Service Strategy and the Element of Surprise
by Samson Dubina
Most offensive players try to serve short and receive short. If you are an offensive player, I would recommend that you use this strategy… most of the time.
If you serve long and push long, then your opponent will have plenty of swinging room and likely loop first, forcing you into a defensive position. A short, low serve is much more difficult to attack because the table is in the pathway of the loop. However, after you have used this strategy for several points, your smart opponent will probably catch on and begin pushing back short. Once he has proven that he also has the ability to push back short, your plan will be stopped because in return it will be difficult for you to use your strong loop. For this reason, I would recommend an occasional long push or long serve to the backhand. When pushing long or short, I recommend pushing quick, off-the-bounce for several reasons.
#1 By pushing off-the-bounce, you will be able to disguise both short and long pushes with the same backswing
#2 By pushing off-the-bounce, you will be able to keep your push much lower
#3 By pushing off-the-bounce, you will be able to take the reaction time away from your opponent for an even faster surprise
If you mistakenly let the push rise to the top-of-the-bounce or even drop, then your opponent will likely be able to predict a long push and your push will often be much slower. As a surprise, it is critical that you quickly move your body forward by stepping forward with your right foot, lean over the table, stop your body momentum, and lightly brush the ball just after it contacts your side of the table.
So why should you push long to the backhand instead of long to the forehand or middle? Players have a much larger hitting zone on the forehand and middle. Even if you surprise your opponent to the forehand, it will be quite easy for him to recover, even if the push is slightly higher, lower, deeper, shorter, faster, or slower. There are many positions that he can contact the ball and still safely make a forehand loop. With the backhand loop, the body is in the way. A quick surprise push will be so sudden to your opponent that he will not have time to move back nor will he have time to rotate his body to the side. With a small hitting zone, your opponent will likely be forced to push back, which will set up your strong looping game.
Now let’s reverse roles… So what if your opponent uses the long push to your backhand? What should you do? That’s exactly what I’m going to demonstrate for you in this 2 minute video clip:
Backhand Loop Demo, by Samson Dubina: