is like a game... and it is.

      Once you can consistently strike the bottom of the ball and make it spin back to you, because you also learned how to keep everything loose and firm up ONLY at impact... now you have developed

      - A ball toss that works for you
      - Good basic impact timing
      - A fundamentally sound short whip motion for the serve
      - A consistent open bat at impact
      - Good loose muscles to whip and a good touch at impact to make good spin

      Now these are the raw basic building blocks... you pretty much got most of it down... but you are not yet at the table and have the visual things going on as when you serve for real.

      So, one additional step you can do is stand a meter or two behind table, do your ball toss, and try to make a high bouncing heavy underspin serve that lands once on your side of table, then spins back to net... and eventually back over the net, whether it is in 1 or 2 or 3 bounces. Important sign of spin is ball comes back and doesn't die.

      Once you can do that, you are ready to go to the table. DO not expect perfection yet. Use endline as a guide for ball toss, impact ball close to the endline, do not toss ball 1-3 feet behind endline. Do not worry about making your serve very low over net - you are working on just getting ball to go over with good spin and be short...

      You can fine tune the very small things of impact and bat angle and whip to get that nice short heavy tight double bounce serve as you improve those things. For now, you need to see the ball go in with decent spin and make it short.

      There are a hundred of things to talk about how to get first bounce closer to net or further away and still have short tight serve... (thise things are dictated by how fast you make ball go forward and what horizontal/vertical angles are the result of your impact) for now don't geek out about any of that - just practice at one speed of serve . This will have you become consistent at that speed to make the serve short and tight as you develop command over bat angle, whip motion, and timing...

      ...once you get your comfortable speed of serve consistent short double bounce with good spin and good enough net clearance... then you can start experimenting with the more advanced aspects of the short serve of where on bat to strike the ball, how to vary it to get a different spin and launch... MaTT talked about this on a couple of his vids a few months ago. These are a great read great view, but it is a little advanced right now... but keep those in mind - you should improve and have a need to develop those things MaTT is talking about in those vids.

      THEN you have the ART of selling a serve with your after motions and how/where you strike the ball with a similar serve arm slot and similar looking swing, but produce wildly different results.

      That is getting into the JEDI MIND TRICK territory of serving... then you get into deception, double deception, triple deception, which all the territory of learning how to sell your opponent a pair of his own underwear as they say in the sales industry.

      Serve ideas always evolve. There is science and the laws of physics... it is good to understand how they apply and how to use them. Then there is the Art and salesmanship/showmanship of serving.

      Ultimately, one should ask oneself an important question...

      WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A SERVE IN TABLE TENNIS?

      The answer should be something along the lines of:

      A. To give the server an IMMEDIATE OFFENSIVE ADVANTAGE in the rally.

      You integrate serves and attack and mix it in with your over-all tactics and plan... which should be very flexible... but it cannot be flexible if you have not practiced a whole heap of good serves.
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    14. Top | #9
      Lula is offline
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      No need to say other things. If you practice you Will figure it out. Still need to practice if you want the serve to be good.

      Maybe try not having so much angle. Lower throw. Use the body more or and do a longer motion.

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    16. Top | #10
      GusShnaps is offline
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      Thanks a lot for the tips everyone!

      But wow, thanks Der for the amazing step-by-step on how to serve.
      I'll definitely watch the videos you suggested and try your method out

    17. Top | #11
      Der_Echte is offline
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      Lula, I hear what you are saying and it is right, when you practice enough (with effective technique) you will figure it out. That has been true forever.

      What I see a lot in adults who have started out as adults is that SO MANY have never learned the basic technical things of a serve... and PRACTICE... and I mean PRACTICE and after so many years, still cannot 5 of 10 serves short double bounce with even medium spin on the ball even if a rich dude would gift them a half million USD (not monopoly money either, I'm talkin' COLD, hard cash)

      HOW did these adult players NOT figure out how to serve short? They never learned how to use a short, yet effective whip motion, and they never learned how to keep their bat full open at the point of impact. Many also have a real short toss and try for too much a backswing and it rushes their timing.

      You could go on and on about this.

      Typically, the adult player serves like this. Starts at table with blade full open (like it should be at impact) tosses ball up, waits, initiates a backswing (that is often WAY too long), turns bat angle to more closed angle during backswing (like one should for a pendulum serve to have the dip, even, up planes possible), then starts swings forward, opens bat angle SOME, but not all the way, realizes somehow he not gunna get ball to ball in time, slows swing down and swings downward on ball...

      Result is usually MAYBE a short serve, but it is so poor quality - bounces high, has little to zero spin... or it bounces with little spin and is a little too high and often LONG.

      What I described is very typical for an adult server.

      Think. EVEN IF THEY PRACTICE THOUSANDS OF HOURS doing it like that, all they are doing is reinforcing poor technique and digging themselves a DEEPER HOLE that is much harder to get out of without the right kind of enduring intervention from someone who can communicate how to do it in stages to help them overcome it.

      MAYBE 1 or 2 in a hundred figure out how to serve on their own without someone observing, correcting, providing effective things for them to grasp and use...

      Maybe where you are, a lot of players have unconsciously been getting good coaching without knowing it. In USA, it is worse than jungle ball in this respect.

      Heck, I made it to average USA club level knowing ZERO about how o to serve. I got a 30 minute live help from a player 1900 rated (who is now 2200-2300) (which is prolly 1-3 levels below Lula) tried live for 30 minutes, then practice 3-5 minutes a day for one year in a remote Army camp phone room and instantly gained 2 levels just because I could serve short and OK spin when I wanted.

      Even that is not a common success story. For whatever reason, we in USA TT are absolute crappy about serving.

      When you try to get a player who for 30-40 years has been doing it so wrong, it give J.O. Waldner severe seizures just looking at it, when you try to show effective technique to this kind of adult, you are not gunna get through the first day, or the second day, or the third day.

      Heck, I was so terrible at it my first day, J.O. Waldner would have been on the floor laughing so hard he might have injured himself AND the FLOOR... that is adding to the medical damage I may have caused by multiple balls flying off the edge of my bat at high speed right at bystanders' eyes who were within the 20 meter kill radius.

      Onlt reason I succeeded is that someone actually took 30 minute to explain and get me to understand basic technique and that (like you said) practiced it enough until I figured it out.

      How long did it take me to figure it out? Well, it took me SIX MONTHS of daily practice just to get a 50% success land rate on a poor quality ball a few cm over net with medium spin !!! SIX MONTHS. That is serious hard-head territory. Any reasonable adult who learned basic technique, even with 5 minutes a day practice should have been at 50% the FIRST WEEK.

      If anyone is an example of the prototypical KLUTZ adult in USA trying and failing at TT, look no further than Der_Echte - yours truly.

      But your statement is right, enough practice one can figure it out, even a dumb-azz hard head like me who required 50x more reps.

      Yet, if legendary TT forum member Bogeyhunter had not spent those 30 minutes showing, correcting, and getting me to understand basic effective short whip motion and some after motions for an effective serve... I would STILL be a crappy server stuck at average club level at best.

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    19. Top | #12
      Der_Echte is offline
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      MaTT just uploaded another short serve basics vid...

      https://www.tabletennisdaily.com/for...l=1#post314562


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    21. Top | #13
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      Still think there are less technique in servering and more about fantasy and try and errror. Feel that tabletennis in general is pretty monotone, but return and especially serving you can go crazy. I think it works to just practice as long as you try different things and see how it goes. Practice and not think about the results, then it proably would not be good.

      My experience is that the guys that have a really good serve have practiced alot, played and used their fantasy. Of course it is beneficial looking at other and trying to learn how to serve, but just playing with serves and you will get pretty good serves i believe.

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    23. Top | #14
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      Very similar issues here.
      I never had problems missing serves until I started to get coaching and being asked to perform more efficient movements to get a lot more spin. During my many self-thought amateur years (I’m still amateur but I have had coaching now) I always served with almost a tennis like timing, and distancing myself too much from the ball, making big movements, but never getting the correct sudden acceleration that gives really good spin. So as soon as I started to train my new proper serves and making my rubbers work more, disaster.
      I felt like a complete idiot as I was missing the ball, like if I could not coordinate myself well enough.
      In reality, I realised my old serves had a lot of forward movement and no ‘whip action’ so they were a lot more forgiving in terms of timing.
      Turns out my biggest issue (lack of talent aside) was that I wasn’t tossing the ball with enough consistency. My coach recommended me to just learn to toss the ball well. Cupping the ball, and Tossing by only moving the hand up (not down then up),And finish by making the ball land back into my hand.
      It is not the most exciting training but it was useful. I’m still a bit uncomfortable with pendulum serves very near my body but at least I’m not missing the ball. Unlearning my old serves (which are not bad serves just not as spinny) is proving to be a really difficult mental exercise which requires just loads of practice.
      Last edited by Andre74; 05-26-2020 at 03:27 PM.

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    25. Top | #15
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      hi gus
      i would try to isolate the specific skill and try to develop it not as a service but just a ball control exercise
      so guessing that the problem skill is to brush the bal very finely producing pure spin.

      to do this stand in yr bh corner and drop a ball onto the table and then execute a fine brushing action after the first bounce sending the ball toward the net. if it bounces once before the net and goes over that is fine, but is not too important. instead concentrate on fine fast contact.
      i suggest working mainly on 3 examples at first:-
      the ghost action -pure strong backspin
      the pendulum action 1:- for this the blade should hang vertically and you should work on making the ball swerve through the air towards the righthanded receivers bh.
      pendulum action 3:- this time swing horizontally under the ball towards yr belly In this case the ball will go in the same direction as 2 but by kicking round the corner not swerving.
      I would suggest maintaining a loose wrist and soft grip throughout and try execute with as short a backswing as possible- think of bruce lee "one inch punch" big complicated service action are hard to execute and easier for opponent to read.
      ood luck
      Last edited by pingpongpaddy; 05-26-2020 at 05:45 PM.
      ppp

      bh
      spinpips chop2
      yinhe ayous wood 1 ply
      fh
      max moristo sp

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    27. Top | #16
      Der_Echte is offline
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      Quote Originally Posted by Andre74;
      ...
      It is not the most exciting training but it was useful. I’m still a bit uncomfortable with pendulum serves very near my body but at least I’m not missing the ball. Unlearning my old serves (which are not bad serves just not as spinny) is proving to be a really difficult mental exercise which requires just loads of practice.
      Andre,

      SO MANY ADULT players I see so struggle with the basic whip and timing to impact as it is such a different stroke...before, many were not accelerating, difficult to learn the timing of a certain point during acceleration much more so than a slower constant speed. Also, like you said, many players' serve toss is off or too short or they do not time the backswing to help them get timing.

      The way I like to get adults out of the "Timing Blues" (Look for an Eric Clapton vid on this) is to sit them down. I ask them to first work on the toss while seated, toss it a little over head high and let ball fall down to a point between their right and front, to simulate and ingrain a toss that would come down around 6 inches behind endline, give or take a few.

      When I can see them get the toss consistent, I have them use the short whip with elbow stopping to a position kinda bumping into the backside of their ribcage as a good reference point, then use lower arm moving forward with only a tiny wrist. Once they get that short whip shadow stroked well enough seated, I have them toss the ball, do the whip stroke with open hand no bat, and catch the ball and go through a little.

      That one drill right there, once a player sorts out the ball toss and biomechanics of the short whip... that one drill works so damn well to quickly achieve consistent timing to impact.

      Where adults go wrong is that they are trying to learn everything all at once. The serve, much like a loop, is a sequence of timed relaxed movements in succession. When one is not accustomed or full understands these, AND tries to practice doing ALL of them in the same stroke, naturally, there is gunna be a lot of failure.

      Of course practice helps overcome, but if that practice involves repeatedly using poor biomechanics, a poor stroke, too long a stroke, wrong acceleration or any out of sequence movement/timing... then it is only practicing a disaster over and over.

      That is the big point I try to make with adults. Practice is important, but one must have a sense and knowledge of how it all works and how it goes wrong for them to be able to practice and sort it out for themselves and improve with that practice.

      Luckily 99.999 % of adult Table Tennis players do not have to try as hard or long as I did learning.

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    29. Top | #17
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      Quote Originally Posted by pingpongpaddy View Post
      hi gus
      i would try to isolate the specific skill and try to develop it not as a service but just a ball control exercise
      so guessing that the problem skill is to brush the bal very finely producing pure spin.

      to do this stand in yr bh corner and drop a ball onto the table and then execute a fine brushing action after the first bounce sending the ball toward the net. if it bounces once before the net and goes over that is fine, but is not too important. instead concentrate on fine fast contact.
      i suggest working mainly on 3 examples at first:-
      the ghost action -pure strong backspin
      the pendulum action 1:- for this the blade should hang vertically and you should work on making the ball swerve through the air towards the righthanded receivers bh.
      pendulum action 3:- this time swing horizontally under the ball towards yr belly In this case the ball will go in the same direction as 2 but by kicking round the corner not swerving.
      I would suggest maintaining a loose wrist and soft grip throughout and try execute with as short a backswing as possible- think of bruce lee "one inch punch" big complicated service action are hard to execute and easier for opponent to read.
      ood luck
      I so like it when I see coaches and experienced players give advice on a complex motion that involves slowing down, isolating as many components as one can, practicing them separately.

      This is the kind of flexible, progressive approach that allows for more than one way possible.

      I see so many adults try to be over-eager and over motivated to try to put it all together all at once and try 100% combat speed... it is simply rushing to a failure.

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    31. Top | #18
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      I agree with Lula in that at the higher levels of amateur TT, the ones who have well learned the serve motions and timing, then go on to spend much time "Goofing Off" with different contacts, follow throughs, and position learn an awful lot and push what is possible... that ends up in some players having fantastic serves that give them advantages or at the minimum control opponents' responses.

      Like Lula alluded to, individual creativity and effort in practice go a long way. At that level, after one is already at enough performance level serving, it works out the way Lula has been saying all along. USA problem is so many club adult players never make it halfway to a basic consistent serve with anything close to quality to get to a point to practice as Lula encourages.

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    33. Top | #19
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      Quote Originally Posted by Takkyu_wa_inochi View Post
      i am myself a very bad server, but here is a piece of advice a coach once told me:

      count 1 2 3 before and while serving

      for pendulum serve:
      1 (toss).
      2backswing apex==top of toss).
      3(contact with the ball) in your head while serving

      a bit like if you're a musician, before starting to play, you count one measure for getting the tempo while thinking about the first few notes

      with that method you can develop a count for each of your serves, so it makes it easier to reproduce them
      For whip action you can try a dotted note. Count "1 2 and 3," with the "and 3" fitting into one beat. The backward part of the whip is the "and," the forward part is the "3."

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      Quote Originally Posted by DrEvil
      For whip action you can try a dotted note. Count "1 2 and 3," with the "and 3" fitting into one beat. The backward part of the whip is the "and," the forward part is the "3."
      Getting ones internal timing right in ones own way is important and I never really articulated on that much.

      Koreans call a kind of timing a "Bak-Ja" and many coaches often use this word when trying to get someone the rhythm of stepping to the ball to make a shot.

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